These days all American Presidents are War Presidents (part 2)

In March I asked “How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?”  Now we know the answer:  for the next 4 years, perhaps the next 8, we will be at war.  If McCain wins – almost certainly.  If McCain cannot complete his term (quite possible), then Palin — probably.  Obama — equally probable.

We saw Gov. Palin’s tough talk in her interview with Charles Gibson of ABC News, and her willingness to lead America into war with Pakistan or Russia — perhaps anyone.  For the details, see …

Obama’s speeches are equally bellicose.  For example, see …

In my March 2008 post I described the ferocity of Obama’s 19 March 2008 speech, perhaps rooted in his confidence about American omnipotence.  But feeding red meat to the American public was nothing new for Obama.  In his August 2007 speech Obama explains how he will wage war far better than did President Bush:

I did not oppose all wars, I said. I was a strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan.

… Just because the President misrepresents our enemies does not mean we do not have them. The terrorists are at war with us. The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real. They distort Islam. They kill man, woman and child; Christian and Hindu, Jew and Muslim. They seek to create a repressive caliphate. To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for.

… It is time to turn the page. When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world’s most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.

The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

… I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to America. This requires a broader set of capabilities, as outlined in the Army and Marine Corps’s new counter-insurgency manual. I will ensure that our military becomes more stealth, agile, and lethal in its ability to capture or kill terrorists. We need to recruit, train, and equip our armed forces to better target terrorists, and to help foreign militaries to do the same. This must include a program to bolster our ability to speak different languages, understand different cultures, and coordinate complex missions with our civilian agencies.

… One component of this integrated approach will be new Mobile Development Teams that bring together personnel from the State Department, the Pentagon, and USAID. These teams will work with civil society and local governments to make an immediate impact in peoples’ lives, and to turn the tide against extremism. Where people are most vulnerable, where the light of hope has grown dark, and where we are in a position to make a real difference in advancing security and opportunity — that is where these teams will go.

I will also strengthen our intelligence. This is about more than an organizational chart. We need leadership that forces our agencies to share information, and leadership that never — ever — twists the facts to support bad policies. But we must also build our capacity to better collect and analyze information, and to carry out operations to disrupt terrorist plots and break up terrorist networks.

Much of the rest are the delusional dreams of reforming the world that I critiqued in “Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay“.

In his statement of 3 March 2008, he equal’s Gov Palin’s enthusiasm for war with Russia — over Albania.

The three current candidates for NATO membership — Albania, Croatia and the Republic of Macedonia–have each made great strides in consolidating their new democracies. …  Responding to these efforts with NATO membership at the upcoming summit would add to the alliance military capabilities while contributing to stability in the Balkans, a region still suffering from the ethnic tensions left behind by the bloodshed of the 1990s.

Ukraine and Georgia have also been developing their ties with NATO. … I welcome the desire and actions of these countries to seek closer ties with NATO and hope that NATO responds favorably to their request, consistent with its criteria for membership. Whether Ukraine and Georgia ultimately join NATO will be a decision for the members of the alliance and the citizens of those countries, after a period of open and democratic debate.

… NATO enlargement is not directed against Russia. Russia has an important role to play in European and global affairs and should see NATO as a partner, not as a threat.

The last line is esp fantasic, asking Russia to view its encirclement by enemies as does the ignorant American public — not in the realistic view of a state that lost tens of millions defending itself in WWI and WWII.

And Biden, too

He too is willing to ally with Georgia, so long as we are never called upon to cash that check for an unlimited guarantee of security for Georgia.   Bold talks by mountebanks or fools (it is difficult to determine which).


 Every election reveals much about the candidates, but even more about us. 

The candidates eagerness to wage endless wars shows their opinion of our fearfulness and aggressiveness.  Since they are profession politicos, this is probably an accurate assessment — we are bellicose.  Not a surprise for a nation whose grand strategy is build on hubris and paranoia, as I described in “America’s Most Dangerous Enemy“.

But it is not too late to prove them wrong.

Please share your comments by posting below.  Please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Other Posts about the Candidates enthusiasm for war

1. How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other, 7 February 2008 — Now we have McCain, the leading Republican Presidential candidate, talking of an open-ended commitment to victory in Iraq.

2. A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012, 1 March 2008 — What is next in Iraq?  None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future.  McCain intends to fight so long as (or until) we suffer few casualties, then stay for a long time (perhaps a hundred years, as McCain said here and here) ).  On the other hand, Obama has been quite explicit…

4. How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?, 21 March 2008 — The Presidential campaign rolls on in the seventh year since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being in which nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Barack Obama.

5. A powerful perspective on the candidates for President of the US, 28 August 2008 — John Derbyshire expresses what I have said about the candidates dreams of saving the world.

16. Governor Palin as an archetype for our time, 9 September 2008

For interesting articles about the candidates from other sources, see About the candidates for President of the United States.

19 thoughts on “These days all American Presidents are War Presidents (part 2)”

  1. I don’t think it so much that ‘we’ are bellicose as that people respond viscerally to us-them logic especially when presented with a threatening/fearful ‘them’. Since the US lacks an articulate intellectual class along with broadly held civic philosophy, it is easy to manipulate people into the ‘low road’ of manichean ‘straight talk’.

    Pakistan is, I suspect, one of those countries drawn on Churchill’s infamous knapkin one day. The Pashtuns have been there for millenia, new border or not. I believe that Taliban or no Taliban, their intestinal fortitude informs the underlying stubbornness of these mountain people who will remain long after many current countries and languages have vanished in the mists of time.

    About NATO and democracies: the reason they have to be democracies is that other systems retain too much autonomy and are out of the World Bank and other loops. This does not mean they are threatening necessarily, but does make them that much harder to manipulate. There will be a day of reckoning soon as to just how efficient democracies are in throwing up stable, effective ruling classes. We have them in the States, but they are not accountable any more. If the system is not overhauled (the change really called for), things are going to get much worse before they have any chance of getting better.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps some readers can comment on this. Are elections in other nations as filled with war-talk as America’s?

  2. “Economic interdependence, international cooperation, liberalism, and democracy are not causes of international peace; they are its results” – Micheal Lind, The American Way of Stragedy

    Also see some work by American political scientist Mark E. Pietrzyk that builds on the ideas of Hamilton and others that “peace facilitates democracy”. My point is that very few democratic, liberal/institutionalized nations can promote war as it contradicts everything which these societies are based.

    Eventually either the society or the government has to change. As for groups of people resisting this and isolating themselves, well you could use the Pashtuns as an example or even the bearded, automatic weapon & camo wearing citizens you may find in Alabama. They only matter when we need to engage with them.

  3. War-talk (the Iraq War) was an issue in the 2005 elections in Denmark but only one of many issues.
    The liberalist-conservative government had sensed the changing winds and started the redrawal from Iraq, so by the surprise elections of 2007, Afghanistan were the only issue and not big.
    Now early indications are that the Danish army will leave Afghanistan ca 2012. So again war will likely be a non-issue by the 2011 elections.

    The only party who has really used war rhetoric but only moderately so is Dansk Folkeparti. But they are an anti-Muslim nationalistic party so it fits well with their support base. Though they are the support party of the government in this case it’s all barking and no biting.

  4. FM, in other countries, there’s only talk of war with their own opposition parties as far as I know. No other nation on earth has the logistical strength, industrial might or firepower to match the US. I doubt politicos of other nations will use war metaphors that conveniently & with such ease (That is if they don’t wish to scare the citizens of neighborin’ states s!!!less). War – talk seems to be in the genes of professional politicos in the US.

  5. Lord, I thank Thee that thou am not stayin’ in the United States. That thou am not subjected to constant bombardment via MSM with the childlike & ignorant views of these candidates for POTUS & VP. How pitiful their “strategic illiteracy”, that they’re eventually gonna lead their Nation into more “interestin’ times” ahead. May Thee watch o’er the Peoples of the U.S. of A. God bless America.

  6. “Are elections in other nations as filled with war-talk as America’s?”

    1. It would be interesting to research how much that is/was the case during time of being at war. But in the past 50 years the only major democracy that has been at war frequently is the US and even when there was no war, there was the Cold War.
    2. More importantly, increasing swathes of the US economy are tied up with the defense industry which has dominated research and development for decades. Only IT, energy, construction and pharmaceuticals broadly speaking seem to have thrived outside that nexus. But the latter are private sector whereas defense, though run for profit, is a taxpayer funded affair meaning that this huge industry is structurally inseparable from the government nexus and increasingly dominant within it meaning that both its financing needs and the power and influence that various officials within the administration and civil service derive from their positions is beholden to the perpetual war for perpetual peace agenda. Something like that. Which is why Ike warned about it six decades ago.

    So I think those interests largely explain why it looms so large in the election or rather, why it is so hard for anyone to run against this. The (incorporated) media will turn on them if they are in, or marginalize them if they are out trying to get in. That being the case, pro-war agendas end up being pushed all the time, including during elections.

    It is also the simple fact, unfortunately, that turning the focus on external threats allows the discussion to avoid substantive examination of affairs at home, including really changing things when they have gotten out of whack, which happens with all systems at various times as history demonstrates.

  7. Politicians specialise in the exploitation and manipulation of peoples feelings and emotions in order to get themselves elected. One needs to ask the question of how much of this war talk is actually empty rhetoric, simply intended for internal consumption only. That is a device to assist in getting someone elected. If it is something else however, then I think theres going to be problems with implementation.

    On a similar but separate note: As an outside observer, what I find curious is the implied argument that these people somehow posess the key to victory, but with little (no?) evidence to back this up. McCain is an vivid example – in that he knows how to win wars he says.

    A skeptic would ask for proof of this claim. What wars has McCain won? On what basis does he make that claim. What war has he fought successfully? – He spent a long time as a POW and was cruelly treated – but it is drawing a long bow to suggest that experience somehow qualifies him to make such unsubstantiated claims.

    Its a leap of faith. You are simply taking these people on their word.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Fortunately America has not fought so many wars that we could — like Rome — choose rulers from among a pool of successful war lords. So, as typical when hiring someone for a demanding job, we must examine the candidate’s history and choose the one most likely to succeed.

  8. In line with this thread’s title, on Sep 13:

    CNN Transcript of ServiceNation Presidential Candidates Forum at Columbia University, 11 September 2008 – Excerpt:

    OBAMA: “And when my grandfather came back, he came back to a G.I. bill that was going to pay for his college education and FHA loans that would help them purchase a home. There was that sense of sacred obligation that, frankly, we have lost during these last two wars.

    “I want to restore that.

    “But it’s also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of many. You know, I traveled, obviously, a lot over the last 19 months. And if you go to small towns, throughout the Midwest or the Southwest or the South, every town has tons of young people who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s not always the case in other parts of the country, in more urban centers. And I think it’s important for the president to say, this is an important obligation. If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some.”
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thanks for linking to this. I strongly recommend everyone read this. Given both candidates enthusiasm for foreign adventures, they seem likely to call us — or our children or grandchildren — to service this obligation.

  9. FM is nobly encouraging us to vote, be involved. (no sarcasm intended). How about these guys?: Sarcasm possibly intended):

    Reject Obama and McCain! Support the socialist alternative in 2008! Build the Socialist Equality Party!“, Statement of the Socialist Equality Party, posted at the World Socialist Web Site, 13 September 2008 — Excerpt:

    “The Socialist Equality Party has selected Jerome White and Bill Van Auken as its candidates for president and vice president in the 2008 US elections.

    “Jerome White, 49, has been a member of the socialist movement for 29 years. He joined the Workers League, the predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party, when he was a worker at United Parcel Service in New York City. For three decades, White has been closely involved in the struggles of the working class against the corporations and the betrayals of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy. White was the SEP’s congressional candidate for the 12th District of Michigan in 2006.”

  10. Erasmus : I’d vote for Mr. White & Mr. van Auken anytime (if only I had US citizenship). Viva la Revolution!

  11. I didn’t know they still issued Roman passports!

    For an overly lengthy indictment viz. the current state of affairs in the democracy still known as the United States (I did not read it all, but some might find it interesting): ref=”″>Subverting Democracy Through Electoral Fraud”, Stephen Lendman, Center for Research on Globalization, 15 September 2008

    “– 4.5 million or more Americans can’t vote because of past criminal records, or they’re currently part of the largest prison population in the world at 2.3 million; mostly black and Latino; and increasing by around 1000 a week;

    — half of eligible voters opt out because their interests go unaddressed;

    — elections are privatized; touchscreen electronic machines do our voting; 80% of all 2004 votes were cast and counted on corporate- owned, programmed, and operated ones with no receipts for verification and no vetting of their “trade secret” software; computer professionals knows these machines are notoriously easy to manipulate – to erase votes, make ones for one candidate show up for another, go dead and be inoperable, or control an entire computer network through one machine and be able to change, add or erase votes easily;

    — Stephen Spoonamore is a self-described “life-long Republican” and one of the world’s leading cyber crime experts; from a just released October 2006 interview, he explains how the “structures” of Diebold’s machines are inherently flawed and what he considers “IT junk;” regarding the 2000 and 2004 elections, he says: “There is a very strong argument (that they were) electronically stolen, the hanging chads were just a distraction….I think (Diebold machines) are brilliantly designed….to steal elections;” ”

    There is also quite a bit of history going back to the founding, along with some very critical remarks about the founding documents.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I was not one of those who found it interesting. His analysis is just rhetoric, without any attempt to fairly balance the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

    The winner-take-all system has very great advantages over proportional representation. In the latter there can be many parties, so everyone can have one that matches their views. But the individual parties do not govern! They go into a back room to produce a coalition, and the voters have no say in this process. The multiple party system can produce structural instability when there are not stable coalitions — as seen in Italy, for example.

    Winner take all systems force interest groups to produce broad coalitions, which voters than choose among. So they get to choose between actual governing platforms. It is also more stable, based on the limited historical evidence.

    “half of eligible voters opt out because their interests go unaddressed;”

    This is mixed in with bold but unsupporte assertions, which perhaps he knows using psychic powers.

  12. Erasmus : “What matters is not the number of people who vote but those who COUNT them.” – Uncle Joe

  13. A recent proposal for how to deal with all of them being war presidents: “Unaccountable Secret Government: Most Serious Constitutional Crisis in American History“, Sherwood Ross, Center for Research on Globalization, 15 September 2008 — Excerpt:

    “President Bush’s conduct in office has precipitated a “most serious constitutional crisis, one that has already transformed the U.S. from a constitutional republic to an elected monarchy,” a noted political scientist told a conference on seeking prosecution of high Bush administration officials for war crimes. “We need to revers[e] a fifty-year trend towards unaccountable secret government, which can commit crimes with impunity,” said Professor Christopher Pyle of Mount Holyoke College.”

    “… Pyle said ideally the Justice Department should bring charges against Bush “if only to restore its integrity” (although many thought the DOJ unlikely to act because of its own culpability and partisanship). But there is nothing to “preclude the appointment of a non-partisan prosecutor with considerable independence, much as Attorney General Elliot Richardson did when he chose Archibald Cox to lead the Watergate team.”
    Fabous Maximus replies: The FM comment policy asks that comments be topical — related to the post. This is not; please be more careful in the future.

    This is IMO absurd on several levels. First, the overheated rhetoric is absurd — as in “transformed the US into an elected monarchy.”

    Second, the idea of criminalizing policy differences is IMO an extremely bad idea. Congress was amply (if not perfectly) informed about these things, and had the opportunity to learn more if they choose to do so. Criminalizing policy puts Congress even more firmly on a pernicious road — a backwards looking judge of policy, instead of a partner in making policy. This is a high-profile, no risk job. No surprise that Congress has drifted in this direction for so long.

    Third, we will find it difficult to find honest and capable executive leaders if failure or changes in the political winds leads to career-ending appearances before a Star Tribunal. Senior executive positions pay little, have long hours with great responsibilities. Folks do so either at the end of a bright career, or as stepping stones to later career success. Criminalizing policy difference would change the risk/reward structure unfavorably.

  14. FM: as to being on topic, this related to ‘why they are all war presidents’, albeit it tangentially. This is your blog, so of course you have the last say and I will respect your parameters insofar as I understand them. That said, and oozing with unctuous respect:

    If most officials are honest, as you imply above, then your sentence “Third, we will find it difficult to find honest and capable executive leaders if failure or changes in the political winds leads to career-ending appearances before a Star Tribunal” doesn’t hold since presumably the tribunals will be honest. Or are you presuming that officials are mainly honest and Tribunals are mainly corrupt? But how can that be? Logic intimates that either in general they both will be more or less honourable or in general they both will be more or less dishonourable, since the one begets the other, i.e. they are both products of the same governance culture and elites.

    Also on topic (in my view) is the following piece from A-Times about McCains deep connections with Saakasvili, also showcasing some of the mechanisms used by Senators and others via various think tanks and other political associations.

    “More recently, an anonymous senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs predicted a “full-scale crisis of existence” in the United States and a further cooling of relations between the US and Russia. If McCain is elected president, it is likely that Russia will be treated as an enemy, rather than a potential partner, and US-Russia relations will escalate into a military confrontation.

    Since 1997 when he first met Saakashvili, McCain’s relationship with the future president of Georgia has became a close friendship. He stood behind Saakashvili during Georgia’s Rose Revolution in 2003; indeed McCain worked to make that revolution happen. In February 2003, six months before the Rose revolution, McCain was among those welcoming Saakashvili in Washington when the latter was received by senior officials, such as Vice President Dick Cheney.

    The McCain-led International Republican Institute (IRI), an international wing of the National Endowment for Democracy, was involved in training and financing the revolutionary opposition to Saakashvili’s political rival Eduard Shevardnadze. Along with other organizations, such as the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House and the George Soros foundation, McCain’s IRI presented its activities as a support of elections and the democratic process, but in reality it was biased in favor of the pre-selected candidate Saakashvili. On October 2003, immediately before the revolution, McCain traveled to Georgia to convince then-president Shevardnadze to relinquish power after conducting “badly flawed elections”. ”
    Fabius Maximus replies: After the fact tribunals that criminalize policy differences, are inherently flawed. They morph too easily into political witch hunts. There is a long history of this, going back to the trials of Athen’s victorious generals after the battle of Arginusae. If the Democratic Party goes down this road (which I doubt), they too will learn this — when an opposition party comes to power and turns this weapon against them. That’s the nature of these things.

  15. FM: the problem with the winner-take all system is that it inevitably leads to a two-party system which inevitably polarizes the political process which inevitably devolves into mud-slinging and dirty tricks which inevitably degrades the governance process which inevitably leads to hidden oligarchies running the country whilst populist puppets mouth platitudes like ‘Put Country First’ and ‘Change we can Believe in’ on the idiot box.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Please, that is just rhetoric and speculation. There is no way to support such broad statements. Nor does this site host such abstract debates about political theory.

  16. FM, everything you say about the tribunals is reasonable and generally true. At the same time, the conclusion seems to be that there is nothing to be done when the leadership is essentially criminal. And this mainly because of the two-party winner-take-all system via which partisan interests trump truth and honor every time, the very system you seem to be praising.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Yes. That’s why we have separation of powers and frequent elections. Responsibility so remains where it should be, the only safe place for it: with the people. Where are these wonderful alternatives practices, where truth and honor trump partisan interest. Heaven is nice, but you must first die to get there.

  17. Another conference raising the topic, albeit this time from outside versus inside the US: “Holding US Officials Responsible for War Crimes termed a Matter of Urgent Importance“, Sherwood Ross, Center for Research on Globalization, 16 September 2008 — Except:

    “Any attempt to hold high U.S. officials responsible for war crimes likely “will require time and effort but is nevertheless of urgent importance,” an authority on international law said today. Amy Bartholomew, an associate professor of law at Carleton University , Ottawa , Canada , told a conference seeking prosecutions of President George W. Bush and his aides for war crimes that aggression by “the world’s most powerful state” must be punished just as less powerful countries are punished.”

    Of course nothing will happen. But that could be regarded as evidence as to just how twisted the international system is – as Putin has been declaring almost non-stop for five years now.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I doubt many Americans care what some left-wing Canadian academic thinks of our system, or what America does. It is certainly not “evidence” of anything. Considering the strong drift away from basic freedoms in Canada, such as freedom of speech and the press, perhaps Prof Amy should pay more attention to her home nation.

  18. PS. The reason I think this is relevant to your original post is that if there were consequences to waging illegal, immoral, unjustified wars, maybe all the Presidents would NOT be war presidents! Sorry if that point wasn’t obvious from the get-go.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Mentioning it is OK. Extended comments on something distinct from the post just hijacks the discussion. I prefer to keep threads focused. This seems to work, as we have first class discussions here, often 10x or 20x the length of the post. Unlike the terse empty bullets that pass for discussion at some many sites.

  19. Update: interesting new article by William Lind, “On War #274: Why Obama Is Wrong“, posted at DNI, 16 September 2008 — Excerpt:

    “Here we see the central reality of American politics shining through the smoke and mirrors. America has a one-party system. That party is the Establishment Party, and its internal disagreements are minor.

    “Both McCain and Obama are Establishment Party candidates. They agree America must be a world-controlling empire. Both men are Wilsonians, believing we must re-make other countries and cultures in our own image. Neither man conceives any real limits, political, financial, military or moral, on American power. McCain and Obama vie only in determining which can drink more deeply from the poisoned well of hubris, around which, unremarked, lie the bones of every previous world power.

    “Such is the “choice” the American people get in November. As a monarchist, it is sometimes hard to keep from smiling.”

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