Monday, December 05, 2005

Chickenhawk

There are those who would claim that in order to support the current war, one must have served in the military, or sign up to serve. Otherwise the would-be supporter is a “chickenhawk”, a member of the “101st Keyboarders”—in other words, a hypocritical coward.

As a veteran, nothing could make me angrier than to hear such language substituted for honest debate on an issue of the gravest national concern.

The chickenhawk argument is a fallacious argument intended to shut down any debate. It’s an outright rejection of logic, framing the debate instead in invective and emotionalism. This is not how important issues should be decided, one side shouting down the other when they have run out of persuasive arguments. War has been, and always will be, an emotional issue—yet the issues surrounding it still need to be address in a rational manner. A rational approach can take into account can take feelings into account as one issue among many; an emotional approach goes no further than feelings, or resorts to feelings when ideas fail or are shown to be corrupt.

Were we to accept the chickenhawk fallacy as a valid argument, logic dictates that it be extended to other areas, too. In a world where only service members have the moral standing to declare the rectitude of a war, then only those who are willing to be police have the moral standing to expect protection from crime, only those who are willing to be a fireman should expect to have their house fire put out, only those who are doctors should expect to have their injuries treated. This, clearly, cannot be.

Ours is a free, market-driven society, which means that labor is divided. Yet all citizens have equal standing in the public arena when it comes to questions of local, state, or national importance. Different people are uniquely suited to their individual jobs and naturally gravitate towards those jobs. Thus, someone who a great cook would not necessarily be a great writer—water finds its own level, as it were. While it is true there are times when one’s expertise does, indeed, add weight to one’s opinion on matters related to that expertise, it is not true that the added weight negates the right of the rest of society to have an opinion and voice. As a society we do not need all members to follow the paths of their convictions—for all occupations have their unique importance. The soldier has a right to an opinion on matters of crime and justice, just as the police officer has a right to an opinion on matters of war and peace.

So to my fellow citizens who are passionately against the Iraq war, let me be the first to say you have the right to your opinion—that’s the beauty of being an American. However, when you frame your opposition to the war in terms attacking its supporters as cowards and hypocrites, you are taking a fundamentally corrupt position—declaring, in fact, that you have run out of ideas.

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