Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Crip Walkin' and Chicken Hawkin'

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting post up about supporters of this insane
Iraq "Surge" idea. His notes that Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the architects of this surge plan, argues for a necessarily large increase in the number of American troops in Iraq. In fact, Kagan states pretty plainly that the surge won't work unless many thousand more troops than are currently available are deployed to the region.

The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this generation.

Glenn then makes a connection that's patently obvious. If you are one such young Americans, and you support Bush's war and Kagan's plan for its escalation, you should enlist to serve your country in Iraq. And not only for the sake of rhetorical consistancy.

At this point, to continue supporting a policy that has caused such a cataclysmic loss of life, American, Iraqi and otherwise, one would have to think that "victory" in Iraq was the single most important cause of our time. After all, it would have to be worth several thousand American lives and, at best, several hundred thousand Iraqi lives.

I do not personally believe this, nor did I think that any such victory was attainable at any point during Bush's Iraqi Adventure. So I did not support the war, because why should Americans or Iraqis die for something that isn't truly essential for our survival, or that wasn't even possible?

But if I did believe this, well...I'd only have a few options:

(1) Go off to war.

(2) Admit to myself and anyone else who asked that I'm a coward, willing to send other men to die for what I think is important but unwilling to potentially sacrifice my own life or the lives of close friends and family members.

(3) Find a way to aid the war effort significant enough to substitute for my presence on a battlefield.

The so-called right-wing "chickenhaws," young men or the parents of young men who strongly support Bush's war but refuse to serve, tend to go with #3. They claim that their writing about the war and bringing issues to the public's attention compensate for their absence from the field of battle.

This is almost always bullshit. Most right-wing bloggers and pundits reach a relatively narrow audience, and it would be hard to argue that most of them are having any influence on the national dialogue one way or the other (unless you count starting arguments with left-wing blogs). I mean, Jonah Goldberg's got that cushy columnist job with the LA Times, but no one actually listens to his idiotic ramblings. High school seniors have enough knowledge of history and political science to rebuff 98% of his arguments.

Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt might be able to make this case - they probably are helping out the war effort more by bloviating about it daily on the radio to millions of listeners than they would getting their pasty asses blown away in approximately two seconds on the streets of Ramadi.

For the rest of them, they're not doing enough here at home to make up for the good they could potentially do in Iraq. (Note that I don't think more troops in Iraq is a good thing, but they do, and we're taking their arguments at face value.)

So that's the basics of the chickenhawk argument. Glenn insists that he doesn't typically subscribe to this view on the basis of all wars. If you supported, for example, American intervention in Bosnia, you were not morally compelled to go to Bosnia yourself and help out, because this was a task that the American volunteer army would have been capable of carrying out.

I disagree. I think, if you want America to fight a war, you should go fight so long as you are physically capable. My one caveat would be the definition of war. We have an active volunteer military during peacetime to carry out necessary individual operations, many of them covert, and I suppose that's relatively important in the interests of national security. But a war? Don't support it unless you want to fight it.

But Glenn does think that "surge" supporters should sign up. After all, we're now talking about sending the Army out on a task they are ill-staffed to complete. If you support the task, you are morally compelled to help carry it out. Otherwise, you're just a coward, shuttling off other, better men to their deaths for your own personal edification and protection.

Honestly, if you are young and healthy yet continue to refuse to enlist in the armed services, it proves that you don't consider the War in Iraq to be a fundamental necessity for America's continued survival. If phasing out American military involvement in Iraq were truly an existential threat, you'd do whatever needed to be done to make sure that didn't happen in the interest of your own continued personal safety and happiness.

In light of the current troop shortages impeding Kagan's plans -- to say nothing of plans for confronting other countries and Terrorists beyond Iraq -- how can those who strut around as Churchillian defenders of American greatness in the face of Evil possibly justify their ongoing refusal of this call? The World War II values they are constantly invoking in order to justify endless war weren't defined by war cheerleaders but by war fighters.

Naturally, such cowards don't like to be called out on their cowardice. Worthless-for-all-save-comic-value blog Right Wing News is staffed by one such coward, John Hawkins. Here's his response, in full, to Greenwald's thought-provoking post:

Over at Unclaimed Territory, lefty blowhard Glenn Greenwald is advancing the same old, tired chickenhawk argument libs have been using for years, but just in case, he's taking 2200 words to say the same thing most libs can do in two sentences.

Here's the short version:

"As a result, it is now morally indefensible for those who are physically able to do so to advocate a "surge," or even ongoing war in Iraq, without either volunteering to fight or offering a good reason why they are not doing so."

If he doesn't think you can back the President on a surge without participating, then the reverse should be true. Since Greenwald wants us to surrender to the insurgents in Iraq, he should be over there acting as a human shield for a member of the sectarian death squads. Heck, if you add in all his sock puppets, Greenwald could act as a human shield for 4 or 5 terrorists and neck cutters.

Other people have made similar points and Greenwald has a long, tortured explanation for why this sort of non-reasoning only applies to people who believe in winning the war, not people advocating that America surrender in Iraq, but it's such bupkis that it's not even worth addressing.

If people like Greenwald don't like the idea of a surge, there is certainly an argument that can be made against it. It's not sustainable. It encourages the Iraqis to rely on our troops instead of doing things for themselves. It will likely increase casualties and costs. If we "surge" and nothing comes of it, it could boost the morale of the enemy. Unlike Greenwald's lame "chickenhawk" argument, at least those are legitimate criticisms of a surge.

He then links to an article that refers to the term "chickenhawk" as a slur, as if it were something over which he had no control, like race or height. Clearly, the term upsets him because it is so apt.

Anyway, one aspect of Hawkins' frankly pathetic response to Greenwald struck me. He's making an ideological point about principles and semantics, not crafting a genuine response to Greenwald's actual criticism. You'd think he and Greenwald were arguing about film theory or Kant's Pleasure Principle to read his post, not discussing plans for expanding a horrifically bloody international conflict.

Hawkins starts small: He's only trying to point out that Greenwald makes an error of logic in conflating war supporters with soldiers. At best, even if his reasoning were airtight, he'd prove that Glenn Greenwald is a hypocrite. He doesn't even come close, but it's still interesting to note that he doesn't bother even taking up the question on its own terms, directly stating why he feels he should be excused from military service.

To do so would necessarily cause him to be mocked incessantly, as Ben Ferguson discovered when he made this ridiculous comparison between supporting the Iraq War and supporting the Yankees baseball club.

Hawkins may have proved himself just a bit smarter than Ferguson. He refuses to get caught trying to actually explain or confront his cowardice, so he changes the subject, employing one of the most thin, lame analogies imaginable.

According to Hawkins' reasoning, someone who supports the removal of American forces from Iraq should have to serve as a human shield to protect militant Muslim terrorists. Come again?

Since Greenwald wants us to surrender to the insurgents in Iraq, he should be over there acting as a human shield for a member of the sectarian death squads.

One would have to make any number of incorrect, somewhat ludicrous assumptions to even make this analogy remotely sensible. To wit:

(1) American forces in Iraq are actively preventing sectarian violence
(2) Glenn Greenwald opposes American military involvement in Iraq because he supports Muslim terror
(3) Muslim terrorists groups are actively recruiting sympathetic Americans to serve as human shields

Obviously, none of these are true. Most Americans who oppose a "surge" in Iraq (a group which includes...most Americans) do so because they think it won't do any good in stopping the violence, not because they lurves them some beheadings. Obviously.

Hawkins only retreats to such blather because he can't justify his failure to appear in Mesopotamia. And it demonstrates his basic naivete, his lack of understanding about what war really means. It is not a parlor trick or a conversation piece. A war is not an excuse to show off your debating skills (not that he has actually demonstrated any). Hawkins says "send more troops." Reality says "there aren't any more to send, unless all the guys like you voluntarily sign up." Then Hawkins responds "Whatever, whatever! I do what I want!"

When you advocate shipping American troops off to a war zone, you are advocating for an increase in American deaths. That's what happens when soldiers walk into a war zone. Some of them get dead. This is not theoretical, no matter how much Hawkins clearly wishes it were.

To advocate such a policy when it cannot even be carried out because of a lack of manpower, and then to refuse to help personally is any way, is to demand that more Americans who aren't you die for no good reason. That is monstrous, and it's the charge Greenwald, myself and other members of the liberal blogosphere are making against the chickenhawks.

The fact that they can only respond with bad analogies and pretzel logic ("well, why don't you go help some Muslim terr'ist death squads then!") demonstrates a kind of flagrant moral bankruptcy that I can not begin to understand.


steve c. said...

Be sure to check out a great short film currently on youtube: FECES for the FUHRER. It really apeask to our troubled times!

steve c. said...

OOPS! It really SPEAKS....

Peter L. Winkler said...

Hawkins exemplifies the bipolar, absolutist dynamic that characterizes the right today. It's basically "You're either with us or against us."

If you don't support Bush unequivocally, then you must be a supporter of terrorists. That's the Hannity line.

How much of this is sincere - though still wrong - and how much of it is sheer demagogery designed to appeal to the 25% or so of Americans who reflexively respond to this is open to question. Moatly the latter, I suspect.

steve c. said...

Check out my latest video: FECES FOR THE FUHRER on youtube immediately! This is a depiction of what's happening in the world! Troubled times they have come!