Monday, December 22, 2008

"Oh, and about gays in the miltary..."

Today there's talk that Barack Obama will make ending the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding homosexuals in the services a distinct priority at the beginning of his first term. While there is much to be said about the high-mindedness of such a move, I believe it's a mistake. Bill Clinton made the same miscalculation at the beginning of his presidency, and he was pilloried for it. The former Arkansan governor could have chosen few more effective ways to mobilize his opposition on the Christian Right. He also didn't curry much favor among the brass of the armed forces. I think it would be in the President-Elect's best interest to consider moving away from this initiative before he stirs up a hornet's nest and accelerates the "Culture War".

Listen... I want to make it quite clear that I support gay rights. I can't think of a single reason why men or women that are attracted to members of the same sex should be discriminated against by the government. People need to spend more time attending to the conditions of their own houses before they start trying to impose their prejudices on others. There's nothing more bothersome than another highly flawed human being getting uppity. What people do with (or to) their partners is their business, as long as it is consensual and the terms are defined upfront among the principals. I'm not concerned about what folks choose to do in their own beds. I have plenty of things to mull over without getting into that.

But I also believe that drugs should be completely decriminalized, and for many of the same reasons. What you do unto yourself is your own problem or escape, and not for me to judge. However I wouldn't recommend that Barack Obama make that an important priority on his domestic agenda either. Not only are there plenty of more pressing issues of importance to the future of the nation, but drug policy is another issue that would generate a surplus of resistance that would be distracting. This is a pivotal moment in American history, and Obama is going to need to make significant compromises to enact the type of platform capable of addressing the difficulties we face. He's going to have to pick his battles carefully.

Since Clinton capitulated and allowed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to take effect, over 12,000 gay individuals have been ushered out of the military. In the meantime Britain and Israel have seen fit to allow soldiers who are openly gay to serve. I haven't taken the time to read any exhaustive studies of how these men and women have integrated into their organizations, and I can't say whether or not they have had a significant impact on the operations of their respective forces. I have a hard time believing that they are living in a culture wherein they'd feel comfortable coming on strongly to their heterosexual colleagues. I wouldn't expect to find that lustful urges have overwhelmed their collective ability to concentrate on the mission.

It's certainly true that the American military is in dire need of an injection of new blood. Perhaps allowing gays to join would swell the numbers. I'm not sure why anyone would be anxious to enlist in these trying times, but I guess the motivations of homosexuals are the same as anyone else in this regard. For some, this path is among the very few opportunities they have in a troubling economic climate. Ultimately it appears that Obama is committed on the issue. He's actually considering appointing an openly-gay man to the position of Secretary of the Navy (which, if you think about it, is reinforcing a long-held stereotypical perception of that branch). Whatever happens, I wish the new President well.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Obama might be saying it's non issue - get over it and it's not a battle unless its personal. Clinton made the right move for the time. It's time for the next step. It's a long way from Stonewall. JM

12:29 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

I agree with you that it's "the right thing to do"... I just think that it will mobilize a lot of resistance against him immediately, and he'll end up capitulating for politics-sake. I don't want to see that happen again. For success on the issue, I see it as better addressed in a second-term presidency.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clinton made the RIGHT MOVE FOR THE TIME - you misread. I will trust that Obama understands the pulse of country in his time as did Clinton. JM

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why anyone would want to take up arms to enforce the tyrannical bullshit of this corporatist government is beyond me, regardless of sexual preference. If you were naive enough to sign up and think that violence is the answer, you have no right to complain. Love of country, my ass - you're just a big fucking hater with a tin badge and a loaded gun.
I mean, does Obama think this will make warmongering more equal-opportunity and thus, more acceptable? Sounds to me like more of the same shit, but now it has an ALL-NEW! sticker slapped on it. What brilliant marketing.

12:51 AM  

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