Friday, April 04, 2008
we live in the age of faceless, nameless, endless war:
Abu Muqawama and Charlie are in a very interesting debate that might be called "Chickenhawk, Reconsidered." Abu M, angry at the Kagans, assails them for not serving in uniform. Charlie replies that on-the-ground experience is hardly a guarantee of strategic wisdom. In other words, Abu Muquwama calls the Kagans chickenhawks; Charlie calls foul.

On balance, I think Charlie has the better of the argument. That, of course, is predictable, coming from my civilian ass. Indeed, her point was much the same as the one in this piece of mine.


What on-the-ground experience does get you, at least as far as I can gather, is a sense of the costs of war and of strategy. Civilians like myself will never truly understand that. I've had a car bomb explode about a city block away from me once, in Baghdad last March. That's the closest I've come to being in actual danger. Pretty vicarious.

And there Abu Muquwama's point really does hit home hard, particularly when he talks about the costs borne by certain families. There is something unseemly about being enthusiastic or cavalier about war, even a just war, and the Kagans exhibit that to the Nth degree. (The only complicating factor is the strange enthusiasm or nostalgia a war veteran can experience, and clearly the Kagans have no relevant experience here.) While I don't think a cry of "chickenhawk!" can end an argument, it's not so inappropriate in certain contexts, as when said-chickenhawk starts to view war as a glorious or pleasurable activity -- for, of course, someone else to engage in. That way pornography lies.

Update: Charlie emails a clarification:
I'm deeply sympathetic to AM's argument, I just worry about fetishizing mil service. And I do think you can (start to) appreciate the costs as you start to tally the number of divorces and broken souls.
--Spencer Ackerman