anti-war and anti-DADT

Nicholas Kramer pointed me to this podcast from antiwar.com awhile back, in which the host Scott Horton and Jeremy Sapienza, an editor at antiwar.com, discuss the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” debate and the inherent conflict that they see in people who say they are against war but continue to press for gay and lesbian soldiers to be able to serve in the military.

Sapienza: “… it reaches a contradictory meeting point between gay rights and being against war, and you have, where they demand that gay people be allowed to ‘serve’ in the military, and I tried to explain to them that this is, I don’t know, schizophrenic. To say that you’re against war and yet gay people should still have the right to participate in it is kind of crazy.”

They go on to complain about the “passively anti-war” people who only concern themselves with things that “hurt their little feelings” like the way that gays are treated in our country. The best part of the whole piece, though, is this exchange (referring to the 2004 and the role that the gay rights debate played in getting Republican vote out):

Horton: “Couldn’t we do without energizing the religious right just once? Couldn’t we make this not about your particular interest just once, in the interest of trying to prevent our civilization from committing mass suicide here, but no, no, let’s, nope, 2004 is the year of the gays!”

Sapienza: “No, the answer is no, they can’t. Everything is about them, because the most important thing in the world is how what they do sexually relates to the world.” (Emphasis added).

This came up again because of this piece by Who is IOZ?, which makes a similar though much more defensible point. He is angered by the joy he sees in those people who worked to get DADT repealed, because “[i]n its effort to get gays into the military, the cause of gay equality has ended up extolling the singular virtue of service in aggressive foreign wars.”

The problem with the argument put forth by the antiwar.com guys is that it does exactly the thing that they complain about from the gay rights movements. It asserts the primacy of their view (in this case being anti-war) over all other issues. Meanwhile, IOZ conflates the effort to allow those gays who want to serve into the military with support for the war effort itself.

To me, support of repealing DADT and opposition to our participation in foreign wars are not at all contradictory. For one thing, there are the political realities of the situation. While I applaud the work done by the folks at antiwar.com, and as much as I might wish otherwise, our military is not going anywhere any time soon. The best we can probably hope for is more “spending cuts” like we saw recently (increasing by less than projected… not exactly a “spending cut”). So the question becomes, given the fact that we have this military, and that there are gays and lesbians who would like to serve in it, do I feel that they should be prevented from doing so because of their choice in partners? Absolutely not.

The real problem that I have with the positions taken by the antiwar.com podcasters and IOZ is that, when you get to the bottom of it, they are both saying that their views on war are more important than any gay person’s. The repeal of DADT was not about allowing the government to force gay people into a war in which they don’t want to participate, but about allowing gay people who actively want to pursue military service to do so. Obviously, those people who are suffering from the effects of DADT are not as anti-war as Horton, Sapienza, and IOZ.* Should these individuals be punished because of their sexual orientation? No.

I strongly support reducing the size and foreign involvement of our military. To me, it seems like America is desperately trying to cling to the imperial power that they once had, at a huge financial and human cost. But that issue is irrelevant to the question of whether we should prevent individuals (who have no say in the policy decisions that have resulted in these wars) from serving should they choose to. The decision to serve in the military is a personal one, not one that should be arbitrarily (and all the studies I’ve seen show that the reasoning is arbitrary rather than based on the realities of troop dynamics) taken away by the government because of someone’s sexual orientation.

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* This assumes that the decision to join the military is always based on moral rather than financial concerns, which I think is far from true. But the same reasoning applies if people are joining for the money… is it fair to take that opportunity away from people because of who they chose to sleep with?

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