Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Who Should Be Allowed to Make Policy?

By now, pretty much everyone has recognized that Senator Boxer was wrong (and beyond stupid both politically and logically) in implying that Secretary Rice couldn't understand the implications of her policy decisions because she doesn't have children. But like John Kerry's "botched joke," Senator Boxer's comment was simply a Freudian slip that showed the end result of the absurd logic employed by many of the anti-war activists.

This is an issue that's always been particularly irritating to me, from the "absolute moral authority" of Cindy Sheehan (which ignores pro-war mothers), to the defenders of draft dodgers who only now demand that a President have served before he makes national security decisions. This absurd and un-democratic line of thinking is evident with every "chickenhawk" argument ever made. But I was moved to write today by a letter to the editor in today's Seattle Times which condemned Senator McCain for being pro-war despite him having a son serving in Iraq right now. Apparently, even if you DO have a "personal stake" in the Iraq war, you're only allowed to make the "correct" (liberal and selfish) decision.

So - if you're for the Iraq war, and have a son or daughter serving in Iraq (no one has children serving - those in Iraq are adults who have their own votes, opinions, and freedom to volunteer or not), you're exploiting your children for political gain. Pro-war and no kids, you're a cold hearted villain making decisions without understanding the impact on "real people." Pro-war and a veteran? Cynically exploiting your service for political gain. Pro-war and not a vet? Chickenhawk.

Of course, these are just the opposite on the other side of the isle. Anti-war with a family member in a combat zone? "Absolute moral authority." Anti-war with no family involved? Brave souls speaking out and "taking their democracy back." Anti-war and a vet? "How DARE you question a war hero!!!" Anti-war and not a vet? Well, they're speaking out for the soldiers who aren't allowed to because they've been silenced by their military-industrialist slave masters.

So how about this? Let's follow the "Chickenhawk!" shouters down their rabbit hole, and adopt their logic. Only veterans vote on national security issues, or parents whose soldier children are still minors and can't yet vote. Direct family members of active duty members get one half-vote, since they are impacted, but aren't risking their own lives. (I wonder how many hours the current Democratic Party would survive under this scheme - the shouters should be careful what they ask for...)

And then lets extend that to everything. Only taxpayers are allowed to vote on any issue which involves government expenditures, with more votes granted to those who pay more taxes. Only property owners are allowed to vote on eminent domain rules. Only people with children are allowed to vote on education policy.

And it doesn't need to just be about voting. We can have separate issue-specific legislatures, where only people directly affected by those issues are allowed to run for office. Only judges who have been through divorces can be on the bench in family court, only those with a history of drug use can prosecute drug crimes, and only convicted criminals can be Public Defenders. Better, let's require our judges, prosecutors, and public defenders to all have a personal stake in the outcome of the case they're involved with.

Or we can recognize that ALL Americans have a personal stake in national security, tax policy, education, and objective jurists. We can all recognize that "You don't know what it's like, man!" is a cowardly way to avoid having to make a hard policy decision yourself, and is "logic" best left on the playground. It has no place in the editorial page of the newspaper, or in the chambers of Congress.


SirWhoopass said...

No disagreement on how absurd the letter is in today's Seattle Times. However, before making assessments about how the political landscape would fare under a troops-only electorate you might try a more recent poll...

Since 2004, the number of troops who think success is possible in Iraq has dropped from 83% to 50%.

Approval of the administration's handling of the war has dropped from 63% to 35%.

Those identifying themselves as "Republican" has dropped from 60% to 46%.

Source: Military Times, December 29, 2006

Orrin Johnson said...

This may be. But something tells me even those disaffected military folks would be unlikely to vote for John Kerry (or someone like him), or for the ultra-liberal wing of the Democratic party that now controls it.

If the Democratic party in this country was more representative of the more left leaning military folks I know, I would be positively jubulant. The Dem/GOP breakdown would be unknowable, but the current socialist/liberal/isolationist/peace-at-any-price wing would die a quick death. 46% Republican does NOT mean %54 Democrat. Indeed, that MT poll says that self-identified military Democrats stayed steady at about 16%, and only 10% claimed to be liberal. Had I been given that survey in 2003, I also would have marked myself as an "Independant."

Either way, the point is that the "Chickenhawk!" shouters would be most unhappy with the foreign policy outcomes generally, Iraq not withstanding. (As would I, frankly - I want civilians in on the decision making!) Also implicit in that MT survey is that a majority of those military folks disapproving of Bush's handling of the war are angry that we don't have (and haven't had) a LARGER military, with far more aggressive rules of engagement. Something tells me that isn't what MoveOn.org, Barbara Boxer, Ted kennedy, or their ilk are fighting for...

SirWhoopass said...

I would note that Military Times polls (both the poll I cited, and your original cited poll are MT) are conducted from a poll of subscribers. They heavily skew to the career, and career officer, ranks (the average age of the respondents was 36, E1-4 plus O1-O2 accounted for only 9% of all respondents).

I would take that to indicate that the actual views of all personnel skew further to the left. Although I'd certainly agree with you that MoveOn.org won't be a top site among .mil browsers.

The isolationist wing might be quickly abandon, but I don't know that more aggressive policies would be automatically supported.

I think the current situation may be perilously close to a Carter-era military collapse. Commanders in Afghanistan are calling for battalions there to be extended through the end of the year... and these battalions are already slated for deployed to Iraq at the end of the year.

I have read a number of articles from senior commanders who believe the problem is the military is being used too much, with no emphasis at all on nation building.

Orrin Johnson said...

I'm not talking about support for current policies specifically. I think you're way overconflating what was a mere parenthetical in my original post. I fully, fully understand that the military is not quite as politically homogenous as the MT polls indicate at first blush, although I don't imagine a lot of liberals have enlisted in the last few years.

My point is only to note that those who make this absurd argument would despise it if they got their way, and only military personnel were allowed to vote on national security issues. (While I would personally prefer the politics of such a limited electorate, I would also despise it - we are strongest when the entire chorus of Americans speaks together. That, and I've met enough Generals and Admirals to be cynical... This was, of course, the larger point of my original post.)

It is wrong to assume that nothing would change if only the military would be allowed to vote, and I have never presumed that would be the case. But it is FAR more erroneous to assume - as the "you've never served!" accusers do - that most military people are there involuntarily (the "back door draft") and would simply walk away a la Ehren Watada if given half a chance. (Then we'd all hold hands, dance in a circle, the fictional "so called war on terror" that's kept us prisoners of fear would go away, and we could get back to the work of building the perfect socialist state, of course.) Not all liberals, Democrats, etc. feel this way, obviously. But the MoveOn wing of that party, who is claiming control of the party, does.

Boxer's comments were designed, consciously or not, to counter the Bush plan not with a better plan for a better defense policy, but to denigrate the mesenger personally for political gain and to hide her own lack of understanding of both the military adn the wider geo-political situation. I desperately WANT a debate over options beyond Bush vs. Defeat. I'm sure Boxer wants it too, but isn't mentally equiped to think of anything else, so she's stuck with attacking Rice's family planning choices instead. Until a Dem comes along who can offer more than, "you don't even know what it's LIKE, man!", I'll stick with the folks giving me SOMETHING, as monumentally imperfect as it may be.

SirWhoopass said...

Yes, but I agreed with your broader points at the outset... that's no fun at all. By picking away at your asides I've managed to drag this out over five comments.

I would counter that the useless name calling extends to both sides. Of course, absolutely nothing is gained when those who favor more troops are accused of not understanding or betraying their family/service. Similarly, nothing at all is gained when those who favor a reduction or redeployment of forces are dismissed out of hand as defeatist. Particularly when many US commanders are stating there is no military solution. [citation: 1, 2, 3]