August 26, 2002

PETER BEINART SAYS THE "STARSHIP TROOPERS ARGUMENT" is a bogus attempt to prevent the very dialogue Democrats have been calling for. Excerpt:

In fact, over and over during the '90s, the generals with firsthand battlefield experience guessed wrong--and the civilians without it guessed it right--about what would happen when the United States went to war. Before the Gulf war, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell--who had spent his life in uniform--said war with Iraq would prove too costly. He was overridden by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who once infamously told a reporter that he "had other priorities in the '60s than military service." In 1992 Powell wrote a New York Times op-ed warning against U.S. military intervention in Bosnia--intervention that (in tandem with a Croat ground assault) eventually forced the Serbs into a peace deal. And in 1999 the Joint Chiefs of Staff leaked to the press their opposition to U.S. war in Kosovo--a war that drove Slobodan Milosevic from Kosovo without a single American combat casualty.

Why were the civilians right? Perhaps because they better understood the political context that shaped the war's outcome. Perhaps because they hadn't experienced Vietnam, which led '90s military leaders to repeatedly overestimate the enemy. The point is they had other forms of knowledge at their disposal, knowledge that in these cases turned out to be more salient.

And it is precisely the interaction and competition between those different forms of knowledge that Hagel, Rich, and Pinkerton seek to shut down. If taken seriously, their argument disqualifies anyone who hasn't, won't, or can't see combat from ever advocating American military intervention, including last year against Afghanistan. By that logic, women and the openly gay--both barred from combat--can never be pro-war. (In fact, by that logic, people who haven't served can't even legitimately oppose gay exclusion--since they have no experience of the military morale that the prohibition against open homosexuality seeks to preserve.) And authenticity is an infinitely expandable debaters' trick.

Oh, and by the way, Colby Cosh had the Starship Troopers analogy way back on August 5.

Yeah, I know I just mentioned him below, too. But what can I do? Powered by all that Canadian oil money, he's unstoppable!

UPDATE: The IndePundit has a withering response to all this "chickenhawk" talk from the antiwar crowd. Be sure you read all the way to the end. And read this, too.