Liberals who routinely blame America for everything they think is wrong with the world are sensitive to the charge that they are unpatriotic. One of their countercharges is to accuse hawkish pundits and politicians of hypocrisy if they didn’t serve in the military, or if they didn’t “send their own kids” to war. What are we to make of this countercharge?
1.All things being equal, I do think it would be a good thing if a Commander-in-Chief served in the armed forces. It does lend him a certain moral authority. He’s not telling other people to assume a risk that he himself avoided.
That said, you can only choose from the candidates who choose to run. Moreover, the American electorate has never made military service a prerequisite for the Oval Office. For better or worse, that’s the way our system works.
2.The liberal countercharge reflects the liberal obsession with “hypocrisy.” Now, it’s quite possible that some hawkish pundits and politicians are hypocritical.
That, however, is irrelevant to whether our foreign policy is prudent or imprudent. A hypocrite might still be an excellent geopolitical strategist and tactician.
Conversely, someone can serve in the military, but be incompetent. George Bush ran through a slew of four-star generals before he discovered Gen. Petraeus.
3.Holding a post in service to your country doesn’t automatically make you a patriot. Every decade we have our share of spy scandals, in which someone is the army, navy, marines, CIA and so on betrayed his country:
Likewise, there was a scandal a few years ago at Walter Reed. Now, Walter Reed is headed by high-ranking officers. You’d think if anyone would be sympathetic to the plight of wounded soldiers, it would be fellow soldiers. It was civilians who brought the scandal to light, while some of the top brass stonewalled or make excuses.
4.The charge of hypocrisy can, itself be hypocritical. Rumsfeld was a navy pilot. Yet he came in for the same abuse as Bush and Cheney. So the critics don’t really care whether or not the hawk is a chickenhawk.
5.Is it hypocritical to support the troops unless you’re prepared to send your own kids to war?
i) It may be that some folks pay lip-service to the war effort, but when you call their hand, they’re just bluffing.
ii) Is it hypocritical for me to support your choice to become a doctor unless I become a doctor? I can honestly support someone else’s career choice without my making the same career choice.
iii) Parents don’t decide if their kids enlist. That’s an adult decision made by grown children. We have a volunteer army. Only grown-ups can join.
iv) It’s also quite possible to support military service while opposing a coed military. You could support your son’s decision to enlist while opposing your daughter’s decision to enlist.
v) There is a reason why parents might be ambivalent about military service. On the one hand, it’s a noble calling. On the other hand, life in the military can be very hard on family life. A long tour of duty can be a marriage wrecker.
So it’s quite possible for parents to have practical concerns about military service even though they support the troops. We can draw principled distinctions.
There’s a difference between encouraging your son to enlist, counseling him on the pros and cons of a career in the armed services, and respecting his choice once he’s made it.
vi) It’s also possible to enlist when you’re young and single, serve your country for a few years, then receive an honorable discharge, get married, have kids, &c.