Jonah Goldberg responds to critics


Sorry for reopening what may be for most folks an old and tedious argument.

It's an argument that Jonah lost. See Steve Gilliard's blog for details.

That’s not my intention. Unfortunately, my recent spat with Juan Cole has launched a second front of hate mail, spam and blog flames. And since I don’t have the time or energy to respond to every email or ever blog post, I figured I could respond here and then I’d at least have a link I can send back to folks.

As you may recall, Cole advocated the position that every able bodied male in America who supported the Iraq war should have enlisted.

True. Notice especially the “supported the Iraq war” provision. If you don't support it, you're under no moral obligation to go. You may be under a legal obligation later, but that's another issue.

In response to these and similar “chicken-hawk” arguments I mentioned in passing that “a few” of the reasons I never signed up before the war were my age, my financial situation, my brand new baby daughter and my physical condition.

The point is that these were the few reasons that he saw fit to mention. The following quote was pretty much it. If there were other reasons, he forgot to mention them.

As for why my sorry a** isn't in the kill zone, lots of people think this is a searingly pertinent question. No answer I could give -- I'm 35 years old, my family couldn't afford the lost income, I have a baby daughter, my a** is, er, sorry, are a few -- ever seem to suffice.

The blogger Atrios considered this an “incredible” admission as have several other leftwing bloggers. The moral outrage seems to be based on what I can only figure to be several misunderstandings and one fair point. The misunderstandings include the fact that I never said these were the “only” reasons I didn’t sign up. Merely that these were among them. I never expected Atrios to be a fair reader (he’s too concerned with my looks). But apparently this misreading has now become the official one among many on the web. I’ve received lots of email from folks who sincerely believe – for one reason or another – that I was saying my family or my financial situation was more important than those of the soldiers, marines and airmen in Iraq who also have families and, often, even greater financial challenges. So let me just say here that this was never my intention nor my meaning. If I gave that impression, I’m sorry.

Jonah did indeed give that impression by only listing those reasons. Apology accepted.

While obviously my family is everything to me, I have never thought in those terms. And I have never done anything but marvel at the contributions of America’s warriors. And, having gone to Walter Reed this weekend to meet with wounded vets, my gratitude and admiration for their sacrifices is even greater.

Visitng vets in the hospital is to be commended.

What I was trying to say was that it doesn’t matter what my reasons for not enlisting were, it wouldn’t matter to people who think it’s more satisfying or effective to hurl insults than engage in arguments.

It's not Jonah's business to psychoanalyse his critics. If he doesn't want to engage his critics, he can ignore them, but nothing gives him the right to sit there and try to read our minds and guess what our motives are.

Indeed, the fact that I am too old to enlist seems to bounce off of most of these people (to serve at my age I would need to have already served before or be in the reserve).

At age 35, he j-u-u-u-st barely made it over the line. He could have signed up when it became obvious that the war wasn't over back in July or August 2003. He would have had plenty of time then. There's nothing stopping him from doing other things there. Iraq has long needed civilian help doing paperwork-type jobs, running government services, setting up communications between the American occupation forces and the Iraqi people.

But as for the larger argument, I still think it is absurd. Every morning I get these emailed images of white feathers sent to me by folks who think I should sign up. The reference is to WWI when women would give young men not in uniform feathers to shame them into enlisting. It’s a clever bit of web-bullying I suppose. But the analogy is stupid. Those women supported the war.

Irrelevant. The point that the ladies of World War I were making was that the men who received white feathers were cowards who couldn't put their own butts on the line when their buddies were doing so.

The people reprising the role of WWI prim ladies on the homefront do not. Daily Kos’ reaction to the mutilation of American contractors in Iraq was "I feel nothing over the death of the mercenaries [sic]. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them."

That’s not the sort of thing one says when in support of the war effort.

The lefty blogs love pointing out conservative hypocrisy. Fair enough. But this chickenhawk nonsense itself is grotesquely hypocritical. Recently many on the left took great umbrage at Peter Beinart’s suggestion that much of the left opposed the Afghanistan war. No we didn’t! They declared. Well, okay. But if they didn’t oppose it, why didn’t they sign up? What about for the first Gulf War? Or Bosnia?

These were all extremely short wars where the fighting was over long before anyone could have finished boot camp. Heck, Bosnia was an air war where American forces did no serious ground fighting at all. Again, the point where it would have been appropriate to sign up would have been when it became obvious that the war was far from over and that the Army/Marines were short of troops. As I said, July or August of 2003 would have been an appropriate time.

Look, in the age of the all-volunteer military, and in a country which prides itself on civilian control of that military, there is no shame in not signing up.

There's no shame IF you're not loudly supporting the war.

Or even if there is shame, it’s personal not political. We have, by my rough estimate, some 70 million men of military age. Should they all join-up the moment they agree the military should do something dangerous?

No, but when the military is obviouusly overstretched (July 2003, the US agreed to pay $200 million plus $40 million in transportation costs to get a Polish 9,000 troop contingent over to Iraq.) and we have young men back home who are fully able to contribute, young men who are loudly supporting the war should get themselves into uniform.

I favor aggressive law enforcement at home, does this mean I should become a cop? Of course not.

I supported the war and I support the work the military is doing there now. I make no apologies for that. I do not believe they’re there on a fool’s errand nor do I consider them to be hapless dupes and slaves to a cause not worth fighting. About the folks sending me these feathers, I know no such thing.

Ah, there we go “Lefties are all dupes!” Of who, exactly? Perhaps Michael Moore is secretly beaming orders into our heads? What are these mysterious people trying to accomplish? Auugh! “They're all trying to (gasp) make peace!!”

Note: I fixed a couple typos from the version I originally posted.

Posted at 06:39 AM


Anonymous said...

Sorry Rich,

You missed much of the point in your "fisking".

The military spends a lot of money to train a soldier. They are not interested in training a 30 yearold, let alone a 35 year old, simply because candidate GI Joe wants to fight terrorism.

The strength of our forces derives from professionals who make a career out of the service.

In more ways than one, GI Jonah would not make much of a contibution. Better he keep his high paying job and contribute taxes to support the war effort, in addition to applying his writing talents to generating support.

Again, funds are tight, hence new enlistees must meet certain crieteria which you have yet to acknowledge. The operative here is doing more with less.

Better a healthy & fit 20 year old than a flabby and settled 30 year old approaching midlife crisis. If I was in the sandbox, I wouldn't want a green family 30 something man watching my back.

Did you even know that recruiters are turning away applicants, shortages notwithstanding?

All in all, your fisking fails on the facts and merits of what really goes on in the recruiting process.

IOW, get a clue before you fisk nd remove all doubt that you're a know-nothing hack. :)

Been there, done that.

Rich Gardner said...

From a purely PR point of view, Jonah would have helped himself immensely to have been able to point out "Aw, gee! I wanted to sign up but the recruiters said I was out of shape and I wouldn't be useful to the effort there. Dang the luck!"
He didn't. He made a snide comment (Which he later took back) about having priorities other than serving his country in uniform on the front lines.
I also made the point that there are other ways he could have served that he also did not appear to have even considered.

Anonymous said...

Now that the Army Reserve and National Guard have raised the age for enlistment to 35, is Jonah going to enter the forces? Age is no excuse now

Anonymous said...


Hi, I am Jake Lindsay and I am gay. And I am from Britain!

Rich Gardner said...

Welcome to the discussion on an American blog, Jake! 'Fraid this is a pretty political blog here. I mean, hey, if you find a date here, wonderful, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.