The media salivation over military mother Cindy Sheehan has renewed talk of a "chickenhawk" contingent controlling American foreign policy. According to the left, which has latched onto Sheehan more tightly than a barnacle latches onto a whale, the only people qualified to speak about American foreign policy are pacifists, military members who have served in combat and direct relatives of those slain in combat or in acts of terrorism. Everyone else must shut up.
Sheehan's political allies have thrown the fallacious and dishonest "chickenhawk" slur at President Bush in order to discredit the war in Iraq. Richard Bradley, one of the many cynical Sheehan-users over at Arianna Huffington's website, expresses the "chickenhawk" argument this way: "Thanks in large part to Cindy Sheehan, people are starting to raise the issue of why Jenna and Barbara Bush aren't serving in the military. It's a tough question, but I think it's a fair one."
This isn't a fair question -- in fact, it's an un-American question. Those who do not serve in the military have just as much of a right to speak out about foreign policy as those who do. Last week, I explained why the "chickenhawk" argument undermines fundamental values of representative democracy, as well as the constitutional idea of civilian control over the military. Representative democracy requires people to vote on foreign policy, whether or not they have served in the military, just as it requires people to vote on police policy whether or not they have served on the police force. The Constitution grants the president power as commander in chief, whether or not he has served in the military, and grants Congress power over the purse strings, whether or not any member has served in the military. Our system is built on the foundational idea that all Americans have a common stake in defining foreign policy -- foreign policy isn't the exclusive domain of military members.