Chickenhawk (politics)

Chickenhawk (chicken hawk or chicken-hawk) is a political term used in the United States to describe a person who is a war hawk yet actively avoids or avoided military service when of age.[1] 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.

Origin of the termEdit

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).

On one episode of the American television show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In that aired in 1970, Dan Rowan made the following joke:[2]

"On the Vietnam issue, I have a friend who says he's a chickenhawk. He wants us to fight on to victory, but to do it without him."

The 1983 bestselling book Chickenhawk was 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.[3][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,[4] to describe "someone who promotes waging war or building up the tools of war but hid behind a college deferment or suddenly came up lame when the draft board whistled."[5]

Contemporary attestation/usageEdit

John Bolton[6][7][8] and Donald Trump[9][10][8] have been used as modern examples of chickenhawks.


According to a 2014 study, leaders who had military backgrounds but no combat experience were most likely to initiate conflicts and wars.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "chicken hawk". The Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  2. ^ "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In". IMDb.
  3. ^ "Chicken Hawk". Word Spy.
  4. ^ "What the Contras Need is Patrick Buchanan". The Spokesman-Review. March 16, 1986. p. 10. Retrieved February 14, 2020 – via  
  5. ^ "ALL THE QUALITIES OF A WAR WIMP". Chicago Tribune. June 28, 1985. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  6. ^ Rodriguez, Sal (April 6, 2018). "Wars Only Bring Death and Destruction". The Modesto Bee. Modesto, CA. p. A9. Retrieved December 22, 2020 – via And his selection of awful neocon chickenhawk John Bolton ...  
  7. ^ Miller, Justin (May 28, 2019). "Diplomacy First with Iran". The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, FL. p. A11. Retrieved December 22, 2020 – via ... or a classic Washington, D.C. 'chickenhawk' (that is, advocating for a war but never serving in one) like Bolton.  
  8. ^ a b Lemon, Jason. "'Draft Dodging' Trump and Adviser Bolton Are 'Chickenhawks' Pushing U.S. to War With Iran, Democratic 2020 Candidate Warns". Newsweek (June 2, 2019). Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  9. ^ Fallows, James (August 8, 2017). "Chickenhawk in Chief". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  10. ^ Burt, Charles (August 16, 2016). "Donald Trump Is the Definition of a Chickenhawk". The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  11. ^ Horowitz, Michael C.; Starn, Allan C. (2014). "How Prior Military Experience Influences the Future Militarized Behavior of Leaders". International Organization. 68 (3): 527–559. ISSN 0020-8183.

External linksEdit