War is on everyone’s mind lately. Some say we shouldn’t have wars, others say President Bush lied about the events that lead up to the current war in Iraq and others want us to retreat from the battlefield.
I contend that every American President that has ever led us into war, with the exception of the war with the Revolutionary War and Japan, has adapted the facts to suit the situation he wanted to create to support the need to engage the “enemy” in combat.
The United States was born from the War of Independence which began in 1775. The premise of this war was that the colonists wanted to free themselves from the British who were taxing them and not allowing fair representation, almost like the situation we find ourselves in today with tax and spend politicians who rarely listen to us commoners who fork over large portions of our paychecks.
President James Madison
(Jeffersonian, Party) led us into this war because the United States had been irritated since the American Revolution in 1783 by the failure of the British to withdraw from American territory along the Great Lakes; their backing of the Indians on America's frontiers; and their unwillingness to sign commercial agreements favorable to the United States.
This was the first of many wars that were fought essentially to preserve the United States trade interests help business interests survive in the “New World”.
President James Polk
(Democrat) led us into the Mexican-American War in 1846. It was the first major conflict driven by the idea of "Manifest Destiny"; the belief that America had a God-given right, or destiny, to expand the country's borders from “sea to shining sea”.
Disputes over the border lines between Texas and Mexico sparked military confrontation, helped by the fact that President Polk eagerly sought a war in order to seize large tracts of land from Mexico.
President Abraham Lincoln
(Republican) led us into the Civil War in 1861. It began after the union between the states was dissolved over the issue of slavery. Once again, the issue was primarily about business interests in the Southern states who chose to use slaves to reduce the costs of producing goods.
President Lincoln and the northern states justifiably objected to this practice and thus the Civil War proved necessary to resolve the issue. Many thousands were killed on both sides before the issue was resolved.
There were scores of “Indian Wars”, fought by several Presidents, which were intended to expel the first Americans from their native lands so that farmers, ranchers and businessmen could capitalize on their rich lands. The Indians were mistreated, whole camps were slaughtered and the stragglers rounded up and herded onto “reservations” where they tried to eke out an existence.
Indians have recently begun to exert their rights, given to them in exchange for their land, loved ones and dignity hundreds of years ago by politicians of the era. Today the “concerned citizens” of Santa Ynez are attempting to deny the Chumash Tribe the sovereign rights they have to annex property, obtained by purchase not war.
President Woodrow Wilson
(Democrat) led us into World War I in 1914. This was supposed to be the “war to end all wars”, but history has proven otherwise. WW1 proved to be the decisive break with the old world order, marking the final demise of absolutist monarchy in Europe. Entry of the United States into the conflict was circuitous since the combatants did not threaten our territory.
First “volunteers” served with French and British units and later under our flag. This may have been one of the first times in modern history that “Presidential lies” were overtly used to justify our involvement. It was at this time that our Congress advocated isolationism as a national policy, so President Wilson was forced to make a series of elaborate speeches to convince the Congress, and the people, that entering this war was in our best interests.
WWI would prove the catalyst for the Russian Revolution, which would inspire later revolutions in countries as diverse as China and Cuba, and would lay the basis for the Cold War confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Then President Franklin Roosevelt
(Democrat) led us into World War II. This war was fought on two fronts by millions of American soldiers, sailors and marines. The Germans did not attack the United States; however, our support for our European allies and failure to properly mitigate grievances of WWI was ample justification to enter this war.
It started with supply missions to the British, where ships crossing the Atlantic were sunk by German submarines. This constituted an act of war, and we reacted accordingly.
The Japanese actually attacked the United States, so a second front was fought in the Pacific – basically two full fledged wars at the same time! I feel confidant that this is the reason that we maintain an ability to fight two simultaneous wars today.
President Harry Truman
(Democrat) led us into the Korean Conflict in 1950 following an attack on South Korea by the north. The Chinese were a very large part of this “conflict” and poured thousands of troops into the battle. Relying on “intelligence data” President Truman sent a weakened army to assist South Korea. Thousands were killed in the “conflict” and the dispute was never really resolved and tensions remain today with North Korea and the Chinese.
The Viet Nam Conflict also began in the 1950’s when President Dwight Eisenhower
(Republican) sent a small contingent of “military advisors” to help South Viet Nam when the French retreated after many years of tremendous losses. The involvement of American forces escalated during the President John Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson administrations based on “intelligence data” that later proved misleading at best.
President Richard Nixon
(Republican) finally ordered a retreat after decades of politically controlled battlefield strategies failed to produce anything other than dead and maimed American service men and women. North Viet Nam justifiably declared “victory” and began a process of cleansing and occupying the south.
President George H.W. Bush
(Republican) sent troops to aid in the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait. Although the dispute between these neighboring countries did not involve us directly, we came to the aid of a Middle Eastern ally arguably to support our economic and political interests.
President Bill Clinton
(Democrat) engaged in several limited conflicts around the globe. Faulty “intelligence data” subverted these efforts and resulted in embarrassment and the loss of hundreds of brave American service members without achieving the desired outcome. Mogadishu and Haiti are two examples of these failures.
Many claim that President George W. Bush
(Republican) lied to obtain United Nations and the Congress’ support for the current war in Iraq. Once again, faulty “intelligence data” seems to be the culprit.
I would submit that Presidents have stretched the facts and/or blatantly lied for centuries to support their desire to exert the power of the United States through warfare. This is nothing new – all of them claimed to have some form of “intelligence data” to support the need for a war. All of the wars were arguably fought to reserve business or political interests. Some were won and some were lost.
When we elect a President there is a whole host of supporting and unelected, people who make up the “administration”. Some are better at it than others are, but the bottom line is that America has been periodically at war since our founding and despite the best efforts of anti-war constituencies, the trend will probably continue.
This is not a partisan issue – both parties, and some that don’t exist anymore have botched wars and stretched the truth to support their efforts.