November 11, 2002

UM, HITCH? During the defense


During the defense of Washington, Lincoln became the first and last president to hear shots fired in anger.

--Christopher Hitchens, in Slate today.

*cough cough* James Madison *cough*

I should say I have exactly zero problem with civilians making any judgment they want over foreign military involvements. If anything, what we have seen in my generation is the opposite... I refusal by civilians to accept that they held any responsibility for the acts committed by their nation's militaries in their name. Back in 1991, I had too many arguments with North Americans who said they felt no personal blame or discomfort whatever, regardless of what soldiers under their flags did overseas. It was all just televised entertainment to them. But the lesson I took from that was not the anti-democratic concept that only those who served should speak thenceforth, but the idea that all civilians should be encouraged to come into the process and take ownership of their nation's actions.

Two other things: the so-called "chickenhawk" argument is particularly galling because, in most Western countries, serving soldiers are in some measure constrained from speaking out, and rightly so. The separation of the military and the government is one of the great unwritten constitutional principles, and while this website probably compromises the principle to some degree, I, like most soldiers, still believe as a general rule when in a service setting we should do our jobs and shut up. The reasons should be obvious; obvious enough to be certain that when the anti-war advocates say only serving soldiers can debate on even terms with them, they know as well as I do that such a debate could never actually occur.

Finally, I should say that while I remain partial to Robert Heinlein, I'm of the belief that the political moral of Starship Troopers was not simply that all citizens should be soldiers, but that citizenship need not be a right simply endowed at birth, but could instead be a privilege earned in a quid pro quo for good works on behalf of one's fellow humans (civilian or military).

Posted by BruceR at 05:33 PM