I spent a few months shy of five years in the US Army, during which I twice deployed to Iraq. We as a country have decided that merits special treatment in certain circumstances. Some businesses provide discounts. Every Veterans Day I even get free meals. And my local supermarket has designated parking space for veterans.
But in a democracy, my military service gets me the same one vote as everyone else.
Whenever the nation discusses military action, as with the recent Syria strike, those opposed frequently claim that only we who have served should be able to support war, or overseas contingency operations, or direct kinetic action, or whatever the current euphemism is for dropping bombs on the bad guys. Why?
If we’re going to go that route, maybe we should apply it equally and say life long civilians can’t oppose war either. With that standard, my hunch is the anti-war crowd might be surprised how quickly we run through tomahawk cruise missiles. It may be anecdotal, but in my experience soldiers have been more willing than civilians to initiate and maintain military action.
Regardless, whatever you happen to think about an ongoing or potential conflict, there is a veteran who agrees with you. If you believe the military should be actively engaged in sustained operations to bring stability and democracy to hostile regions, there is a veteran who agrees with you (hi!). If you believe the military should retreat to Fortress Americana and never sally forth except to repel an invasion on American soil, there is a veteran who agrees with you. Why should that veteran be able to say what you believe while you must remain silent?
But all of that is immaterial. In a democracy, everyone gets an equal say in everything. I have never been a cop, but I have opinions on criminal justice reform. I have never worked construction, but I have an opinion on massive government funded infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy. I have never been a doctor, but I have an opinion on government run healthcare. Why should you have to carry a rifle professionally before you can have an opinion on war?
Issues of war, like everything else, should be debated on the merits. The 93% of America who have never served in the Armed Forces have just as much right to be heard as the 7% who have. After all, democracy is what the military fights to protect.