Yesterday, Oliver made some bizarre comments regarding the whole ‘chickenhawk’ imbroglio, and I called him on it, because his remarks made no sense whatsoever. Still clutching to the chickenhawk slur like an alcoholic holds a bottle of cheap whiskey, Oliver once again tries to justify calling people chickenhawks, and instead, confuses himself about why we have a military.
Because Oliver has such a delicious sense of irony, he titles his post ‘The Chickenhawk Debate.’ I am glad Oliver agrees that we should debate this subject, but I am not sure what he thinks will be accomplished, because calling someone a ‘chickenhawk’ is not an attempt to debate issues seriously, it is simply an insult designed to silence those whose viewpoints Oliver disagrees with and finds unpalatable. Oliver chooses to debate the merits of a term that he employs to stifle debate- to strangle debate in the crib, and thinks he is accomplishing something. Alanis Morisette- this really is irony, unlike rain on your wedding day.
What is a chickenhawk? According to those with an infatuation with the term, it appears that the term has multiple meanings. Sometimes it means anyone who might have a hawkish viewpoint about any possible war, but who currently is not rushing out to enlist for the current war. Another alternative meaning that seems to be thrown around is anyone who has never served in the military, yet is advocating the use of the military. At its most offensive, the chickenhawk slur is used to attack elected leaders who may have never served in the military, or in President Bush’s case, elected leader’s whose military service just isn’t up to snuff to the rigorous standards for military service as stated by people like Oliver, Atrios, Ted Rall, and Tom Tomorrow.
One caveat to the chickenhawk slur is that a Democrat can never be a chickenhawk (unless they are a ‘DINO,’ which means the kool-aid crowd no longer considers their lifelong commitment to the Democrat Party valid- see Miller, Zell). Thus, even though he dodged the draft, lied about his draft status, and whatever else you want to believe, Bill Clinton, despite deploying the armed forces umpteen times during his Presidency, could never be accurately described as a ‘chickenhawk.’ The Democrat position on war to our cunning linguists using the chickenhawk slur is always a default ‘against,’ while he Republican position about any war is a default ‘in favor.’ Thus, when Democrats wage war, they were forced by events, whereas chickenhawk Republicans just raced into war, with, as Oliver stated:
Much like our president, vice-president and several other members of this administration, the warbloggers encourage using our military as some kind of toy to be trifled with, invading on whim when if they or their children were forced to serve they would likely be humming a whole ‘nother tune.
Of course, that assumes an idea more complex than “Hulk Smash” can make it that far up their noggins.
Aren’t we glad Oliver cleared that up for us? At any rate, there really is no way to debate the term chickenhawk. Let’s try, just for fun:
“You are a chickenhawk,” Mr. Loony Left stated. “You have never served in the military yet are ordering our troops into Kosovo.”
“You are an idiot,” Mr. Fascist Warmongerer replied.
And that really is about as far as you can take the debate- the assertion that not having served nor not currently serving in the military invalidates someone’s position on a military affair simply is not an argument- it is a loose assertion backed by no facts, logic, or reason. Let’s try some comparable statements:
“You have never worked in a garden in your life. You are not allowed to decide what vegetables you are going to have for dinner.”
“You have never played a down of football. You are not allowed to coach the Pee-Wee team.”
“You have never had any surgery performed on you. You are therefore forbidden to become a Doctor.”
It just makes no sense- it is not a valid form of argument, and it just makes no sense whatsoever. Which, of course, you should be well aware of- because when Oliver calls someone a chickenhawk, he doesn’t want a debate, he just wants them to shut up. Calling someone a chickenhawk is really just shorthand for:
“Nanny, nanny, boo, boo. I disagree with you, fathead. Shut up, you big meanie. I am going home.”
Here’s the point, and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to get it: the people who are supporting and encouraging a war of first-strike aggression are the same people who didn’t/aren’t serving. Do you have to have been in the military to support or oppose war? No. But the usual way things go in America is that we don’t attack and invade others. The desk jockey warrior class thinks its okay to upend this – and why not? It’s not like they have to go fight it. That one or two or five of the warbloggers actually serve or have friends/family that serve does not change the thrust of this concept.
Now, a chickenhawk appears to be someone who has nothing to lose personally, and it has nothing to do with actual military service. Oliver even says so: “Do you have to have been in the military to support or oppose war? No.”
That clears things up. I guess chickenhawks are now people who disagree with pre-emptive strikes (and let’s excuse Oliver’s gross naivete “the usual way things go in America is that we don’t attack and invade others”- anyone want to make a laundry list of countries we have invaded, with or without cause?). Regardless, even with that definition, the term chickenhawk makes no sense:
“You believe in attacking and invading other countries, which is not the American way. You are therefore a chickenhawk. Your views on all military affairs should be summarily dismissed.”
Whatever. Not content to be merely wrong, in some tasty projection, Oliver then conflates his entire chickenhawk debate into his perception of Bush and Cheney and their real feelings about the military:
People like Bush/Cheney simply have no real respect for our soldiers. They see them as an ends to a means (“Bring ’em on!”) and as pieces on a chess board to be moved around on whims. When a leader deploys his army, especially one like ours in an operation this complex, he better have a better plan than “we’ll liberate Iraq and be back by noon”.
Read that again several times in all its stunning stupidity, because you will be hardpressed to find more dumb cogently compressed into three sentences in your entire life.
1.) The military is a means to an end. From the dawn of time, the military has been used to settle political disputes that could not be settled in other fashions. I am sorry this bothers you, but it is clear that a lot of things you don’t understand upset you. There isn’t even any internal consistency to this ‘argument.’ Assume we are a pacifist nation, yet we maintain our massive military. If we were attacked, should the President mobilize all firemen? The NAACP? The AFL-CIO? I would recommend he mobilizes the military- you know, that whole ‘means/ends’ thing.
2.) Anything Oliver disagrees or does not understand is now to be termed a whim. For example: “On a whim, Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve announced interest rates would not change.” Here is another: “On a whim, Congress passed and Clinton signed the DOMA.” See- anything you don’t like or disagree with you can term ‘whimsical,’ and then you are spared the dual duty of understanding your opponents argument and creating a rational response. It’s ‘Arguing for the Lazy, 101.’
3.) Oliver, despite no military service himself (how does he skillfully evade the ‘chickenhawk’ label when making proclamations like this) feels it necessary to provide military leaders aroud the world with some really useful advice- You should have a better plan than “we’ll liberate Iraw and be back by noon.” Sage advice, friends. Two questions- does this mean that Oliver is dropping the ‘Bush had no plan’ meme, and does this mean that Oliver really thinks that is all the current administration thought? The arrogance or ignorance is staggering- you take your pick.
4.) Oliver has slipped up and has fallen prey to the dreaded fallacy known as the false dichotomy, the false dilemma, the black and white fallacy- whatever you want to call it. According to Oliver’s reasoning, you can either see the military as an “end to a means,” or you can ‘respect’ the soldiers. Clearly this is not a binary construct, but oh well. Additionally, does Oliver mean that in order for a leader to ‘respect’ his military, he/she should let them decide who to invade and when and why? Maybe we are homing in on the ends/means confusion Oliver has displayed. Talk amongst yourselves. As Matt Stinson noted, Oliver sounds like Cleamenceau in reverse– “War is too important to be left to the politicians!”
At any rate, I think we should all be able to agree that the chickenhawk slur is not an argument, not a set of reasoning, not fact based, but merely an insult designed to stifle debate. If you can’t think about any other reasons, at least look at the fact that our Founding Fathers saw no reason for military experience to be a requirement to become President. And what, with the War Powers Act and Congress controlling the funding, there is no military service requirement there, either. All of Congress could be composed of chickenhawks- egads!
At any rate, even if the term doesn’t die, I am done with it. When I hear someone say it in public, I will fumble around in my pocket for a mint, or a piece of gum, or a lollipop, and I will hand it to whoever said it so they have something to occupy their feeble mind, just like a toddler trying to wait patiently in a Doctor’s office. When I am reading online, I am going to mentally subsitute the following phrase every time I see the word ‘chickenhawk:’
Look at big stupid me! I can’t form an argument and I am going to to try to shut up those who can.
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