As I've mentioned before, civilian control of the military is an important feature of our democracy. I -- and probably most other hawkish writers -- frequently get comments saying that since I'm not in the military I shouldn't be so quick to put our boys in danger. It's the old "chickenhawk" argument, and it's based on several false assumptions.

False assumption 1: Only people in the military are involved in defending our country. This is pretty obviously false, because our military couldn't exist without a vast civilian infrastructure to support it. Someone needs to build the weapons and other tools the military uses, and there's no reason to assume that any individual person would be used more effectively if they were to join the military. Some people are in a position to make a greater contribution to national defense from the civilian sector than they could make if they enlisted.

False assumption 2: People who don't join the military aren't brave. It's likely true that there are more brave people per capita inside our military than outside, but the armed forces hardly have a monopoly on bravery. What about police and firefighters? What about brave women, who aren't very likely to join the military? What about civilian contractors like (*gasp*) Halliburton who perform dangerous jobs that the military isn't equipped to handle? And so forth.

False assumption 3: Only those in the military (or with military experience) are qualified to opine on national security issues. In fact, our founding fathers very purposefully rejected this odd notion when they put the military entirely under civilian control. The Commander in Chief is an elected civilian, and Congress is in charge of declaring war. These office-holders are prohibited by law from being in the active military.

In the modern world, only in tyrannical dictatorships do generals possess autonomous authority to wield military power. The very foundation of democracy is the principle that the public -- made up of civilians, those without hard (military) power -- is the ultimate sovereign of the nation. The military consists of volunteers, and each soldier enlists to serve the interests of his country, as determined by the sovereign majority of civilians.

Each member of this sovereign citizenry has the right encourage their elected officials to exercise the powers of government in the way most desirable to that citizen. No one demands that those who have too little income to pay taxes stop lobbying their represetnatives on monetary matters. Just like taxation and spending, national security is an issue that concerns all the citizens of the country, no matter what their status or position in life. We are all entitled to an opinion, and we're all entitled to vote for leaders who will execute our preferred policies.



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