Fighting Nothing, with Guns

By now it is pretty obvious that the House GOP leadership is essentially devoid of ideas outside of Social Darwinism and Objectivism. But I noticed the other day that its cultural pose is also one of pure puffery.

Consider “Young Guns,” the “book” theoretically authored by Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy. “Young Guns” was also their term for Republican challengers to Democratic House members. Notice something?

Neither Cantor, McCarthy, nor Ryan ever served in the military. Essentially, all three are career party apparatchiks — Ryan and McCarthy were congressional aides; Cantor “worked” in the family’s real estate business for a while, but essentially, he graduated from law school and immediately started running for the state legislature.

There’s nothing wrong with that, although for people who claim that the private sector is so great, they sure have managed to stay far away from it. But to avoid service while affecting a pose of military toughness is really quite pathetic. And no wonder that Republican national security policy is really more about seeming tough — torture the bastards! — than understanding reality. It is policy as wish fulfillment-fantasy.

It reminds me of a classic Star Trek episode, “The Squire of Gothos.” Captain Kirk and the crew find themselves on a planet with a man who introduces himself as a General, challenges them to duels, and likes to re-enacts battles. By the end of the episode, it becomes clear that he is quite literally a child, and his incorporeal parents send him, whining, back to his room.

Recall the architects of the disastrous Bush national security policies. With the important exception of Rumsfeld, none of the neocons ever served. Cheney famously got five deferments. Wolfowitz never served. Neither did Feith. Neither did Libby. Nor did Haynes, or Bybee, or Yoo. Addington dropped out of the Naval Academy after less than a year. Those who fought hardest against the administration from within, however, were usually the career military people — Eric Shinseki (now Veterans’ Affairs Secretary), the JAGs of all the services.

You would think that at some level, the House Republican military peacocks might be a little sheepish about this. But no. They advertise it. There is something either deeply disturbing, or deeply fatuous, or both, here.

A couple of the GOP Congressmembers advanced by the “Young Guns” program did serve: Tom Rooney and Pete Sessions come to mind. And as I said, I don’t think that it says something bad about someone that they didn’t serve. I didn’t serve. But there is something childish about those who did not serve then puffing up their military bearing.

Put another way, maybe we should acknowledge that Cantor, McCarthy, and Ryan are indeed “Young Guns.” But the armaments are pop guns, and they are very, very young indeed.

[Cross-posted at Same Facts]

Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff is a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.