« Signs Of Progress On The Illegal Alien Front | Main | The Knucklehead of the Day - Reality TV Douchebag Edition »

The Politics of American War

One aspect of American Politics which deserves discussion this election cycle, is the way that wars are treated as leading issues. The United States has been at war in various forms for most of its history, and so it is hardly surprising that the course of a given war will be a factor in elections, especially of the President. This article is necessarily only a brief overview, with consideration of the record focused on the 2008 Presidential election.

From the political perspective, wars with regard to American politics fall into one of three broad categories; minor successful wars with little perceived risk, major wars of consequence, or costly wars which should have been avoided, in the sense of the common opinion. Examples of the first type include the Spanish-American War, Grenada, and Desert Storm. Examples of the second type include the War for Independence, the Civil War, and World War 2. Examples of the third type include World War 1, Korea, and Vietnam. I am not saying that one of these wars is more just or worthwhile than the others, but noting the political spin on the war.

For the first group, it is worth noting that the Spanish-American, Grenda, and Desert Storm actions did not significantly hurt or improve the political fortunes of the President in office at the time. The quick decision of each conflict led to the perceived message that the conflict was insignificant, and quickly faded from public interest. For the second group, the wars were controversial at the time they were fought, but in later generations the conflict elevated the image of the President in office, although it must be emphasized that the President does not appear to have gained immediate political advantage. In the third case, the war's unpopularity took its toll on the President's support. World War 1 effectively convinced Americans to put Republicans back in the White House, as did Korea, and Vietnam led to deep mistrust of both parties. Consequently, while no political party should expect to make gains from a military conflict in the short-term, the danger of political cost from a war must be considered.

In this context, the constant effort by the Democrats to cast the War in Iraq as the same as Vietnam is understood. The Democrats claimed that their 2006 midterm election gains were the result of a 'referendum' on Iraq. It must noted, however, that before the 2002 and 2004 elections, Democrats made the same claim, so the claim may properly be regarded with a large degree of skepticism. It is valid, however, to note the effort to tie the Iraq war with Vietnam, well into its sixth year (the propaganda by the Left actually began several months before the resumption of hostilities) has undoubtedly swayed opinion in various places, and fractured national unity along party lines. For this discussion, it is not necessary to reach a specific degree of influence by such rhetorical efforts, but it is relevant to the present election to consider how this spin is likely to influence future military decisions by the next Administration.



TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/27948.

Comments (10)

If a President with a "D" a... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

If a President with a "D" after his or her name were to send American troops into another war, the press would most likely not run 25 stories biased to benefit the enemy for every story they ran that was biased towards the US, as was the case for the first couple of years of the current Iraq conflict.

While there has always been bias in the press it has never in our history been this biased towards only one political party. A Republican president will have to factor that into any decisions whereas a Democrat would not.

On the other hand a Democrat President is likely to put our armed forces at the disposal of the UN and only do militarily what the UN wants done anyway.

Woodrow Wilson's reputation... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

Woodrow Wilson's reputation suffered more from how badly he handled the conclusion of WWI than how he prosecuted America's abbreviated entry into it.

Another issue during the 1920's presidential election was the fact that at the time, much of America was tiring of the Democratic party's terrorist arm - the Ku Klux Klan.

DJ wrote:In thi... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

DJ wrote:

In this context, the constant effort by the Democrats to cast the War in Iraq as the same as Vietnam is understood.

Analogies are always problematic. Anyone who attempts to compare a war waged in southeast Asia in the 1960s-70s with the current war in Iraq is bound to run into some problems. Sure, the US was involved in both cases, but there are so many contextual differences, when you really look at it, that the comparison may not be all that useful.

But then, that's the problem with blinding comparing things just to compare them. This is no better than people who try to compare the current war to WWII, for example, just because that war was viewed in more positive terms.

In the case of the current war, "spin" occurs from all sides of our political spectrum. Anyone who pretends otherwise is lying to themselves at best. Presidencies have plenty to gain from positive spin, just as they have plenty to lose from the negative spin from opposing political forces.

It is valid, however, to note the effort to tie the Iraq war with Vietnam, well into its sixth year (the propaganda by the Left actually began several months before the resumption of hostilities) has undoubtedly swayed opinion in various places, and fractured national unity along party lines.

Sure it's "valid" to note the effort, as you say. This is as much a war of information as it is anything else. And there are definitely people who are opposing this war because they think it was the wrong way to head. At the same time, there are plenty of people who oppose this war because it is perceived as a Republican war, so to speak.

It's up to people to be critically aware of the ways that information is disseminated and manipulated. It's usually a bad idea just to take these kinds of gross comparisons at face value. It's a bad idea to listen to any one source of news--whether Hannity, Limbaugh, Moore, Colber, Will or Krugman. But then, in a perfect world people would study history and politics the way they study the NFL.

And I would argue that both sides have done a great deal to fracture the national unity in the US the last 8 years or so. It's not as if there is one side that is above this kind of crap.

For this discussion, it is not necessary to reach a specific degree of influence by such rhetorical efforts, but it is relevant to the present election to consider how this spin is likely to influence future military decisions by the next Administration.

I'm not sure if the Vietnam comparison is the crux of the matter as you seem to be arguing. I understand that plenty of people make the comparison, but I am not sure why you seem to think that it will be such a determining factor in the decisions of the next Administration. What has lead you to this conclusion?

Yeah Bunyan, the press real... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Yeah Bunyan, the press really gave Daddy George terrible coverage for Operation Desert Storm didn't it?

Yeah Bunyan, the pres... (Below threshold)

Yeah Bunyan, the press really gave Daddy George terrible coverage for Operation Desert Storm didn't it?

They gave Gore a free pass on this JFO:

http://hotair.com/archives/2007/06/12/algore-video-bush-41-lied-people-died-1992-edition/

Maybe you're pissed because Bush wisely restricted press access to combat and ops data based on the experience of previous Commanders in Chief. Perhaps you have forgotten the whining from the MSM about DOD's refusal to follow the MSM script during Desert Storm?

I see your point JFO, but w... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

I see your point JFO, but when you compare the first weeks of this current war, I don't think the bias ratio was nearly as high as it was after the initial invasion then it went from more objective (while things were looking good for the US) to agenda based. Now, Desert Storm, first, was a relatively short engagement, and second, under the circumstances it would have been a lot harder for the left & the press to fabricate some reason to oppose it (even though "no war for oil" was heard even back then.) Had we taken out Saddam at that time I don't think the same would have been true. Plus there was still plenty of time for the press to mis-report and fabricate other stories to sway the next election.

I got the 25:1 pro Al Qaeda ratio from an article I read a short while ago (it wasn't worded like that--it said "anti-US, pro-US"-- but that's what it boils down to) and that was the figure the author gave for the initial invasion up to the end of 2005. He didn't give a month by month breakdown of the numbers. Most of the pro-US 1/25th could have been from the first days.

The press did not become such a powerful terrorist weapon until after the first months. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to call them a willing weapon, but when they declare, "we have no choice but to call this a civil war", when the reality is that the terrorists were trying to create the illusion of a civil war just for that purpose, well, it just makes you wonder.

But getting back to the topic, I guess maybe a point that could be made from your comment is that a Republican is probably OK using the military in a relatively fast operation as long as it's not to close to the election, whereas a Democrat can send troops into a place like the Balkans for over a decade and even code pink won't say "boo" over it. Sadly, I believe those factors (will the press be an asset to the enemy or will it be an asset to US) will influence future administrations.

Interesting link Hugh. Alo... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Interesting link Hugh. Along with the point you were trying to make, this stuck out to me:

"[Regean-Bush] had ignored Saddam's many operational ties to terrorists over the years so they could maintain relations with him and offset the threat from the mullahs in Iran."

(And that was AL GORE making that point in '92!)

I would just love for once for someone ask Bill's wife and Barak: "When YOU pull us out of Iraq who do YOU think will be offsetting that threat? Or do you just prefer to pretend that it doesn't exist?"

But I don't expect Oprah, Tyra, Elen, or "The Veiw" to pop that one.

Perhaps the Kosovo campaign... (Below threshold)
Mike:

Perhaps the Kosovo campaign is a better example of a "minor successful war with little perceived risk" than Desert Storm. After all, bombing a mostly third-world country that can barely shoot back is not exactly an even fight. And we went into Desert Storm expecting a long and difficult fight -- "40,000 body bags" and all that.

Although the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns have been ongoing for five and six-and-a-half years respectively, it is difficult to compare them to Vietnam simply because there was no singularity that triggered the Vietnam war, as 9/11 triggered military responses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All but the most obtuse Americans understand why we have troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, yet I believe that our success in Desert Storm, combined with the fact that we were able to avoid involvement in a lengthy military conflict for nearly 30 years, has created a generation of Americans that is simply disinterested in warfare. For that reason, they gravitate towards leaders who promise to end all wars.

How it is a campaign issue ... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

How it is a campaign issue will depend on the Dem Candidate. If it is Hillery she cannot say the action was a mistake as she voted on it like McCain. It would be about the aftermath.
If it is Obama the debate will be about the invasion and the aftermath.

The Thunder Run has linked ... (Below threshold)

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/19/2008 A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.




Advertisements









rightads.gif

beltwaybloggers.gif

insiderslogo.jpg

mba_blue.gif

Follow Wizbang

Follow Wizbang on FacebookFollow Wizbang on TwitterSubscribe to Wizbang feedWizbang Mobile

Contact

Send e-mail tips to us:

[email protected]

Fresh Links

Credits

Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

Emeritus: Paul, Mary Katherine Ham, Jim Addison, Alexander K. McClure, Cassy Fiano, Bill Jempty, John Stansbury, Rob Port

In Memorium: HughS

All original content copyright © 2003-2010 by Wizbang®, LLC. All rights reserved. Wizbang® is a registered service mark.

Powered by Movable Type Pro 4.361

Hosting by ServInt

Ratings on this site are powered by the Ajax Ratings Pro plugin for Movable Type.

Search on this site is powered by the FastSearch plugin for Movable Type.

Blogrolls on this site are powered by the MT-Blogroll.

Temporary site design is based on Cutline and Cutline for MT. Graphics by Apothegm Designs.

Author Login



Terms Of Service

DCMA Compliance Notice

Privacy Policy