Saturday, December 03, 2005

"Craven" and the Chickenhawk

I've never been a huge fan of the "chickenhawk" label. It's used constantly to describe anybody who supports the war (or even the concept of war) who isn't actually a veteran or a member of the military. While it's always funny to torture Jonah Goldberg, and Dick Cheney really is evil, the validity or invalidity of their case has nothing to do with service.

That matters. If you're trying to argue against that case, using the "Chickenhawk" label can be counterproductive. You aren't going to sway anybody who understands (explicitly or implicitly) that there's no connection between the argument and the arguer. You might even hurt your case, because they'll be less inclined to believe anything else you say.

That said, there are cases where the "Chickenhawk" label is valid. This is one of them. Check the bolded comment in the quote:

This insane calculus—which is the position of the Democratic leadership, at least in the House—argues, in essence, that going to war puts a strain on our troops, and that protecting ourselves is impossible if our troops are stretched thin from protecting us.

Again, I’m not sure how this message has gained any traction whatsoever; but then, I’m stunned each passing day by the number of people who throw their support behind a political party whose base is so obviously and unabashedly craven that it refuses even to find a workable rhetorical mask for its power-at-any-cost message that doesn’t insult the intelligence of anybody paying close attention.
Now, this is all twaddle, of course, and I wouldn't expect anything different from Goldstein. He's clearly just throwing red meat to Bush's dwindling base of support. It's not like he can change horses at this point. The point he's attacking is perfectly valid: a military that is overstrained and overworked due to lack of manpower and an overly ambitious mission is going to be less effective. He attempts to say that it's somehow invalid because in both cases they are "protecting us"... neatly dodging the legitimate question of whether or not they're protecting a damned thing, and whether the manpower can be more effectively used elsewhere.

(That's why you can tell it's red meat: it's only a valid argument if you share Goldstein's assumptions. Either he's aware of this or he's not- if he is, he's pandering, and if he's not, he's dumb.)

But again, look at the bolded section:

a political party whose base is so obviously and unabashedly craven that it refuses even to find a workable rhetorical mask for its power-at-any-cost message. "Craven" is a synonym for "cowardly". This is where the chickenhawk label should go. While he dresses it in nonsensical complaints about "rhetoric", the meaning is clear: he's saying that everybody who doesn't support the war is a coward.

Jeff Goldstein, you don't get to call anybody cowardly, least of all the Democratic base. You're not out there fighting and dying for a mistake. You aren't responsible for any lives, or forced to accept orders that you disagree with that may end up getting you killed. You aren't the one who has the nightmares about the lives you've taken.

You aren't even politically brave. You're speaking power to truth. You're defending the easy, safe, and scurrilous idea that if only enough of the bad guys get killed (by someone else) we'll be safe. You're doing it in the face of all evidence to the contrary, because to disagree would leave you ostracized. Andrew Fucking Sullivan is braver than you are, and David Brock leaves you in the dust.

(To forstall an inevitable defense: That you use your own name means nothing when you choose those positions that require the least courage and extract the most gain. You'd actually be braver using a pseudonym, because it would demonstrate that you say things because you mean them, not because it will make you the right friends. I may hide behind a pseudonym, but you hide behind power, Jeff.)

Every one of us (even the pseudonymous bloggers like myself) who have been saying since 2002 that this war was a mistake are braver than you. We've suffered, to mangle Shakespeare, "slings and arrows of outrage"; endless maligning of patriotism, of bravery, of sanity, even, from those like yourself who took the easy and profitable path of apology for liars and scoundrels.These were and are attempts to stifle dissent, and the media's behavior during the buildup to the war, and its treatment of those who disagreed, shows that the attempts worked very well.

(There is, for example, no other reason for Horowitz's "Discover the Network" and Pipes' Campus Watch to exist; the latter has led to threats to safety and is little more than character assassination. As is everything Ann Coulter has ever written.)

We've suffered it and continued, because we understood what the American people have finally realized: that the United States' children should not bleed to death in the desert for a pack of lies about WMDs and the regional ambitions of the neo-conservatives.

You are a Chickenhawk, Jeff. You are every inch the coward, Jeff. Not for the quality of your argument, although it was poor, but for this pathetic attempt at accusing others of cowardice in order to mask your own.

But, at least, you're an excellent object lesson. Use the label Chickenhawk wisely, folks, because leveling it at everybody means you don't have it when you need it.

Edit: Credit should go to Oliver- got it from this post.

No comments:

Post a Comment