Give us a son or daughter

One of the more bizarre tactics employed by opponents of regime change in Iraq has been to insist that war can’t be supported or even suggested except by those who’ve either served in combat or donated a child to serve in combat. Those of us who haven’t done active duty time are mere “chicken hawks” … Continue reading “Give us a son or daughter”

One of the more bizarre tactics employed by opponents of regime change in Iraq has been to insist that war can’t be supported or even suggested except by those who’ve either served in combat or donated a child to serve in combat. Those of us who haven’t done active duty time are mere “chicken hawks” not entitled to an opinion. But in America we believe in civilian control of the military, as Mr. Christopher Hitchens points out:

This expert delivers himself of the opinion that, “If this is such a great cause, let us see one of the Bush daughters in uniform.” Let me do a brief thought experiment here. Do I know a single anti-war person who would be more persuaded if one of the Bush girls joined up? Do you? Can you imagine what would be said about such a cheap emotional stunt? Stalin’s son was taken prisoner by the Nazi invaders (and never exchanged), and Mao’s son was killed in the war that established the present state of North Korea. I am not sure how encouraging such precedents are supposed to be, but they have nothing at all to do with the definition of a just war.

Much more important than this, however, is the implied assault on civilian control of the military. In this republic, elected civilians give crisp orders to soldiers and expect these orders to be obeyed. No back chat can even be imagined, let alone allowed. Do liberals really want the Joint Chiefs to say: “Mr. President, I’ll respect that order when you have a son or daughter in uniform”? It was a great day when President Lincoln fired Gen. George B. McClellan.* It was a great day when President Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur. No presidential brat needed to be on the front line for this point to be understood.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are either worthwhile or they are not (and I see that nobody as yet requires an “exit strategy” from Afghanistan). The worst exploitation of a hero by our military has certainly been the crass lying by the Pentagon about the “friendly fire” death of Pat Tillman, who was looking to risk his life against the Taliban. However, the majority of American dead have still been civilians living in America, and those who prattle on about the sacrifice of children seem not to have read about Beslan, or thought about it, or broken with the lazy old American habit that supposes that war is always “over there.”

And there’s also that issue of Americans believing in democracy, freedom, and human rights. What ever happened with all that?

17 thoughts on “Give us a son or daughter”

  1. That is the most twisted logic and evasion I’ve seen all day; its lameness illustrates the very power of the charge “chickenhawk.”

    The joint chiefs of staff are in the military. Nobody’s saying people in the military shouldn’t have a voice in these matters- except Hitchens.

    Yglesias had a good comment about this when Jonah Goldberg was attempting to defend his chickenhawk status: if there really is a near, tangible threat, as members of the community, we’d band together to thwart the threat. If it was a real threat, you’d be encouraging your friends and neigbhors to help out.

    But you don’t. You say, “Look over there, that’s a real bad thing over there, ‘somebody’ should fight them, but I also want my tax break.”

    Those somebodies are flesh and blood people, ever bit as important and precious to their parents as your children.

    The other thing that Hitchens ignores, by the way, is the parallel traditions of professional soldiers and citizen soldiers. (Remember what the 2nd amendment was really about? The United States originally did not have anything like a standing army on a par with the Great Powers, and folks like Jefferson wanted to keep it that way.)

    In the United States, although today we have a professional volunteer Army, this was not always how troops were raised for battles.

    As a country, we have a shared responsibility – to foster the commonweal, and defense is clearly in that category. That responsibility is not met with “I support the troops” bumperstickers, and it’s certainly not met by voting and supporting somebody like Bush who cut veterans’ benefits, and went into Iraq without an exit strategy.

    You have to bear a greater responsiblity for supporting the troops because you claim to support the war, Richard, and there really is no refuge from that.

    I did not support the war, I do, however think that it’s time to publish a timetable for withdrawl. We don’t belong there.

    The best way to support the troops is to make sure that those that still live don’t die in vain. Unfortunately, there is little to be done for those who have already given their lives believeing they were defending America, and instead were needlessly butchered, by request from folks like you.

  2. Oh, and one other thing: Hitchens should read up on his history.

    Turns out that the Nazis offered to trade Vasily Dzhugasvilli for other prisoners.

    Stalin said, “Keep him.” He died in a POW camp.

    You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but it carries about 1/2 the weight of a neutrino.

  3. As I recall, you opposed the invasion of Afghanistan as well. You don’t have much credibility.

    Civilian control of the military, and democracy itself, means that every citizen is entitled to express his opinion, even those of you who wanted to leave the Taliban in charge of Afghanistan and Saddam in charge of Iraq. We argue, we debate, and we elect a government that expresses our wishes.

    That’s what we did and you lost, so deal with it. If yelling “chickenhawk” is your way of dealing, so be it.

    PS – So you’re proud of Stalin and want us to emulate him?

  4. Like I said, you’re entitled to your opinion, but your actions say something entirely different.

    And that’s why your opinions on this subject aren’t taken seriously.

  5. I didn’t “oppose the toppling of the Taliban,” but that wasn’t our objective. It was necessary to get al Qaeda.

    On the other hand, I did oppose some of the thugs and the war crimes and the like.

  6. But again, why are you changing the subject?

    While it’s your blog, of course, I would guess that the disconnect between your words and your actions can’t really be defended.

  7. You’ve explained your position to me this way in the past: you wanted the US to send in a handful of guys to arrest bin Laden, period. Topping the Taliban was, in your view, unnecessary and undesirable.

    It’s OK, we all make mistakes, just learn from them and move on. Your advocacy of even this much aggressive military action makes you a “chickenhawk”, of course.

  8. I believe my country needed to go to war in the Middle East. I’m entitled to this opinion even though I’m not a soldier, just as you’re entitled to the opinion that police action against Osama was OK even though you’re not a policeman.

    This “chickenhawk” charge is simply lame.

  9. Nobody’s saying you’re not entitled to your opinion.

    But, your opinion would carry substantially more weight if you actually tried to go over to Iraq yourself and help out over there, or if you encouraged your children to enlist.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but your opinion doesn’t give you license to be believed by others.

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