Let’s Cool it with the “Chicken Hawk” Nonsense
I sometimes find the best way to settle your views on an issue is not to read the opinion of those you admire, but rather those whom you despise. Even my favorite thinkers go astray sometimes. The hacks are slightly more consistent.
One of the kings of errancy is the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, who spends today’s column trying to act as a moral backstop for President Obama in regard to Syria. It’s a throwaway remark early in the piece, however, that gets my hackles up:
At Wednesday’s hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I thought for a moment that [Secretary of State John] Kerry was going to blow. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., launched into a self-righteous soliloquy about Benghazi, the IRS, the National Security Agency and what he portrayed as Kerry’s longtime aversion to using military force.
Kerry, you may recall, is a highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran. Duncan is an armchair warrior.
A few quick thoughts:
– I’ll grant you that Duncan comes off as a blowhard in his questioning of Kerry. Hearings on the possibility of war are about as serious a task as a member of Congress faces and his insistence on turning it into a glorified campaign ad are both misplaced and unimpressive. He comes off like a guy trying to sell you insurance at a funeral. That being said, non sequitur droning constitutes about 90 percent of all congressional questioning. You know who used to be the king of that? John Kerry. So forgive me if I can’t muster sympathy when he’s on the receiving end of the same kind of firehose-intensity stream of inanity he spent over two and a half decades dispensing.
– I’ve never understood why, in a nation that from its inception has insisted upon civilian control over the military, we try to settle policy arguments by determining who’s the closest approximation of Leonidas. You know who else was an “armchair warrior”? Franklin Roosevelt, who prosecuted World War II and never served in the military. Abraham Lincoln spent three months in the Illinois State Militia.
And Mr. Robinson should be careful about tying credibility on foreign affairs to time in uniform. Barack Obama didn’t serve. Neither did Joe Biden. And neither did Eugene Robinson, who spends the rest of this column telling us how we should think about Syria.
Liberals spent the last decade mocking conservative “chicken hawks” who had never served in the military but advocated for American intervention overseas. It was a bogus argument then and it’d be bogus (if not satisfying) to turn it back on them now. If we’re going to debate ideas, let’s do it on the merits, not according to the resumés of the people advancing them.