November 12, 2002
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS has the definitive response to those who disparage "armchair generals" and "chickenhawks:"
My wife is not of military age, and there is little chance of a draft for mothers. Are her views on Iraq therefore disqualified from utterance? And what about older comrades who can no longer shoulder a gun? What about friends of mine who are physically disabled? Should their expertise—often considerable—be set aside because they can't ram it home with a bayonet?
There are some further unexamined implications of this stupid tactic. It is said, for example, that someone like former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey has more right to pronounce on a war than someone who avoided service in Vietnam. Well, last year Kerrey was compelled to admit that he had led a calamitous expedition into a Vietnamese village and had been responsible for the slaughter of several children and elderly people. (He chose to be somewhat shady about whether this responsibility was direct or indirect.) Do I turn to such a man for advice on how to deal with Saddam Hussein? The connection is not self-evident, more especially since, as far as I am aware, Kerrey knows no more about Iraq than I know about how to construct a chess-playing computer.
I can't help but feel that if it were Republicans arguing that only those with military experience are entitled to opine about war they'd be accused of fascism, sexism, and excessive enthusiasm for Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers.