Chickenhawk Redux – Sacrificing Children
In a Slate article entitled, “Don’t “Son” Me – End this silly talk about sacrificing children,” Christopher Hitchens thrashes the latest variant of the chickenhawk meme floating about, the idea that only those who are willing to send their sons to battle have the right to favor a war. He is particularly peeved by a Richard Cohen piece making that claim.
After parrying the silliness behind the argument, Hitchens gets to the heart of the matter.
Further on in the same portentous article, we encounter one Andrew Bacevich, a “professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired Army officer.” What could be more impressive? This expert delivers himself of the opinion that, “If this is such a great cause, let us see one of the Bush daughters in uniform.” Let me do a brief thought experiment here. Do I know a single anti-war person who would be more persuaded if one of the Bush girls joined up? Do you? Can you imagine what would be said about such a cheap emotional stunt? Stalin’s son was taken prisoner by the Nazi invaders (and never exchanged), and Mao’s son was killed in the war that established the present state of North Korea. I am not sure how encouraging such precedents are supposed to be, but they have nothing at all to do with the definition of a just war.
Much more important than this, however, is the implied assault on civilian control of the military. In this republic, elected civilians give crisp orders to soldiers and expect these orders to be obeyed. No back chat can even be imagined, let alone allowed. Do liberals really want the Joint Chiefs to say: “Mr. President, I’ll respect that order when you have a son or daughter in uniform”? It was a great day when President Lincoln fired Gen. George B. McClellan. It was a great day when President Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur. No presidential brat needed to be on the front line for this point to be understood.
Kevin Drum agrees with another point made by Hitchens:
Did I send my children to rescue the victims of the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center? No, I expected the police and fire departments to accept the risk of gruesome death on my behalf.
Having made the same argument over a year ago, who am I to disagree?
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.