Thursday, September 08, 2005


"People who want to see higher levees and walls around New Orleans should go down there and build them themselves!"

"You want more hospital ships off the Gulf coast right now to treat the poor and displaced? Why don't you go down to the Navy recruiter and sign your sorry ass up?"

Are we still playing the "chickenhawk" game, or are we tired of that one yet? Let's keep playing for one more round, just long enough to give the purveyors of that fallacy one more chance to recognize how the ball looks in the other court.

The "chickenhawk meme" is a rhetorical stick in the spokes that has been flung at every supporter of the war to overthrow Saddam and establish a free Iraq. It's supposed to immediately shut us all up.

It usually looks something like this:

This war is a waste of American lives, so if you think it's right, you should be the one to fight it. Go enlist or shut up.

It's been flung at old ladies and even at war veterans (e.g. Baldilocks) who are told to re-enlist. It's been exposed as a dangerous and illogical trick again and again, but those who are wedded to it won't let it go. It is the rhetorical arm of the anti-war left's cry to bring back the draft, and thus establish a perfect equivalence with Vietnam.

Personally, I think it also ties in with the anti-war left's new focus on military recruiters as the sum of all evil. So many of the men and women who have volunteered for military service in recent years, or who are otherwise doing splendid work in Iraq, are children of anti-Vietnam War protesters of 35 years ago who still haven't gotten over their allergy to anything patriotic or duty-bound. Naturally the parents' wrath flows out in certain predictable channels.

So let's keep playing chickenhawk; let's apply it to another situation. "Don't advocate government actions that will involve sacrifice unless you're also putting yourself directly in the place of those who may be asked to sacrifice."

Don't call for more government action to help the poor people stranded in New Orleans unless you drove down there as soon as you heard the news and personally waded through the sewage and took some of them out of the Superdome and into your home. (Not impossible, some college kids did it).

Don't call for better canal walls and levees in New Orleans unless you are willing to take two years and go down there personally and build them.

Don't call for a more aggressive FEMA unless you've put in a job application there. Don't call for a quicker and more effective use of U.S. military resources in the disaster zone unless you've spent the last two years encouraging healthy young men and women to enlist, and supporting the Defense Department budget.

Looks stupid to me, too, but put up or shut up, chickenbeaver! Hey, your game, not mine.