August 20, 2005

Careful What You Wish For

It’s hardly worth arguing with a person who bandies about the term “chickenhawk.” I would like to know, though, how many of those people supported the invasion of Afghanistan from the sidelines. My guess is most of them did – so they’re “chickenhawks,” too. If they aren’t chickenhawks then they’re hopelessly pacifist and out of step with at least 90 percent of Americans.

Anyway, they have something in common with Cindy Sheehan’s booster club. (In large part that’s because they tend to be the same people.) Apparently it hasn’t occurred to them that the results of the supposedly “progressive” idea that only military veterans and families of lost soldiers should decide foreign policy would produce a freakish result that’s way too right-wing for even the most hard-line American right-wingers. Hitchens explains:
What do these people imagine that they are demanding? Would they like a referendum to be held, among the relatives of the fallen in Iraq, to determine the future conduct of the war? I think I can promise them that they would heavily lose such a vote. But what if the right wing were also to demand such a vote and the "absolute moral authority" that supposedly goes with it?

One of three things could then happen. The ultra-right anti-Zionist forces of David Duke and Patrick J. Buchanan, both of whom approvingly speak of Ms. Sheehan's popular groundswell, would still lose the vote. So would the media fools who semi-automatically identify Sheehan and her LaRouche-like drivel with the "left" or "progressive" forces. This would leave us with a random pseudo-majority, made up of veterans and their relatives. Who wants this to be the group that decides? One might as well live in a populist, jingoist banana republic. Never mind the Constitution, or even the War Powers Act. Only victims and martyrs can decide! Get ready to gather under the balcony of a leader who speaks rotundly of such glory.

UPDATE: There's an argument in the comments about whether the "chickenhawk" brigade and their fellow travelers really want to install a veteran's foreign policy junta. Of course they do not. And that's the point. It behooves them to stop arguing as though they did.

They apparently don't see the logic. But I'll bet if right-wing warmongers said civilians ought to stay out of foreign policy arguments because they lacked courage and moral authority, the logical end-point of that position would be a little more clear.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 02:04 PM
Comments

the results of the supposedly “progressive” idea that only military veterans and families of lost soldiers should decide foreign policy

Sorry, but life has kept me sufficiently busy such that I can't really keep track of what everyone is saying everywhere. Could you please link us up to the "progressives" who are agitating to deny a voice on foreign policy to everyone except vets?

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 02:32 PM

"Could you please link us up to the "progressives" who are agitating to deny a voice on foreign policy to everyone except vets?"

I read lots of blog comments and see the chickenhawk argument frequently: that anyone who supports the war has no credibility unless they are in the military over there or are ready to sign up to go. The corollary of that argument is that only those who have served have the right to support the war.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 20, 2005 02:44 PM

Apparently it hasn’t occurred to them that the results of the supposedly “progressive” idea that only military veterans and families of lost soldiers should decide foreign policy would produce a freakish result that’s way too right-wing for even the most hard-line American right-wingers.--MJT

Not necessarily so, but whatever the result of such a scenario, you can bet that they have not thought out the question. They don't think any longer; they emote; they act out;they rage; they obsess; they FEEL.

This is just another symptom of the problem you continue to lament in your writings. There are simply precious few THINKERS remaining on the left and in the once-great Democratic Party. It's all about the HOW of POWER and nothing about the WHY of POWER. How can you offer an alternative when you don't bother to HAVE one?

These people seem to have a death wish, and clearly possess no sense whatsoever of history. They simply cannot see that EVERYTHING they do in the end works against them and in the interests of their adversaries. Were this not so critical a time, it would be priceless theatre.

Watch The Loonies ---- A New Disaster Every Day. A Cast of Thousands. No need to push, the show is endless.

Sad.

Posted by: dougf at August 20, 2005 02:49 PM

The idea of reducing the franchise to veterans only is not a new one. It was the basis of Robert Heinlein's classic sci-fi novel, Starship Troopers. Whatever Heinlein was, he was no kind of lefty.

Posted by: Hunter McDaniel at August 20, 2005 02:53 PM

The corollary of that argument is that only those who have served have the right to support the war

Well, first off - it is a corollary that YOU draw, not a position that they take. So, at the very least you should challange them to reveal the logic that they use, rather than putting words in their mouths.

Because, to be fair (hah,hah, as it that is a concern), you end up stating as if a fact, a position that they factually do not hold.

Lets face it. Most of those in the Sheehan orbit are speaking quite loudly about foreign affairs, and seem to feel quite entitled to do so, and, lets presume, many of them are not vets. So the assertion that they would defer to vets on foreign policyt is absurd on its face.

Furthermore, as you state: have the right to support the war is a lot different than having the right to speak of foreign policy in general.

I am not someone who has ever used the term "chickenhawk", but it seems clear to me that those who do are not in any sense arguing that foreign policy is the exclusive realm of veterans. They are simply making the point that if one supports a war, they should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the effort.

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 03:06 PM

It is a combination of various anti-war attacks on supporters of the war. Dowd bestows "absolute moral authority" on Casey's mother because he died in the war.This means that parents of fallen soldiers don't just deserve sympathy and respect for their loss, but that their moral authority is greater then those citizens who do not share their fate and that their opinions on the war automatically are given greater weight because of their loss, no matter what the content of their ideas are. It is one thing to say that their expeirence gives them a different and unique perspective, but they have been elevated above the rest of us. "Absolute moral authority" should not result from something that happens to you.

The chicken hawk argument that is rampant in some quarters is simply a dishonest and intellectually stunted view. Our founding fathers set up a system of government that rejected the Spartan idea that military service has anything to do with the authority of civilian leaders. And since we have a volunteer rather then drafted army it is even a weaker argument. Chicken hawk seems to be reserved for republicans. I have yet to see any call for Sen. Clinton, who supported the Afghanistan War, be attacked because Chelsea is not in the army. They may want to defend this form of argument but they can't ignore that they reserve it for one party and ignore the potential Democratic chickenhawks, thus showing the partisan nature of their argument.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 20, 2005 03:07 PM

In Latin and Central America many people fought and many people died for well over a hundred years to separate elected civilian leaders from the military and thus get away from military juntas and the horrors which usually result.

And Observer, if you haven't seen the "chickenhawk" argument you simply haven't read many blogs, either on the left or anywhere else. It's meant to be a conversation-stopper.

Similar logic would seem to say that only ex-cops or those with live or dead relatives in the police could have the "right" to discuss issues of law enforcement.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at August 20, 2005 03:27 PM

Kevin,
Do you really really really think that when MoDo used the term "absolute moral authority" that she meant to establish Sheehan as the popess of American foreign policy - to whom we all should bow and scrape and follow each word that comes from her lips?

I leave that as a rhetorical question, because I would trust the thoughts clanging around in your head right now, over whatever you might feel compelled to write.

Of course no one really believes that that is what she meant. Nor can any rational person believe that any of these people believe what Tots and Hictch seem to claim they do.

This whole idea seems silly.

Posted by: Obeserver at August 20, 2005 03:55 PM

My brother is serving in the Army as a physical therapist in Kosovo. If he is killed then my mothers views on the war suddenly are elevated to "absolute moral authority"? In response to Sheehan there are many parents and spouses of dead soldiers who are speaking up in support of the war. They believe their children died in a noble cause. Casey's mom doesn't. I doubt Maureen Dowd will write about these pro war parents and if she did she would probably ignore and discount their arguments. These are cheap emotional arguments that make no sense.Every war in history has had mourning parents and dying children. If this fact somehow makes these wars automatically wrong then we should have left Europe to Hitler and Stalin and Asia to Tojo.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 20, 2005 04:10 PM

Observer -- You're being remarkably "progressive" -- as in disingenuous and manipulative -- here.

What could Dowd possibly have meant -- I refrain from saying 'been thinking' as I try to eschew oxymorons -- except that "Mother" Sheehan had the overriding, overwhelming right to be heard above any other opinions?

As to the chickenhawk argument, I cannot believe you haven't heard it. I have never been to a blog, right or left, where the "progressives" have not used it, sometimes in absurd cases. I have heard veterans with long service in America's armed forces and wars called "chickenhawks" because they aren't in this one. As one "progressive" (and I trust she looks forward to a long life ofbitter spinsterhood) at the Santa Monica rallies when Bush came to town told me to my face. "well, then that doesn't count, does it?"

Posted by: richard mcenroe at August 20, 2005 04:10 PM

Observer: Nor can any rational person believe that any of these people believe what Tots and Hictch seem to claim they do.

You're right. That's the whole point of this post.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 04:18 PM

Absolute moral authority does not leave any wiggle room. I didn't choose those words, she did. They are usually reserved for God's, Kings and Queens and Popes. It means that the only people who can properly challenge her idea's are people who share her circumstances. If Dowd was discussing the effects of losing a child she would have a point but she was discussing the war and those who did not agree with casey's mom. Hitchen's and Totten's articles are the logical extension of Dowd's words.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 20, 2005 04:24 PM

Tots and Hitch.

What should we call you, "Ob"?

But seriously, Ob, I thought precision of expression and moral clarity was what Progressives were all about. So why shouldn't MoDo be roasted for being fast and loose with her demogoguery. I mean, doesn't that make her as bad as the Bush apologists?

I say we take the words of everyone seriously, and apply the rules uniformly. I know, weird idea, but thought I'd put it in play....

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 04:30 PM

Ob:

The idea of "conversation stopper" and Yehudit's post explains this flabby debate tactic. It leans on emotion rather then logic. It is great agit-prop but intellectually shallow.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 20, 2005 04:50 PM

Ob:

I am going to assume that you are against the Iraq war. I apologise in advance if I am wrong. If President Bush had won the Purple Heart in Vietnam and both of his daughters had died in the Iraq war would that change your views on the war? I doubt it. But if it wouldn't change them it exposes the phoney nature of this emotional argument. Roosevelt and Lincoln are considered great war time Presidents but their military history was limited. The seperation of our armed services and the power to decide when we go to War is one of the glories of our system. And if we give more weight to our soldiers who are fighting this war, the relatives of our fallen heroes, and the veterans of previous wars I think the left would be dissapointed in the political outcome. The military voted for Bush in a far larger number then the general public. And this is with a decorated war veteran running against him.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 20, 2005 05:27 PM

As to the chickenhawk argument, I cannot believe you haven't heard it

I think that is the second comment chiding me for saying that. Except I didnt say that. Whats up folks?

I said I never used the word.
And I said that I never heard of anyone arguing that only vets should speak on foreign policy.

Havin' a little problem reading guys?

Posted by: Oberver at August 20, 2005 06:02 PM

Kev,
Who ever said that it is a "conversation stopper" except youse guys?
Dem bastards at the NYT put all of MoDo columns behind the cash register, except the latest, so I cant go back and read the context. But if my impression from whenever I read it is correct, she was referring to Sheehan's right to be heard and not swift-boated like the slimy ones were begining to do.

I repeat my question to you: do you really really believe that MoDo (who is not a vet) meant that only vets have the moral authority to determine foreign policy? Because that is the deductions that all of you are making, and they are absurd.

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 06:17 PM

Ob, I'm sure the folks flinging chickenhawk-shit around have zero problem with non-veterans speaking out AGAINST Iraq, Afghanistan, whatever. God knows their voices shouldn't be squelched.

But us non vets should just STFU, don't'cha know? 'Cause we don't have the moral clarity of a, shall we say for argument, Cindy Sheehan.

As an asymetrical tactic, one can only observed in admiration. As an honest argument, one hase to observe that it sucks.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 06:22 PM

Observer: Nor can any rational person believe that any of these people believe what Tots and Hitch seem to claim they do.

Totten: You're right. That's the whole point of this post.

Thanks for clarifying Micheal. The whole point of your post is to ascribe to some people a belief that no rational person could actually believe that they hold.

Got it.

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 06:24 PM

I believe this argument is about intellectual honesty. And Ob, I don't think you're doing your side any favors.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 06:26 PM

non-vets for the war. Pardon.

Why am I posting here on a Saturday night? If I were against the war, a protest babe would be shagging me right now. Sigh....

(Oh, wait; unless Ob can multitask as smoothly as he switches arguments, he's not getting any either. I feel better.)

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 06:31 PM

This whole chickenhawk thing is just political opportunism and mudslinging. To debate it as any sort of serious position is ridiculous and I don't know why people like Hitchens even bother.

By the way, Heinlein proposed such a political system in Starship Troopers; only people who had volunteered for military service were enfranchised. I don't think such a system is really what this teapot tempest is about.

Posted by: chuck at August 20, 2005 06:36 PM

Ob, I'm sure the folks flinging chickenhawk-shit around have zero problem with non-veterans speaking out AGAINST Iraq, Afghanistan, whatever

Gee Mark, I thought that the whole line of argument being developed here was that lefties were claiming that only vets could speak to foreign policy issues. As Tots himself wrote:

the results of the supposedly “progressive” idea that only military veterans and families of lost soldiers should decide foreign policy

So your claim that they have no problem with non-vets speaking out against the war seems to fly in the face of Totten's assertion. There is no such "progressive" idea. Its a pretty lame attempt to make a deduction from a position that is obviously different than the deductions made by the people who actually hold the position.

There is a name for that. It is called "strawman argumentation". And just to be even-handed here I will give you another example. Bush says we should overthrow dictators who repress freedom. Some deduce that therefore he must invade China, Burma, Zimbabwe, NKorea and many other places, preferably all at once, or be a hypocrite. Its a perfectly logical deduction, but from a simplistic rendering of a position, done for rhetorical effect, not out of "intellectual honesty".

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 06:46 PM

What is the logical inference when you attack someones idea's on the war because they are not veterans themselves or do not have children in the war. You are saying that there views are invalid because of their lack of military service or that becase your children do not serve. No one claimed that Dowd was asking for legislation banning non-military civilians from the decision to go to war or when to end it. What Hitch and Totten are arguing is that if you are going to discount non military civilians opinions on the war then you are elevating the militaries opinions. You have not explained how "absolute moral authority" doesn't mean a elevated importance of her idea's simply because her son died and what other meaning those precise words mean. The fact that you are arguing that no one has introduced legislation is silly. Totten and Hitch never claimed that there was. What they are arguing is that the chicken hawk and absolute moral authority arguments are shallow and cheap and that if you are going to give more intellectual weight to those who have served and to those who have relatives of those who served and try to use the fact of non-military service as a excluding factor in debate the results would be far from what many on the left want. The fact that you have pinned your argument on evidence of legislation or a specific request for technical changes in our political system misses the whole point. Totten takes the logic of their argument and expose the hypocrisy in it. He wasn't warning us of pending legislation. Maybe you should try reading his post again and not assume that you are reading a contract. It's simple but it is logical. This isn't a news story. It is a commentary. None of the other posters thought the laws were being changed or that anyone was calling for them to be changed. They just know a cheap trick when they see it and they know the disatrous consequences of the logic of their argument.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 20, 2005 06:46 PM

Kevin,

The fact that you are arguing that no one has introduced legislation is silly.

What is with all this legislation talk? I never mentioned legislation.

You have not explained how "absolute moral authority" doesn't mean a elevated importance of her idea's simply because her son died and what other meaning those precise words mean

As I said, I dont have her article in front of me, so I cant say for sure what she meant. Certainly not what is being ascribed to her though. I guessed that she was speaking of Sheehans right to be heard and to be respected and not smeared. A moral authority like so many other moral authorities in this country who get listened to respectfully.

I am NOT equating her with a pope for instance, for it is an extreme analogy, but nonetheless instructive. Most people in this country, especially conservatives viewed JPII as a moral authority - Catholics as something akin to an absolute moral authority. He was strongly against the Iraq War - and it seemed not to trouble conservatives one bit, at least not in public. They could recognize someone as a moral authority, listen respectfully, then make up their minds on their own terms. They did not give him a vote in our political decision, and certainly not an extra weighted vote.

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 07:08 PM

Hey Ob, Mr. Totten was calling the most vocally anti-war on what would appear to be bad-faith arguing tactics, to wit: Cindy lost a son, so we should listen to Cindy; all the chickenhawks are using the war as a real-world videogame substitute, do they should be reviled.

Neither argument has a thing to do with rational discussion of policy. Both are designed to suppress rational discussion. As such, in the sphere of debate, they are fundamentally dishonest.

As to Bush and other dictators, give him time, will you? The Workers' Paradise wasn't built in a day, you know?

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 07:25 PM

Mark, I dont see it as bad faith arguing.

Cindy lost a son, so we should listen to Cindy

Right. Whats wrong with that? Listen respectfully. Dont do a swift-boat number. There is no hint of an assertion that we must therefor do what she says.

the chickenhawks are using the war as a real-world videogame substitute, so they should be reviled

Well, at least their views need not be accorded as much respectful listening to.

And to round it out - a vet or grieving mother who supports the war should also be listened to respectfully, more so than someone who has invested in the war nothing more than some finger exercise.

I dont see the problem here.

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 07:38 PM

Somehow this seems appropriate given the mention of the Sheehan fiasco in Crawford, and the general conversation about 'intellectual dishonesty'.

"We're asking for a meeting with the president, period," said Michelle DeFord, whose 37-year-old son, Sgt. David W. Johnson, was in the Army National Guard from Oregon when he was killed in Iraq last fall. "We don't want to debate with people who don't understand our point of view."

Free Speech. The freedom to talk at but never with the 'others'. Hey, I personally might even agree with the sentiment, but once again MJT's admonition might come in handy.

Careful What You Wish For

Posted by: dougf at August 20, 2005 07:41 PM

Bush has never called on the U.S. wealthy to make any sacrifices for the war on terror. In fact he cut their taxes. When the wealthy start dying, or at least payng for the war, then the chickenhawk argument will go away.

Posted by: drydock at August 20, 2005 07:43 PM

Ob, maybe Cindy has gone 'round the bend? She thinks Israel is calling the shots in Washington. Oddly, those quotes don't get played much.

Maybe the chickenhawks don't have a world of hurt clouding their logic? Oddly, the nuts-and-bolts of democracy building don't get played much.

Maybe everyone should be listed to respectfully, and mayby the sarcasm of the videogame remark went over your oh-so-earnest head?

I live in Brooklyn. For weeks I got to smell the winds blowing from the WTC. So there's your visceral, been there, done that, dealt with the crying jags on the subway moment for you. Personally, I don't feel a need to appear on any of the morning shows to talk about it, not even Fox.

But for what it's worth, I feel that I am part of this equation; for that matter, I feel you are too, whether you think so or not. And as such, I'd like to see the best decision making tools brought to bear on where we go from here. Pardon me, but you (and even more, drydock) are not helping.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 07:53 PM

OB:

Your first post asks us to show where anyone has asked to deny a voice to anyone other then vets. This is where your sophistry begins. This is the classic strawman. When I read Totten's post and Hitchens article I never assumed that any progressive was asking for all non vets voices to be excluded. They were pointing out the cheap, emotional tactic of using lack of service as an intellectual argument against non-military supporters of the war. They then extended the logic of giving priority to KIA soldiers and their relatives and what would happen. It is an extension of their logic. By using lack of military service as a intellectual disqualifier they are embracing ideals that are in opposition to the way our government is set up.The fact that Sheehan tragically lost her son gives her political arguments neither added or lesser weight. The fact that the Bush twins are not in the Army doesn't make the Iraq war bad or good. To introduce these emotional arguments into the debate of the war is crap. The fact that these arguments are being presented by many progressives as weapons to stiffle or minimize pro-war supporters arguments is intellectual spitting. They add nothing to the argument and are simply methods to avoid the topic and insult the person on the opposite side of the argument.

As far as Sheehans 'absolute moral authority" the death of her son means nothing as far as her political arguments. Moral authority is earned by the content of your ideas, not by what has been done to you. And the only time that absolute authority is given is when you are part of a religous group that agrees to place authority in a human leader or if you are a God. A Catholic can cede absolute authority to the pope in temporal ideas if he chooses to. The fact that she lost her son means that I should respect her grief and honor her sacrafice. I have been very careful to never attack her personally in any of my posts because I do respect her grief. If I was to meet her I would thank her for her son. But her political idea's are, well lets just say I give her no moral authority whatsoever, absolute or partial.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 20, 2005 07:54 PM

Well, you seem to be a decent chap Kevin. I wonder why you hang out with all the slimy ones who have been attacking Sheehan in personal and rather outrageous ways. As I said twice, I presume MoDo was according her "moral authority" as someone who should be treated in much the way you seem inclined to treat her.

And I'll repeat for the third time. I dont understand how you or anyone can interpret the comments about her having moral authority to be an assertion that her political views must be followed.

When I read Totten's post and Hitchens article I never assumed that any progressive was asking for all non vets voices to be excluded

Well excuse me for coming to a different conclusion when I read:

the results of the supposedly “progressive” idea that only military veterans and families of lost soldiers should decide foreign policy (Totten)

or What do these people imagine that they are demanding? Would they like a referendum to be held, among the relatives of the fallen in Iraq, to determine the future conduct of the war (Hitch)

I dont see how that is anything other than a claim that "progressives" are claiming that people like Sheehan deserves to determine American foreign policy - so that a logical deduction would be, as they deduce, that all vets and grieving mothers should be given a determinate role.

But "progressives", to my understanding are merely arguing that Sheehan be treated respectfully, the way you would, and they, quite obviouly, have no intention to cede to her or anyone else a determinate role in foriegn policy.

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 08:27 PM

This is the Dowd qoute. "But his (Bush)humanitarianism will remaine inhumane as long as he fails to understand the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute."

This ignores the fact that many of these parents hold political views that are the opposite of Sheehans. As far as her right to meet with Bush it ignores the fact that she wants to use the meeting as a part of her political campaign to stop the war.Which she has the right as a citizen to do. She is demanding that it happen outside in front of cameras so her claim that she just wants to "ask questions and get the truth" rings hollow. It would be great political theater but she has more then information on her mind. She wants the opportunity to publicly humiliate the President. If she just wanted to talk she would agree to meet with him in private. And of course the fact that she has already met with him is ignored. She has called Bush a murderer and a liar so she is not likely to take anything he says as truthful so the meeting is pointless unless Bush says, "Yes I killed your boy so my daddies buds could make a buck and because Sharon told me to." This has to do with politcal propaganda and tactics. This has nothing to do with morals.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 20, 2005 08:37 PM

Of course it isn't logical, it's emotional. That's where most Lib arguments originate, in their emotions. Then they have to do the mental gymnastics to back it up, and that passes for rational intellect.

Posted by: spaniard at August 20, 2005 08:38 PM

Entirely apart from whose words have been put into whose mouths, someone writes: "I read lots of blog comments and see the chickenhawk argument frequently: that anyone who supports the war has no credibility unless they are in the military over there or are ready to sign up to go. The corollary of that argument is that only those who have served have the right to support the war."

If there's a corollary, it's really this: only those who would go and fight (possibly die) IF THEY COULD can reasonably be believed when they say they really support the war.

As far as I'm concerned, if you don't care that much, you don't care nearly enough. Or you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

It has nothing to do with your right to support that war -- say whatever the hell you want, it's a free country. It has nothing to do with your right to vote in support of that war, for whatever candidate representative supports it. It's only a matter of whether I'll accord your opinion any respect at all. Your opinion may be right, or it may be an ignorant opinion, a foolish opinion, a self-serving opinion. I don't care. All I know is it's not worthy of respect.

I've never called anyone a chickenhawk, and for that matter have only seen the term used in reference to certain people in the Bush administration. But I suppose I have used what people called here "the chickenhawk argument." I have called people's bluff. Most hilariously, I had one guy (and this was in a face-to-face conversation) blithely admit that the reason he wouldn't go to fight in this war, a war that he thought was so great and important, was very simple: it would be too dangerous -- he might get wounded, or even get killed! Yes, leave the getting wounded, the dying, to other people! He was in his early 20s, obviously fit and (his shocking cognitive dissonance aside) of sound mind. The only reason he wouldn't do it was that he thought it wasn't worth risking his worthless skin.

If you think the freedom of other people is advanced by going to fight in Iraq, and you're ABLE to go and fight in Iraq, what's stopping you? The military is getting criticically short of new recruits. If you believe that the cause is only important enough that you'd send only OTHER people off to die, well .... it's a one-man-one-vote democracy, and everyone is entitled to an opinion, but your moral standing is down near zero with anybody like me.

I went into work at logistics group at a national lab, every work day, during Gulf War I, passing troops assigned to protect that lab against terrorist attack. They were there for a reason. It was a daily choice for me. I was pretty doubtful of that war (and much more so after we DIDN'T go to Baghdad -- leaving us with the moral authority that comes with restoring a petrostate monarchy in the name of "respect for sovereignty"). But I went every day. Someone who signs up for the military and goes in might get cold feet -- they decided impulsively on ONE day, then regret it through their entire hitch. I could have just quit that job, any day I chose. I didn't. I decided to go in EVERY day.

I've never called anyone a chickenhawk before. But maybe it's time. So here it is: If you support the war in Iraq, and COULD sign up to go, but choose not to, you're just a goddamned chickenhawk. And I don't owe you the time of day. I owe a grieving relative a hearing, whether it's in favor of the war or against. I owe a soldier a hearing, whether it's in favor of the war or not. Nobody's moral authority is absolute, but theirs will be higher for me, as someone who has taken only a fraction of their pain, a fraction of their risks. Personally, I lean in favor of staying in Iraq, though it's been hard recently. If I weren't nearing 50, and with a chronic heart arrhythmia, disqualified immediately, I'd have to settle my mind, and be absolutely sure, before saying: Yes, we SHOULD be in there.

But your opinion, as someone who could go, but won't, isn't worth a barrel of PCB waste, as far as I'm concerned. You're just a goddamned chickenhawk, and on this question, where nobody's moral authority is absolute, your moral authority is the closest thing to it: absolute zero.

Posted by: Mindless Moron at August 20, 2005 08:49 PM

Observer, you have the wrong end of the stick.

"Cindy" has a right to speak, and I'll defend that.

I have a right not to listen, and I'll defend that, too.

I also have the right to tell her (and you) to STFU, and you have the right not to listen or respond as I would like.

A Right to be Heard -- does not exist, because it necessarily involves compulsion of the hearer. You'd have to stick a gun at my head to get me to go to one of Cindy's speeches. And I don't have the right to be heard, either, nor do you. But all of us have the right to speak. That's what "right" means, and the most annoying thing about the Left to me is their effortless extension of "right" to "entitlement" and then to compulsion of those who don't care to grant that entitlement.

As for the "chickenhawk" argument, the reason it gives the sophomoric such delight is that, at some basic level, it has some truth to it. Those of us who support the war are taking advantage of the ones who actually do the work. What that formulation ignores is that the other way has been tried -- for centuries, millenia, public policy was entirely decided by those who were willing to go to war, and did whenever they saw fit. It didn't work all that well, so we changed the way it was done.

Going to war, or not, is one of the most important, if not the most important, decisions any community can make. To say that only those who are actually willing to do so in propria persona are entitled to make that decision is to turn public affairs over to the violent. Your objection is sophistry. No, the people who make the "chickenhawk" accusation don't intend that all such decisions be made by the military -- they mean that if one decides to go to war, one must do so onesself, but if one decides to oppose the war one has no such obligation and is the controlling decider. Such a clearly asymmetric relation cannot persist for very long; it must collapse into some approximation of equity, and the only possible way for it to do so is to give the controlling decision-making capacity in either direction to those who are willing to go themselves.

Application of that principle to the current situation would be, IMO, remarkably disappointing to the framers of the "chickenhawk" accusation. Even more disappointing to them, it is an easy step from there to the notion that people who already have gone to war are also entitled to provide input -- and from there, it's easy to conclude that the Left should shut up. George Bush has, after all, been in the military, and served where he was assigned. By the "chickenhawk" argument, that gives him a much better right to decide on going to war than people who have never seen the interior of a recruiting office unless they contemplated vandalism.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at August 20, 2005 08:51 PM

Maybe everyone should be listed to respectfully

Well there is a concept. What are you doing in the blogosphere? Seriously though, I think that many on your side need quite a bit of work in that regard.

Lets face it. The news media covers controversy. And it takes two to make controversy. The coverage kicked into high gear when Sheehan was attacked and ridiculed by those on the right - otherwise she would have been a minor story - a weekend filler. There are two people camped out in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, on a anti-nuke peace vigil. They and their allies have been there constantly, rain or shine, or snow for something like 20 years I think. No one pays them much mind.

But Sheehan is news because everyone, the left and the right, cant resist another venue for carrying on the Iraq argument. The RW attack machine gets cranked up full, with confidence that they can utterly destroy her character-image, since they are well practiced at that. And the left thinks they have a voice who should be somewhat immune to those attacks. The full weight of a million chatterers comes down on all this, picking apart everyones offhands words and drawing grand philosophical conclusions. And the media soak it up. And so it becomes a circus.

I agree that everyone should be listened to respectfully. Confronting someone who has paid a great price relating to the issue at hand, I tend to be extra respectful. Doesnt mean I accept them as my leader.

Why cant the right just leave her alone, to sit by the side of the road till September. No controversy, and the coverage will go away. That girl is still missing in Aruba, isnt she?

Posted by: Observer at August 20, 2005 09:03 PM

"Why cant the right just leave her alone, to sit by the side of the road till September."

Ask CNN.

Next question, please.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 09:20 PM

In all seriousness, this is why establishment media is melting down. Many of us don't want Cindy in our face (in EXACTLY the same way we don't want the beggars on the subway in our face) but it seems we don't have much choice.

Makes me wish I was back in Kuwait, it does...

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 09:24 PM

Ric writes: "Going to war, or not, is one of the most important, if not the most important, decisions any community can make. To say that only those who are actually willing to do so in propria persona are entitled to make that decision is to turn public affairs over to the violent."

Not that simple. It would turn it over to those who were willing to serve their country directly in time of war, and to take possible mortal risks in the process. There are many noncombatant roles in the military, but most of them entail some risk of being attacked by the enemy. I personally worked in the "war zone" of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, when I was working in logistics in Gulf War I. Those counterterror troop carriers, with their troops locked and loaded, were watching the traffic like hawks for a very real reason. It's about being willing to risk life and limb for something that entails the moral burden of almost-inevitable non-combatant casualties among the enemy (not to mention killing "enemy" troops prodded to the front at bayonet-point by regime loyalists, as happened in that particular war) not just about being willing to kill enemy directly.

The point is irrelevant anyway. I know of nobody saying that the right to choose to go to war belongs only to those willing to go to war themselves. It's a question of whose opinions are more worthy of a hearing. Are yours? I don't know yet. After all, I have my Right Not to Listen to You.

Frankly, Ric, I think your opinions on this matter might be worth something. I don't know, though they certainly sound very intelligent. First, however, you have to answer this question for me: would you be willing to sign up and play some risky role in this war that (I assume) you approve of, if you could?

If your answer is No, you're just a goddamn chickenhawk as far as I'm concerned. And your opinion might as well be written in shit on a square of toilet paper. It's that simple. You're talking about other people's limbs and lives as if they were worth more than yours, whether you realize it or not. And all your faux-dialectical all-other-ways-have-been-tried circumlocutions are just load of chickenhawk doubletalk. Try taking a real risk in a real war sometime, if that's what it takes for you to see the light. It'll clear your mind wonderfully.

Posted by: Mindless Moron at August 20, 2005 09:24 PM

Listen. You let me and the rest of the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, and yes even the Coast Guard, handle the psychos in Iraq and Afganistan. The rest of you who support what we're doing there need to handle the psychos on the American Front of the GWOT. That's really the only place this war can be lost, anyway.

Posted by: Swede at August 20, 2005 09:29 PM

"If your answer is No, you're just a goddamn chickenhawk as far as I'm concerned."

The problem here, Moron, is that many of us don't believe we have a choice. Many of us believe our lives in the cities we live in are at stake in this conflict, whether we're gung ho for, gung ho against, or oblivious to anything beyond what's happening with Diddy's name change.

So chickenhawk doesn't cut it. Tell me why my newlywed wife is safer in NYC following your prescriptions, and I will listen to you. Otherwise, you're just a goddamned point-scorer who isn't even very good at scoring points. (Hey, but maybe you have a career with the Knicks...)

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 09:45 PM

moron,

so i guess if i have an incurable progressive disease i have no right to an opinion -- i shouldn't even be allowed to vote. i could say i would take a "real risk in a real war" as a hypothetical but that would be pretty easy for me to say when there's no possibility of it coming true.

i could bring up the fact that hitler was a veteran (and he believed in eugenics -- that is, weeding out the unfit) but i won't.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at August 20, 2005 09:47 PM

And Moron, every time I get on a plane, I feel like I'm putting my life on the line. And if the situation arises, I will put my fat ass on the line in the cause of either saving the plane or saving people on the ground.

Because that's the world I live in.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 09:50 PM

Observer meet "mindless moron". You said you wanted an example of the chickenhawk screed . "If your answer is No, you're just a goddamn chickenhawk as far as I'm concerned. And your opinion might as well be written in shit on a square of toilet paper. It's that simple. You're talking about other people's limbs and lives as if they were worth more than yours, whether you realize it or not. And all your faux-dialectical all-other-ways-have-been-tried circumlocutions are just load of chickenhawk doubletalk. Try taking a real risk in a real war sometime, if that's what it takes for you to see the light. It'll clear your mind wonderfully."
Posted by Mindless Moron at August 20, 2005 09:24 PM

Posted by: Mike at August 20, 2005 10:03 PM

Our sons and daughters are dieing in Iraq. Millions of Iraqis are trying to fight off an insurgency. They could use some help, but our military recruiting is off.

How old are you Michael? Why aren't you lending a hand? If you are able-bodied, your country is calling you, our Iraqi allies are calling you, why aren't you answering the call?

Ich bin ein Berliner! Ich bin ein Americans! Ich bin ein Iraqis!

Ask not what your country can do for you, rather, ask what you, Michael Totten, can do for your country.

Uncle Sam needs you! What are you doing in the states that could be more important?

Posted by: jerry at August 20, 2005 10:05 PM

Mike, Observer didn't really want that. He just said he did because it sounded good.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 10:06 PM

MM,

Well, I already did. Does that count? It was long ago, and the Navy decided I was most useful in a role where the danger wasn't immediate, but I did go, as a volunteer, not a draftee.

Oh, and my son's there now. Make any difference?

But yes, if I were convinced that I, 57 with one heart attack under my belt already, could make enough difference to be worth the logistics to provide me with the raw material for feces, yeah, I'd go.

Whether or not I meet your criteria, though, I still disagree with the argument clear down at its fundamentals. Like any good negotiator, you have made a minor concession that doesn't affect your basic position, and are throwing up rhetorical smokescreens to make it look more substantial than it is. Yeah, sure, you'll vapor-plate the thing so it's shiny instead of leaving the plastic bare. Its working parts are still substandard.

The Starship Troopers idea, nice as it may be in theory, in practice ends up disenfranchising too many people. It's been a long time since war required a majority of the population participating to be effective; soldiers and their direct supporters (active support, not moral) will always be a minority, now and in the future.

The whole point of mass enfranchisement, of which democracy is currently the best example, is that good decisions are an emergent phenomenon of lots of different inputs. Nobody has all the information, but all of us taken together do, and the Brownian motion of the individuals in the mass, each responding to the bits they have, resolves, in the large, in movement in the direction we should go. (It may not always work, but that's the basis of the theory.) Rejecting anybody's contribution runs the risk of tossing out the one vital bit that would have generated the correct vector; disregarding the contributions of an entire category, regardless of how the category is defined, makes the error almost certain.

The whole point of the chickenhawk accusation, even your softened version of it, is to define a category that has no input. It may be emotionally satisfying, but in the long run it's bound to cause mistakes, even big ones. Of course, if we take your exposition literally, you are saying that it only affects your own decisions -- that it's one of the bits that impels you to move the way you do. That's fine; it's you moving in the direction the data you have directs you. It's when that notion is extended into a wall that pins a whole segment in place that problems arise.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at August 20, 2005 10:07 PM

Jerry,

Thank you. I'd been meaning to hunt down a link to the most purely sophomoric and silly version of the argument I could find, and here you've saved me the trouble by providing one. Useful.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at August 20, 2005 10:11 PM

Drydock: Bush has never called on the U.S. wealthy to make any sacrifices for the war on terror. In fact he cut their taxes. When the wealthy start dying, or at least payng for the war, then the chickenhawk argument will go away.

What do the wealthy have to do with me? My income is average for my state of Oregon. I am not wealthy. Bill Gates' finances have nothing at all to do with the validity of my opinions.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 10:21 PM

It bears repeating. Particularly after jerry's incredibly insightful post.

This war will be won or lost right here in the States. There are people, like jerry, who would rather see their country go down in flames than to see this administration succeed. They did not look at the last 2 elections and say to themselves "Okay, the message we have is simply unappealing to the majority of Americans. Maybe we need to change that". Instead, people like jerry think "You know what the problem is? We weren't shouting LOUD ENOUGH!". The press hates this administration and it hates this war. If it weren't for the internet and blogs like this one, I think the news reporting would be much worse. They can't get away with it now. That doesn't stop them from trying, but now people can hear what others are saying. There's no doubt that is why the MSM is so confounded by blogs. Their ass is getting fact checked and they don't like it. Michael, I think you do your country a huge service by providing a forumn where not only can we discuss these issues but we also get an opportunity to see what the haters really have to say, like jerry. And that's what I mean by fighting the psychos on the American Front.

Posted by: Swede at August 20, 2005 10:24 PM

Mindless Moron: If you believe that the cause is only important enough that you'd send only OTHER people off to die, well .... it's a one-man-one-vote democracy, and everyone is entitled to an opinion, but your moral standing is down near zero with anybody like me.

Did you support regime-change in Afghanistan? If so, did you go to Afghanistan? If not, shouldn't your moral standing be zero by your own logic?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 10:26 PM

Michael,

I think the whole chickenhawk idea started as a sort of a reaction to attacks or perceived attacks on patriotism. If you're anti-war, then some will say you're anti-military. Many antiwar types will then point to antiwar vets as a sort of cover. "This veterans opposed the war, but he actually went and fought. Who are you to question his patriotism?" This is the reasoning that used, and oftentimes military service is used as a buffer against attack. "You can't slander Cindy Sheehan, she's a Gold Star Mom!"

This sort of manipulation happens on both sides. When taken to its extremes, one is indeed placed in a unwitting moral position to suggest that veterans or victims of war get more moral authority to speak on these issues. I say unwittingly, because no one in their right mind would advocate such a policy knowingly. It could only come about due to a lack of coherent logical thought, which sadly is the chief malady of the anti-war crowd today.

Posted by: Rafique Tucker at August 20, 2005 10:27 PM

Hi Michael,

What are your reasons for not joining? What could be more noble than fighting for our country? You are lucky in many ways, smart, able-bodied, young. A smart aware person like you could do so much in our fight against Islamo-facism. You could aid your fellow soldier greatly. Saving lives. Building schools. Nation building. Taking the fight to Iraq so that we are safe here in the streets of America.

Michael, consider how much guilt you will feel when a mushroom cloud is seen over an American city, and you know you could have been, should have been, fighting the Iraqi terrorists that are responsible for 9/11.

Truly Michael, your country is calling you, why aren't you going?

Posted by: jerry at August 20, 2005 10:29 PM

"Michael, consider how much guilt you will feel when a mushroom cloud is seen over an American city,..."

Jeremy, when I consider how little you will feel, I despair.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 10:34 PM

Jerry, yeah we know, the "chickenhawk" thing. Got it. So what do you have to say about Michael's post? I mean say something logical, of course. Comments, thoughts? Or is this just one of those hit and run appearances.

Posted by: spaniard at August 20, 2005 10:36 PM

jerry

Yeah, Kos just called. He said to get your ass off the computer and finish emptying the trash. He's not paying you to talk.

Posted by: Swede at August 20, 2005 10:37 PM

I think you folks are too sensitive. I haven't called Michael any names. I am a father of two young girls, I work in the defense industry to create weapons systems, and I am imploring Michael, an able-bodied American, to consider doing his duty and signing up.

If you folks are old enough, I encourage you to do the same. Truly, we have the best country on the planet, and we must do what we each of us can to keep America safe.

Posted by: jerry at August 20, 2005 10:45 PM

Jerry: Truly Michael, your country is calling you, why aren't you going?

Why aren't you going?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 10:48 PM

Michael, I wish you lived in, oh, Newfoundland :-)

These discussions always begin on your time, and I'm two hours ahead, so just about the time it gets rolling good I start getting round and orange.

I do think you were a bit harsh with Mindless Moron. Allowing for bluster and hyperbole, what he's saying is that he weights the data he gets according to criteria that make sense to him. Nothing wrong with that.

Observer and Jerry are quite different cases.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at August 20, 2005 10:50 PM

By 9/12/2001, I was already too old at 41. I have checked and tried several times to see what is happening to those requirements. They are increasing, but I am still too old. I have tried entering the Army, the Army Reserves, the Air Force and the Air Force Reserves. I would join in an instant if I were eligible.

And you?

Posted by: jerry at August 20, 2005 10:51 PM

By the way, Jerry, I have a reason that I am 100 percent certain you would find acceptable. But you are not entitled to hear it. Your intent is obviously to score a debating point. You aren't asking me an honest question. So you'll just have to guess.

If you have a genuine, non-obnoxious question I might give you an answer.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 10:51 PM

Just so we're clear, Jerry, I don't really care what your reason is. I don't think you or anyone else is obligated to join the military.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 10:54 PM

I guess I don't understand after all. At the end of this post of yours demolishing the chicken hawk argument, I fail to see how I could possibly score a debating point using my failed logic that an able bodied American of age that unwaveringly supports the war fought by an army that needs more men, could find no more noble cause than enlisting to help that army.

Posted by: jerry at August 20, 2005 10:56 PM

Jerry, Haliburton is probably hiring if you have the skills. Give them a call.

Otherwise, if you have expertise in banking, I know for a fact that banks in Kuwait are hiring. If you want to make a difference in the private sector, there are always rewards to be found in helping small businesses to thrive. Email me if you're interested.

Regards,
Mark Poling

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 11:00 PM

Jerry,

If I give you an answer you don't find acceptable you'll think you scored a point with me. The reason I am not going to answer you isn't because I don't have a good answer (I do) but because I find your line of inquiry obnoxious and I don't want to encourage you to use it on other people.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 11:01 PM

BTW, jeremy, there's also Raytheon, Boeing, General Elecric, and a host of other companies dealing with defense that you may be eligible to join. And of course, Homeland Security. Have you invesitigated jobs with local police forces?

One wonders at your commitment, if you haven't explored these avenues. One might suspect you of wanking in the mirror, in fact.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 11:05 PM

Mark, as I alluded to above, I already work for one of those companies in defense. I have already been told that in my current capacity, there may be trips to Iraq or Afghanistan in the future. On a daily basis, I design weapons systems and work hand in hand with members of our armed forces.

But Michael, Mark does have a point. There are lots of jobs in our defense industry for technical writers, and for smart capable men able to manage men, logistics, supplies, requirements, or drive a forklift, or wield a wrench.

America needs you Michael to help defend her.

I encourage you to find a position in our defense industry, or with Halliburton, or KBR, Triple Canopy or in Kuwait.

Michael, what is your day job?

Posted by: jerry at August 20, 2005 11:14 PM

jerry

You're in luck!
If you're over the age of 17 then the Coast Guard Auxillary is just what you're looking for!
That's right, jerry, you can now put on that uniform you're so eager to wear and set the example for others!
jerry, I salute you, sir, and wish you the best of luck in your new found duty.
Please send pictures.

Posted by: Swede at August 20, 2005 11:17 PM

jerry, tell me what you work on so I can map the downsteam dependencies. I really want to know.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 11:18 PM

"Truly, we have the best country on the planet, and we must do what we each of us can to keep America safe."

Actually, my biggest regret is I didn't realize that when I was 17. It took two burning skyscrapers to make me realize I was taking something very important for granted.

Thanks, J. for reminding me again.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 20, 2005 11:25 PM

jerry

Just a heads up: the Coast Guard Auxillary are known as "Coasties" not "Sailors".
I don't want you making a bad first impression.
Go get 'em, Tiger!

Posted by: Swede at August 20, 2005 11:26 PM

What does Sheehan herself say, in a conference call with Reporters?

From the Conference Call Transcript:

http://www.kansascity.com/multimedia/kansascity/archive/opinion/Sheehan_transcript.pdf

"And we're not going to stop until our troops are brought home from Iraq. And we're not going to stop their either. We're going to join force and we're going to make this country -- we're going to just transform this country from a country that always supports war and killing to a country that is at peace.

And we're going to have a peaceful paradigm in this country. Because we are a good country and we should be leading the world in peace making not killing. You know the other day George Bush said that we're goint to stay in Iraq to spread Peace.

Well I have news for him you don't spread peace by killing people -- you spread more violence. And you -- and you -- you recruit more terrorists and that's got to stop. And we're going to make sure that it does stop. And this is just the beginning -- like I said.

... [Responding to Ron Brownstein of the LAT question on Dem bills withdrawing at a later date would be sufficient for her, she responds no and adds] ...

This is going to be an eternal war of the imperialism fought in the Middle East. And our unborn babies -- Melanie's little boy could be fighting this war. And we want it to stop now.

Paul Mulshein of the Star Ledger of New Jersey: I know your son was killed by members of a militia loyal to Moqtada Al Sadir, the Shiite fundamentalist. And he know seems to be quite happy about the way things are turning out. He seems to be happy that the Shiites are essentially going to prosper under the new constitution.

So in light of all this talk about terrorists attacking us, how do you feel that your son, having been killed by a group that is now going to ascend to power courtesy of the Bush administration?

Cindy Sheehan: Well I believe that my son was killed by the policies of George Bush, you know, that none of those kids should be in Iraq at all. You know, we shouldn't have been there in the first place. We shouldn't be staying there. And I feel like we have been, you know, we're over there and we need to come home. We need to let the people of Iraq handle their own business. We need to let them rebuild (unintelligible). We do not need a military presence in there to continue that at all.

The person who killed my son, I have no animosity for that person at all. You know, I many Iraqi mothers who have been destroyed by our invasion and occupation which is illegal and immoral what we are doing over there. I have no animosity towards that person. I don't believe that we should be (unintelligible).

Mulshein: And how about the Al Sadir, personally the fact that he sort of is now part of the group that's more or less being supported after having attacked the US?

Sheehan: Well, you know, a lot of very awful things are happening in Iraq. And I have to tell you for the past 10 or 12 days I have not been up on events that are
going on. So I really can't speak to that right now. I'd have to really look at it and research that to really find out what you're talking about.

So there you have it. Response to terrorism is non-violence (in Afghanistan and Iraq). Iraq and Afghanistan are endless wars of Imperialism. She has no animosity towards her son's killer but plenty for Bush. Iraq is illegal and immoral and she seems to me to halfway justify her son's murder. She can't bring herself to oppose Sadr in the Iraqi Govt.

Basically, a disaster for Dems if the Media filter for her comes off.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at August 20, 2005 11:32 PM

jerry

That's www.cgaux.org

Time's a wastin'!
You better act now before all the good berths are gone.

Posted by: Swede at August 20, 2005 11:33 PM

Jerry,

What's my day job? I'm a writer. I've wanted to be a writer since I was six years old, and now I am one. Bully for me.

As for you...if you don't stop - and I mean right this minute - telling me what are acceptable occupations and what are not acceptable occupations, I will ban you from posting on this Web site. I don't know who the hell you are, and I am not going to let a complete and total stranger tell me what I should do with my life and what I should not do.

You want me to be a technical writer? Fuck you. Seriously. I spent years toiling away as a technical writer and I took a 50 percent pay cut to get out of it. Every single person who knows me would think I'm a complete and utter loser if I go back to that for any reason.

You are now finished critiquing my personal life. Your IP address will be blocked with a click of my mouse if you do it once more.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 11:38 PM

I apologize for any insult Michael. Truly, it is not your personal life that I am critiquing.

Posted by: jerry at August 20, 2005 11:42 PM

jerry

Can I call you Commodore? Listen, I golf with a guy whose dad is a Coastie!
You are SO in!
This guy can get you the hook up, my shizzle.
I don't think I need to point out that you will look fetching in you new uniform. Take it from me: the ladies love it!

Posted by: Swede at August 20, 2005 11:42 PM

Jerry,

Apology accepted. You are more than welcome to argue with me. Just don't argue about me if you don't know me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 20, 2005 11:44 PM

The whole chickenhawk idea usually gives me a chuckle, considering how patently unserious it is.

First off, the military leans right by around 70% to 30%. So if leftists want only the military to have a voice in military policy, I don’t think they’ll be happy with the policies that emerge from such a system.

Second, the above raises the obvious concern that such an outcome would make us essentially a military dictatorship. Civilian control of the military is one of our most important tenets. Civilian debate of military issues is obviously necessary for civilian control of the military.

Third, historical “chickenhawks” include people like FDR, Abe Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. So when throw out the “chickenhawk” slur, you’re casting a pretty wide net there.

And last, as Michael points out, there are lots of people throwing out the term "chickenhawks" who supported action in Afghanistan, not to mention Kosovo.

Posted by: TallDave at August 20, 2005 11:49 PM

jerry?

You're not getting cold feet, are you?
Just taking some time, thinking about it?
Well, you're probably right. You know what they say "Fools rush in"!
But seriously jerry, after that beautiful post about how a patriotic nerve was touched on 9/12 and your desire to see Michael and yourself in uniform, I thought I would do what I can to help you out.
You see, jerry, in this short time I've realized that I.....well, I look up to you, jerry. And I'm at this really fragile place in my life where....this is so hard to say....but I need my heroes, like you, jerry, to do what they say and say what they do. So please, jerry, wontcha just do it? Do it for me? Do it for the Swede.

Posted by: at August 21, 2005 12:00 AM

the wearying thing about blogs is the repetition factor. something will come up that i answered thoughtfully two years ago. so at the prospect of going through it all once more, it's hard to stay patient. i admire those who can.

because during their little "season" certain activists (and to me the word "activist" has a lot of foul connotations of stupidity and immaturity, though that's not always true i suppose) are indefatiguable and often do not understand what is plainly said to them, so enamored are they of their own song and dance.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at August 21, 2005 12:12 AM

OK jerry

I think I'm beggining to understand. You weren't being sincere, were you, jerry?
It was all a chera...a shura...you were making it up, weren't you, jerry? You were just reeling me in like a fish, as it were, on a.....reel. OK. Fine. If it was your intention to crush me, to build me up and then watch me fall, well, congratulations, jerry, you win. I hope you're happy, jerry. I'm a broken man, jerry, AND YOU BROKE ME!! Thanks to you my combat effectiveness is in the toilet. I'm not half the soldier I was at the beggining of this thread. Not to be too melodramatic, jerry, but I'm pretty sure, should it ever happen, that my combat death can be laid squarely at your feet! And then my mom is going to be camping on your front lawn, jerry. She makes a mean chocolate chip/butterscotch cookie, jerry, BUT I DOUBT SHE'LL GIVE ONE TO YOU!
And my revenge will be complete.

Posted by: Swede at August 21, 2005 12:29 AM

hey swede, all right.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at August 21, 2005 12:36 AM

jerry writes: "But Michael, Mark does have a point. There are lots of jobs in our defense industry for technical writers ...."

Jerry, Totten is right. Tech writing is horrible, rotten work. (I'm in the translation end of it, where it's even worse, if that's possible). More to the point, it would be a waste of Totten's evident writing talent, and of his strong political interests. Where he'd be best in this whole endeavor is as a war correspondent. He has the chops. However, he lacks something else. In an exchange on this subject last year, he told us all that he wouldn't go to Iraq under the conditions that obtained then (conditions that haven't really improved much since) because it was just simply too dangerous. And he wasn't talking about being pelted too hard with flowers.

Posted by: Mindless Moron at August 21, 2005 12:43 AM

Mark Poling writes of "prescriptions" I didn't make: "Tell me why my newlywed wife is safer in NYC following your prescriptions, and I will listen to you."

As I understand it, it's not about your newlywed wife's safety, it's about freedom for Iraqis, freedom for Afghanistanis, freedom for the entire benighted despot-ridden world. A desirable goal, no doubt. But if you think wouldn't be worth putting your own life at risk to fight for it if you could, I don't see the moral high ground you think you're standing on in supporting other people doing it.

You're saying it's OK for other people to risk their lives, and risk almost inevitable "collateral damage" (like those Iraqi bricklayers who got shot up the other day by occupation troops, which is going to weigh forever on the minds of those doing the shooting), but somehow it's not worth any greater risk to you. That's a pretty cowardly hawkishness in my view, and "chickenhawk" is a pretty nice shorthand for it.

If you're an ex-GI, have done your time, want to get on with your life, I guess I can understand that. But to me, going to war as a nation should be the most serious commitment possible. My #1 fear about going into Iraq (after playing my own small role in Gulf War I, only to see Saddam left standing, with the eventually-realized prospect of hundreds of thousands of civilians dying from the after-effects) is that, with relatively small voluntary-army force (as virtually everyone agrees now: inadequate from start) in the field making precious little progress from year to year, the American people -- many of whom have reached voting age with no real memory of Vietnam, a much worse conflict in terms of U.S. casualties -- will decide that it's just all a drag, too many of us are dying for nothing, we should get out. If we do that now, we'll leave a civil war situation that we probably wouldn't have seen if we had never invaded. And that's more than the tens of thousands of "collateral damage" from our invasion. That's more than the hundreds of thousands that Saddam might have killed in suppressing various rebellions over the years. That's MILLIONS dying. And if we think that's not blood on our hands too, for making a foolish move based on false premises and then not seeing through whatever it takes to prevent it, we're mistaken.

Totten apparently wasn't much impressed by such calculations because, as he said himself once, "I don't give a shit about Vietnam." He probably only has childhood memories of that war, and of how America was at the time. Creating huge turmoil in a region, then getting cold feet, is a recipe for ongoing horror afterward.

And yet, we're a democracy. If the people speak, and they say, "go in," then later they say, "let's get out", it doesn't matter whether they are right or wrong. They get their way. Inciting them to allow going in was, I think, a bad move. Doing it with trumped-up WMD charges, trumped up terrorism charges, was a REALLY bad move.

It should have been framed in the terms we now hear it: it's about liberating these people. My bet is that the American people would have said that maybe leaving well enough alone would be the least bad of the many lousy options.

But that's not the way it was pitched to them, was it? No, it was pitched to them in terms of saving their own skins, in a country that doesn't require military service during wartime anymore. And now it's suddenly about something people might not have gone for, and might not stick to, when it really matters. That's really irresponsible. There's no other word for it. And this case of political whiplash could probably only have been pulled off by a bunch of chickenhawks in the White House. An administration populated by people with more character, true leaders -- from either party, I'm not partisan about these things -- would never have gotten us into such a moral quandary.

Posted by: Mindless Moron at August 21, 2005 01:26 AM

The "Chickenhawk" allegation is not that no-one can support a war who themselves hasn't fought in one. It is that many prominent supporters of this war used their power and influence to get out of fighting wars that more normal people did.

If true, and I'm not saying it is, that's a perfectly logical attack. If your Officer tells you how great it'll be attacking the Germans, then when the call goes up to go over the top he points out that he's needed back at HQ, "chickenhawk" would be the least of his worries.

Posted by: Matthew at August 21, 2005 01:32 AM

Mindless Moron: Where he'd be best in this whole endeavor is as a war correspondent. He has the chops. However, he lacks something else.

I appreciate the partial defense here. But, like Jerry, you're talking about something you know very little about...me.

Unless you're one of the few people I've talked to about my short- and medium-term plans (and you obviously aren't one of those people), I suggest you not go there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2005 02:12 AM

Ric writes, in part: "The whole point of mass enfranchisement, of which democracy is currently the best example, is that good decisions are an emergent phenomenon of lots of different inputs. Nobody has all the information, but all of us taken together do, and the Brownian motion of the individuals in the mass, each responding to the bits they have, resolves, in the large, in movement in the direction we should go."

At one point, that direction was "into Iraq" and the somehow-unaggregated information was "no WMD worthy of the name there" and "no al Qaeda collaboration worthy of the name there." Obviously not a perfect system. You see Brownian motion under the microscope, I see somebody carrying the whole damn Petri dish your scope is focused so tightly on.

"(It may not always work, but that's the basis of the theory.)"

We just had a pretty serious failing of the theory, there.

"Rejecting anybody's contribution runs the risk of tossing out the one vital bit that would have generated the correct vector;..."

Oh boy. How many hundreds of millions of Americans are there? And if we miss out on the opinion of just one single person who, despite supporting a war, wouldn't put themselves at risk for that war, the whole system of democracy is in peril? Watch a microbe being kicked around by Brownian motion, Ric -- it's really pretty random. We're talking about flows here, the average position of large numbers of particles, if you want to delve into physics metaphors.

"... disregarding the contributions of an entire category, regardless of how the category is defined, makes the error almost certain."

I'm sorry, but I just have to conclude that someone who believes strongly enough to take a real risk is a better source of information -- vectors, if you will -- than someone who isn't. For the most part, anyway. And there's an interactive aspect as well -- if you have wildly diverging opinions even within that group (and we do, we do), the relative urgency and sense of commitment that comes with being willing to take a risk can go a long way toward evolving a consensus that is -- dare I say it? -- "reality based"?

That assumes, of course, sources of reliable information and a forum for discussing the information and the implications. Not easy. I met a young guy just back from Iraq a few months ago. He defended the war in terms of Saddam's depredations, at one point citing a figure of 15,000 civilians being killed PER WEEK by Saddam's regimes, in the months leading up to the war. I didn't have the heart to tell him that 15,000 was a figure not too much below the current total body count from mass graves found in Iraq (and this, after several years of forensics works), so where were all these extra, fresh bodies, anyway? Sure, there are still lots of graves to dig up, Saddam killed a lot more than the 17,000 fully accounted for so far, but who's feeding this kid this weird, overblown information? I hope it wasn't his superior officers.

"The whole point of the chickenhawk accusation, even your softened version of it, is to define a category that has no input."

I would say, "define a category whose input you can safely ignore, because it's not based on a serious commitment or the willingness to make one." If someone else wants to use it as input, that's their business.

"It may be emotionally satisfying, but in the long run it's bound to cause mistakes, even big ones."

Can you give me an example of how it would result in a big mistake in this case? Put the experiment together in your mind: you gather some statistically significant sample of citizens, put them in a room, and sort them into two groups

(1) people who feel that belief in the rightness of going to war in a given case should involve at least some willingness to risk the ultimate personal sacrifice

and

(2) people who think that willingness to take on risk personally in going to war has nothing to do with the validity of an opinion favoring going to war.

Give both groups the same high-quality information, and let them deliberate. Which group's result would YOU trust more, if the verdicts were different? How likely do you think it is that group 1 would make some serious mistake, because they didn't have access to some reasonable voice in group 2?

I trust group 1. It's not a matter of it being more "personally satisfying" to me. It's a matter of those people taking the question more seriously. And it's going to war, which is a very, very serious question. The way our democracy went to war in Iraq -- in a whipped-up frenzy of fear over what turned out to be nothing -- and the way it may back out of that war -- in disappointment and resentment and disgust at the lies that got us into it -- may result in leaving behind a civil war situation in which millions die. That's not a great way for America to enter this century, if you ask me.

Posted by: Mindless Moron at August 21, 2005 05:34 AM

Totten ominously warns me: " you're talking about something you know very little about...me."

You mean, when I wrote saying that, last year you said you wouldn't go to Iraq because it was too dangerous?

You're correct -- I don't know your mind, or your plans. But what I said doesn't require any special knowledge about you, because I think you said it in one of your own comment sections.

Posted by: Mindless Moron at August 21, 2005 05:41 AM

MM,

I have been trying for years to come up with a rationale for egalitarianism and diversity that (a) did not depend on the existence of God and (b) accounted for several visible phenomena including the Goebbels Effect. That's the best I can do so far. "Browning motion" is only a metaphor, and a poor one at best -- individuals don't move at random, in fact that's the point, but to an observer far away from them it might look like it. All your diatribe establishes, from my point of view, is that you're an elitist.

Take out the vituperation, and all you're really said is that you have a weighting function which you apply to the input you receive. There's nothing remarkable there, or in your expressing what that function is. You've just added a couple of coefficients to the function I use to determine the weight I apply to your opinions, and the result is smaller than before. Happy?

There's nothing in my formulation that guarantees that societies move in a "correct" direction, or that the collective decisions it makes are correct. Over time, though, that can be expected to become the norm, because societies that move in the wrong direction either become less strong or don't survive. Our society can die, too, if enough individuals start moving along vectors that point in the wrong direction.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at August 21, 2005 06:45 AM

Jerry,
IN your off-hours from the Coast Guard, you can do volunteer work at the closest military hospital. And how old is your wife? She may still be eligible to join up.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at August 21, 2005 06:49 AM

Hunter, Ric, Chuck -- Can we please not tar Heinlein with Paul Verhoeven's sloppy brush? Heinlein did NOT mandate compulsory military service as a requirement for voting. He required PUBLIC service, the demonstration that someone was willing to put aside his or her own convenience and comfort for the public weal.

As for only letting the people with the guns and tanks have real power, well, why not, if the left wants that so badly. Look how well it's worked in the rest of the world.

Posted by: richard mcenroe at August 21, 2005 09:30 AM

Mindless Moron,

I'm not warning you "ominously" about anything. Just reminding you that you don't know what I have in the works right now. Some people on this thread (Todd Grimson at least) do know what I'm up to, and I'm sure he's amused by your totally off-base commentary on my personal life and career plans.

Yes, I did say last year that Iraq was too dangerous for me to visit. I might let you call me a "chicken" if you go to Iraq. Otherwise, drop the posturing.

Even so, may I remind you that I'm married. My life's decisions aren't all about me. I have other people's needs to take into account. An anonymous commenter named "Mindless Moron" doesn't quite have the same clout with me that my wife, parents, brother, and friends have. Nothing you say can possibly change that, so it's best you quit trying.

"Sorry, honey, I have to go to Baghdad after all because a guy named Mindless Moron will call me names if I don't" is not a sentence my wife will ever hear.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2005 02:26 PM

It wouldn't quite count, Michael, if you were merely goaded into it. It has to come from the heart.

Speaking of heart, a certain journalist once had the following written about him:

"... and here was ____ flying to Saigon, where the American military command was surrounded by defeat and calling it victory. He and ... his producer ... flew out together and they had trouble landing in the country. All the airports were closed. When they reached Saigon there was fighting going on all around them.... Then ____ headed north with Leiser and Jeff Gralnick, his favorite young producer, who had just come to Saigon as a correspondent. They tried to get into Khe Sanh base, which was undergoing heavy fighting, but no one would write the insurance policy, it was simply too dangerous. So he went instead to Hue. Just the day before, [General Westmoreland] had said that the battle was over, but it was clear now that the North Vietnamese were very much around; the Marines were fighting desperately to retake the city and no great victory had been achieved. There was fighting right up and down the center of Hue, and _____ seemed slightly envious when the team got separated and the others seemed to have seen more action. The younger CBS men were impressed by the sight of _____ striding right into the center of the street fighting .... ____, they thought, takes all the risks." [1]

Who was ____? Some nutter of a young, green war correspondent, hash-addled, insecure, baited into going? Recklessly and neurotically going into harm's way to prove some point about himself? A guy with a death-wish, long since gone?

None of the above. It was Walter Cronkite, by then a seasoned war correspondent, perhaps the most respected figure on television, ever, and practically synonymous with integrity in news reporting.

Married too, by the way.

And what was Cronkite doing? After having supported the Vietnam War, and after doubts started to grow in his mind, after starting to wonder what the truth of the matter really was, he went to Vietnam to ... discover the truth of the matter.

Truth is, after all, the first casualty of war. And there is no substitute for going to the scene of the crime to view its battered, bleeding body.

And here's the kind of reporting that this kind of courage yields.

"Militias Rise in Iraq, Instilling Fear in North and South"
Anthony Shadid, Steve Fainabu, Washington Post Foreign Service

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/world/3318993

Does it paint too bleak of a picture for you? Is this not quite the picture of Iraq you want to see? An Iraq that, under the increasing control of disparate militias, is being run in a manner increasingly difficult to distinguish from Saddam's order? Is it slanted? Perhaps. At least it shows real courage in pursuit of the truth about a war, a courage far beyond what it takes to endure a little flak in one's blog comment section. And that's something I can respect.

----
1 The Powers That Be, David Halberstam, 1979

Posted by: Mindless Moron at August 21, 2005 06:08 PM

Michael,

What is the point of the war in Iraq? I've been trying to get an answer out of you since, oh, before you kicked me off your site. Since then things have gone from bad to worse in Iraq.

In Iraq, the US has facilitated the creation of another Islamic dictatorship which loathes America and everything it stands for, which treats women as second-class citizens, persecutes nonbelievers,
opposes Israel's right to exist, which regards Christianity as evil, and oh yeah, is crawling with Iranian agents.

I don't want to start an argument with you, I just want to understand where you are coming from.

Posted by: diana at August 21, 2005 06:12 PM

Diana,

Since you asked nicely, if you want to know where I stand on Iraq right now here you go.

Some anti-war liberals gave me good feedback on that piece, so hopefully you won't totally hate it. I'm sure you'll agree with at least parts of it.

As far as the new constitution goes, I am going to wait until I can read it for myself before commenting on it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2005 07:05 PM

The chickenhawk argument reminds me of the silly right wing tax cut argument. When a anti-cut advocate began listing all the problems the federal government would have if the cuts were passed some would say "Well if you are so worried you can give the money back to the federal government. Did you give it back? You didn't, that just shows that you are a hypocrite" Instead of talking about the subject they turned it into a pissing contest. By personalizing it, by turning it into a insult contest, the debate turns into a bitchslap fest. It is the political equivelent of "Well, your mother is fat and ugly" Junior High debate tactics.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 21, 2005 08:23 PM

In the TCS piece Totten links above, we find this odd non sequitur:

"But Iraq can't be a model for anything if it's a boiling cauldron of violence -- unless you happen to be a Middle Eastern dictator."

Why would a Middle Eastern dictator think of "a cauldron of violence" as a model? They wouldn't. Most of them don't have serious problems with terrorism, or any other kind of insurgency, expecially not compared to Iraq today, despite huge resentment against their regimes. Why not? Because they run efficient police states, unfettered by concerns such as allowing freedom of assembly, a free press, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from fear of cruel and unusual punishment, and so on. Oh, occasionally you get your Hama-style uprising, but the murderous response usually shuts 'em all up for decades, so those incidents are the exceptions that prove the rule

And if Iraq does soon settle down, it may be under a collection of militias running things much as Saddam did -- arresting people whose faces they don't like after raiding their houses, torturing them on the slightest pretext in hopes of being given the names of more people whose faces they don't like, limiting freedom of movement with lots of checkpoints for scanning faces in the stream for the ones they don't like, watching all attempts to assemble peaceably the better to identify more faces they don't like and impute some guilt by association, and slamming them into dark prisons so that nobody sees their unlikeable faces anymore. The really scary part: the American people might settle for that, if such a "peaceful Iraq" is given enough of a lip-gloss job by this Administration, and if the troop presence (more important, the U.S. casualty rate) drops significantly, and the press can't get the realities to page one. A case of "meet the new bosses, pretty hard to tell from the old bosses, except that the ones toward the South tend to rationalize more from a certain reading of the Koran?"

As the article I link above hints, even our beloved Kurdistan may not be exempt from such a fate. Policy thinktanks have been warning of this militia-patchwork-hegemony scenario for at least a year now, saying that the longer the power vacuum goes on, the more likely it is. And how long has it dragged on? Well, we're into Constitutional Convention Overtime now, and somehow it's a productive concession that Islam will be the touchstone for all law in the New Free Iraq. (Like the Kurds could give a rat's ass about this concession, they already have enough autonomy to ignore it if they please.)

I'm getting a bad feeling about this .... a new bad feeling, but not too different from the old bad feeling. A bad feeling stretching back the 1980s.

Posted by: Mindless Moron at August 21, 2005 08:24 PM

MM,

You arent the only one getting that bad feeling. Even over at National Review Corner they have some some folks getting off the bus.

"But even if I suspended disbelief for a moment and agreed that the democracy project is a worthy casus belli, I am as certain as I am that I am breathing that the American people would not put their brave young men and women in harm’s way for the purpose of establishing an Islamic government. Anyplace.

It is not our place to fix what ails Islam. But it is utter recklessness to avert our eyes from the fact that militant Islam thrives wherever Islam reigns. That is a fact. When and where militant Islam thrives, America and the West are endangered. That is also a fact. How can we possibly be urging people who wisely don’t want it to accept the government-institutionalized supremacy of Islam?

And if the United States, in contradiction of its own bedrock principle against government establishment religion, has decided to go into the theocracy business, how in the world is it that Islam is the religion we picked? "

Posted by: at August 21, 2005 08:38 PM

Totten-- I would simply argue, for the most part, that the chickenhawk argument isn't aimed at you. It's aimed at the interventionist wing of the ruling class (as opposed to the isolationist) and their wealthy backers. Mike you're just a dupe, IMHO. :)

PS I just visited mexico I would estimate somewhere between 99.998 and 99.999% of the population opposes the war in Iraq. I guess Mexicans haven't grasped onto the idea about humanitarian intervention.

Posted by: drydock at August 21, 2005 09:39 PM

Drydock,

I would estimate somewhere between 99.998 and 99.999% of the U.S. population couldn't care less about Mexican opinions on our foreign policy decisions unless those decisions affect Mexico.

Maybe that's smug and arrogant of us, but it's probably true all the same.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2005 10:51 PM

Michael, Sorry, but the article didn't address my question at all, so I'll rephrase it, based upon what you write:

"If Iraq becomes a functioning stable democracy -- whether it becomes one on our watch or not -- we will have accomplished every single one of our objectives in that country."

My question actually presupposed the success of the mission--to establish a functioning stable democracy, which of course is by no means assured.

With that in mind, can you please answer a direct question, which is:

what if the democracy we create becomes another Islamic dictatorship which loathes America and everything it stands for, which treats women as second-class citizens, persecutes nonbelievers, opposes Israel's right to exist, which regards Christianity as evil, and oh yeah, is crawling with Iranian agents?

Posted by: Diana at August 22, 2005 04:11 AM

The Chickenhawk argument is less of an argument that non-soldiers should have no voice in foreign or defense policy, and more of a criticism of the Right's hypocritical demand for a war they never intended on fighting themselves:

We must go to war to save civilization!
We must go to war!
We must go to war!
We must go to war!
We must go to war!
We must go to war!
We must go to war!
You must go to war!

I don't know how many times I've come across conservative writers or bloggers or blog commenters who act as if they are actually actively taking part in defending freedom, because they voted for Bush or wrote a particularly witty blog comment.

Truth be told, the vast, vast majority of us have sacrificed absolutely nothing to defend or secure our freedom (probably because our freedom isn't really actually at risk, but that's another story). Only a very small number of people are actually sacrificing for anything, and it's telling that a lot of people who could be giving up something, not even their all but at least something, but who are instead giving up nothing, were the ones who desperately wanted the war. It was vital, we were told, to protect freedom and democracy and puppies and cake and goodness. But not so important to actually ever do anything about it. And, chances are, a lot of people who wanted to send other people to war might have opposed that war if there was a greater chance that they'd be sent over to fight and maybe die.

Yes, it's wonderful in concept to imagine a world in which the armed forces of the United States are a righteous colossus smashing dictatorships and upholding freedom around the world. But I have a feeling that most people who relish that concept imagine other people doing all the actual work and sacrifice.

So, supporters of the war, please forgive its opponents if we cannot help but see you as the chickenshits you are. If you have the right to play your little make-believe-war-in-defense-of-goodness, then opponents of the war have the right to call you on what is nothing but a theoretical struggle, a metaphorical effort, a splendid little make-believe war you're fighting in your heads, while real people are really dying.

If it's so important, you'd do something. You don't do anything. So, is it really all that important? I bet it would be a whole lot less important if it were your ass on the line.

Posted by: The Commenter at August 22, 2005 06:15 AM

Commenter, defending the chickenhawk debate tactic:

I don't know how many times I've come across conservative writers or bloggers or blog commenters who act as if they are actually actively taking part in defending freedom, because they voted for Bush or wrote a particularly witty blog comment.

<snip>

So, supporters of the war, please forgive its opponents if we cannot help but see you as the chickenshits you are. If you have the right to play your little make-believe-war-in-defense-of-goodness, then opponents of the war have the right to call you on what is nothing but a theoretical struggle, a metaphorical effort, a splendid little make-believe war you're fighting in your heads, while real people are really dying.

First off, I think I am supporting the war effort by arguing for it; otherwise I cede the debate to those courageous souls who won't even attach their names to their arguments. And if I were someone on the front lines, and I believed in the cause I was fighting for, then I think I'd be glad there were chickhawks back home standing up to Brave Commenters.

Secondly, plenty of lives were being lost in Iraq prior to our being there. True, none of them were my countrymen and women, but pardon my transnationalism if I think those lives count for something too.

Third, I don't particularly fear for my freedom. I concede that the more thoughtful opponents of the war have a better argument on civil liberties. (The problem with protecting the individual from government intrusion is that it pretty much inevitably leads to less protection from the government, the perfect object lesson being Gorelick's wall.) I do think a Middle East less in thrall to different flavors of cults-of-personality will make my world safer, and will have the salubrious side effect of making the Middle East safer for Middle Easterners. So I find the implication that us "chickenhawks" support the war for vicarious thrills to be grossly insulting.

Mark Poling
Proud Non-Combatant

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 22, 2005 07:24 AM

So if we polled those actually doing the fighting about what our next step should be, would the Morons abide by their collective decision? I think not. Trust me, there would be a policy shift, but not in the direction they're hoping.

Basically, the Morons want foreign policy decided by those with whom they agree, and no others. Very nuanced.

Posted by: Zymurgist at August 22, 2005 07:27 AM
what if the democracy we create becomes another Islamic dictatorship which loathes America and everything it stands for, which treats women as second-class citizens, persecutes nonbelievers, opposes Israel's right to exist, which regards Christianity as evil, and oh yeah, is crawling with Iranian agents?

From a purely pragmatic point of view, we will have grossly miscalculaed and spent far too much money trying to build a better Iraq. The next time we feel threatened we save tons of money and just bomb all the good work we've attempted back to the Stone Age, and let Allah sort it out.

Oddly enough, Iran should really be hoping that we don't give up on the idea of a peaceful Middle East.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 22, 2005 07:34 AM

Mark,

If I understand you correctly, I don't have to feel bad about never taking action to correct problems in the world because writing words in the comments section of a blog are the same as taking action?

Whew, that's a load off. I oppose badness. I support goodness. I am proud to take a stand for these things. Goodness forever! Boo badness! I highly recommend that all of you take similar positions. There's a grave risk that if I didn't make this effort, of writing here in this comments section, that I would be ceding the debate to my opponents, who like badness, and so I can always be proud of my sacrifice. My wrists really hurt from all this typing!

There, I wipe my hands of all future responsibility for anything, because I am engaging in a Very Important War of Ideas against fellow blog-commenters who are objectively pro-badness. You know who you are.

Posted by: The Commenter at August 22, 2005 07:42 AM

In a word Commenter, yeah. Kvetching counts. And you obviously believe that, or you wouldn't be kvetching yourself.

Or do you seriously believe the only way to make a difference is to take up arms? If so, I think we're back on that slippery slope...

Likewise, I understand you work for the government. How, in good faith, can you do so and hold the opinions you obviously hold. Seems to me you're glad to feed at the teat of the beast even though you despise its current incarnation. Hypocrisy of the highest order, I think. (That of course goes for Mindless Moron, who's happy to work for the War Machine he rails against. But hey, it's a paycheck.)

For what its worth, I'm working with a Bank right now that wants to provide assistance to independent importers and exporters in Iraq in the very near future. So in effect, I am doing something very practical to effect a positive change.

But to repeat, kvetching counts. If you don't believe that, I humbly suggest you give your wrists a rest.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 22, 2005 09:30 AM

Army of One: Sign up and be a man!

Or work in a bank, same diff. Freedom!

Posted by: The Commenter at August 22, 2005 09:54 AM

Oh, and Mark, if everyone who worked for the government didn't like Bush quit, there wouldn't be a government left.

Posted by: The Commenter at August 22, 2005 09:58 AM

Sorry, that should read "if everyone who worked for the government who didn't like Bush quit..."

Posted by: The Commenter at August 22, 2005 09:59 AM

Commenter: So, supporters of the war, please forgive its opponents if we cannot help but see you as the chickenshits you are.

Do you support the invasion of Afghanistan? Also, did you go to Afghanistan?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 22, 2005 10:19 AM

Diana: what if the democracy we create becomes another Islamic dictatorship which loathes America and everything it stands for, which treats women as second-class citizens, persecutes nonbelievers, opposes Israel's right to exist, which regards Christianity as evil, and oh yeah, is crawling with Iranian agents?

That would be bad, obviously, and not what anyone here wanted to see.

The implications would be horrible, especially for Middle Easterners.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 22, 2005 10:24 AM

Mr. Totten, I believe The Editors over at the Poorman said it best:

"I’ve said it before: it isn’t fair to say that someone is a “chickenhawk” because they believe that a war they aren’t personally fighting. We don’t live in a martial society - we do not believe that soldiering is a calling above all others, or a duty for every citizen. It is entirely fair for, say, a pediatric surgeon to think that invading Iraq was a wise policy decision, but not quit his job and sign up for combat in Iraq. He’s got other priorities, his talents are needed elsewhere, and that’s ok. I think this is rather obvious, but I have always enjoyed the sound of my own voice.

Of course, this isn’t really the sort of person who has to worry about being called a “chickenhawk”. The people who are the true architects and salesmen of the war, those in the media who are paid to be their partisan cheerleaders and apologists, and the eager minor league hopefuls in the blogosphere who ape and encourage them, in my experience, tend to be the ones on the receiving end of this charge most frequently. People who seriously believe that their online hackery makes them honorary junior soldiers, people who propagandize relentlessly for the war but feel they shouldn’t be asked to serve because they have kids, and most especially those members of the jingosphere who compare any criticism of their position with treason seem to be the ones who complain the loudest about how unfairly they are being used. They are subject to personal attacks on their credibility because they have none, they are treated with contempt because they have earned it, and they resent those attacks because they are justified, unanswerable, and effective ways of neutralizing their bullshit."

Posted by: The Commenter at August 22, 2005 10:28 AM

Mark Poling seems to be one of those people described above: someone who believes that arguing in the comments section of a blog means that he's actually taking part in a global struggle against our enemies. In his honor, I wrote a brief dialogue, set in the distant future of 20X6.....

Lil' Baby Poling: Granpappy, tell me about the Iraq War!

Ole' Granpappy Poling: What would you like to know?

LBP: What did you do during the war?

OGP: Why, I helped bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East!

LBP: Really? Did you fight in Iraq?

OGP: No, I helped convince people why it was so important to fight the war.

LBP: Oh! So you worked as a civil affairs officer to help the Iraqis build their fledgeling democracy.

OGP: Oh, no, sweetheart, I stayed in America to convince people there the war was important.

LBP: Oh. Why did that matter?

OGP: Because a certain kind of person, a "liberal", is objectively pro-terrorist, and kept lying to the American people so they'd get so confused they'd stop supporting the war. And if that happened, then the Islamofascists would have won!

LBP: Oh! Ok. So you worked for a government public affairs office?

OGP: No, I...

LBP: Or part of the vast conversative media network, including but not limited to such think tanks as the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation, or media outlets such as Fox news and the New Republic, to name a few, that spent enormous amounts of money trying to sell the war to the American people?

OGP: Um, no, not exactly. See, in my day, we had these things called blogs, and...

LBP: Oh! You were one of the major warbloggers?

OGP: Um, actually, I had fairly small blog.

LBP: Granpappy, weren't there a bajillion small blogs?

OGP: Yes, but I might have convinced a few people that the war was good.

LBP: Um...

OGP: And I spent a lot of time convincing people who wrote comments on Michael Totten's blog!

LBP: You convinced people who wrote comments on a blog written by someone who already supported the war?

OGP: I also worked at a bank, and...

LBP: Granpappy, I'm gonna go play pokemon.

Posted by: The Commenter at August 22, 2005 10:30 AM

Seems I touched a nerve.

Oh, and Mark, if everyone who worked for the government didn't like Bush quit, there wouldn't be a government left.

You say that like it would be a bad thing...

But we keep coming back to the whole idea that if you support the war you should pick up a rifle and go to Iraq. I'm not saying my contribution is anything like what the private shuffling papers in Bahrain is doing, but it is a contribution, and an honorable one. (To be fair no more and no less honorable than your own). Free advice, though: the more your side attempts to smear people who disagree with you (and let's face it, your whole argument here is one big ad hominem) the less appealing said side becomes to a hypothetical decent person who might still be persuaded, one way or another.

So keep calling me names, oh Bravely Anonymous One. That which does not kill me makes me giggle.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 22, 2005 10:53 AM

If anyone states that the American Indians had their land stolen then they are a thief if they do not hand it back to the tribal councils. If they believe in reperations for African Americans then they should figure out how much their contribution would be and give it away. If they claim that the iraqi insurgents are fighting a imperialistic state, and some occstate that America is one of the worst countries in the history of recent times then they should help the insurgents with their fight. If they thought that the Bush tax cuts harmed the federal government then they should give their money back to the federal government. If someone argues about the amount of pollution we are producing and they don't have solar heating or another form of alternative energy then they are hypocrites. If they argue for public transportation but do not use the public transportation system that is a vailable they are hurting their cause. Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. These are the silly arguments of someone who is trying to score points rather then discuss issues. The chickenhawk argument is the perfect example of sound bite politics that makes up a large chunk of our political discourse today. There are so many arguments about Iraq, pro and con, that could be discussed but instead we are stuck in this nyah, nyah, nyah, stick your tongue out juvenile behaviour.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 22, 2005 12:36 PM

Commenter - I'm not sure you really want to extend your argument against Mark to its logical conclusions. Cause it would mean that anyone who ever raised their voice - through writing, through holding up signs, through speaking out, through making a mere phone call to a C-Span call-in program , was a useless, hypocritical human being. So, for example, all those students in the 80's who spoke out loudly against South African apartheid were just a bunch of hypocritical jerks cause they didn't fly over to Africa and take on the oppressors by force? I mean - what were they really doing to get their hands dirty? You are basically trashing the power of free speech to affect change in this world and reducing all of human affairs to the world of direct action. Let's just cut out all our tongues, shall we, and either put our money where our mouths are, or else shut the hell up? If I recall correctly, this was the essence of your very first post at this blog when you posted under the name "Proud Conservative". I have learned a great deal about you since then and what you are doing to try to make a personal difference in the world and I admire you for it but you need to stop acting out whatever your personal issues are with the path you have taken to try to make a direct difference by mindlessly bashing those who simply choose to use their voices - their rights to free speech as democratic citizens - to try to have an impact in this world as well. Why are you so driven to make comparisons and to demean and trivialize the way others choose to affect the course of human affairs? (And you don't have to answer that obviously. I'm just asking you to give it a little thought.)

Posted by: Caroline at August 22, 2005 05:40 PM

FWIW, During my deployment in GWI we got wind of anti-war protests going on back home. At that time I was zero interested in politics and in fact hardly knew the difference between a lefty and a righty. I don't recall ever thinking, "why aren't all eligible Americans volunteering for service?" I do however recall feeling disgust when I heard about the protests that were going on. What a kick in the nuts.

Bottom line is, these protests dishearten our troops, and hearten the enemy. Is it really worth it? And who are you trying to save anyway?

Support back home was important to us and it gave us strength.

Commenter, if civilian war supporters are chickenhawks, what does that make you, I guess just a plain old chicken. If you are so against the war, why don't you go to Iraq and protest over there? Maybe you can throw yourself in front of a tank. Maybe you can get a meeting with Zarqawi and then go on Al Jazeera and condemn the U.S. occupation.

By the way commenter, I think you were once put on the troll watch list and then removed for good conduct. Not that I care if you get put back on the list or not, but it seems lately you have re-established your troll creds.

Posted by: mnm at August 22, 2005 06:34 PM

I do however recall feeling disgust when I heard about the protests that were going on. What a kick in the nuts

Oh, dont make me cry.

If you think that the citizens whould forfeit their right to participate in the decision making process of this country, merely because the president has sent troops into battle, then you dont understand the first thing about what you were fighting for.

Thank you for your service in any case.

Posted by: at August 22, 2005 07:18 PM

"If you think that the citizens whould forfeit their right to participate in the decision making process of this country, merely because the president has sent troops into battle, then you dont understand the first thing about what you were fighting for."

I don't believe he was saying you don't have the right to protest, just that he found the protests personally distasteful. There's a world of difference between saying you shouldn't be allowed and that you simply shouldn't do it.

But keep going that extra mile to slime the other side. It got Howard Dean where he is today.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 22, 2005 07:30 PM

"If you think that the citizens whould forfeit their right to participate in the decision making process of this country, merely because the president has sent troops into battle, then you dont understand the first thing about what you were fighting for."

Mnm's post was, in fact, addressing Commenter, who implied that citizens should forfeit THEIR rights to participate in the decision making process unless they were personally willing to go into battle and put their money where their mouths are. Mnm is pointing out that that argument cuts both ways. Some anti-Iraq-war folks actually did go over to Iraq before the war (to guard various facilities and to show their solidarity with the Iraqi's) and if I recall correctly, many of them came back with a rather different perspective about the impending war as a result of talking to the local Iraqis, who thought they were rather misguided.

Posted by: Caroline at August 22, 2005 08:02 PM

"If you think that the citizens whould forfeit their right to participate in the decision making process of this country..."

Who's asking anyone to forfeit rights? I'm not allowed to say that the protests hurt moral and that support helps moral?

The anti-warriors don't seem to care that they are hurting moral, and bolstering the moral of the enemy. I guess they think its worth it, otherwise they wouldn't do it.

Why don't the anti-warriors protest against the insurgency? Without the insurgency the war is over and the troops come home. No way in hell Bush or the congress are pulling the troops, so why not get with the program and help break the enemy? At the end of the day, we all agree a free and stable Iraq is a good thing right? Why not rally around that idea?

Posted by: mnm at August 22, 2005 08:03 PM

"Mnm's post was, in fact, addressing Commenter, who implied that citizens should forfeit THEIR rights to participate in the decision making process unless they were personally willing to go into battle and put their money where their mouths are. Mnm is pointing out that that argument cuts both ways."

You're right Caroline, that was my point, but more so that the chickenhawk argument is stupid and really dishonest.

Doug Kern illustrates my point better than I ever could with his Chickendove piece.

My very firstest hyperlink above. Cool.

Posted by: mnm at August 22, 2005 09:12 PM

Damn, it didn't work.

http://www.techcentralstation.com/021505A.html

Posted by: mnm at August 22, 2005 09:14 PM

The anti-warriors don't seem to care that they are hurting moral, and bolstering the moral of the enemy

Yes, I think many of them do care. They are not the one dimensional characters that everyone likes to ridicule. Some are vets themselves. Others have family and friends in service. There may be some professional activists agitating away, but if it were only them, you wouldnt hear about it. It gets reported when many normal people join in. And many of them are conflicted. There is a natural inclination to do or say nothing to undermine the efforts of those you may love, or be friends with, or those who you may not know, but you know that it some sense they are fighting for you. Nevertheless, we all feel very deeply the right, and the obligation to say what we believe should be, or should not be the policy of this government.

Since I would guess that you have not ever had this experience, I ask you to do a little thought exercise. Imagine that some future American government makes a decision regarding the use of military force, that you find, deep in your heart, to be not right. Should you just keep your mouth shut? I submit that to do so would violate your obligations as a citizen.

The core of the democratic ideal is tied very intimatly to the notion of a free market of ideas. And like a free market in economics, we assume that the best product, the best policy for the country, only emerges from a full throated competition between all hypotheses.

I apologize for taking your sentiments a bit further than you intended them. You did not call for the banning of dissent. Nonetheless you were asking war-critics to basically shut up. I think that in times of crisis, or when the nation is at war, is the time when we most need to arrive at the best policy for the nation. And therefore it is the time that we most need an unrestricted debate.

Freedom, and the free exchange of ideas comes at a cost. And I think you are wrong to assume that many who dissent during war are oblivious to the costs - like the one you complain about.

From this side I would say that it would be nice if you could hear that dissent and smile and say - thats America at work. Thank god we dont live in a country of sheep who just fall in line with whatever the leader decrees,

Posted by: at August 22, 2005 09:54 PM

Oh, and the reason that there are not demonstrations against the insurgents is simple. We have no control over the insurgents.

Political discourse, and demonstrations, are not just vanity events (depsite what many seem to assume) in which people simply air out their opinions for the sake of hearing themselves make noise. They take place in the context of the democratic process - they are attempts to make heard a set of ideas about how we as a nation should conduct our policies.

It is not about making existential moral statements. It is about putting forth what one believes to be important ideas relative to the formation of public policy, with the hope of influencing what those policies will be.

Posted by: at August 22, 2005 10:05 PM
Oh, and the reason that there are not demonstrations against the insurgents is simple. We have no control over the insurgents.

And of course, their suicide bombers have no control over us.

Except that they obviously do.

Show a little support BLANK and see if the world changes. It might, you know.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 22, 2005 10:36 PM

In all seriousness, if the suicide bombers were blowing themselves up for something that I could see as noble and good, I'd have a big problem with our current policies. If I thought the insurgents fighting out troops wanted a better life for all Iraqis, I would be against this war at least as fervently as anyone who posts here advocating immediate withdrawal.

The problem is, I can't see it.

You say the protests are about ideas. Fine. Care to define a few? Take your time. Bytes are cheap.

If someone can make a rational case for letting the enemy win in Iraq, I will listen. If someone can make a persuasive case for why Saddam should have been left in charge of Iraq, I will listen, and re-evaluate my opinion on the Bush Doctrine. But so far I'm not hearing anything close to constructive. The Jerry Pournelles are attempting to make the case from the right (they're consistent, but wrong, in my opinion), but from the left we get nothing but conspiracy theories and histrionics. What that leaves in the realm of intelligent debate is a gaping void where liberal opposition should be.

I'd pay a lot more attention to BLANK if he could articulate a message beyond "Bush bad!" He obviously thinks I should be listening to him, and maybe he's right. But BLANK, and all the other anonymous lefties, here's more free advice: try getting a message that goes beyond "Repugs are EVIL! If you support the war you are EVIL!"

Damn it, I want alternatives.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 22, 2005 10:57 PM

Mr. Poling,
I suppose I bring it on myself by leaving my name blank, but I think you fill in the blanks in a strange way. I have never posted anywhere BUSH EVIL. Nor have I ever claimed that war supporters are evil. Nor, I suspect have the overwhelming majority of the majority of our fellow citizens who think this war was a mistake. I'll make a wild guess here and say that maybe members of your own family, or some of your friends, or people in your community who you respect feel that way. The vast majority of war critics are not Kos kiddies or hippies in a haze.

Although it is a moot point now, I was opposed to the war all along for several reasons. I did not believe there were wmd there, although I did think it possible and thus something to be investigated. Perhaps it was a native distrust of Bush, but I sensed through the entire run-up that I was being sold something by some less than honorable characters. I did not find Powell convincing at all in the UN, although perspectives like mine were drowned out by the so-called liberal media who loudly proclaimed that he had made the case convincingly. I thought it proper to pressure Hussein to allow inspectors in, and i recognize that Bush's saber rattling made that possible. But the inspections should have been allowed to proceed - they would have found nothing, and we would have known, without a war, that the mushroom clouds that we were constantly being scared with were not going to be coming from Iraq. At that point, our security concerns would have been satisfied.

That, to me, was the proper course of action if the security intersts of the US were the driving factor. But since that was not what happened, many of us are left wondering just what the driving interest was. It was certainly not the democracy project, for if you recall, when Gen. Garner was sent in after the fall of Baghdad, his mission was to quickly turn over the government to the exiles and facilitate our withdrawl.

We were sucked into a longterm committment by the chaos that ensued, and moved into the democracy project because we suddenly had a collapsed society on our hands that needed to be rebuilt.

Even if one were to justify the war retrospectivly, to pretend it was about democracy all along, then this was obviously not the way to go about it. Perhaps one should have started with an administration that at least believed in the concept of nation building. And from that belief perhaps a plan could have been developed. A realistic plan - not just a "wouldnt it be nice - lets send in the Marines to do it" kind of plan.

Anyway, all that and so much more is in the past, and there is no point in arguing it.

I dont know what, at this moment is the best way to deal with this situation. I understand the logic of saying - lets just keep slogging on and defeat the insurgents and hope a reasonable government emerges. On the other hand, there are some insightful people arguing, and some evidence, that our presence there is fueling the insurgency. Which means we might be making things worse as we make them better. I dont know if that is true. I do know that the people who are most likely to ridicule such a notion are the very people who have no right to any credibility, not after the events of the past two years.

So, I'm sorry. i dont have any good answers for you tonight. This conversation began over my unwillingness, in principle, to shut up about war issues (actually the original complaint was about Gulf War I, which I supported fwiw). I am not in this conversation because of any ideas I put forth about what we should do now, I was just defending the notion that no one should be silenced - especially when we are all trying to feel our way through to a sound policy.

Posted by: at August 23, 2005 12:37 AM

This conversation began over my unwillingness, in principle, to shut up about war issues.

Well, I have to admit, I would like the vast majority of the nay sayers to shut up, however it's not because I'm against debate about the war. I just have not heard any constructive, or useful criticism.

If the anti-war crowd gets there way and we withdrawl without victory, what good comes of the effort? Zero. In fact, handing a victory to the insurgence at this point through withdrawl will, in my opinion, only strengthen terrorism, despotism, and radical islamism. And if the anti-war crowd is worried about U.S. credibility and global respect, withdrawl now will do wonders in driving that right into the dirt.

So what does withdrawl(never happen under Bush) have in it for the anti-war crowd other than a useful club to bash the right over the head with for the next 20 years?

If Iraq never becomes the free and stable democracy that we hope for, I will never feel ashamed for having supported the effort.

If we succeed in Iraq, will the anti-war crowd be proud of their efforts?

Posted by: mnm at August 23, 2005 07:33 AM

Mr. Blank, you say:

"I have never posted anywhere BUSH EVIL"...

... and then you go on...

"...Perhaps it was a native distrust of Bush... sold something by some less than honorable characters... the mushroom clouds that we were constantly being scared with... if the security intersts of the US were the driving factor.... many of us are left wondering just what the driving interest was. It was certainly not the democracy project... to pretend it was about democracy all along, then this was obviously not the way to go about it..."

I don't have time to Fisk this, but I will point out that you manage to hit a hell of a lot of assumptions of bad faith on the Administration's part in one comment. You may never have said any place that Bush was evil, but then again, you consistently portray the Administration's motives and means as, well, evil.

I'm certainly not trying to silence anyone, and I appreciate the time you took in writing your reply. On the other hand, it does nothing to address my original lament, which is the fixation of the Left on the supposed mendacity of the Bush Administration. Even if you're correct (and I frankly don't think you are, but I could be wrong) the bottom line is that for three straight elections it hasn't worked.

Here's a thought exercise. Assume everything that Bush and company has said about their motivations is what they truly believe. If you really want to take Bush down, hold him to those ideals and ask why he hasn't done a better job living up to them.

As a strategy, it's win-win. You get to stand four-square with the forces for Liberal Democracy in the Middle East. You get to paint a Republican Administration as incompetent. You make steps to regaining the trust of the citizens in uniform and their families. You shed the image of being cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

Hell, should you gain power, you might even, in the course of the exercise, develop strategies that might work in improving the lot of those living in the Middle East, and plans for how to address the problem of terrorism and wmd proliferation.

There is no downside to this exercise. Unless you count the possibility of winning back the majority as a risk.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 23, 2005 10:20 AM

So we let the U.N. inspectors finish their work. Then they find no WMD, then the embargo is lifted( before 9-11 there was already growing pressure to lift it because it was destroying the iraqi infrastructure and killing innocent Iraqi's, of course with Saddams help, and so we have a pissed off Saddam with access to billions of petro dollars and we know who his target would be. Since he tried to kill a former president after the first Gulf War I doubt that he thirst for revenge would not be quenched. He would not be able to invade his neighbors. But he would be able to continue sending $25,000 to the family of every suicide bomber, a huge amount of money in that region. And we would have to trust that Saddam would not use his petro money to help Al-Queda. "Oh, but he would never help his ideological arab enemies." Who thought we would ever aid the Soviet Union but in the right situation the enemy of my enemy is my now a friend tactic has been repeated time and time again all through history. Ans we were Saddams number one enemy.

There are many points that the Bush administartion can be ripped in its conduct of the Iraq war. But it suprises me that some on the left are praising the stability for oil program that has been the basic policy in every administration since Roosevelt. For decades many on the left wailed,properly, about the lack of human Rights and Democracy in the ME. They attacked the U.S. for being in bed with the various dictatorships in the ME and the fact that we turned our heads when they tore into their own citizens for the sake of "stability and the access for oil". And Bush came into office basically determined to continue the 60 year old policy. But after 9-11,and please I know that Saddam did not direct the 9-11 hijackers so calm down, he shifted priorities. Can we do it all at once? Of course not but the basic tactic of ignoring all the dictatorships is beginning to change a bit. And now many on the left are saying that we should have left Saddam in controll and saying that we have disrupted the "stability" in the ME. The stability they praise was kept by supporting or ignoring dictatorships and holding candle light vigils recognizing the abuses but doing nothing to change the basic dynamic.After the first Gulf War we assumed that the Iraqi people would rise up and remove Saddam by themselves. We saw how easy it was for Saddam to crush any revolt. And we sat by and watched because we did not want to upset the unity of the coalition that we had promised that we would only kick Saddam out of Kuwait and go no further.Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam was an example of the stability for oil policy. The Middle East of the 70's, 80's, and 90's was the stability that Hagel praised this weekend. It was many things but stable is a hard sell.

Posted by: kevinpeters at August 23, 2005 12:32 PM

the bottom line is that for three straight elections it hasn't worked

Well, that would be two elections, but we wont reopen the question of whether losing the popular vote, and winning the electoral college on a fluke equals a mandate from the people.

In any case - so what? Are you saying that because the people who argue as I do lost a presidential election, by three points, that therefor I should abandon my beliefs? Or consider that my arguments have been somehow refuted? Are you asking me to decide what I believe in based on what a slight majority of my fellow citizens believe? Are you prepared to change your mind about Bush and the war now that the polls show what they do? I dont think you are serious about that.

If you really want to take Bush down, hold him to those ideals and ask why he hasn't done a better job living up to them

But taking down Bush is not my primary concern, nor is it for most people like me, despite the constant rhetoric from your side. It may be a secondary concern, deriving from the fact that Bush is making what I consider to be a vast array of wrong decisions. But my primary concern is to advance the ideas that I find to be appropriate.

Failure on Bush's part to live up to his promises is a primary concern of Bush supporters. They voted for something, and they have the right to judge whether they have gotten what they were hoping for. I could opportunisticly jump in and help erode his base, I suppose, but my main interest is in advancing my own views on what a proper agenda is.

You make steps to regaining the trust of the citizens in uniform and their families

It is simply a fact of life that people in the military have an emotional need to be supportive of any ongoing war effort. I recognize that doubt about the mission is probably a cancer on the morale of forces in the field. And there is a need for unambiguous support. Unfortunatly, one cannot arrive at an optimal policy without considering all the alternatives, and in a democracy that consideration is not restricted to the private thoughts of the leaders - it is undertaken in public, by all citizens. Thats what democracy means. In some sense the argument about whether we should be doing this, or how we should proceed strategically, is carried on over the heads of the soldiers. It always is so. Do you doubt for one moment that Rumsfeld or even Bush isnt thinking through all the options, whether this is the right thing to do, whether it is going in the right directions, what should we do now? I repeat - the fundamental property of a democracy is that we do NOT leave such considerations to the leader only, we all participate.
If members of the military cannot understand that, and as a result lose trust in me, then thats too bad, I just have to live with it.

You shed the image of being cheese-eating surrender monkeys

Believe me, avoiding being called names by the juvenile nutjobs is the least of my concerns. No doubt they would continue to find not very clever ways to ridicule us even if we were to win a landslide. The political struggle is always over the middle; you can keep your base.

Posted by: at August 23, 2005 01:22 PM

Well, that would be two elections, but we wont reopen the question of whether losing the popular vote, and winning the electoral college on a fluke equals a mandate from the people.

I was counting the '02 midterms, which as I recall saw Democrats lose ground in Congress. To quote James Taranto in yesterday's Best of the Web:

There's just one problem: The un-made-over Democrats have been losing elections for almost 40 years. In the 90th Congress, just after the 1966 election, the Democrats held 64 seats in the Senate and 246 in the House. Since then they have lost a net 19 Senate and 43 House seats (counting both bodies' current Vermont independents as Democrats), and they have lost seven out of 10 presidential elections.

And of the three presidential elections won, the first was against a critically damaged Jerry Ford, and the second was won by a guy who could just as easily have passed for a Republican (at least when you look at domestic policy).

I'm not saying you're not right to stand by your convictions, but you may not be right about how close those convictions are to the vast middle. And over time, the trends aren't looking good.

I repeat - the fundamental property of a democracy is that we do NOT leave such considerations to the leader only, we all participate. If members of the military cannot understand that, and as a result lose trust in me, then thats too bad, I just have to live with it.

I think I did a poor job of expressing myself regarding the respect of the military. I can't speak for those who've worn the uniforms, but I don't think any significant number of them want the civilian population to shut up and follow the leader. My understanding is that respect for the civilian nature of our society is pretty thoroughly drilled into soldiers, especially the officers.

But my impression is that respect is very much a two-way street, and it seems that, intentional or not, many of the "issues" that the Left have adopted cast the members of the military as victims (at least the non-officers) and the military as a whole as a necessary evil that is more prone to doing harm than good.

How do you think G.I. Joe out there feels when the Left starts throwing out things like "why doesn't W. make his daughters enlist?" How do you think it makes G.I. Jen feel when the left trots out the argument that only the disadvantaged get forced to serve? (This last has been shown to be patently false, but you still hear it.) How do you think it makes the people currently fighting to make Iraq better feel when their countrymen say with a straight face that Iraqis were better off under Hussein?

Soldiers are proud people doing a damnably hard job, all of whom volunteered, all of whom are adults who handle responsibilities on a day-to-day basis that would make me a nervous wreck. To treat them as infantile victims or worse has to have a blowback effect both within the forces and amongst the people who admire them.

So I think I may have a clue why many in the military do not like the Left as it currently behaves. Doesn't mean they want to shut you up. But I have an inkling why they might wish you would shut up.

But that's really an aside to the practical effect, which is that (and again, this is just my opinion from observation) most of the Drifters Mr. Totten wrote about have profound respect for the members of the military. There has to be a cost associated with treating the military in a way that is so at odds with how most people actually react when they see these young men and women in uniform.

I sincerely believe the vast majority of the Left, even the vast majority of the Loudest Left, believe they're acting in support of the troops. But it's my impression that the goodness of your intentions isn't getting through the message embodied by your assumptions.

I know I'm sounding very tactically oriented here, but if there are core ideas from the left regarding making the world safer for me and my friends in the Middle East (and again, am I asking too much that someone elucidate those ideas for me?) then winning an election actually would make a difference.

By all means, stay true to your principals. But please take stock and ask yourself, are we promoting those principals effectively? If you're not (or even if there's question about whether you are) you owe it to those principals to do a little soul-searching and, dare I say it, maybe a little bit of tactical thinking.

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