Chickenhawks revisited

I talked here about my dislike for the word 'chickenhawk' following on from posts from Matthew Sinclair and Tiberius Gracchus. It is an ad hominem attack and fails to engage with the arguments, cheapening debate on all sides.

Beyond that, it opens up people opposed to (a given) military intervention to an obvious counter-charge. If 'we' say that 'they' can't support a war because they don't know what they're talking about or are being hypocritical, 'we' open ourselves to a similar argument. If the charge is that 'they' always support war to appear macho, 'we' are always cowardly and we cannot criticise the mode of argument as 'we' have just used it ourselves. If 'we' want to say that 'they' are all for military adventuring because 'they' have no idea, not having been in the armed forces, of what combat is like or (more importantly) what it can achieve, the opposite can be said about 'us' - that 'we' don't know what threats 'we' are actually facing or what can be done about them on the ground and so shouldn't comment.

Some of these issues are canards. A private might have a very good idea indeed of what the business end of an enemy's rifle looks like but have no conception of the strategic or political implications of returning fire. You can perfectly well comment on military matters without having been a member of the armed forces, but engaging in the chickenhawk debate means you can't have a serious discussion about what's going on.


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