February 8, 2005
WAR: A Response to Juan Cole
I, for one, am sicker than sick of the "chicken hawk" argument, which I've dealt with on this site so frequently as to be not worth linking back to them all. But the latest salvo from Juan Cole in his feud with Jonah Goldberg prompted me to write this email in response, which I reprint here:
Dear Prof. Cole:
I read with interest your latest comments to the effect that all men in their 30s who support a war should go fight it, whether or not they would be in any way qualified to be soldiers, and are "coward[s] and hypocrite[s]" otherwise. According to the CIA factbook, the United States has 73 million men between the ages of 15 and 49 available for military service. Surely, we need every one of those under arms, and can accept tens of millions of additional soldiers - the nearsighted, the scrawny, the overweight - without compromising the quality of our armed forces, much in the way that the University of Michigan faculty could easily offer teaching positions to all the University's graduates without compromising its quality.
I would suggest the following additions to your proposal:
1. If you are not prepared to walk a beat, or at a minimum to purchase a gun and defend your own home, you are a coward and a hypocrite if you call the police when someone breaks into your house or your car. How dare anyone ask police officers to put their lives in danger and potentially take a bullet for the rest of us, if they are not prepared to do the same? In fact, if you are not yourself prepared to take a bullet for George W. Bush, it is positively immoral and hypocritical for you not to call for an end to the Secret Service.
2. If you are not prepared to run into burning buildings, please do not call the fire department if your house catches fire, or offer encouragement to anyone else who would do so. That would make you a coward and a hypocrite, and nobody wants to see that.
3. For that matter, you are a coward and a hypocrite if you criticize the conduct of policemen, soldiers (such as the Israeli Defense Forces), or prison guards (such as the guards at Abu Ghraib) if you are unwilling to walk a mile in their shoes. How many books have you even read on military interrogation methods, let alone attempted to maintain order and collect intelligence in a prison setting? Certainly, you can not advocate different methods of doing so if you have not volunteered to endure the daily routine of a prison guard.
4. Finally, I suggest a simple and painless way to resolve this dispute. How about we ask all of Jonah Goldberg's readers who are serving or have served in Iraq to write in support of him, and ask all of the readers of "Informed Comment" who are serving or have served in Iraq to write in support of you, and thereby settle once and for all whose opinions have the support of those men and women who are not, by the standard you have set forth, cowards and hypocrites? After all, if one is to use experience and authority as the sole sources of wisdom on matters of war and peace, then the voices of those who have actually been there and done that should count for the most, no?
Great analogies. Unfortunately, these examples of the idiocy of his argument will undoubtedly fail to reach the reasoning part of Juan Cole's brain. His ego will block any attempt at rationalization.
Let's not forget the easiest one: If you are not prepared to pay the same percentages of federal income taxes, one is a coward and a hypocrite to (a) be against the Bush tax cuts and shortly thereafter deposit the $300/$66 check when it comes in the mail; (b) charge that Bill Gates should pay the old top rate of 39.6% (of course, those folks haven't been for a drop in the top rate since JFK, so that would really be 70%, wouldn't it?).
I wonder if Prof. Cole pays the tax rates that he wants others to pay? He could use the leftover change from the Kerry election celebration party, you know.
Well said !
Cole & people like him are dangerous fools.
Whenever I am accused of chickenhawkery for my support of this war, I respond with the idea that a healthy democratic society depends on informed participation. That means advocating one political position or another on the basis of reason ---and NOT on the basis of experience.
Men are not going to stop having opinions on reproductive rights just because they cannot bear children. People criticize their representatives (or the cop on the street or the clerk behind the counter) all the time without having made the same sacrifices or learned the same skills that they have, yet they aren't going to stop making those criticisms. There's a division of labor in a free society and there's different levels of involvement, aptitude, and desire. No one person can fill every station.
It is stupid to insist that a person must be experienced in something before he may advocate it. His only obligation is to know what he's talking about.
Great response! I served Navy for 25 years and will tell you we are really glad a lot of folks aren't along side us. If this goof, Cole, had any understanding of our country's history he would know that one of our concerns early on was ensuring civilian control of the military to avoid potential military coups. I suppose this idiot would consider FDR a chickenhawk???
Toby does make a salient point: what of the female congresswomen & senators who vote in favor of a war or a draft that they're not privy to? Didn't Hillary vote for the war?
That said: did Cole not support going after the Taliban in Afghanistan? Does he not support going after Bin Laden? Al Qaeda? Zarqawi?
If he's not a part of the Marine special ops, does that make him a chicken hawk to himself?
Lastly, what is it with people like Cole (and Black, Willis, Wolcott, etc) who gain their testosterone from sitting at a computer and typing things that they'd never say to someone's face? Do they not realize that their bravado is only as strong as the bytes that carry the words? Or are they so stricken by their "he laid the smack down and called him out" fans that they're blind to the fact that their machismo exists only in the realm of the internet, where they can safely lace their comments with childhood taunts?
Juan Cole's irrational diatribe would not have occurred if Jonah's last name was 'Smith'. Cole is an Israel hater who believes Pres.Bush is in thrall to the dreaded Jewish neo-Cons, and Ariel Sharon. There is no reasoned dialogue possible with anti-semites like Cole.
Re Item 3: Item Do I need to experience rape before I can condemn it? What a weak and inane argument Brooks ...
Dennis - I don't endorse that argument (in fact, I feel quite comfortable myself condemning the abuses at Abu Ghraib) but it's the logical endpoint of Cole's argument.
I supposed Prof. Cole would be happier with the pre-war government of Japan. The military acted virtually independent of civilian control. If any civilian dared to criticize the army they would most likely be shot.
Perhaps Professor Cole would approve of going back to the days when only property owners could vote. That was based on the idea that property owners had the biggest stake in society and thus were the only ones competent to vote.
"Perhaps Professor Cole would approve of going back to the days when only property owners could vote. That was based on the idea that property owners had the biggest stake in society and thus were the only ones competent to vote."
Actually, many of us would like to see some requirement be met prior to voting. Land ownership is a way to avoid the mob rule form of democracy we are slipping towards where politicians bribe people to vote for them with gifts (welfare, etc) bought with other peoples money.
Thomas Jefferson decided not to go to war as a soldier during the Revolutionary War that his penning of the Declaration of Independence initiated. Cole must hate him for such hypocrisy. Imagine, Jefferson thought that by working as a diplomat, a lawyer, a thinker, and a writer he could be more effective in the cause than as a soldier. What a pity Cole wasn't around to set him straight and shut him up.
"Unfortunately, these examples of the idiocy of his argument will undoubtedly fail to reach the reasoning part of Juan Cole's brain."
I'm still waiting for Prof. Cole to demonstrate that his brain HAS a reasoning part. Dissembling, yes. Rationalizing, check. Demonizing, absolutely. Bloviating, heaps. Mischaracterinzing, sure. But all those rhetorical tricks seem to have crowded out actual reasoning.