Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 6, 2002
WAR: IS CONDI RICE A CHICKEN HAWK?
I've been promising a look at the whole "chicken hawk" canard, but some mainstream articles have made many of my points for me, from this Eliot Cohen piece in the Washington Post to this Jonathan Foreman piece in the New York Post. They hit on the insanity, generally, of giving exclusive weight in decisions about war to people with military experience.
In general, whether somebody who's talking about war has served is certainly relevant, but it shouldn't be an argument stopper. To me, it mostly matters whether you served if your opponents can credibly argue that you are underestimating, say, the horrors of war or the hardships on our troops. But in the case of Iraq, the main arguments trotted out by the opponents of war have little to do with the condition of the rank and file soldiers entering battle, and everything to do with geopolitics. After all, guys like Chuck Hagel, for example, aren't saying we shouldn't or couldn't go to war with Saddam, just that we haven't met the standard yet (whatever it is) or haven't adequately considered the regional consequences. And none of those things has anything to do with the soldier's job.
(I'm leaving out the New York Times, which has so little regard for the public's grip on reality that it recently considered it front page news that, if the U.S. attacks Iraq with the intention of toppling the regime, the regime is planning to fight back)
A few additional thoughts, though:
1. Is Condi Rice a chicken hawk? When they list the administration's hawks generally, she makes the list; when they list the ones without combat experience, they usually fail to mention her (as well as Don Rumsfeld, who I believe was a Navy pilot). Do the people (mostly on the Left) who trot out this argument really mean to tell the womenfolk to stay home and mind their knittin' and keep their dainty noses out of the whole war business?
2. Conversely, before September 11, there had been an endless series of debates about changing the culture of the military, from the whole don't ask/don't tell brouhaha to DACOWITS. The people who supported remaking the military in the image of their vision of civilian life invariably argued that no deference should be given to the views of the generals on the proper maintenance of good order and discipline in the military. NOW, who's being inconsistent?
3. If the Democrats, in particular, think the views of the soldiers are so important, shouldn't they be doing more to make sure their votes get counted?
4. Remember not long ago, when Bush spoke to the type of troops who actually WOULD be in the first wave going into Baghdad, and somebody yelled "let's go get Saddam," and Bush had to pause while the troops cheered? Those hawks ain't chicken, that's for sure.