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Chickenhawks: What Makes Them Tick

Whatever you want to call them — Chickenhawks  , Keyboard Warriors, the Chairborne Division — this species has been with us for a long time.

This article by Glenn Greenwald offers a glimpse into that pitiful mindset. There’s nothing new about today’s armchair warrior who bravely fights Evil and Terror from behind his computer console. In 1776 Adam Smith wrote:

“In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconvenienc y from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies . . . .
They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war.”

Now fast forward to 1964 for this Harper’s Magazine essay: “The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization . He constantly lives at a turning point.”

And now we arrive at the 21st century for this New Yorker description of Joe Lieberman: “A few years ago, I was in a movie theatre in Washington when I noticed Lieberman and his wife…The film was ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ in which Owen Wilson plays a U.S. pilot shot down in Bosnia. Whenever the American military scored an onscreen hit, Lieberman pumped his fist and said, ‘Yeah!’ and ‘All right!’”

It’s hard to picture that mealy-mouthe d whiny-voiced little dweeb pumping his fist and yelling, but anyway…

As Greenwald says: “Far from being ‘psycholog ically exhausting, the Wars against the Most-Evil-En emies-Ever that take place inside the head of the Mark Steyns and Joe Liebermans are exhilarating and fun, and they provide the weak, purposeless and powerless with their only opportunity to feel strong, purposeful and powerful.”

He also says: “This is why our nation’s faux-warrior s can never be reasoned with. It’s why their greatest fear is having the Threats from Our Enemies be put into rational perspective, alongside all the other garden-varie ty manageable threats we face. To argue that they are exaggerating and melodramatiz ing the Enemy and the threat is to take away from them that which is most personally important to them.”

Kind of sad, isn’t it. If you’re a veteran and/or have lost family members or friends in one of America’s elective wars, there’s a natural tendency to hate these sheltered keyboard know-it-alls . But maybe we should feel sorry for them instead.

Nah!

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7 Responses to “Chickenhawks: What Makes Them Tick”

  1. Yeah, talking to those types has the same feel as answering questions about the military and war from my six-year-old grandson. There’s no way to get it through his head that the real thing is not fun and excitement. That’s okay, it’s normal at his age. But not okay for adults.

  2. Question: Does one have to be a policeman to support law enforcement, to cheer when the police get the bad guy or to be angry when a bad guy kills a police officer and does it make one a, what, chickenlawan dordermaniac  , to support the enforcement of the law?

    If not, why does support of a war that one does not enlist in and fight make one a chickenhawk, a madly deranged moron of Greenwald’s description?

    Just wondering.

    Craig R. Harmon

  3. Support of a war one does not enlist in doesn’t make someone a chickenhawk.   As I understand the term, to qualify as a chickenhawk one must carefully avoid military service during the years he or she would be of military age, then turn into a foreign policy hawk once it’s safe, advocating sending others to face danger one was unwilling to face oneself. It’s not so much about being deranged or moronic as hypocritical .

    To use the law enforcement analogy, I suppose it would make someone a “chickenlawa ndordermania c” (lol!) to start out by flouting the law and using whatever resources were available to avoid punishment, then advocate harsh penalties for others who do the same thing… kind of like someone who gets away with being a cokehead in his youth because of wealth and family power, then pushes long prison terms for drug offenses after reaching a position of power.

  4. Okay but I’ve been called chickenhawk for supporting our involvement in Iraq even though the only careful avoidance of military service that I ever took was waiting to be drafted (during the wind-down of our participatio n in Vietnam) and not enlisting when there was no draft. It seems to me that, as actually used, the only actual requirement for being called a chickenhawk was never having been in the military and supporting the war.

  5. And Glenn’s description of Steyn makes Steyn sound pretty deranged and moronic. I don’t know Steyn, so I really have no dog in the fight but is it true that Steyn carefully avoided military service? While Glenn never uses the word chickenhawk, he clearly describes Steyn in comparable terms and describes Steyn’s position in the most extreme terms without any evidence whatsoever. This from a well respected (among some circles) and paid writer at a respected online political site.

    Your definition of chickenhawk sounds much more reasonable than its actual use would indicate.

  6. Well, I would call the examples of the term’s misuse that you’ve noted are unreasonable . There’s no hypocrisy in, as you described, being willing to serve if drafted, though not enlisting, and then later on supporting a war you believe in.

    I have always used the term “chickenhawk ” to describe people who went out of their way to avoid serving when they were young men - like Bush having his father call in favors to get him to the head of a long line for admission to the Texas Air National Guard in that so-called “champagne unit” that was filled with sons of the rich and powerful and was just about guaranteed never to deploy; Cheney with his five deferments that he later explained by saying he “had other priorities”  (as if a lot of draftees didn’t!)!

    For that matter, if Bill Clinton had done the same things Bush has done, he’d have been a chickenhawk too. Actually, because holding the office of the presidency necessarily involves being prepared to send military people to war, I think having sought or received deferment from military service should be a disqualifier - not that a person should be disqualified due to not having served, but only if he (not she, since so far we’ve never drafted women) had actively worked to avoid it when it was a possibility.

    The critical thing for me is that hypocrisy. I was always taught that one of the essentials of real leaders is that they never ask others to do things they themselves would not be willing to do - not that they’ve necessarily done them, just that they would be willing if they were in that position.

    The most frequent reference people make to the idea that someone should have to serve in the military to hold public office and thereby be able to send others to fight is Robert Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers. But that is not how our country works, for a lot of good reasons, and I think the Founders were perfectly capable of making it that way if in their experience and view it had been a good idea, but they didn’t.

    So I would never call you a chickenhawk.   I think the meaning I’ve had in mind as explained in this string is what the people who coined the term had in mind.

    Based on your writings on BIO, my impression is that regardless of the fact that we disagree on some things you are a genuinely patriotic and thoughtful person who might under other circumstance s have been in the service, just as under other circumstance s I might not have, and who supports a war after coming to the view that it is right for reasons others disagree with but are nevertheless thought-out.   I argue with you, but I respect your integrity, unlike some others in this forum who are just trolls that substitute sophistry and ad hominem attacks for honest argument and reasoning.

    There are always people ready to hang derogatory labels on others simply because they disagree with them - just as you’ve been called a chickenhawk, I think wrongly, I’ve been called a traitor and a terrorist sympathizer in this forum because I disagreed with other writers. To me, that’s a sign that the name-caller has no argument that will stand up and is falling back on the fallacious tactic of an ad hominem attack because that’s all they’ve got.

  7. Well, I’ll buy that. Thanks. That lifted my spirits. :-D

    I have to say, I made a decision, after some months of blogging my own blogs, to be mostly a commenter. I decided that, rather than hang out at conservative sites in an echo chamber, with people caricaturing liberals, that I would hunt down a site with reasonable liberals and learn why liberals thought the way they do. I’ve been to maybe half a dozen with varying degrees of satisfaction in the experience but I’ve had the greatest enjoyment here at BIO! and learned a great deal about liberals here that I could have never learned at BlogsForBush .com (now BlogsForVict ory.com). The biggest thing I’ve learned, though, is that if you treat people with whom you disagree with respect, you usually get respectful but reasonable disagreement in return. Trolls get what they deserve.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that the respect goes both ways.

    Carry on, LJ and all!

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