policy consequences of the chickenhawk impulse

Regular readers might have noted that I occasionally like to draw attention to the effusive and, I believe, unthinking manner in which Americans salute the bravery of the military. This often leads to undesirable policy outcomes, not the least of which are unwarranted wars. Because this point is near and dear to my heart, I get excited when others more qualified than me actually raise it. In today's New York Times, Navy veteran Ken Harbaugh notes this trend himself. "America has experienced a perfect storm of sympathy for veterans: a combination of unmet needs like vets waiting for care, an admiring but ultimately disengaged public and a political class with almost no military experience that feels it lacks the moral authority to say no."

Harbaugh's specific concern is with the disability system for veterans. He explains a bureaucracy in disarray, one in which he personally could not get payments discontinued even when he had a full-time job and specifically requested that they cease. Ultimately, Harbaugh is concerned that the American willingness to shower benefits on veterans will generate a backlash when the bill comes due. "The current disability-compensation regime demands a closer look," he argues, "not only for the sake of financial prudence but also to avoid creating a culture of dependency."