Tuesday, January 10, 2012


MCELVEEN: Talk about the understanding of the military. And let’s go to you, Speaker Gingrich. Recently, Dr. Paul referred to you as a chicken hawk because you didn’t serve.
SAWYER: Congressman Paul, would you say that again? Would you -- would you use that phrase again?
PAUL: Yeah. I -- I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments aren’t -- they -- they have no right to send our kids off to war, and -- and not be even against the wars that we have. I’m trying to stop the wars, but at least, you know, I went when they called me up.
PAUL: I need one quick follow-up. When I was drafted, I was married and had two kids, and I went.

Since the chickenhawk charge comes up periodically in debates over national security, it’s worth addressing:

i) For all I know, Gingrich may be a chickenhawk.

ii) All things being equal, I think it would be good if presidential candidates had some military experience.

At the same time, that has to be balanced against other considerations when we size up a candidate.

iii) Military experience is not a Constitutional requirement to be POTUS. So it’s ironic that a “Constitutionalist” like Ron Paul would resort to an unconstitutional objection.

iv) Ron Paul’s objection generates a paradox. On the one hand he seems to think the POTUS ought to have military experience. On the other hand he promotes a noninterventionist policy which would vastly curtail opportunities for active duty military experience.

What if Rand Paul runs for POTUS some day? Does his lack of military experience disqualify him from being Commander-in-Chief?

v) It might seem intuitively obvious that veterans look out for fellow veterans. We’d expect soldiers to be sympathetic to the plight of their comrades.

But in a fallen world, that presumption is questionable. Take the Walter Reed scandal. Military officers were in charge of the hospital. Yet they were derelict. It was a civilian (Robert Gates) who had to clean house.

vi) We’re not “sending kids off to war.” At present we have a volunteer army. Soldiers are adults. Soldiers can vote.

vii) Ron Paul was drafted. It doesn’t take courage to be drafted. Draftees can do courageous things on the battlefield, but it wasn’t a courageous act for Ron Paul to be drafted. And it wasn’t courageous for Ron Paul to go when he was called up. If anything, it would take more courage to break the law and face the consequences.

viii) To my knowledge, Ron Paul didn’t have a very dangerous assignment.

ix) Why is Ron Paul bragging about his military service, anyway? Doesn’t he think Viet Nam was an illegal,
“meddlesome,” war? Given his point of view, wasn’t it dishonorable for Ron Paul to contribute to the war effort?

Why wasn’t he a war protester like Jane Fonda? Seems like Ron Paul only opposes war at a safe distance. When it doesn’t cost him anything politically or professionally. If Gingrich is a chickenhawk, what is Paul–a chickendove? 


  1. Steve, did you even read the Ron Paul statement you quoted?

    RP: "I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments aren’t -- they -- they have no right to send our kids off to war."

    Where did Paul say anything about military experience being a prerequisite for being POTUS?

    I've got a new domain name suggestion for you: ihateronpaul.blogspot.com. You claim "Triablogue is a ministry" and a blog with "pastoral character"? Give me a break. Don't you have more important, pastoral things to do, like bickering with Arminians?

  2. Don't be dense. Gingrich is running for POTUS. Commander-in-Chief. The guy who "sends our kids off to war." That's the context.

  3. The context wasn't prerequisites for being POTUS, but rather the hypocrisy of chickenhawks such as Gingrich. If someone is going to be a warmongering buffoon (like Gingrich or Santorum), committing those under his command to engage in horrific death and destruction across the globe, what does it say about that person if he avoided military service himself?

  4. I served, my father served, as did my grandfather and uncles. The argument by Paul is nonsense. Military service is not a qualification for office. A great many of our elected officials served, and look at the mess they've created. Also Paul needs to find another term. Chickenhawk has other, unsavory, connotations.

  5. Well,
    To be fair, Grinch called Ron a "chicken" first, because Ron's foreign policy doesn't start with "Bombs Away!" Grinch made the first tactical mistake starting that fight, and Ron showed everyone just how much "moxie" he's got in finishing it.

    Plus, Ron didn't say that the POTUS has got to have military experience. His words shouldn't be twisted, and they should be taken in the context of the criticism that was leveled at him by a man who took steps in a time of military-draft to avoid service.

    Ron didn't even criticize whether those deferments Grinch took were "legitimate." He merely pointed out the obvious: it's Grinch's "courage" that has never been "demonstrated," and this makes questions of Grinch's itchy trigger-finger regarding spending the blood of others as much fair-game as he made of Ron's courage and reluctance.

  6. Jeff, it's the Republican Primary. Unless you think politics is divorced from faith, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with spending time evaluating the candidates over against other "ministry" or "pastoral" subjects.

  7. Sorry, but I find the "courage" argument nonsensical. Besides, someone with a military background may be more likely to use troops to achieve political ends. What this whole who did or did not serve argument really gets down to is a phony moral argument! Going to war is a political calculation. I have no problem with a politician making it. The method of fighting a war is a military decision. I have far more trouble with politicians involving themselves in military decisions. Let the politicians decide when to go to war, and let the generals decide how to fight it!

  8. Eklektos,

    Does this surprise you?

    "Paul received at least $95,567 from military donors between January and September of last year, the most recent data available, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That's nearly seven times what Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, who edged out Paul in Iowa, collected from military donors combined."

    Here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ji8OB1v20Sc4lOm2zYZQs0nhW22g?docId=12f0fdfcf14741fdb1e0b70a7a605bfa

  9. Matt,

    The argument being? And my statements being addressed how?