Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Steyn may mean less Sheehan

If you missed this Mark Steyn column, you can read it now. A taste:

They’re not children in Iraq; they’re grown-ups who made their own decision to join the military. That seems to be difficult for the left to grasp. Ever since America’s all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterize them as "children." If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, that’s her decision and her parents shouldn’t get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the broadloom in Bill Clinton’s Oval Office, she’s a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year-old is serving his country overseas, he’s a wee "child" who isn’t really old enough to know what he’s doing.

Read the whole thing.

   

Discussions - 11 Comments

As much as I can’t stand Sheehan’s demogogery, I think we have to be careful about what this argument of Steyn’s proves or disproves. I think one could say that the fact that these men and women have volunteered to risk their lives for their country makes it all the more imperative that their patriotism not be abused or exploited. Sending them into a reckless ill planned adventure with little direct relationship to the self-defense of the United States is arguably such abuse or exploitation. And sending them without the basic equipment to protect themselves, such as functional body armour, is inexcusable (except in the case of urgent self-defense). Now, on the first point, I do not agree, obviously, with this characterization of the Iraq War, but if it is the correct characterization, then the Administration certainly has a lot to answer for in the way it has treated voluntary recruits. And I agree with the second point--I don’t think the Administration has served our troops well in terms of equipment, adequate numbers in deployment to ensure against exhaustion etc.

When a person must be above reproach, and devoid of contradictions and family conflict before that person can protest, then we will have no protest, no dialogue.

Cindy Sheehan’s private life, and her general politics are only relevant if we respond to her in the "Rove" fashion -- by villifying her.

This may succeed in distracting SOME peoples’ attention away from her message, but it will not succeed in distracting everyone’s.

As for the way her family seems to desert her under pressure, well, Bush might call her behavior "Staying the course"!

As for the "children v adults" non-issue: that is irrelevant. No parent should have to outlive a child. Period.

Rob, those are good points. However, opponents of the war should be making those arguments rather than relying on the characterization that Steyn criticizes. The fact that they choose the latter path rather than the former speaks volumes.

Fung:

I think her family life, etc. became an issue because the left asserted she had some greater moral authority than others because of her loss. Most conservative commentators I have read have been pointing out how silly that notion is, and to disprove it speak about other areas of her life. No one should get any special authority unless the question depends on experience (someone who has been to the beach gets more authority when describing sand than a nonbeach goer because they are more credible). Her son’s death would give her authority to describe how it feels to have one’s child killed while in combat in Iraq, but it gives her no other authority. People assent to others’ ideas and opinions because they are correct or others believe them to be correct, there is no magical "dead son" authority floating around that automatically overrides others’ judgment.

I am also puzzled by your last assertion. Can you explain your "should"? It seems like an instinctual desire to me, not a logical description of how things are.

Steve S. -- I am certainly not claiming that Cindy has any more (or less) moral authority than any other grieving paren, including grieving parents who support the war. I am also unaware of the monolithic left making any such claims, either.

For better or for worse, she has chosen to represent grieving parents who feel betrayed by the Bush Administration. That is, as it turns out, a very real portion of the group of grieving parents. Her message articulates the concerns of many others who are not personally grieving, but who adopt the perspective of parents when assessing the costs and benefits and justifications for a war. As such a parent, and as such an American, I don’t need Cindy Sheehan to be perfect, and I don’t need to agree with every message that she offers. Right now, all I need is to observe how Bush responds to her. So far, I hear his supporters throwing stones at Cindy Sheehan, and suggesting that she is not perfect.

As for my last point, while I am not sure why you make the distinction, I am certainly operating on the basis of a basic human value: I can think of little worse than to lose my children. I don’t expect to love them, or value them any less once they become adults, and if they WERE adults, and I felt that there was a person responsible for their untimely deaths, I would NEVER stop until that person were held accountable. That is what I meant.

Steyn’s argument cuts both ways, of course; according to the right, if am 18 year-old woman wants to have an abortion, or get a prescription for the morning after pill, the state can step in and enforce all sorts of restrictions in order to change her mind, but if she wants to enlist, she’s clearly a mature adult capable of reasoned self-determination. And, to thoroughly confuse the issue, of course, according to the right, if anyone anywhere criticizes the President, it’s enough to make that person lose morale after they enlist. I’m not sure where any of this gets us. Crying hypocrisy is a loser’s game.

Eighteen year-olds are kids; until quite recently, not all states allowed them to vote, and we trust them with a gun but not a glass of beer. Clearly there’s some grey area here, and at the very least it points in the direction of great care and deliberation in putting them in harm’s way.

My opinion - calling them children is relative. An 18 yr. old wouldn’t refer to a 25 yr. old as a child, but when you’re a generation or so ahead, and it is your children, nephews or former "little ones" that you used to babysit, you tend to see them as children. For most people it is an emotion and a want to protect. Think about every 17-18 year old you know and how you cannot beleive that they will be graduating. Of course they are legally "adults" at 18, but it doesn’t usually feel that way to a lot of people.

Fung

You wrote:

I am certainly not claiming that Cindy has any more (or less) moral authority than any other grieving paren, including grieving parents who support the war. I am also unaware of the monolithic left making any such claims, either.

Modo would disagree, I think Selectively humane, Mr. Bush justified his Iraq war by stressing the 9/11 losses. He emphasized the humanity of the Iraqis who desire freedom when his W.M.D. rationale vaporized.

But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.

emphasis mine

Read it all here">here">http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/10/opinion/10dowd.html?ex=1281326400&en=e3acb1a7b96946da&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss">here

Both your examples of conservative hypocrisy stem not from a desire to make the decision "for" the 18 year old, but from a desire to protect the life of the child she is, or may be, carrying. I don’t want to turn this thread into a debate on abortion/stem cells, but its not a fair argument to say that conservatives are hypocrits for allowing 18 year olds to enlist but not to abort. Besides what I said above, its not just children that conservatives wish to prevent from getting an abortion: but adults too. Again, not because conservatives don’t think they can "handle" the decision but because it is a decision that is not theirs to make.

Your argument that we trust then with a gun but not a glass of beer is well-taken, but hardly dispositive of the issue.

That last comment entitled "Brett" was by me. I accidentally put his name in there instead of addressing the comment to him.

I read it, and agree with it. But, one article hardly constitutes the entire left.

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