The following is my response to this article by Glenn Greenwald from Salon.com.
Great article, as always, Glenn. I agree with all of your points about Michael O'Hanlon's attitude. One thing is seriously bothering me here, however, and it has nothing to do with negative attitudes towards gay people joining the military by the likes of O'Hanlon, but it is on-topic and I think it seriously needs to be brought up.
Considering the horrendously illegal, disastrous, and outright reckless use of the American military in fighing an increasing number of wars that appear to have no end in sight; and considering the large number of ways that the military screws its soldiers over after they are discharged and become civilians again (with the exception of paying for their health care for life, having paid their way through college during their service, and a few other amenities here and there); and considering the horrible experiences that soldiers are likely to endure in combat, including the suffering of extreme emotional trauma that includes terrible nightmares for the rest of their lives and an inability to ever stop fighting the war in their own psyches (i.e., "post-traumatic stress syndrome"); and the honest realization of how combat often devalues the humanity of people on the other side in the eyes of soldiers, considering how soldiers all too frequently end up killing innocent civilians in the countries they invade (either accidentally as "collateral damage" or all too often deliberately); and considering the blatantly anti-democratic means that American soldiers are being used for to a greater extent than ever before (which basically entails the building of empire and the procurement of oil and other natural resources for the benefit of the American capitalist class); and considering all of the above is now occurring with the terribly stretched thin military in the never-ending "war on terror" in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and covert missions in two other Middle Eastern nations (Somalia is one of them) that may lead to extremely long tours of duty where they will be subject to all types of needless hardships and horrors as described above; and considering the way in which these over-taxed soldiers are often denied having their tours of duty ended when it was promised to them since the preemptive war trend started roughly a decade ago (I believe this was called the "stop loss" policy during the Bush administration, and though I'm not sure if this is still going on now under the Obama administration, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it is); and considering the possibility that a war with Iran and possibly other nations in the Middle East will occur if the war-mongering neocons have their way (and they have a disturbing knack for getting their way these days even if a Democratic president is in office and when Congress is dominated by Democrats), thus extending all the problems I mentioned above even further for these soldiers; and considering the basic fact that these gay soldiers who want to enter the military will not be fighting to establish democracy anywhere in the world nor will they be defending the U.S. from invasion from a foreign nation, but are instead likely going to be used as cannon fodder in one of the Middle Eastern nations where the dubious "war on terror" is currently being fought...need I go on?
With all of the above taken into consideration, I feel compelled to ask: why in the name of the Mother Goddess would any gays, especially gay men, want to serve in the military right now?
And if any of them were asked this question and responded with the simplistic and tired old, "Because I want to serve my country," I would then ask them, "Do you have any idea what your country--i.e., your government, which is not the same thing as your country per se because your country is made up mostly of civilian people who have nothing to do with running the government other than voting in periodic elections and therefore nothing to do with the operations of the military--is doing in the world right now?"
Why would any gay people want to be part of this quagmire? I could understand people wanting to join the military and serve in the best interests of their country if all the military did was what it was supposed to do, which was to defend the nation from attack or invasion that actually occurred, or where real, concrete, provable evidence that the country was about to be attacked by a foreign nation was provided, as opposed to this "preemptive war" doctrine America has been following for the past decade. Obama has shown no sign of stopping this descructive pseudo-war lest he risk the greatest horror of them all--being called names by both the Republicans and certain elements within his own party.
The only other thing the military is actually supposed to do is possibly aiding one of the other nations in the world if that nation was actually attacked in a completely unjust manner without having done anything to provoke it after first consulting with the U.N. In such a situation, many other nations would likely join the U.S. in the internationally approved conflict, so any military operation that ensued in such a case would most likely end quickly and with a minimum loss of life for both the soldiers and any possible civilian casualties.
But that is not what is going on with the American military right now. For the military to do what it's supposed to do successfully, it wouldn't have to be anywhere near as bloated as the American government's military is, which makes it quite clear that defending the nation and its various allies from unjustified attack or invasion in a purely self-defense manner is far from the U.S. government's only agenda for using the military. Further, if the U.S. military was doing only what it was supposed to be doing, there would be far less reason for any terrorist cell in the world to hate and therefore attack the U.S. or its allies, since the military wouldn't be used for imperialist purposes anymore. Such imperialist purposes include the invasion of other nations and the propping up of brutal foreign dictators that oppress their citizenry on behalf of U.S. business interests, not to mention the support of terrorist cells that work for the U.S. rather than against it (remember the Contras during the Reagan administration?) and nations that support destructive policies against certain groups of people (such as Israel and its policies against the Palestinians). Because there would be far less terrorists who had reason to hate the U.S. if the military was only used for self-defense purposes, any incidental terrorist assaults against the U.S. and its allies that may still occur for whatever reason would be treated as criminal acts and a problem for international law enforcement agencies to solve and not the military, which is totally out of its element--and used totally inappropriately--when it comes to using the armed forces to deal with terrorists.
And I hope no gay person who wants to join the military will use the excuse, "But they will pay for my college education." Please don't tell me that such an education would make enduring all of what I mentioned above worthwhile. Please keep in mind that any gay person who joins the U.S. military will likely be sent to war in some Middle Eastern nation (likely Iraq or Afghanistan) for reasons that have nothing to do with defending the nation, or with establishing democracy (can and should democracy ever be established forcefully by a foreign invasion anyway?), or for protecting any innocents from harm, or for any other remotely noble purpose.
And at the risk of going off on another topic, why doesn't the gay community (and everyone else in America who wants a college education for that matter) petition the government to start spending less on its uber-bloated military and more on giving people opportunities for obtaining higher education affordably, or maybe even being so kind as to provide higher education for free to everyone who can maintain a good academic standing and not put adults who want to further their education into massive debt?
In short, why the hell would any members of the gay community want to join the military at this point in time? Are they doing so to attempt to make a point of some sort to the straight folks in society? Is it for P.R. purposes to show that gays can be courageous too, which is something they shouldn't have to prove to anyone in the first place, and which overlooks the fact that there are plenty of other and much more noble ways to prove your courage? Why not choose a way of showing your courage in a manner that will not require you to kill other human beings, including many innocents, or to participate in the unwarranted invasion of a foreign nation under the pretense of combatting an enemy that is not part of any one particular nation and which military force is ill-suited to tackle? I think getting involved with activism against the atrocities the government is currently committing is a far more noble display of courage than joining the killing brigade and ending up aiding and abetting those atrocities with your own hands. And is there really no other way for anyone in the gay community to get their college education paid for?
And wouldn't it be far more productive for the gay community to perhaps refuse to join the military en masse and thus deprive it of needed manpower until the government agrees to change course on how it's using the armed forces, even if only in minor ways, rather than actually joining the military and likely taking part in the atrocities it's currently committing under the direction of the government?
I think these are important questions for all progressives, particularly the many members of the gay community who are part of the progressive sphere, to ask the questions I asked above. I can't imagine I am the only progressive in America who has these questions on my mind whenever the subject of gays having the right to join the military is broached.