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Chickenhawk (also chicken hawk and chicken-hawk) is a political term used in the United States to describe a person who strongly supports war or other military action (i.e., a war hawk), yet who actively avoids or avoided military service when of age.
The term indicates that the person in question is hypocritical for personally dodging a draft or otherwise shirking their duty to their country during a time of armed conflict while advocating that others do so. Generally, the implication is that chickenhawks lack the moral character to participate in war themselves, preferring to ask others to support, fight and perhaps die in an armed conflict. Those who avoid military service and continue to oppose military action are not chickenhawks.
Origin of the term
In political usage chickenhawk is a compound of chicken (meaning coward) and hawk (meaning someone who advocates war, first used to describe "War Hawks" in the War of 1812). The earliest known print citation of chickenhawk in this sense was in the June 16, 1986 issue of The New Republic.[unreliable source?] An association between the word chickenhawk and war was popularized several years earlier in the 1983 bestselling book Chickenhawk, a memoir by Robert Mason about his service in the Vietnam War, in which he was a helicopter pilot. Mason used the word as a compound oxymoron to describe both his fear of combat ("chicken") and his attraction to it ("hawk"), a slightly different use of the term which nonetheless might have inspired the current usage.[unreliable source?]
Previously, the term war wimp was sometimes used, coined during the Vietnam War by Congressman Andrew Jacobs, a Marine veteran of the Korean War. Jacobs defined a war wimp as "someone who is all too willing to send others to war, but never got 'round to going himself".
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