Monday, September 5, 2011

Behold the Chickenhawk

You know who they are.  Those political leaders who are all gung-ho about taking military action but who've never fired a battlefield shot in their lives.  That bloated bafoon you know who complains about "all these pipsqueak countries pushing us around" while we sit on a mass weapons stockpile but the guy has never once yanked a dead friend from a burning vehicle.

They are the "chickenhawks."  They are the "war is long as I don't have to do it" crowd.  Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh are popular targets for the chickenhawk moniker but it should be stressed that the name can and should be applied to several different people on each side of the political aisle.  Now, a study from Berkely and Columbia University explains the psychology of the chickenhawk phenomenon and just what kind of thinking it spawns from.

The study went back to the last time when this nation had a draft: the Vietnam War.  Findings determined that those men who held lower draft numbers, meaning they were more likely to be selected, tended to become more liberal and to vote Democratic.  They also tended to be more skeptical of the rationale for US involvement in the war.  Those who had higher numbers or were excused from fighting altogether, almost always held on to pro-military ideology.

It makes sense.  It's easy to be pro-war when you don't have anything to risk.  Just as it's easy to rethink the reason for fighting a war if you're being forced into harm's way.  That's just plain survival instinct talking.   
We're no longer a nation of shared sacrifice.  Unless someone you love is actively serving right now (and bless you and them if they are), current or future military actions probably don't have any affect on you in your daily life here in the good ol' U.S. of A.  I include myself in this.  Since a very young age, I have loved all things military.  Board and video games, action movies and history books on the subject, and a full run of G.I. Joe comic books along with a massive collection of the toys that I played with well into high school.  As a teen, I believed that America needed to secure itself against the loathesome, godless, Communist aggressors through continual shows of force and a constant development of military strength.

Then I went to Haiti.  I was in a war there, even if for only 24 hours.  We were caught in the midst of a coup to take over the government.  I saw heads blown off, limbs severed, ducked from bullets, and smelled flesh burning.  I heard the screams of the dead and the wounded.  While we made it to the airport for the last plane out and everybody got home without a scratch, it made me see the horror and the reality of war.  It's something I will never forget.  Ever since then, I've needed to be truly and thoroughly convinced before I could support military action of any kind.  Don't get me wrong, I still believe that there are circumstances where it is warranted but having had a taste of the real thing, my support for those who carry out combat on our behalf has doubled and I believe that the reason to send them into action needs to be aboslutely, positively, at least in the upper 90 percentile range of "necessary."

So maybe the draft would be a good thing again.  After all, it's easy to push the button when neither you nor anyone you love is going to be sacrificed.

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