Blogs > Cliopatria > So We Have Only Gone to War in the Past Because We Had to?

Aug 6, 2004 12:21 am


So We Have Only Gone to War in the Past Because We Had to?



Robert Kagan, in Newsday (Aug. 5, 2004):

[Robert Kagan is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.]

Someday, when the passions of this election have subsided, historians and analysts of American foreign policy may fasten on a remarkable passage in John Kerry's nomination speech."As president," Kerry declared,"I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation."

The statement received thunderous applause at the convention and, no doubt, the nodding approval of many Americans of all political leanings who watched on television.

Perhaps foreign audiences tuning in may have paused in their exultation over a possible Kerry victory in November to reflect with wonder on the incurable self-righteousness and nationalist innocence the Democratic candidate displayed. Who but an American politician, they might ask, could look back across the past 200 years and insist that the United States had never gone to war except when it"had to"?

The United States has sent forces into combat dozens of times over the past century and a half, and only twice, in World War II and in Afghanistan, has it arguably done so because it"had to." It did not"have to" go to war against Spain in 1898 (or Mexico in 1846). It did not"have to" send the Marines to Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua in the first three decades of the 20th century, nor fight a war against insurgents in the Philippines.

And what about the war Kerry himself fought in? Kerry cannot believe the Vietnam War was part of his alleged"time-honored tradition," or he wouldn't have thrown his ribbons away.

Then there were the wars of the post-Cold War 1990s. The United States did not"have to" go to war to drive Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. No one knows that better than Kerry, who voted against the Persian Gulf War, despite its unanimous approval by the UN Security Council. Nor could anyone plausibly deny that the Clinton administration's interventions in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo were wars of choice. President Bill Clinton made the right choice in all three cases, but it was a choice.

Why is Kerry invoking an American"tradition" that does not exist? Perhaps he's distorting our history simply to cast the Bush administration and the war in Iraq in the harshest possible light. But maybe Kerry is not being cynical. Perhaps he is saying what he really believes and not what our policy has been, but what it should be.

The doctrine Kerry enunciated last Thursday night, after all, was the doctrine initially favored by the anti-war movement and the mainstream of the Democratic Party after the debacle of Vietnam."Come home, America" was the cry of those who believed America had corrupted both the world and itself in"wars of choice."...


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Timothy Furnish - 8/7/2004

Yet another shining example of Kerry's pandering and/or shallowness....and a good argument that he should NOT be C-in-C.


Timothy Furnish - 8/7/2004

Yet another shining example of Kerry's pandering and/or shallowness....and a good argument that he should NOT be C-in-C.

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