Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Marines, Take Two

Peter: Keep posting updates on Johnny’s Marine odyssey. In the meantime, check out the latest Marine recruiting ad.

On a related subject, Bill Kristol nails it with today’s NYT column about what’s wrong with the new MoveOn ad attacking McCain. "Creepy" is how I felt about it, too.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Kristol says that the creepiness of the ad was elucidated by a quote from the blog of a soldier's mother (a blog which also perpetuates ridiculous urban myths):

"Beth" said:


"Does that mean that she wants other people’s sons to keep the wolves at bay so that her son can live a life of complete narcissism? What is it she thinks happens in the world? ... Someone has to stand between our society and danger. If not my son, then who? If not little Alex then someone else will have to stand and deliver. Someone’s son, somewhere."

I think the standard opposition that Alex's mom and co. would lodge is that they don't think the conflict is justified and NOBODY's kids, or any Americans period, should be dying for it, because they aren't buying the offered justification. Of course, as anyone at NLT should understand, Alex's mom cares for Alex first and foremost. Such is the nature of her job as a mother, even if she also cares about other American kids.

Keep the wolves at bay? What's next, is she going to talk about all of the WMDs we found in Iraq, and Saddam's connection to 9/11, too? This is silly. There are far more "wolves" (No fearmongering here!) in Iraq today than there were before the U.S. invaded Iraq.

But aside from that flawed premise - that our presence in Iraq keeps us safe from terrorists - there is also her horribly flawed dichotomy, that one either volunteers for military service during combat or one lives "a life of complete narcissism." Does anyone here buy that? I think everyone can agree that not all deployments of troops are automatically and obviously justified. The political leadership decides when and how troops will be utilized. These deployments can be strategically sound and/or morally sound (If Obama does order attacks on Israel and predominantly white countries - as I've read that he's plotting, in secret, with Michelle! - I suspect that won't be universally cheered on, even here, just as Clinton's military excursions were panned across the political spectrum), but not necessarily either.

Using the logic of Kristol's muse, blogger Beth, he (and she/they) should be asking why his preferred leaders, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, had "other priorities" during Vietnam. Actually, where was Kristol during that conflict - he was of the perfect age. But apparently Beth's critique, as flawed as it is, only works in one convenient direction, against those who, truthfully, don't think ANYONE should be dying in the particular conflict, not just their own kids. The critique apparently can't be used against those who openly supported the war but had "other priorities" of their selfish own that clearly outweighed the noble cause underlying the combat - far more accurate manifestations of narcissism, for sure.

If people don't like the chickenhawk accusation, they shouldn't try to employ their own straw-man-enhanced inverse of it on others, which is precisely what Kristol and Beth are doing there. "Nailed it"? I think not.

There are also myriad problems with Kristol's further interpretive expansions of Beth's quote, as well.

I find it sad and confusing that the blogging mother eludes to a life without military service as a life of complete narcissism. How unfortunate that this has become a trend in the rhetoric of the Republican party and its acolytes.



Kristol's next-to-last sentence is ridiculous:



The ad boldly embraces a vision of a selfish and infantilized America, suggesting that military service and sacrifice are unnecessary and deplorable relics of the past.



I think Craig's interpretation of the ad is the one I find most convincing after watching it. Kristol is just looking to play off our country's obsession with and self-aggrandizement of its military in order to continue to marginalize the effective advertisements from the left. But who came blame him? He's not paid to think.

"If people don't like the chickenhawk accusation, they shouldn't try to employ their own straw-man-enhanced inverse of it on others . . ." I agree; I don't think military service is a prerequisite for making judgments for or against a particular war. However, I think Kristol's point is simply that the Left in general and the anti-war Left in particular don't recognize the fact that SOMEONE has to sacrifice in order to maintain our liberties (such as they are) and - in the case of the mother in the add - are unwilling to be the ones to do it. Narcissism may be too strong a word, but there is definitely a sort of selfishness in that the mother is unwilling to risk something she loves for the good of the many (regardless of whether or not her son wants to).

Also, I thought the add was great. Swim qual is a bitch - and that's coming from a bourgeois white boy whose parents have a pool. Say what you want about the Marines, we make some moto commercials.

"I think Kristol's point is simply that the Left in general and the anti-war Left in particular don't recognize the fact that SOMEONE has to sacrifice in order to maintain our liberties (such as they are) and - in the case of the mother in the add - are unwilling to be the ones to do it. Narcissism may be too strong a word, but there is definitely a sort of selfishness in that the mother is unwilling to risk something she loves for the good of the many (regardless of whether or not her son wants to)"

There are a couple of highly questionable premises that you (and/or Kristol) slipped into those critiques. Firstly, many people think that the war in Iraq is not about "maintain(ing) our liberties." Additionally, some see our liberties under threat from the current administration itself, without any assistance from Sunnis, Shiites or Arabs of any stripe.

Secondly, many people think that the risks entailed in volunteering for combat in Iraq are not taken on "for the good of the many." If the idea is that the combat risk is taken to reduce the threat of a massive terrorist attack in the U.S., then both the connection (between the risk and the threat) and the threat reduction itself are questionable. If there is some other benefit for "the many" (presumably Americans), many remain skeptical of what the implied masses stand to gain.

I'm not sure you actually do agree with me that "if people don't like the chickenhawk accusation, they shouldn't try to employ their own straw-man-enhanced inverse of it on others," as your uncritical summation of Kristol's points seems to maintain those straw men. Liberals/leftists don't want someone else's kids to die in the wars they oppose, they don't want anyone's kids to die, period, as they don't support the war and don't accept the justifications offered for it. If they think the war is justified, then I think recognition comes quite quickly that some will need to put their lives at risk in combat.

As for this:


"there is definitely a sort of selfishness in that the mother is unwilling to risk something she loves for the good of the many (regardless of whether or not her son wants to)"

I would think that the family values crowd, with its high reverence for motherhood and the mother-child bond, might understand a mother's reluctance (a more appropriate term than unwillingness, in most cases, I think) to risk her child(ren), even for a noble cause. But again, the point of contention is not the willingness, for I think a mother's reluctance could be overcome by both mother and child, if the cause is actually so noble; the point of contention is the "good of the many" claim.

Surely there are some young American sons and daughters to be found in the military who would be willing to attack about any country of the world that one could name. And there are surely some parents who push their kids into the military for a variety of lame reasons.

Military deployments are not decided by civilian mothers or their enlistment-age children, though (at least not anything close to directly), and the psychodrama between them is a personal issue. What mothers (and fathers too - is it being implied that fathers only shrug and go back to their TV ballgame when their kid goes off to war?) want, and enlistment-age kids should expect, is that those in charge of military deployments only utilize the armed forces when absolutely necessary, with justifications that are absolutely defensible and fact-based.

(This inverse-chickenhawk critique is particularly interesting to me, as I personally knew a Marine who was opposed to the Iraq war, but volunteered after the war began to serve as a medic and later ended up in a bomb (defusing) squad. He was killed by an IED.)

If you have a volunteer army, some people will refuse to volunteer and some won't want their kids to do so. (Maybe even most people.) Nothing wrong with that.

The ad's not a slur on anyone. This odd accusation is typical for Kristol. His major premise has always been support for the Iraq war and (indefinite) occupation, and he has missed no opportunity to impugn the patriotism of those who disagree and have the temerity to say so.

Kristol really does seem to yearn for the unquestioning habits of obedience of another time and place. Thank god he's in the minority.

I wasn't refering to the Iraq War in particular, but rather military service in general.

Steve H: This ad left me with the feeling Churchill described having after watching the young men of Oxford declare that they would not stand up to fight for England. And as a mother, I was mortified to see a woman use her child (if, indeed, Alex is actually her child and not just an actor) in this way. It made me embarrassed of my sex to see this much weakness--both of will and of intellect--proudly (!) on display. Truly one of the most shameful things I have seen in recent years.

Julie, considering how the woman in the MoveOn ad made you feel embarrassed of your sex, I wonder if the manly men of Ashbrook felt any similar embarrassment for their sex, knowing that another loyal Bushie, who was, unsurprisingly, a macho favorite here at Ashbrook/NLT, had this to say regarding his avoidance of military service in Vietnam, a war that he supported:

"I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy," Bolton wrote of his decision in the 25th reunion book. 'I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.'"

I wonder what Churchill would've said about that. I guess big, bad John Bolton (who's the very antithesis of that sweater-wearing wuss, Mr. Rogers!), much like Kristol himself (and Bush, Cheney, the list goes on), just thought that someone else would have to die for that particular noble cause...

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