Once again, we’ll start this one with a definition from the Webster Dictionary.
Ad Hominem -
appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason.
attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.
The second piece of reference I’d like to use as a preface would be rule 12 from Saul Alinsky’s, “Rules For Radicals,” which is the official play book of the political left.
RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions
Now, we’ll let Andrew Klavan tell you what those using the Chicken Hawk charge are really saying when they employ this tactic. This is as timely today as it was 5 years ago when he produced the video for PJTV.
The charge of Chicken Hawk is that anyone who has not served in our armed forces and advocates a foreign policy position that would see a deployment of our military, is a coward and a hypocrite. Simply put, only people who have ever served in our military should be listened to when any topic of appropriate usage of our military is discussed.
This of course, is nothing more than an ad hominem attack, dressed in fancy clothing, and trotted out as the same weak substitute for substantive debate. It does nothing to address the arguments that one may have given in support of military force, and even worse, the argument itself is a true sign of cowardice. Rather than engaging in the actual topic at hand, the employer of the ad hominem attacks the character of his debate opponent. We see this constantly from the political left, in fact, I’d call it the mainstay argument. Sarah Palin, despite being 100% correct with every statement she made during the 2008 Presidential Campaign, is stupid. Mitt Romney, despite being 100% correct about every statement he made during the 2012 Presidential Campaign is an evil plutocrat. Ronald Reagan was dumb. George W. Bush is dumb. Barry Goldwater was crazy. Richard Nixon was evil. John McCain is senile. Apparently, I’m a Chicken Hawk. This tactic is employed when the person using it feels incapable of substantive debate. In the case of the Chicken Hawk charge, the person employing it has failed to detail his position as to why military force would not be appropriate. End of story.
As you may have guessed, I was called out as a Chicken Hawk yesterday, because of this post. Now, it is possible that a counter to my argument exists, and I would be willing to consider that argument, but the Chicken Hawk cowardice is quite simply a cop out, or as Mr. Klavan put it so eloquently, nothing more than shut uppery. Why don’t we put that aside however, simply for the sake of argument. Let’s follow the charge, such as it is, to its illogical conclusion.
First, let’s think about the concept that only people with experience or expertise in specific areas of discipline be allowed to voice opinions on those areas of debate. When discussing tax policy, should CPA’s for example, be the only group of citizenry allowed to have input? Should Doctors and Nurses be the only ones allowed to vote as to whether or not Obamacare be adopted as the law of the land? In this, only-some-of-our-citizens-get-a-voice Universe, who gets to pick and choose what gravitas is necessary for an opinion? Will it extend to the ballot box?
There’s something else to consider. The person who employs this tactic also appoints himself the defacto spokes person for the military. This brings up another pet peeve of mine, argumentation devoid of any substance beyond an appeal to authority. This is the statement made during a debate in which the person debating will simply declare that debate is over, because he is an expert in the field. The problem with this on line of course, is that anyone can claim to be anything they want. You may remember for instance, when two middle aged white, and coincidentally male, college professors ran the two most popular lesbian blogs on the internet. They had dishonestly set themselves up as experts on all things related to the woes of lesbianism, and their word was accepted as gold, up until the two geniuses outed each other. If someone truly were an expert, than substantive debate should be an easy peazy lemon squeazy thing to bring off. Even more bizarre however, is that this defacto claim to speak for the military flies in the face that members of the military are able to speak for themselves. They may not according the the UCMJ be allowed to publicly advocate a political position on certain matters, but they speak through their vote. The military’s voting record as a whole, has been extremely tilted towards the conservative view point for a long time. This tilt has been about 80/20 since polling has been conducted. This disparity is in fact so large, that anyone who presents himself as a liberal veteran, while it may be possible, is immediately suspect in my estimation. More often than not, those calling out others as Chicken Hawks are usually people who by and large have real antipathy for the military, and are almost always advocating a position in fact which is 180 degrees out of sync with how most members of our armed services actually feel. In reality, those shouting Chicken Hawk are very often the same fine folks who spend vast amounts of energy and effort trying to disqualify the military vote in every national election, thus disenfranchising those for whom they claim to speak.
Let’s take it even further down this road. The Chicken Hawk argument, as stupid as it is, also pushes for something else. It is a demand for the military to be guided not by civilian control, as per Article II Section 2 of our Constitution, but to be placed instead under its own supervision and direction. The military of the United States has always, since the inception of our nation, been a tool of civilian political policy. This is one of the things which limits the military’s ability to make our nation a police state, not that I would accuse my fellow citizens of such intention, but the institution is in place for a reason. Military juntas do exist around the globe, and for the most part, the people who live in them are constantly trying to leave for a life in our nation, or some where else in a more free society. I find it ironic that people who mainly hate the military are the ones advocating for our nation to become a military junta. In fact, I find it down right hilarious.
As debate opponents go, I find anyone using the words Chicken Hawk to be the least worthy of my time, for the reasons stated above. It’s dishonest, foolish, cowardly, and does nothing to address anything even remotely related to a substantive point. In other words, it’s a typical leftist argument.