Thursday, December 01, 2005

# Posted 2:43 PM by Patrick Porter  

ON CHICKENHAWKS: I can't add much to the excellent discussion prompted by David's post below. Except one thing. Much is made of the morality of a President sending others to risk their lives in war. Less is made of the morality of not doing so. A President without military experience, who is highly self-conscious of this, and who becomes reluctant to commit forces to war for this highly personalised reason, may not be a responsible wartime leader. Solemnly shouldering these burdens is part of the job. Reluctance to make decisons that might involve casualties can have terrible consequences. The genocides that took place in the 1990's, partly because western governments did not want bodybags, remind us that there are other things involved in making these difficult judgments. Recall America's very bloody Civil War. It was that notable chickenhawk Abraham Lincoln, a non-combatant all of his life, who said that he wanted generals who could 'face the arithmetic.' I have yet to meet a Union supporter who would claim that the Union's cause was any less virtuous for that.

And what of outsiders who support the resistance? Their civilian status has not been subjected to the same, cheap, scrutiny. Implicit in much of this debate is an assumption that those who oppose the US are necessarily anti war. While many principled opponents of the war are undoubtedly genuine pacifists or genuinely opposed to this particular war, some others such as George Galloway and Michael Moore are prowar, because they vocally support the heroic operations of the other side and regimes like Syria's who sponsor the influx of holy warriors into Iraq. But I won't call for those who applaud these glorious resistance fighters to join the cadres of foreign jihadist combatants. As David suggests, it is ultimately more democratic to tackle the substance of the argument rather than the biography of the person making it. And it would be illiberal to require either silence or pacifism from people not in uniform.
(18) opinions -- Add your opinion

Au contraire - Abraham Lincoln served through three enlistments during what was called the Black Hawk War. It only amounted to a total of about 90 days but wasn't bad for a pre-Civil War, non-military guy.
Combat experience, not just military experience, is a two edged sword. One could argue that a person who has seen the horrors of war would be less likely to use military force. This could explain, in part, why the Europeans took so long to confront Hitler. Was it better that they waited?
Hey anonymous,

I stand corrected. Lincoln argument withdrawn.

Bush partied at Yale and snuck into the Texas ANG and Dick Cheney got deferments to go to business school. Both avoided the events of the day.

Bill Clinton protested and took the Viet Nam War seriously.

Bush and Cheney's status as chickenhawks goes to their character. Fheir avoidance of issues has echoes in their later disengagement as leaders. Give a speech and hide.

And it is embarassing to mention Lincoln in an argument about chickenhawks. The more you learn about Lincoln, the taller he gets.
Hi CS,

Its precisely because of his stature that I mentioned Lincoln. He shows that one can be a responsible wartime president aware of the burdens and costs of war, even while coming from an overwhelmingly civilian background. Given his example, we need to be careful not to define leadership in a way that disqualifies leaders without combat experience.
As always, the chickenhawk argument leads to the inevitable conclusion that if a politician hasn't been in combat he may not take the nation to war no matter the circumstances.
Since we never know what circumstances might smack us, we would have to be safe by electing only combat veterans to any position--Pres, vp, congress--which might have something to do with war.
Now that I think about it, that would go for media editors as well, just in case any of them think a war is justified.
Or anybody who has an opinion....

But, let's presume Bush had combat experience. How would the political lineup differ from what it is today? Would the dems be giving him any slack?
Nope. Chickenhawk is one of the lamest arguments in the current difficulty.
Red Mist:

I would agree that military service, while indicative of many laudable character traits, does not make a person an inherently superior commander in chief.
Moreover, supporting a war without volunteering to fight it is perfectly acceptable.

That said, I think the enormous scale and stakes of Bush's foreign policy will require far more American citizens to devote themselves to serving their country in some form overseas than they do at present. Bush's plan for spreading democracy across the Near East will be a long struggle, and one that will require many dedicated soldiers, linguists, foreign service officers, nation-building experts, etc.

But where are these people, and where is the call to duty from those who would support this open-ended engagement? Nowhere is it evident that those who support the war on terror in such apolyptic terms are willing to make the required sacrifices to successfully complete such a mission.

When the British had an extensive presence overseas circa 1900, graduates of Oxford and Cambridge were groomed to oversee the empire. They sent the best and the brightest out to administer affairs, and it was a rite of passage for many young men, as well as a life-long stay for others.

And yet Britain still failed. How are we supposed to succeed, when we are even less committed as a country to serving abroad in any form beyond our mlitary? How can we expect the US military to exclusively bear the burdon of such an open-ended endeavor?

I personally have come to the conclusion that pro-war hawks, while not deserving the moniker of chicken-hawk, are nonetheless guilty of intellectual irresponsibity. I can respect a military man advocating such a large-scale foreign policy, because he has clearly committed himself to the project. I am far less sympathetic to someone who had decided to stay home stumping for a strategy of such colossal imperial ambition.
Ten US marines killed in Falluja

Question; did one of your kids die in Iraq today?
The Dead:

No, but Australian civilians were murdered on 9/11 and in the Bali killings. As a fat civilian, therefore, I am demonstrably a target of this extremism and entitled to hold a view on how to combat it.

Question back: do you think only people who have lost a child at war are entitled to an opinion?

If the answer is yes, and if you think only parents of dead combatants are authorised to have opinions, what's your response to the bereaved parents who support the war?

What one-line backchat would you give to Natalie Healy, mother of Dan Healy, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Iraq, who organized a rally to support the work of the troops in August 2005 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire?

Or Gary Qualls, whose son, Marine Corporal Louis Wayne Qualls, died in Iraq, who began "Fort Qualls" in Crawford, Texas to counter the "Camp Casey" protests?

Or to Gregg Garvey, whose 23 year old son died in Iraq, who said that "people have had enough Bush bashing."

Nate: i take your point, maybe people who can should do more.
But I don't see why a busdriver in Harlem who probably won't get a chance to be join the diplomatic/military/intelligence effort should therefore be branded as irresponsible for supporting the democratisation of Iraq. And its not as though support is just words. While I respect the right of people to dissent, one thing militaries need is to have their cause validated by people at home, so supporting a war is not irrelevant to their morale or their chances of success.
All these comments for and against are interesting but do rather bear out the correctness of that motto that hangs on millions of office walls "When you're up to your ass in alligators etc." Let's be realistic, we are in mess and figuring out how do we get out of it, and don't kid yourself that is the white house's and the GOP's agenda too. It's hard to escape the conclusion that Bush and co have transformed a serious but manageable regional problem into an international debacle for this country. Now he want's out because it killing him politically and frankly if we took every man out of Iraq tomorrow it wouldn't change the likely long term outlook for Iraq one little bit and it is an ugly outlook which will result in a strengthening of our enemies, notably Iran. However, it would save the lives of about roughly 1000 of our guys who are going to get knocked off over the next year and enable us to focus on developing a serious and publicly supported strategy for containing terrorism.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sorry just deleted myself accidentally. At the risk of boring everyone, I'll shut up and leave the thread open to others.
"As always, the chickenhawk argument leads to the inevitable conclusion that if a politician hasn't been in combat he may not take the nation to war no matter the circumstances."

Yours is not the chickenhawk argument.

Bush and Cheney avoided service in their youth (chickens) AND then orchestrated wars of choice (hawks). The disengagement of their youth shows up again in their trivialisation of foreign affairs. THIS is why they are unfit. It is a certain hypocrisy.

Combat isn't the defining issue. It is an early realisation that character and events matter. That is why I admire both Clinton and Kennedy. That is why I disparage Bush, Cheney, and Reagan.

Lincoln was not a chickenhawk. He was neither a chicken nor was he a hawk. Recall that the South seceeded and that the South attacked first.

Clinton was not a chickenhawk, either. You can argue he was a chicken, I disagree, but he was no hawk. He inherited Somalia, and he lead a NATO alliance to intercede in Bosnia.

Nixon was NOT a chickenhawk. IMO.
Reagan WAS a chickenhawk. Sorry, movies don't count.
Bush Sr. was not a chickenhawk.
Carter was not a chickenhawk.
Ford was not a chickenhawk.
I said 'wars of choice'. I should have said a war of choice. I think Afghanistan was correct. The US went with a coalition. If we had concentrated on Afghanistan we might have succeeded there.

Iraq on the other hand was a war of choice.

Of course, Bush has three more years to make my misuse of a plural prescient.
The US went into Iraq with a coalition too.
Red Mist:

I would agree that insisting the American military stay until there is a thriving democracy in Iraq is a fine moral stance. But I'll accord that outlook the same respect I give to peaceniks I know who think the world would be a better place if America unilaterally disarmed itself. Both views privilege a glorious "end" that doesn't square the "means" to achieve them, and as such are not worthy of serious consideration.

Regarding militaries needing support from home: Correct.

But if you see the Iraq war as part of the larger war on terror, as I do and as Bush has encouraged us to do, it isn't unreasonable to support a military withdrawal in this particular Iraq battle so that we can refocus our grand strategy. I support our troops by doing my best to see that their efforts are not wasted, and that their cause is both just and achievable.
This conversation is hopelessly stupid. If you want to change the constitution, change it. Until that time, it is the president's legal responsibility to conduct war and he is elected democratically to do so in so far as congress gives him the legal authority to. The last president to conduct a major war that also served in one was James Madison, as far as I can tell.

BTW, can we now look forward to our domestic liberal chickenhawks--such as the ACLU--withdrawing gracefully from involving themselves in an any matters concerning law enforcement--police, FBI, state troopers,etc.--since none of them are out there putting their lives on the line every day?

Oh, wait, of course not, because they are totally fuill of shit.
"This conversation is hopelessly stupid."

Was that a preface or a comment?

"The last president to conduct a major war that also served in one was James Madison, as far as I can tell."

Uh, do you remember George Bush? I mean George Herbert Walker Bush, Navy pilot during WWII, and not George Walker Bush, Texas Air National Guard pilot during the Viet Nam War.

GHWB was even shot down in combat. Ok, he sucked as a pilot.
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