Chicken Hawks Redux: 101st Fighting Keyboarders

Jon Henke takes on Duncan “Atrios” Black, Markos Zuniga, Steve Gilliard and others for their revival of a variant of the chickenhawk argument.

Says Jon,

I’m confused. Are they suggesting that we should restrict say on US military policy to members of the US armed forces? That’s an, ah, interesting take on democracy.

No, they don’t actually believe that. The “101st Fighting Keyboarders” line is simply misdirection. Worse, it’s misdirection by people who don’t actually subscribe to the principle they suggest with their snark.

Quite right. There are legitimate arguments to be made against the Iraq War and the Bush Administration’s handling of it. I’ve seen Black, in particular, make them. But the idea that people who support the war are somehow hypocrites because they haven’t volunteered for the Infantry is rather silly. As I noted last April in response to a more nuanced take on the issue by Matt Yglesias,

One could reasonably be in favor of a governmental policy and yet have no desire to join in its enforcement. One could, for example, support government restaurant inspections and yet not be willing to change careers to become a food inspector. No one argues that that’s hypocritical. “Ah,” you say, “but food inspectors don’t risk their lives in the way that soldiers do! Straw man! Straw man!” Fair enough. Can one support putting out fires but not be willing to join the fire department? If so, does that make one a Pyro Chicken? Or, since we all know bears are in charge of preventing fires (at least in the forest) perhaps chicken-bear? Can one advocate the arrest of murderers and not go off and join the police department? I’ve never heard anyone called names for that combination. Chicken-Shepherd? I dunno.

Similarly, arguing against a particularly stupid version of the argument propounded by Michael Moore last August, I observed,

As a veteran myself, I find the concept mindboggling in its stupidity. We have an all-volunteer force. The vast majority of the population does not volunteer. A substantial portion would not be fit to serve and would be rejected had they attempted to volunteer. And, while we could arguably use a few more “boots on the ground” in Iraq, the force is pretty much filled to its Congressionally mandated maximum size. We would certainly disenfranchise an incredibly large sector of the public were Moore’s position taken seriously.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The problem with the left’s “chickenhawk” approach to invalidating the arguments of those that haven’t served is that it is perpetually narrowing the field of “qualified” veterans.

    Not a veteran but support the war? Chickenhawk–so you don’t count

    Veteran? Well, you didn’t serve IN Iraq/Afghanistan–so you don’t count

    Iraq/Afgh veteran? Well, you didn’t see COMBAT–so you don’t count

    Seen Combat vet who supports the war? Well, you weren’t INFANTRY.

    Infantry combat vet? Brainwashed jackbooted Bushhitler automaton.

    It kind of loses steam towards the end…

  2. Hal says:

    <snicker> Are you guys really this dense?