By far the most common and silliest debate about the war in Iraq is the old send-your-child-to-Iraq-or-shut-up sophism. This so-called line of reasoning maintains that a government only has the moral authority to commit troops to an armed conflict if its leaders first pack their own kids off to the front. No amount of common sense or intelligent rebuttal has silenced it.
The obvious response is that an 18-year-old man or woman is an adult and can do whatever he or she damn well pleases. A parent — even a pro-Bush, red-state congresswoman — may encourage her daughters to join the Marines, but she may not drag Courtney and Morgan by the ponytail to the recruitment station without violating a long list of their civil rights. Equally a parent cannot prevent a son or daughter from enlisting, though he or she is as anti-war as a CCR record. These simple facts never seemed to occur to Michael Moore while making his Academy Award-winning documentary.
That should end the discussion. But it hasn’t. Not only must the offspring of administration hawks enlist — as the left’s argument goes — but the commander-in-chief and his advisers must also be battle-tested.
If progressives had their way the only persons with the moral authority (never mind the skill or expertise) to lead the Iraq conflict are those who have fought in the trenches of Babylon, Afghanistan, or Kuwait. And service in the Texas Air National Guard, or surviving the attacks on the Pentagon or Twin Towers on 9-11, doesn’t count. Such a policy would likely exclude most of the current federal government. (Wouldn’t Abu and Osama love that?) Imagine for a moment if, in December 1941, similar rules applied and only U.S. congressmen that had children in the military were allowed to vote on a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. Liberals would probably have approved of this. After all, had such a policy been in place then Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been spared the A-bomb. And considering what purists liberals are about multiculturalism, they would probably relish the fact that the U.S. would now be steeped in Japanese imperial culture.
FORTUNATELY, AMERICA’S FOUNDERS were not of the low-grade stuff of anti-war spokespersons Cindy Sheehan, Jane Fonda, and Howard Dean. Military service was not only not considered a prerequisite, but the victory of backwoods Tennessee soldier Andrew Jackson over Harvard Law School graduate and diplomat John Quincy Adams is now seen as the beginning of anti-intellectualism in America, says historian Richard Hofstadter. Had there been some kind of asinine military service litmus test in place at the nation’s founding, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Jay, George “Father of the Bill of Rights” Mason, and Thomas Paine would have been ineligible for government service (or in Paine’s case his views ignored) since not one of them wore the uniform of the continental army, and not one of them had a child serve. (George Mason’s son John, a bank president and foundry owner, was appointed brigadier general of the District of Columbia militia, a unit much like the contemporary National Guard, which as we know from George W. Bush’s service in that branch, doesn’t count.) Only Washington, Monroe, and Hamilton would have been eligible for office.
Apparently, what liberals want is a military junta running the government. An executive and legislative branch made up of Pattons and McArthurs. Talk about living in “interesting times.”
But the left’s idiotic ideas would go beyond mere policymakers. Not only must government officials and their offspring enlist, but civilians who support the war either have to sign up or shut up. Such bilge is not only uttered by useful idiots like Michael Moore. Recently the Washington Post‘s magazine browser Peter Carlson launched a similar attack against Weekly Standard editor William Kristol:
Kristol’s zeal for battle is truly inspiring. In fact, it inspired me to think: Maybe he should join the fight. He could emulate Theodore Roosevelt, who proved his zeal for the Spanish-American War by quitting his cushy desk job and organizing his own regiment to fight in Cuba. It was called the Rough Riders. Kristol’s regiment could include other war-hawk opinion slingers in the Murdoch empire, guys like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. He could call it the Tough Talkers.
And British MP George Galloway in a recent debate similarly attacked Christopher Hitchens. People like Hitchens, said Galloway, are content to fight to the last drop of other people’s blood. Oh how he wished Hitch would put on a tin hat and go and fight. Then he wouldn’t have to debate him. Hitchens, Bush, Cheney, and the neo-cons put lots of young men in wheelchairs and morgues, said Galloway.
That’s the best the left can do. Suggesting that Bill Kristol form a tank brigade and fight insurgents on the streets of Baghdad. The left really is in danger of becoming a gross parody of its old self.
When history’s great military thinkers — the Sun Tzus, the Clauswitzes, the Jominis and Napoleons — created military strategy, they did not deem it necessary to waste time on whether the adult children of government leaders joined the armed forces. They knew that such distractions divide the country and take our eye off the real target. It simply is not an issue when battling Taliban forces or Saddam’s Republican Guard. It is a shallow partisan political ploy and thus has no bearing on military strategy.
It didn’t take a president who could fight like William Henry Harrison or Ulysses S. Grant to defeat the USSR and win the Cold War. Civilians like Lech Walesa, Karol Wojtyla, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan did rather nicely. Perhaps that is the left’s real grudge.
Here’s a basic civics lesson for the Left: when the U.S. Congress votes to commit troops, it is speaking for the nation as a whole, malcontents too, and not just those that happen to agree with the outcome. The American people voted through their representatives to take out Saddam Hussein. It is not the pro-war Americans that are being hypocritical. That description goes — in George Will’s words — to the Americans who think “the world is too good for America.”
Christopher Orlet is a frequent contributor and runs the Existential Journalist website.
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