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The term chickenhawk, according to The New Hampshire Gazette's online Chickenhawk Database; archived data here), applies "to public persons – generally male – who:

  1. tend to advocate, or are fervent supporters of those who advocate, military solutions to political problems, and
  2. personally declined to take advantage of a significant opportunity to serve in uniform during wartime.

"Some individuals," it continues, "may qualify more for their political associations than for any demonstrated personal tendency towards bellicosity. Some women may be included for exceptional bellicosity."

The Online Urban Dictionary defines a chickenhawk as "A politician or other person who promotes war without having had any personal experience of it; especially those who have avoided the experience." Another reference to chickenhawks is that "the closest they have come to a tank is a think-tank."

The term 'chickenhawk' is thought to have been coined by Ralph Nader.

Some clarification

"The term '101st Keyboard Brigade' mocks not those who merely support wars, but who strut around as though their support for the war means that they are fighting it, and who consequently apply the warrior attributes to themselves (and the coward/deserter attributes to war opponents)," Glenn Greenwald wrote July 25, 2006, in his Unclaimed Territory Blogspot.

"A 'chicken hawk' is one who strikes the pose of a warrior, who imputes the personal courage of a soldier in combat to themselves by virtue of the fact that they are in favor of sending that soldier off to war, or who parades around with the pretense of personal courage and resolve while assuming none of the risks. And a 'chicken hawk' will, conversely, attempt to depict those who oppose such wars as being weak, spineless and cowardly even though the war opponents are not seeking to avoid any personal risk to themselves, but instead, are arguing against subjecting their fellow citizens to what they perceive are unnecessary dangers," Greenwald wrote.

"A 'chicken hawk' is one who fails to recognize these logical principles by desperately equating advocacy of wars with fighting a war itself, or opposition to wars with running away from risks. 'Chicken hawks' are not those who simply urge war without fighting in it, but who urge war and then pretend that doing so makes them courageous, powerful and strong. They are the ones who use dichotomies such as strong/weak, resolute/spineless, and courageous/cowardly to describe not those who fight or run away from wars, but those who encourage or oppose wars from a safe distance," Greenwald wrote.

Senator Lautenberg speaks out

In response to the recent rhetoric regarding presidential candidate Senator John Forbes Kerry's military service during the Vietnam War, as well as that previously of Max Cleland, the medals which Kerry earned, comments made by Karen Hughes regarding the Sunday, April 25, 2004, March for Women's Lives, and the pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom war planning and subsequent actions of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other members of the Bush administration, on April 28, 2004, World War II veteran Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) made a lengthy speech in the U.S. Senate entitled "An Illustrated Guide to Chickenhawks." As reported by Carl Hulse in the April 29, 2004, edition of the New York Times, Lautenberg, "In a take-no-prisoners display, ... lashed out at Republicans critical of Mr. Kerry, calling them chickenhawks."

"Chickenhawks: they shriek like a hawk but they have the backbone of a chicken," Mr. Lautenberg said. "We know who the chickenhawks are. They talk tough on national defense and military issues and cast aspersions on others. When it was their turn to serve, where were they? A-W-O-L, that's where. A-W-O-L."

Lautenberg used a colorful poster of a chicken in full-dress uniform, complete with a chestful of medals, to illustrate and define precisely what a "chickenhawk" is. The article contains both a picture of the Senator with his poster and a link to a lengthy video of Lautenberg's presentation in the Senate. An "enlargeable" copy of the poster, as well as an audio transcript of his speech is available on Lautenberg's web site.

CBS News' Dick Meyer asks in the April 30, 2004, "The Gall Of The Chickenhawks"

"What kind of absurd political twilight zone is it where George Bush and Dick Cheney can make John Kerry look like an unpatriotic chicken by focusing attention on his combat duty in Vietnam?
"It's a doublethink world of issues-ephemera, spin, and manipulated perceptions that Bush's technicians have mastered and that we the media and we the people aid and abet: Campaign 2004, a truth odyssey.
"What is the word that has more gall than gall? Nerve? Cheek, chutzpah conceit, arrogance, condescension? You name it -- the squadron of chickenhawks that steers both the campaign and government of President Bush's have pots of it. Where do these people come off impugning John Kerry's Vietnam era guts and patriotism? John McCain, Colin L. Powell, Tom Ridge or Chuck Hagel might have some moral standing, but not these chickenhawks.
"This whole chickenhawk issue has become sort of politically incorrect, in a Republican sort of way. It's considered a rude charge. I don't buy that.
"John Kerry's 'national security identity' (I use this phrase because that is how campaign operators think, they are trying to forge perceptions of his character, record and patriotism) has been sliced bloody by the orchestrated switchblades of Bush's surrogates this past week. So it is hardly irrelevant that John Kerry fought in Vietnam and George Bush didn't.
"The list of Bush supporter's in government, in the campaign and in the ideas industry who also had no military service at all, not just no combat, is also relevant: Karen Hughes, Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis Libby, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, and Tom DeLay. Oh yeah, and Dick Cheney.
"Make no mistake: the hubbub about Kerry's national security identity was a precision strike."
"Conservatives are usually wary of ideas and intellectualism in statecraft and politics. Not these conservatives. And for most of them, unlike for many generations of government leaders charged with national defense, their experience didn't include military experience.
"But these people are, to my bewilderment, skilled at tearing down people who have made that sacrifice. They did it to Max Cleland, an ousted senator from Georgia who suffered awful wounds in Vietnam. They did it to John McCain in 2000. They're trying to do it to Kerry.
"What gall."

Related exterior articles

"Chickenhawk" ornithology

On April 29, 2004, blogger Matt Yglesias published a Chickenhawk "Ornithology": "Since this came up on the radio," he says, "it's worth trying to discuss with some precision and less rancor. What is a chickenhawk? There are several different things that could plausibly be taken to mean.

"First you've got the straw-man chickenhawk. This would be the theory that it is wrong to advocate a war if you have never served either in the military or perhaps in an actual war. This is a very silly position to have. Among other things, since most Americans have never been in the military (just combine the people who are currently over 18 with the women who were not allowed to serve back when they were young enough and you have an awfully large slice of the population) it would follow from this that the country may never fight a war.
"Then you've got the present-day chickenhawk. This would be an able-bodied person who is of roughly military age (not sure exactly what this is -- 17 or 18 to something between 25 and 30 I guess) and who favors some war, but declined to volunteer to fight in it. Now there are various degrees of chickenhawkery here, according to how you would behave under alternate scenarios, to which I think it's appropriate to have different responses. The most important question is probably this. Suppose the president said to you, 'Sure Citizen X, I'd be happy to invade Nation Y, but if and only if you volunteer for service in the conflict.'
"Then you've got your 'Vietnam-era chickenhawks.' These are people who, during an era of conscription, avoided military service in a war they nonetheless supported. There is, of course, a class edge to this. Obtaining educational deferments and National Guard slots was much easier to do if you were relatively well off. Thus, the position of your average campus chickenhawk (see, e.g., Cheney, Dick) was that we ought to fight this war, and, indeed, people ought to be coerced into fighting this war, but my well-born friends and I ought not to be coerced and, indeed, ought not to fight at all. I think it's obvious what's morally problematic about this stance. Does it disqualify you from future political service all on its own? No, but it speaks to character in a powerful way."

SourceWatch: "Chickenhawks"

Notable Chickenhawks
Spencer Abraham Elliott Abrams Ken Adelman Roger Ailes Samuel Alito
Dick Armey John Ashcroft Fred Barnes Bob Barr Roscoe Bartlett
Gary Bauer Evan Bayh William Bennett Joseph Biden Roy Blunt
John Boehner John R. Bolton Neal Boortz Sam Brownback Pat Buchanan
George W. Bush Jeb Bush Marvin Bush Neil Mallon Bush Andrew Card
Saxby Chambliss Richard Cheney Ann Coulter Chris Cox Tom DeLay
David Dreier Matt Drudge John Engler Don Evans Jerry Falwell
Douglas Feith Ari Fleischer Steve Forbes Bill Frist Frank Gaffney
Phil Gingrey Newt Gingrich Rudy Giuliani Phil Gramm Judd Gregg
Sean Hannity Dennis Hastert John H. Hinderaker David Horowitz Asa Hutchinson
Tim Hutchinson Brit Hume Clay Johnson III Walter Jones Frederick Kagan
Robert Kagan Jack Kemp Alan Keyes Jack Kingston Bill Kristol
Jon Kyl Wayne LaPierre Michael Ledeen I. Lewis Scooter Libby Joe Lieberman
David Limbaugh Rush Limbaugh Trent Lott Rich Lowry Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews Michael Medved Mitch McConnell John M. McHugh Bob Ney
Don Nickles Ted Nugent Ted Olson P.J. O'Rourke Bill O'Reilly
George Pataki Richard Perle Dan Quayle Marc F. Racicot Michael Reagan
Ralph Reed Condoleezza Rice Geraldo Rivera Pat Robertson John G. Roberts, Jr.
Dana Rohrabacher Mitt Romney Karl Rove Donald Rumsfeld Rick Santorum
Michael Savage Antonin Scalia Joe Scarborough Richard Shelby Tony Snow
Mark Souder Kenneth Starr Arnold Schwarzenegger Raymond Tanter Clarence Thomas
Fred Thompson Michael R. Turner J.C. Watts Vin Weber George Will
Paul Wolfowitz

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