The Spectacle Blog

George Will, Philip Klein and the Berkeleyization of the Military

By on 6.5.10 | 10:52AM

In the 1970s, a radical coalition gained control of the municipal government of Berkeley, California. Shortly afterward, a shopkeeper put a sign in his window sarcastically describing the new order: "That which is not forbidden is mandatory."

Radicalism is intolerant of ambiguity and has a way of imposing its demands in Manichean terms. One is either a Jacobin or l'ennemi du peuple. One is either a Bolshevik or a counter-revolutionary. And now, radicalism having come to America and taken up the task of re-arranging sexual morality, one must either endorse the gay-rights agenda or be condemned as a homophobic bigot.

The eagerness of intellectuals to avoid inclusion in the latter category has drawn the attention of Washington Times columnist Robert Knight:

On ABC's This Week on May 30, [George] Will agreed with colleague Matthew Dowd that apart from a few glitches, homosexuality will soon be a non-issue in the military. . . .
Will: "For people of Matt's son's generation, being gay is like being left-handed. ... The Supreme Court has a famous phrase it used in some opinion, the evolving standards of decency that mark a maturing society. Clearly these are evolving, and the case is over, basically." . . .
What we are witnessing among the intelligentsia is a catastrophic case of groupthink: because they all repeat the same thing, it must be true. They ignore biology, morality, history, common sense, and grim health statistics because they are smarter than anyone.
Charles Krauthammer, who has written some of the best critiques of Obamacare and the rest of the Left's assault on America , is also aboard the gay express. He's smarter than God. So, too, are Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman, Weekly Standard columnist Stephen Hayes, Fox News analyst Margaret Hoover, and American Spectator columnist Philip Klein, all of whom have called for repealing the military ban. Klein called it a "no-brainer." . . .

Knight's reference is to a Feb. 3 blog post in which Phil wrote:

I happen to be a heterosexual living in a neighborhood with a large gay population, and don't feel at all threatened by it. I see gay couples when I buy groceries, eat at nearby restaurants, or enter the elevator to my apartment building. . . . I just don't see it as a big deal one way or the other. So, quite honestly, I have to strain to try and understand why people are so concerned about gays serving in the military.

Of course, no one has proposed that Phil and his D.C. neighbors be rounded up, shipped to Parris Island for six weeks and then loaded onto a C-130 for deployment against the Taliban. However, the radicals have managed to frame the debate so that any critic is instantly met with the challenge: "What have you got against gay people?"

This has the effect of preventing examination of potential negative ramifications of the policy under consideration, as J.E. Dyer explained at Commentary:

Most advocates want to make the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) about fairness and feelings, but for those in the military, that's not what it's about. . . . One can have every sympathy for gays and still oppose the repeal of DADT, because what it portends in daily practice is administering a forced accommodation to gay behavior.

The feminist slogan, "The personal is political," has been applied in the obverse here. The political is now the personal, so that we can no longer discuss the policy on its merits. Instead of debate, we have a moralistic melodrama in which the enlightened advocates of tolerance triumph over the benighted adherents of hate.

Rather than endeavoring to debunk the radical narrative, however, it seems George Will, et al., have decided to stand athwart history muttering, "Never mind."

Conservatives who warn of unintended consequences ought not be dismissed lightly as America continues, to borrow a phrase from David Horowitz and Peter Collier, "Slouching Toward Berkeley." Chronicling that city's descent into radical madness, Horowitz and Collier noted that Berkeley activists had established an exemption to the leash law in Ohlone Park. The idea was that freeing pets from human control would permit the dogs to "exist harmoniously once separated from their owners' ethic of possessiveness." Alas, as one dog owner explained, this prophecy fell short of fulfillment:

"Some people were sure that the dogs would prove to be egalitarians. . . . But they aren't. They come here and immediately join the pack, which is a strict hierarchy controlled by the top dog. The upshot is that they have a great time, but they aren't really very progressive. It was a hard lesson for some of the radical pet owners around town to swallow. Not only have we failed to create the New Man in Berkeley; we haven't even created the New Dog."

Failure of Berkeley's canine liberation agenda was predictable, of course, but one supposes all skepticism was suppressed because skeptics didn't want to risk being denounced as "anti-dog."

Well, I don't hate dogs and I don't hate Philip Klein's neighbors, either, although I fail to see what relevance that has to the policy debate over gays in the military. What troubles me is the possibilities of where this Berkeleyization of the military may eventually lead.

Homosexuality may no longer forbidden, but it is not mandatory -- yet.

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