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?