Responding to a video entry on the Huffington Post by one Max Blumenthal, Tiberius Gracchus and Matt Sinclair have been discussing the word 'chickenhawk'. Unfortunately, they are both barking up unfortunately chosen arboreal plants.

Tiberius makes a mistake which, to be frank, is unworthy of him. The video he bases his opinions on is biased (not necessarily bad), one-sided and takes a half-dozen interviews, presumably selected to make the interviewees look foolish, and presents them without any justification or evidence as representative of all Republicans.

Tiberius says:
The point though is that within Republican students and Republican commentators is a kind of resurgent masculinity- that going to war proves that you are manly and stand up for your principles- that not supporting a war in another country, like Iraq, is proving you hold 'girly' opinions or that you are a weedy academic. That war is good for its own sake- that all problems can be solved through the use of military force. It isn't in my view incumbent on Republicans to go to war to prove their credentials to advocate war- but I think they lay themselves open to the chicken hawk accusation by using these militaristic arguments- by demeaning those that oppose their justifications as traitors, by saying that support for war is a token of courage.
If Tiberius' point is that Fox News is a cheerleader for neoconservativism, I think he could have made it rather more elegantly. If he is saying that there is a resurgence of virtù, I fear he is mistaken. There has always been a vulgar jingoism in some parts of any western polity that has had populist appeal. Any war calls on these sentiments, and it is as much the failure of the 'liberal' side of the media to make serious argument against the position taken by some 'conservatives' or the strength of Fox News that leads to its apparent preponderance at the moment.

The video in question is no better than the people it seeks to attack, being very much in the Michael Moore school of polemic film-making. Even down to the appeal to the flag with serious voice over at the beginning, it is not calculated to make an argument so much as to make an ad hominem attack; a logical fallacy. If some well-known members of the polity make the argument that it is 'girly' not to support the war, it behoves others to say that the line of reasoning is flawed; that past experience has shown that wars like this end in failure and don't achieve what is intended; that there are better ways of protecting the 'homeland'.

Going through the video, there are lots of points made by the attendees at the Republican College Convention that could be torn apart pretty easily. However, Blumenthal covers a speech about abortion1 and the chairperson of the convention talking about how many important people he's met. If this were an American policy-style debate, there would be howls of 'topicality'.

Matt replies by missing the obvious rebuttal (which, in fairness, is made in the comments section); that there is no longer a draft. There is no obligation to go to war, and so no avoidance of it. Equally, there are plenty of ways of serving a war effort without fighting on the front lines, the notable example being the Bevin Boys -
about one in ten conscripts were sent down the mines and did not come back up until 1948.

Quite why Matt goes on to talk about pacifism is beyond me. Talking about foreign policy and taking a moral risk on war is fine, but he misunderstands pacifism. There is no moral risk of war from a pacifist point of view; it is an immoral certainty. Wars are fought, from a non-pacifist point of view, to stop further wars. it is a common pacifist theme that wars cause wars and the way to prevent future wars is not to fight this one.

Answering in turn, Tiberius says:
Matt is right there is a moral cowardice in pacifism as well- but the most moral cowardice demonstrated recently has been from the advocates of war who imagine that war is costless and beneficent- it isn't and we should remember and honour the soldiers, and remember that when we go to war, for myself and Matt we are advocating that people take the supreme risk without ourselves being willing to take that risk. It is moral cowardice to face up then to the deaths and distress consequent upon our policy- that is what the word Chicken Hawk means to me.
While I am not a pacifist, to say that there is cowardice in pacifism seems to be to be gross ignorance of the facts. Certainly, some people will have claimed to be pacifists out of fear, but a great number have put up with ostracisation, poverty and imprisonment, often in worse conditions than the troops on the front line that they sought to avoid joining, for their convictions. There are plenty of examples on the Peace Pledge Union website.

Tiberius ends by saying "that is what the word Chicken Hawk [sic] means to me". I wrote here about how far-right or fascist are not useful terms as they are so emotionally loaded and caught up with distracting intellectual baggage that they cannot be used as descriptors. The same applies to the term 'chickenhawk'. I'd much rather that people addressed the arguments and not the argumentor.

Last, but not least, the music played in the background of the video clip is 'Fortunate Son' by Creedence Clearwater Revival.


1 - which has a frankly bizarre argument - if 40,000,000 abortions had been carried out over the last fifty years, we wouldn't need all those illegal immigrants.

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