TCS Daily

Chicken George's Administration?

By Jerry Bowyer - August 13, 2003 12:00 AM

"It is always those who have not seen war itself that are most willing to send other people into war on their behalf." Who said that? Practically everybody. The liberal talk-show host who precedes my show in the morning said it, as did the liberal talk-show host who comes on after me. Anti-war democrats say it, and so do anti-war callers to C-SPAN, talk radio and the writers of letters-to-editors. In fact, ChartWell has heard this claim repeated so often over the past year that it decided to actually test it empirically. The test is over and the results, found above in chart form, have been double- and triple-checked: the Chicken-Hawk claim is demonstrably false.


A quick perusal of the Britannica Almanac: 2003 yields a list of the high-ranking members of the last three administrations. For this purpose, we define high-ranking as President, Vice President, and cabinet level officials. Present critics of Bush administration policies have characterized the Bush administration as very hawkish, more hawkish than the Clinton administration, and even more hawkish than the administration of his father, George H.W. Bush. In this taxonomy the present administration is made up of "Super Hawks"; the previous Bush administration, which launched the first Gulf War, is hawkish and the Clinton administration is multilateralist.


So here's the question: are those groups of people who are most willing to send troops into battle, like the current Bush administration, made up of people unwilling to serve in the military themselves? The answer is no. In fact, 32 percent of members of the Bush administration have military service records, which, of course, is far higher than the proportion of people in the general population with military service records. Among others, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld served in the army. Secretary of State Colin Powell was a combat veteran and a war hero, and Anthony Principi, the Veterans Secretary, served in the Navy. It's not just officials associated with the defense-related offices who have military service records: Tom Ridge, who is in charge of Homeland Defense, is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and HHS secretary Tommy Thompson also served in the army and National Guard.



In fact, the current Bush administration's ratio of combat veterans at 32 percent is higher than the proportion of veterans for Clinton's administration at 30 percent and is also higher than George H.W. Bush's proportion of veterans in his cabinet, also at 30 percent. The reader will observe that these are small differences, but even if the differences are of minimal statistical significance, the Chicken-Hawk theory is not supported by these findings. If the differences are significant, the theory is contradicted.


Now, ChartWell is aware that there is some controversy regarding George W. Bush's military service, which was in the National Guard; this is a political debate and not an empirical one, so ChartWell ran the numbers without the President and Vice President included, this is what it found: 30 percent of George W. Bush's cabinet had military service, 28 percent of Clinton's and 22 percent of George H.W. Bush's. So by that standard, the current Bush administration still has more than its fair share of veterans. The same is true if you further sift the data, taking out all Reserve or Guard service. In this case, it's the same ratio as when you only exclude President and Vice President: the current Bush administration has the most veterans, Clinton's administration comes in second and George H.W. Bush comes in third.  

What about the legislative branch? Were veterans more or less likely than non-veterans to vote to give the President the authority to depose Saddam Hussein? And what about the red states and the blue states? Has George W. Bush's electoral constituency paid its share of blood for the cause of freedom? The answer to these questions will be found in future ChartWells.


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