Too close for chickenhawk comfort

Jonah Goldberg defends himself:

Anybody who’s been on the receiving end of the “chickenhawk” epithet knows what I’m getting at. Various definitions of chickenhawk are out there, but the gist – as if you didn’t know – is “coward” or “unpatriotic hypocrite.” The accusation is less an argument than an insult.

It’s also a form of bullying. The intent is to say, “You have no right to support the war since you haven’t served or signed up.” It’s a way to get supporters of the war in Iraq, the war on terror, or the president simply to shut up.

As does his fellow supporter of the struggle against violent extremism:

The “chickenhawk” argument is dishonest. It is dishonest because the principle of republicanism is based on freedom of choice about behavior (as long as that behavior is legal) as well as freedom of speech about political issues. We constantly vote on activities with which we may or may not be intimately involved. We vote on police policy, though few of us are policemen; we vote on welfare policy, though few of us either work in the welfare bureaucracy or have been on welfare; we vote on tax policy, even if some of us don’t pay taxes. The list goes on and on. Representative democracy necessarily means that millions of us vote on issues with which we have had little practical experience. The “chickenhawk” argument — which states that if you haven’t served in the military, you can’t have an opinion on foreign policy — explicitly rejects basic principles of representative democracy.

Neither Goldberg’s point nor Shapiro’s is particularly salient, and Shapiro’s borders on disingenuousness. Both men are attempting to steer clear of the appellation’s personal implications and dilute it by responding to its general nature.

The chickenhawk argument is unfair when it is applied ex post facto. One of an age to have fought in the Korean War might well have refused to volunteer for service because it was a UN war, not a US war, for example, and later come to the conclusion that the Iraqi invasion was worth supporting because of the threat posed by WMDs talked up by the administration.

However, the chickenhawk label applies perfectly to a young man who publicly asserts that war and empire is of supreme importance and the nation’s solumn duty, while assiduously avoiding any such service himself. Ben Shapiro may not like the label, but he is a chickenhawk of the very worst degree, one who sits on the sidelines and urges other men to go and risk their lives in his stead.

Calling someone like Shapiro a chickenhawk isn’t an insult, it is a simple and justifiable demand to see him walk the talk.