Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thoughts on DADT

On Satuday the Senate voted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, ending a prevented gays from openly stating their sexuality in the military:

 In a landmark vote, the Senate on Saturday ended the Clinton-era ban on gays serving openly in the military, marking a major triumph for President Obama, liberals and the gay community.

The final vote to end the Pentagon's 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy was 65-31, drawing support from eight Republicans.

With the vote comes my last chance to state my opinion on the policy, and the debate that centered around it, so I will take a few moments to do so here.

To the left DADT is a discriminatory policy, one that has unfairly punished patriotic service members.  To the right it is a mixture of things, ranging from something that protects homosexuals who wish to serve, to a policy that makes our fighting forces stronger.  However, for the most part this is nothing more than hyperventilating on both sides.  Both ignore facts, such as:

  • The policy has forced relatively few people from service, accounting for roughly 13,300 discharges between 1994 and 2009, or roughly 831 a year.  There are currently 1,445,000 active service US military (and before 1999 the US military also applied DADT to reservists).  Assuming that even 2% of those service members are homosexual (a number which is probably slightly low) that puts us at 28,890 active duty homosexual service members at any given point.  Meaning less than 5% of the total gay, active duty service population is being forced from service per a year.
  •  Homosexuals openly serve in several countries with strong militaries, most notably Israel and Great Britain.  Obviously neither nation has suffered from any sort of handicap by having homosexuals integrated openly within their military systems.

Both arguments are lacking in simple common sense as well. 

The liberal agenda is painfully obvious, this isn't about DADT being an abomination so much as it continues to change the culture, and set give gay right's a victory they've desperately needed, even if it is merely symbolic (in the direct sense).  To go about this they have unfairly framed DADT as something that prevents gays from serving, directly trying to represent the policy as oppressive.  What Don't Ask, Don't Tell does is allow gays to serve, it simply draws a line with expression of sexuality, which should seem fair to any reasonable minded person (although that doesn't necessarily mean you agree with it).  Liberals also ignored common sense in the timing of the appeal.  Even if repealing DADT won't reduce combat efficiency in the long run, it's hard to ignore the effect it will have on morale - during wartime - when 60% of Marines believe that it will have a negative impact.  The point being that even if it's not harmful to our military, the perception that is by our soldiers will harm morale.

On the flip side, conservative have made arguments that DADT protects homosexuals within the military.  While homosexuals may find that the military isn't exactly a friendly place for them, the argument ignores that it's not uncommon for soldiers to already know who around them is gay.  Ignoring that, it's offensive to assume that our armed forces would be unable to restrain themselves from violence against a homosexual service member, and in some ways echoes the disingenuous belief that segregation kept blacks safe. (Disclaimer:  This is not me saying that conservatives are anti-gay the same way segregationists hated blacks,  but merely using an uncomfortable fallacy that stuck out in my mind)

It was this uncomfortable combination of valid and invalid arguments from both sides that shifted my position from against DADT repeal, to being truly neutral on the whole thing.  If it stood, or if it failed, I didn't particularly care, perhaps giving it up as a lost cause on the right and a potential area for compromise (something the GOP failed to capitalize on).  My only source of discomfort comes from knowing that this will most likely make the culture war against gay marriage that much harder, a fight which I'm already finding increasingly depressing

At the end of the day both sides turned this into an incredibly sad display of absurdity over a policy which, in and of itself, was inconsequential.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why does Ron Paul hate freedom?

I recently asked, on facebook, "Why does Ron Paul hate freedom?".  It was, of course, a rhetorical question, intended to be bring grins or fury depending who read it.  But under the rhetoric is a disturbing trend - a trend which, in may ways, validates the question.  Why DOES Ron Paul hate freedom?

In 2009 Iran was rocked with mass, anti-government, pro-democracy protests following the fraudulent election results.  Hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of Iranians took the streets and their roofs and streets, and the government in turn unleashed their thugs upon the democracy activists.  The following Green Protests were followed all around the world, and united both the left and right in their sympathy for the protesters.  We saw dozens of images and videos of defiant protesters being beaten, chanting with bloodied faces, and in once case, dying on the street.

Neda died on June 20th, 2009, shot by a Basij thug at random.  One day earlier Ron Paul was the sole member of the House to vote against a resolution which expressed "support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law."  Here is his statement on why he voted no:

I rise in reluctant opposition to H Res 560, which condemns the Iranian government for its recent actions during the unrest in that country. While I never condone violence, much less the violence that governments are only too willing to mete out to their own citizens, I am always very cautious about "condemning" the actions of governments overseas. As an elected member of the United States House of Representatives, I have always questioned our constitutional authority to sit in judgment of the actions of foreign governments of which we are not representatives. I have always hesitated when my colleagues rush to pronounce final judgment on events thousands of miles away about which we know very little. And we know very little beyond limited press reports about what is happening in Iran.

Of course I do not support attempts by foreign governments to suppress the democratic aspirations of their people, but when is the last time we condemned Saudi Arabia or Egypt or the many other countries where unlike in Iran there is no opportunity to exercise any substantial vote on political leadership? It seems our criticism is selective and applied when there are political points to be made. I have admired President Obama's cautious approach to the situation in Iran and I would have preferred that we in the House had acted similarly.

I adhere to the foreign policy of our Founders, who advised that we not interfere in the internal affairs of countries overseas. I believe that is the best policy for the United States, for our national security and for our prosperity. I urge my colleagues to reject this and all similar meddling resolutions.

Dr. Ron Paul's reasoning here is about as sound as a sinking ship.  In fact sinking is exactly what he's doing here.  RP works off the foreign policy belief in non-intervention, which is really just isolationism, but him and his followers try hard to pretend it isn't.  However I don't see how you can interpret what he says as anything other than a cheap cop out.  RP focuses his reasoning around the basis that the US has no right to "meddle" in the affairs of other nations, ignoring the fact that a condemnation isn't really so much meddling as it is a strongly worded letter.  If sanctions or military action came from this resolution, then perhaps Ron Paul would have a valid point, but it doesn't.  All it does is condemn violence against pro-democracy activists, and applaud the activists for their bravery.  Where exactly is the harm in that, other than to our relations with that nation?

Relations with a nation is exactly where Ron Paul takes this argument next, pointing out our citicism is based largely on pragmatism. America doesn't want to piss Saudi Arabia off, so it doesn't condemn it's human rights record, but because we don't like Iran we're eager to jump down their throats.  That may be, but what does that have to do with anything?  Are you somehow morally superior than the people who pretend to care about human rights - but ignore abuses in countries they want to curry favor with - by ignoring all of the instances of abuse altogether?  Why RP decides to bring up this point after clearly stating that he doesn't want to "interfere" in the internal affairs of any foreign nation is beyond me.  He clearly doesn't care to condemn the abuses in Saudi Arabia any more than he could care to condemn the abuses in Iran, so what purpose does this point serve?

Commenting on the internal affairs of foreign nations also exposes Ron Paul for the hypocrite he is.  On April 6th, 2006 he had no problem getting involved in Romania's policy on intercountry adoptions and how they treat orphaned children.  In June of this year, he had no problems condemning the Israeli raid on a flotilla trying to break through the Gaza blockade.  But six days ago he couldn't vote yes on a resolution to congragulate Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese democracy advocate who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ron Paul is creating a habit out of condemning those who yearn for freedom and democracy, and use peaceful means to try and attain it.  This behavior isn't exactly uncommon from him, and any clear thinking individual who watches Ron Paul for any decent amount of time will realize that the man is, at best, a bit extreme.  At worst he's down right insane.  So again, I ask:  Why does Ron Paul hate freedom?