Armchairism, or Chickenism
The early award for best post of the day goes to The Poor Man, with his psuedo-news article about pro-war pundits and bloggers:”Falling Reentlistment Rates Among Right Wing Pundits Threaten War on Terror.”
The enemy had brought in a few independent studies to fortify their position. Goldberg called for reinforcements, and emails supporting his stand began pouring in. As quickly as they arrived, Goldberg posted them to his weblog on the front. The action was getting furious, and, without looking, Goldberg opened an email from an unknown address. On the monitor was the image of a single white feather. Goldberg fell back in his office chair, and hit the ground and began moaning, softly and piteously.
â€œMedic!â€ shouted Derbyshire.
K-Lo rushed over and crouched over him. â€œItâ€™s bad,â€ she muttered. â€œOh, man, itâ€™s bad.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€ yelled Derbyshire, panicked. â€œWhereâ€™d they get him?â€
â€œOh, itâ€™s bad. Those bastards. Those fucking heartless bastards. They got him in the feelings. Oh God, oh God, no. Those motherfuckers hurt his feelings! God I hate this damned war!â€
Now, I laughed my proverbial balls off at this. But then I followed a link to an article by Doug Kern in TechCentralStation, positing that the real problem we face is the march of the Chickendoves – anti-war folks who didn’t enlist.
To be clear: the entire notion of “Chicken______” is absurd. A free society should act on the assumption that citizens can reason about military issues without personal military experience, just as they can reason about any issue without needing a doctorate degree to do so. If you can’t trust citizens to reason intelligently outside of their personal fields of expertise, you’ve ceded political control to the experts. A strong insight into human nature gives citizens the capacity for reasonably wise decisions on all subjects. And insight into human nature doesn’t require military discharge papers.
Moreover, we constantly make political demands on each other that don’t affect us personally. We raise taxes that we ourselves don’t pay. We pass environmental regulations that don’t affect our businesses. We support novel educational policies while we send our own children to private school. So what? Do we demand that leftists form their own multinational conglomerates before protesting at WTC meetings? Do we require conservatives to date within their own sex before opposing same-sex marriages? Why have we singled out a pro-war stance as the one instance in which the mere possession of an opinion isn’t good enough?
This is not at all the stupidest exposition of this thinking. But it avoids – maybe intentionally – the reason pro-war non-veteran pundits are offensive in a way tenured radicals are not. Look at the list of things Kern equates with chickenhawking – taxes, environmental regulations, same-sex marriage, “forming multinational conglomerates.”
This is exactly the stuff that offends people (like myself, increasingly) about pro-war pundits. Kern easily equates war with taxes and environmental regulations. For him, it’s one bullet point on a long list of debate topics. Don’t tell me he’s just concluding his these with some light examples – this is the final thrust of his argument, that of COURSE you can argue about something without it intimately affecting you.
That’s what really sets people off about pro-war pundits. It’s not the ideas – it’s the flippancy. It’s the tendancy of a Jonah or a Steyn or a Coulter to advocate sending troops into battle as a first resort. They have large audiences and their opinions matter, and they use that space to joke about war. To wit, a pre-war Goldberg:
So: Is Iraq a brutal totalitarian regime? Check! Is it a proven threat to its neighbors? Check! Is it a proven threat to its own people? Check! Is it a proven threat to our allies? Check! Is it willing to export terrorism abroad? Check! Is it likely that if it got weapons of mass destruction, it would use them recklessly? Check! Is it working very hard to get weapons of mass destruction? Check! Would Saddam’s people be better off without him? Check! Would we and our allies be better off without him? Check! Do we have the power and capabilities to get rid of him without paying too high a cost? Check!
“Without paying too high a cost” – the lives of an expected few hundred soldiers (in retrospect, the lives of more than 1400) are slapped on the table like a $10 casino chip.
Kern does a pretty good job with an untenable argument, but that’s it. Pro-war pundits who write from the safety of their homes definitely deserve all the flack they get.