"It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." ~ David Brin
Kill "Em All and Let God Sort Them Out
It's fascinating to watch a new mythology, with new mythic characters, evolve before my eyes. I'm speaking of Chickenhawks.
I'll argue that all mythic characters, no matter how ancient, are based on people that actually existed. Not just one person, but many. People noticed their characters, and noticed them well. Stories were created about them to educate and entertain the young and old about human nature and society.
As the years passed and turned into centuries, the stories were refined and the dross burned away, leaving myths with great truth in them.
The Chickenhawks are a perfect example of the aforementioned process. I don't know when the term was first used, but it wasn't that long ago, no more than a few years.
Obviously people noticed a kind of person who did everything in his power to avoid being in combat or even serving in the military, but now insists that others fight and die.
Those with eyes only had to look at such people as Rush Limbaugh, William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, David Frum, Max Boot and Paul Wolfowitz, to see that all are chickenhawks: you fight and die, I'll stand on the sidelines and give directions.
Thus was born the appellation, "Chickenhawk." Obviously, Limbaugh, Kristol, et al, aren't as worthless as they appear. At least they've given rise to an archetype that stands as a warning to others.
It is, as best as I can tell, a new archetype. I can think of no myth in the past describing the Chickenhawk. There are mythic characters, such as the Greek god of war, Ares, and Loki, the Norse trickster, who were considered cowards in their cultures, but today they would be considered brave men. God knows what people even 50 years ago would have thought of William Kristol and Rush Limbaugh. I suspect the words "contempt" and "coward" would have been used.
It appears the creation of the Chickenhawk, in the US , coincides with the slavish support of the State (specifically the federal "government") and Empire. Originally the federal government didn't exist; after the Civil War, it took over the country; after the Spanish-American War, it started to become a world empire. Now, with some 750 military bases in at least 140 countries, it is a world empire, not of colonies but military outposts. And with this has come the creation of the Chickenhawk.
The State, as people from Franz Oppenheimer to Albert Jay Nock to Murray Rothbard have noticed, is based on the Political Means--coercion, theft, murder. Society is based on the Economic Means--persuasion, liberty and the free market.
Thus, the State and Society are always at odds with each other. The State is eternally trying to grow, Blob-like, and attack Society. Therefore, the State is a monster. A monster, as the archetype of the horror story tells us, is Evil attacking Good, Chaos intruding into Order.
The Chickenhawks, who support the State attacking and absorbing societies, are monsters. They may wear three-piece suits and speak calmly, but they are still monsters.
The Chickenhawk is not only a coward who won't fight but expects others to do so, he also believes in welfare at home and warfare abroad. I can think of no old myth that describes the welfare/warfare nature of Empire. I can think of a modern one: the collectivist Borg.
The Borg are ruled by a Borg Queen, who is no coward. To make the myth more accurate for today, the Borg would be ruled by Chickenhawks. This is a truly bizarre modern myth: Mass Man ruled by blood-thirsty, war-mongering cowards. A bunch of hare-brained Pinkies, led around by their noses by insane Brains.
Even as short a time ago as World War II, the leaders weren't cowards.
Hitler, half-genius and half-madman, fought and was wounded in World War I. John Kennedy, an awful President, fought in World War II, getting his PT boat sunk. But today, for possibly the first time in history, the political leaders, and the most influential "intellectuals," are pure Chickenhawk.
Why did the Chickenhawks avoid the military? Obviously, they think they are too important to risk their lives. Thomas Sowell in his book, The Vision of the Anointed, mocked these people as "the Anointed." Believing themselves intellectually and morally superior to the benighted masses, they think only they have the right to social engineer the world into collectivism. Certainly such people cannot risk their lives; that's the purpose of the dull-witted, unwashed masses.
Such beliefs are pure hubris. And hubris, as the Greeks noticed, is a kind of madness always followed by nemesis. Hubris doesn't just apply to people; it applies to empires. That's why all have fallen.
There are some old stories which partly describe the Chickenhawk. The blood-thirsty Ares is one. Satan, with his lust for power and attention, is another. Loki, the Trickster, is still another. But none were cowards, not in the sense of the modern Chickenhawk.
The Trickster archetype is relevant here. In all cultures, the Trickster obtains power because he is more cunning and ruthless than the more-normal citizenry. He is a perfect example of what Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn noticed, when he wrote in Leftism Revisited, that "the Children of Darkness are more clever than the Children of Light." It's obvious the Chickenhawks, being Tricksters, are the Children of Darkness.
The full story of the modern Chickenhawk is this: deluded, lying, blood-thirsty cowards, afflicted with hubris, who have a lust for political power and attention. They refuse to fight, but trick other into doing so, because of their mistaken belief in their intellectual and moral superiority. They think the belief in their superiority gives them the right to sacrifice huge numbers of people, who should do as they are ordered, without question, so the Chickenhawks can social-engineer the world through political violence, as the way the Borg Queen wanted to, when she said, "Why do you oppose us? We only wish to improve the quality of your lives."
For an amusing example, you need look no farther than the writings of the Canadian fascist (how funny!) David Frum, who in his article, "Unpatriotic Conservatives," attempted to expel all people who disagreed with him and his view of State and Empire.
Personally, I think a good mythic name for the Chickenhawk would be "the Frum." It has a nice repulsive sound to it, like "Gollum."
The Greeks also had a story called the Titanomachia. It was a power struggle in which the old gods, the old ideas, were overthrown and by replaced by new ones. Thomas Kuhn wrote about it (without using the term) in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a influential book about how the old paradigms are replaced by new ones.
Sometimes, the Titanomachia is a good thing. Sometimes, it isn't.
Currently, the US in involved in a Titanomachia. The Chickenhawks are attempting to Borgify the US , indeed the whole world. Being monsters, they have to be opposed. Ultimately they will lose, because hubris is always followed by nemesis. Unfortunately, they might--will--get a lot of innocent people killed, and a lot of societies damaged. But then, it is the nature of monsters to do these things.
"The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," wrote Edmund Burke. Truer words were never spoken.
Monsters, always with us, must always be fought.