June 29, 2005

On sending your sons.

Here's a great Christopher Hitchens piece saying something that needs to be said: parents don't send their sons to war. Those who serve are of age and making their own choices. Some of those who don't support the war are not above slamming a person who does for not "sending" their sons, and if you think this is good rhetoric, read Hitchen's piece, and, among other things, take into account that you don't know whether the sons of the person you're scolding are heterosexual and not disabled.

41 comments:

alkali said...

In my view, Hitchens' essay was pretty far off the mark. "Would you send your child to fight in this war?" is a perfectly good hypothetical question for all the obvious reasons. Responding that you technically can't send your child to fight in a war, and besides he has flat feet, are examples of what my law professors used to call "fighting the hypo."

I'm not sure that the question is all that informative -- I would presume most supporters of the administration would say something like "yes" or "I'd be proud if he/she did." However, if a supporter of the administration responded "no" or "are you kidding?" that would certainly be pretty informative.

Ann Althouse said...

Alkali: Please note my phrase "among other things." The key point in Hitchens piece is that parents are not the ones making the decisions. The son is an adult with autonomy.

I point to the presumption about heterosexuality and the absence of disability because I find it tellling that the scolders are forgetting a point of political correctness that I bet they scold others about on other occasions.

Goesh said...

Well said! I recall my Mother crying when I shipped out for Viet Nam, after I had enlisted of my own free will as an adult American citizen being of somewhat sound mind and very sound body. Nobody ever approached my parents and told them to pony up their son for the war. Recently while going through some family research, I read how a maternal ancestor cried when her son came home and announced that he was joining up with the Colonials to fight the Redcoats. The foolishness of youth that they must die for the mistakes of our elders, but where does this notion come from of our "boys" going off to war, aside from the fact that our "girls" have died to the tune of 44 in Iraq? I never served with any boys, or girls for that matter. Do parents send their boys and girls to law school? Where do these notions come from anyway? I've heard a time or two the idea that only older soliders should march off to war, and I think the originators of such ideas were alluding to quasi-geezers like myself. Yeah right, after going 20 meters in the Iraq heat, I would gasp and wheeze, go lame and call my wife to get me home. Good commentary on cultural myths.

Sloanasaurus said...

I cringe everytime I hear people on the left crying about our soldiers dying in battle and how terrible it is. I cringe because I know that it is a fraud. I know that the people on the left despise and hate our soldiers to begin with. They only point out the fact that our soldiers are dying because they know that the rest of us care about them.

Nick said...

I agree with your point completely Ann... parents don't send their children to war... those children do make their own choices. Interestingly enough though, the article you point to doesn't actually say that. More it seems to be a discussion of how not sending one's children to war shouldn't disqualify you from talking about going to war. He seemed to have missed the larger point which you hit in one sentence.

Ann Althouse said...

Nick: I think he says it. For example, here:

"But when it comes to the confrontation in Iraq, the whole notion of grown-ups volunteering is dismissed or lampooned. Instead, it's people's children getting "sent." Recall Michael Moore asking congressmen whether they would "send" one of their offspring, as if they had the power to do so, or the right? (John Ashcroft's son was in the Gulf, but I doubt that his father dispatched him there, and in any case it would take a lot more than this to reconcile me to Ashcroft, as Moore implies that it should.) Nobody has to join the armed forces, and those who do are old enough to vote, get married, and do almost everything legal except buy themselves a drink. Why infantilize young people who are entitled to every presumption of adulthood?"

Drethelin said...

I think the idea that not having a child in the war disqualifies you from speaking about it has about the same merit as the idea that unless you're for bush, you're against america.

ploopusgirl said...

Sloan: I cringe every time I read one of your posts on here. God, you're an idiot. Although, you aren't that far off the mark. Why should we 'leftists' not despise and hate your soldiers? Is it the fact that they're fighting a war with which we vehemently disagree or is it the heartwarming tales of American soldiers raping and brutalizing innocent bystanders in the nations in which they are fighting?

Kate Marie said...

Just wondering, Ploopus -- how exactly is Sloan an idiot when your comment seems to demonstrate that he was not just "not far off the mark," but actually right on the mark?

To answer your question, you "leftists" should support the troops because they volunteer to protect and defend the freedom to trash them (among other freedoms)that you "leftists" hold so dear. And many of them lay down their lives to do so.

By the way, if you think the anomalous brutal actions of a few American soldiers irredeemably taints their mission, I presume you say the same about the U.N.'s peacekeepers in Congo?

Goesh said...

The real rub may be Poopusgirl that right or wrong, US interests are being served and met, eh? After all, history does repeat itself. Now as far as the rape allegations go, I suspect there are enough camp followers, if you know what I mean, willing to 'entertain' the troops, despite the veils and fatwas, that such conduct is not warranted. We must be realistic about it all. I think US troops are intelligent enough not to risk jail time for what they could get with a warm 6-pack of coca-cola.

Sloanasaurus said...

Thanks for the idiot comment.

Call me names all you want... everyone knows that what I say is true. As a caveat, I am obviously talking about a smaller group of people, i.e., leftists and the Ward Churchill/Michael Moore types. I would never imply such a thing to Democrats. I only fault Democrats when they sek to defend these traitors.

As further proof, consider Ward Churchill: Churchill stated that the World Trade center was full of little Eichmans, implying that we should care little about their demise because the deserved to die for their evil deeds. This is the same rationalizing used in hating the military or the police.

I guess it makes rational sense though. If you hate America, why would you be for someone trying to defend America. Such a defender would be your greatest enemy.

James d. said...

I think someone on Kos's site tried to make the distinction that it seems Hitchens made, saying that supporters of the war should at least encourage their children to enlist, even though the decision is obviously up to the offspring. Of course, the commenters turned that into a "those are the kids who should be out there dying" rant instead.
My question is, if this turns into a situation, as it seems some are trying to do, where those who support are obligated to fight and those who don't support the war aren't, doesn't that mean that those who don't support the war abdicate their right to complain about it?

SippicanCottage said...
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ploopusgirl said...

Hurts when I ever said anything about the UN.. and hurts furthermore when there apparently haven't been any stores about American soldiers raping and brutalizing innocent people..

Kate Marie said...

No, Ploopus, *I* said something about the U.N. I'll repeat:

By the way, if you think the anomalous brutal actions of a few American soldiers irredeemably taints their mission, I presume you say the same about the U.N.'s peacekeepers in Congo?

It's a fair question -- one which, I might point out, you haven't answered.

SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

Slounasaurus, it must be comforting to live in such a clear-cut "us vs. them" world as indicated in your belief that you "know that the people on the left despise and hate our soldiers to begin with. They only point out the fact that our soldiers are dying because they know that the rest of us care about them." Comforting, but wrong.

You can't possibly know the feelings of millions of people who oppose the Iraq war, or for whatever reasons identify ourselves as left of the political center. You assume we must despise and hate the service members in our own families. You assume, also, in this remark that there are no liberals or leftists in our armed services. You assume quite a bit, and you're quite wrong, on all counts.

Timothy K. Morris said...

Getting back to the core of the Hitchens' article --

It occurs to me that this particular question "would you send your sons" dates back to the draft and the Viet Nam war when the children of the middle and upper classes were, to a substantial degree, protected by college deferments. Absent a national draft, the argument/slur makes little sense.

The only time I ever had that partiular ad hominem attack leveled against me, my respons was "Sons, Hell, I'd go tomorrow if they'd let me." However, the demand for near-sighted, overweight, 55 year old former Captains seems to be pretty low. Sigh.

bos0x said...

Why is anyone defending Sloan? His comment wasn't relevant or profound at all... it was some bizarre paranoid whine about "people on the left" (NOT Democrats, okay?? Democrats are very proper and demure and absolutely in love with America all the time) who apparently are plotting to hurt America by making real Americans.. uh... sad? Like... the leftists are going to whine about dead soldiers and real Americans are going to think about their beloved soldiers and get depressed over it. Then, once enough real Americans and maybe some Democrats too are crying and mourning, the leftists are going to have a great big perverse leftist party and laugh at all the well-meaning Americans that they upset. Not Sloanasaurus though, who is smart enough to see through the evil leftists' fake distress. Good job, Sloanasaurus!

Oh, and the toilet humor is very classy, SippicanCottage! Subtle, too!

peter hoh said...

Back to the topic at hand. During WWII, sons of the powerful went into combat. Quite a few professional ballplayers went into combat. Even a famous bandleader put down his instrument and joined up.

It seems hard to imagine that happening again.

Pat Tillman's decision to enlist was quite at odds with the rest of the culture. It was certainly an honorable decision, as is the decision of every man and woman who enlists and serves.

peter hoh said...

What I meant to say: Pat Tillman's decision was at odds with our CELEBRITY culture, where we fawn over them but expect so little of them.

Many elite private schools used to have as a motto, "From those to whom much has been given, much is expected." I had a professor who went to one of those schools. He described how much the boys earnestly desired to sign up for WWII as soon as they were able.

Sloanasaurus said...

"....bizarre paranoid whine?

Not at all. IN fact I think it is a perfectly logical conclusion for certain peopl in this country to hate America. For example, if you are a devoted Socialist and believe that a world Communist Revolution is better for you and your family, why would you not get up and cheer at every defeat suffered by the greatest enemy of Socialism, the United States of America. This includes despising the solders and cops of the great enemy and praying for their deaths.

Further, I would not be suprised if some of these people on the left do hate members of their own families who are in the military...just as brother fought brother in the Civil War.

SippicanCottage said...
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bos0x said...

I thought that you were concerned with the leftists who lament the deaths of American soldiers... because all of them hate America and only do so to taunt non-leftists? I suppose that some people who live in American do in fact hate America, but that doesn't automatically make them leftists. By the way, everyone knows that a worldwide Communist Revolution is just a few dead soldiers and cops away - especially cops, because with fewer cops on the street it is easier to rob convenience stores for the great socialist cause.

SippicanCottage said...
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mr. weg said...

The first post by alkali is instructive for the typical response to Hitchens - disagreeing with him without giving even the slightest hint why. (I like the lawyerly way the word "technically" is used to pretend some sort of point is being made).

The one argument alkali makes, in the second paragraph, I totally agree with - a real person would answer the question with something like "I'd be proud if he/she did," which is clearly not an answer to the actual question - or "yes," which, as the safer choice between yes or no, is really evasive too.

Why there's nothing wrong with a person answering "no" and still being for the war is explained perfectly by Hitchens' first paragraph.

F15C said...

Regarding the 'send your son question', take two persons sincerely supporting the war for the same reasons, one says yes the other no. Is anything of value resolved or learned through the exercise? The question simply does not bear on whether the war is right or wrong and to me is a lame attempt at trapping the opponent, much like the 'when did you stop beating your wife' question.

Regarding poopusgirl, what can be said? She has a right to her opinion on the war and our warriors and I, (as a former warrior and as an American), support that right. Also, each and every member of our military right up to and including the CIC supports her right to hate them as well.

The ad hominem attack on Sloan ("God, you're an idiot.") of course manages to be juvenile and like any other ad hominem, speaks about the author and not the intended target. Also, since poopusgirl in her comment provides a clear proof of Sloan's assertion, I don't think she noticed the pure irony of her calling Sloan an idiot. I give her credit - it is difficult to get a two-fer like that in one paragraph.

And bear in mind an important dynamic of our nation at war that has just got to torque her. Should poopusgirl do anything worthwhile to actually undermine the war effort and therefore the warriors she hates so much, she would be committing sedition or treason. The rest of us on the other hand are free to provide aid and comfort to our warriors and their families to our heart's content.

One in her position would have to be very frustrated with it all. She holds an untenable and unpopular position. She can't legally or morally take any action against the people she hates so much. And on top of it all, her irony sensor seems to be badly broken.

Joseph Angier said...

Of course C Hitchens is right that people can't "send" their adult-aged children off to war. But he's wrong to think he's off the hook himself. Because of many factors, including President Bush's inspiring leadership, Armed Forces recruitment is off by double-digits. And as far as I can tell, they'll now take anybody into the service ... even cirrhotic Englishmen in advanced middle-age. Hell,even my sister's 58-year old dentist just joined the Army.

What do you say Hitch!!

Kathleen B. said...

I also agree that no one can "send their sons" but supporters of the war can all make efforts to encourage recruitment. Hell the President didn't even address recruitment in his speech on the war. except to say military service is the most noble calling. If that is really true that why is the military overwhelmingly full of middle and working class men? The elites have an inferiority complex that makes them feel they aren't good enough for the most highest calling?

I really think that supporters of the war are not hypocrites for not sending their sons, but are for not helping recruitment (or going themselves, Jonah Goldberg).

Ann Althouse said...

I definitely think there are a lot of young men who honestly feel they don't have what it takes physically or mentally to serve in the militiary. Right? I would think that there is a class difference in this personal assessment.

Timothy K. Morris said...

I don't think self-evaluation as unfit physically or mentally has much to do with it.

The military, as a calling, has been disparaged by our "elites" for going on 40 years. I don't find it at all odd that their sons and daughters disdain military service, even in the officer corps.

And Kathleen B: As to lowered recruiting standards and the late middle-aged, you are incorrect. I know, I was a combat arms officer up until 1984 and they don't want me. I suspect your sister's dentist held a reserve commission and had prior service. Or, equally likely, from my own experience, dentists are still in short supply in both the active and reserve components and he qualified under a special procurement program. When I was on recruiting duty in the late 70s it was veterinarians who were a priority. We had all kinds of incentives and waiver programs designed to recruit them.

peter hoh said...

Sipp, I'm not sure what brought about the change. Materialism? Shrinking family size? Loss of faith (in God and country)?

I remember leafing through old National Geographics and getting a sense of just how the whole country was at war during WWII. Sugar rations. Rubber rations. Tin drives. Nearly every company's advertising seemed to promote the role the company had in the war effort rather than the products it was selling. There were never any ads like those in the Vietnam era Geographics.

I'm too young to speak with authority about Vietnam, but wasn't "Guns and butter" a Johnson slogan meaning that we could fight a war without having to sacrifice at home? I suspect that also meant that "other people" could fight the war.

Sorry Sipp, no answer from me. Just a few more observations.

Synova said...

Geosh, way up at the top said: "Now as far as the rape allegations go, I suspect there are enough camp followers, if you know what I mean, willing to 'entertain' the troops, despite the veils and fatwas, that such conduct is not warranted. We must be realistic about it all. I think US troops are intelligent enough not to risk jail time for what they could get with a warm 6-pack of coca-cola."

I just really REALLY wanted to point out that this is based entirely on a romanticized fantasy and not in the least on reality. And I am NOT naive. I served in the Philippines and can say honestly that I know exactly how young servicemen act when there is no restraint on their gonads. But this isn't the PI. Rule number 1 in Iraq and Afghanistan is "NO SEX EVER WITH ANYONE NO MATTER WHAT." It's not nearly as romantic as visions of prostitutes in smoke filled opium dens a la Hollywood SE Asian war movies but the fact is that our guys are enjoying an extended association with their right hands. Sex with female servicemembers happens but counts both parties among the brain dead stupid. Sex with locals? Do you have any concept what your Sgt would do to your a$$? You might want to be caught by her brothers instead.

Now, our troops in other places aren't under the same restrictions as those in the mid-east, although restriction on any purchase of prostitutes whatsoever anywhere was enacted recently. At the time people were talking about human slavery in the sex trade in Eastern Europe. I thought it was an unworkable notion but that was prior to news about the UN troops in the Congo.

Still the facts, and I think they are important, are that any US soldier caught trading a six pack for some short time is facing military punishment, no matter where they are in the world and no matter if the girl is underage or not. And in Iraq and Afghanistan sex is not even allowed between consenting *American* adults. I'd put money on there not being an exception even for married couples.

It's boring... but true.

Bruce Hayden said...

I have no doubt that Synova is correct. If there were much fraternization with the indiginous population, we would hear about it - from Arab sources first. They are very, very, weird about sex, and is is obvious that our military know that this would be a flash point, should it occur - not that it probably hasn't, but, as suggested, the perp was made an example of very quickly by his Sgt.

Joseph Angier said...

Kathleen B's point is on the money, and is the reason I find Hitcehn's piece so annoying is that he (and many others, including the President) are avoiding the crucial issue here ... which is NOT Michael Moore and his ilk running around challenging congressmen to "send their sons" to Iraq. It's that, in the midst of what we're told is an historic global challenge, we can't even meet our pared down recruitment goals. The news this morning is that the Army's divorce rate has doubled since 2000, ostensibly under the strain of repeated overseas assignments. If this is a war worth fighting Christopher, why don't you help us fight it? It won't be won by tax cuts alone.

Bruce Hayden said...

I shouldn't admit this, because this is where I come from, but probably the reason that we did fail in Vietnam was that the privilged upper middle class was no longer exempt from the draft.

I spent my college carred with the draft hanging over me. I knew that upon graduation, I would lose my 2-S, and be inducted. No deferrments for grad school, kids, etc. And then, the kids two years behind didn't even have the 2-S.

So, you had your upper middle class college boys looking at spending a couple of years in the rice paddys of Vietnam being shot at. And that, I suggest, is where the real pressure to get out came from. If the kids of the doctors and lawyers weren't facing Vietnam, then maybe we might have stuck it out.

I know that this doesn't sound honorable. It wasn't. And, I was a part of it. I knew very few in college who wanted to go, and a lot who would do what it took to get out of it. CO clinics were rampant. Questionable doctors were available, etc. This was my generation.

I don't know what changed between WWII and Vietnam. As suggested, college kids were as likely, if not more so, to volunteer for the earlier war than those who didn't go. In Vietnam, most of the enlistees were not college educated, esp. later on.

Sloanasaurus said...

I think you need to be careful when citing various facts about Vietnam. Remember that the media was against the Vietnam war, while the media was supportive of World War II. Thus, the media accented the positive of World War II and the negative of Vietnam. The actual facts are surprising: I recall that more than 2/3s of those in Vietnam were volunteers. Yet you mostly hear about the whole war being fought by poor black draftees In World War II, however, more than 2/3s were drafted.

Sloanasaurus said...
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peter hoh said...

Well, the differences between WWII and Vietnam are huge, but I hardly think the media (by itself) is to blame for what happened in Vietnam. In the U.S., our free market media reflects the nation. Sometimes at the forefront, sometimes catching up, but always in tune with the society from which it springs.

The biggest difference (aside from the scale of the conflict) was the length of the conflict. WWII ended 4 years after US forces entered the war. Vietnam dragged on for 11 years after the 1964 escalation of US forces.

As an aside, when we escalated our presence in Vietnam, the conflict was already 7 years old. We got into WWII after 4 years (Pacific Theater) and 2 years (European Theater).

In WWII, it was possible to feel incremental progress (again, this is from someone who did not live through that time). Sure, there were setbacks, but when the Allies liberated a country like Italy, they didn't face a few years of rear guard action to secure it. As best I can tell, Vietnam never felt like that.

Sloanasaurus said...

Yes, but we suffered horrible defeats in World War II on the scale not even compared to Vietnam. For example, in our first major contact with the German army at kasserine, we suffered more than 3000 casualties. And that was just our first battle. We had many more losing battles to come. In Vietnam and Iraq, we have yet to suffer any strategic defeats. All the defeats are political.

A defeatist press would have sunk us in World War II.

peter hoh said...

Sloan, Did we ever have any strategic victories in Vietnam? And did the press turn defeatest in the first 4 years after US involvement, or was it after that?

A recent article in WAPO seems to indicate that public opinion about winnability is the key.

Here's a snippet :
Bush advisers challenge the widespread view that public opinion turned sour on the Vietnam War because of mounting casualties that were beamed into living rooms every night. Instead, Bush advisers have concluded that public opinion shifted after opinion leaders signaled that they no longer believed the United States could win in Vietnam.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/29/AR2005062902792.html

We can differ about who makes up the class of opinion leaders, and while some media members are in that class, it is not exclusively a media club.

I think that war proponents need to stop whining about negative media. Take them on, point by point, as Sullivan did with a Molly Ivans piece today. But don't whine. Whiners don't win wars. History has shown that the public doesn't have a lot of confidence in whiners.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the US media didn't play the defeatist card during WWII was that the stakes were so high. It felt as though the fate of the country -- and the world -- depended on the outcome. And resources were allocated to reflect that. Vietnam was too far off (and the domino theory too abstract) to command WWII type attention or to be perceived as a WWII type threat.