Friday, September 23, 2005

The Chickenhawk Argument

I was just watching NRO's Jonah Goldberg taking calls on CSPAN. The callers ranged from full supporters of the war to irate anti-war Vietnam veterans, and as always seems to be the case with discussions such as the one Goldberg was having, someone said something to the effect of:

"If you support the war so much, why don't you go over there and fight in it?"

It's an "argument" that's used a lot for being so childish. People who do not support the war find this a convenient line of argumentation to use -- shaming war supporters into, as Goldberg said, shutting up, since their accusers aren't actually interested in "winning" the current war.

It's convenient because it places no impetus on the arguer to do anything: being against the war demands that one not join the military.

Well, here's the catch -- our country's military was set up so as to be completely controlled by civilians. That's why the Secretary of the Army, Secretary of Defense, and President aren't positions held by top generals. They're civilian posts, and not one requires military service. The idea, of course, is to avoid becoming a military dictatorship.

And then, of course, there are the divergent opinions held by current and former service members. Some support the war (in fact, support for the Bush presidency is statistically a lot higher among service members), and some are against it -- such as Vietnam-veteran John Kerry, to name one.

So, as Goldberg said after a particularly vitriolic call, the two essentially cancel each other out, and one is left with the merits of each argument on its face. The war may be a good idea and it may be a bad idea, but whether the proponent of either side has a combat-service background is irrelevant to the discussion at that level.

Now, if you were going to talk tactics or strategy -- how to go about surrounding a hostile village, or where to bomb to most effectively weaken the enemy's command and control, or which way to turn if you were to be the first one into a house potentially filled with insurgents -- then someone with a military background is clearly going to have a more informed viewpoint than someone who's never been there or done that.

Why aren't the sons and daughters of our top Republican politicians serving in the military? Because they don't have to. It's still an all-volunteer force, ladies and gentlemen, so people who don't have to serve generally don't. However, to some people, including myself, the military may offer an opportunity to advance or start a career, pay for education, or provide income that may not have been found elsewhere.

And when it comes down to a discussion of "should we be there or not," soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are really just citizens in uniform. It's a discussion we should be having as a people, based on citizenship, not service.


UPDATE: Trackback party at Colbert's Comments. Thanks, Canadian guy!
UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.