by wjw on December 30, 2014

There’s a massively important article on the American military in the current Atlantic, which is fortunately readable online.  It’s by James Fallows, who has always seemed to be the military analyst who asks the right questions.

Here’s your take-away:

If I were writing [a history of our times] now, I would call it Chickenhawk Nation, based on the derisive term for those eager to go to war, as long as someone else is going. It would be the story of a country willing to do anything for its military except take it seriously. As a result, what happens to all institutions that escape serious external scrutiny and engagement has happened to our military. Outsiders treat it both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules. The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.

Foxessa December 30, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Back in the days of Madison’s War, a/k/a the War of 1812, they were just called what they were, War Hawks, led by Henry Clay and the next generation, who neither experienced the War of Independence, nor went to war themselves. The only one who did, I think, was Andrew Jackson, and he had a quite different agenda and geography in mind — more than one agenda, in fact. It worked so well for him, that he was the only winner of the War of 1812, along with the 3,000 or so escaped slaves who got freedom by aiding and abetting the invading Brits down there on the Chesapeake.

War is how to make one’s political career bones — but putting those bones in the actual danger of a battle — that doesn’t work so well. Again, Jackson was the exception.

Love, C.

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