Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

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Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Lomax on February 13th, 2018, 9:46 am 

I'll preface by saying that there are some methodological problems with enumerating wars. Does NATO's involvement in the Balkans count as one war or three? Did Eisenhower, Kennedy or Johnson begin the Vietnam War? And so on. But by most metrics the Democrat party led the US to war more times than the Republican party did in the 20th century: approximately 16 times to 10. This in spite of only being in charge for 47 to the GOP's 53 years.

The supposed paradox rests on the common assumption that the liberal Left is more peacelike than the Right is. A common explanation for the phenomenon is that, when the Democrats are in power, there is no serious pacifist movement among the mainstream opposition. However, by this logic we should expect Republicans to implement stricter gun control, higher income tax and more comprehensive treasury-funded healthcare. So what makes war different?

Perhaps there's some other, better explanation. Are Democrats simply more inclined to armed conflict? Perhaps they are more belligerent, or more compelled by the idea of humanitarian intervention. Perhaps it is a difference of budgets and spending habits. Maybe a better methodology than simple enumeration would account for when each party happened to be in power, and what was going on in the world at that time. Maybe we need to take into account the magnitude and nature of each war. We might also note that the Democrat party was once the party of the political Right and the roles reversed over a period of centuries.

Either way: a Democrat dropped the atom bomb, a Democrat created a nuclear standoff in Cuban waters, and a Democrat committed the first combatants to Vietnam. Democrats led the US into a significantly higher number of wars in the 20th century. Why do you think this is?
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Braininvat on February 13th, 2018, 10:53 am 

Kennedy didn't create the Cuban crisis, Kruschev did. Roosevelt tried to keep us out of WW2 until there was no longer a choice. Vietnam started due to a Republican-backed theory and resolution, iirc. Bushes got us involved in Iraq. Both parties signed off on the resolution in Congress, due to bad intelligence pushed by a GOP operative. I think both parties are generally involved in these sorts of things. Democrats have worked much harder on the big picture war prevention item, i. e. START treaty. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which led to Viet war, was opposed ONLY by Democratic senators. Etc. In terms of policies and treaties that lead to later war, I think Repubs have provided quite a bit of leadership.

Just some scattered thoughts. Will try to get back here later.
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby SciameriKen on February 13th, 2018, 10:58 am 

Do you put any creedence to the "military-industrial complex"?
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Lomax on February 13th, 2018, 11:31 am 

Braininvat » February 13th, 2018, 3:53 pm wrote:Kennedy didn't create the Cuban crisis, Kruschev did.

I'm surprised to see you write this half-truth. It would not have been a crisis if only one of the two men had become involved. Actually Kennedy was lying to congress about his attempts to kill Castro and starve his country - the copper, sugar and oil embargoes, by the way, being what forced Cuba to ally with the USSR in the first place - so he had to present Russia's move to place nuclear missiles in Turkey as inexplicable bellicosity. This in spite of its approximate symmetry with Kennedy's decision to place nuclear warheads, obviously pointed at the Soviet Union, in Turkey and Italy the previous year. As a usually aggressive Republican quite clear-headedly put it at the time:

John J. McCloy wrote:even if the Soviet Union had missile bases in Cuba – which it hasn’t – why would we have any more right to invade Cuba than Khrushchev has to invade Turkey?


Kennedy was aware of the "ragged attack" lemma but glossed over it. I quote Gary Wills from his book The Kennedy Imprisonment:

Gary Wills wrote:Would [Castro] launch his missiles in conjunction with a larger Russian attack again, knowing that he could incinerate his island as a side-blow in our response to Russia? Even if Castro had wanted to immolate his nation that way, his missiles would not have helped the Russians might, rather, have been a hindrance, because of the "ragged attack" problem. If missiles were launched simultaneously from Russia and Cuba, the Cuban ones, arriving first, would confirm the warning of Russian attack. Or, if Cuban missiles were to be launched later, radar warnings of the Russian ones firing would let us destroy the Cuban rockets in their silos.'

It's also generally accepted by historians that Kennedy felt embarrassed by his weak performance against Krushchev at the Vienna conference and was trying to save face by compensating (which also explains his later insistence on secrecy regarding the dismantling of the Turkish nuclear bases), and forgotten by the general public that Kennedy ran against Eisenhower from the Right on the point of relations with the Soviet Union. He went so far as to fabricate a mythical missile gap. Two years later, when the world was faced with its (to date) highest-stake Prisoners' Dilemma, Bertrand Russell sent a telegram to both Kennedy and Krushchev, telling them that they were acting insanely and ought to back down. Krushchev was receptive, while Kennedy was angered at Russell's arrogance.

As for Vietnam, it was Eisenhower who committed the first military advisers to Vietnam, as well as being the man who formulated the plan for the Bay of Pigs invasion. This is why I say there are methodological difficulties here. But against Eisenhower's 900 advisers we have Kennedy's 30,000, and Johnson's actual combatants.

Regarding policies and treaties that led to later conflicts, then, I think we must note that Clinton dismantled the weapons inspection regime in Iraq in the mid-90s before it was confirmed to have been completed, and that Kennedy stalled on any form of nuclear test-ban treaty just as he stalled civil rights and everything else. And I don't think it stands to Roosevelt's credit that he postponed the confrontation with Naziism, just as I don't think it stands to Wilson's credit that he led his country into an imperialist war against imperialism.
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Lomax on February 13th, 2018, 11:36 am 

SciameriKen » February 13th, 2018, 3:58 pm wrote:Do you put any creedence to the "military-industrial complex"?

Yes, and Work For Peace is a great song. But since the complex constitutes both a state-capitalist business venture and a jobs program I'm not sure that it favours either party over the other. I'm also not convinced that having a large and expensive military necessitates using it for war - much of the US's military force is stationed at home or on allied territory, for example.
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Asparagus on February 13th, 2018, 11:55 am 

Lomax wrote:
Either way: a Democrat dropped the atom bomb, a Democrat created a nuclear standoff in Cuban waters, and a Democrat committed the first combatants to Vietnam. Democrats led the US into a significantly higher number of wars in the 20th century. Why do you think this is?

Liberals are generally more emotional and driven by moral concerns. Rightists are relatively colder and governed by practicality. Generally speaking, war isn't good for business unless you're an arms merchant, so American rightists were historically staunchly isolationist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_non-interventionism

That changed after WW2, which reshaped the American social landscape so that there were direct ties between Business and the Pentagon. Kennedy is a special case. He represents the changing of the guard from the generation that fought WW2 to the younger generation that lived in its wake. The scene was tinged with lunacy stemming from profound confusion about the Soviet Union. A good book about it is The Fifty Year Wound by Derek Leebaert.
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Braininvat on February 13th, 2018, 12:13 pm 

Lomax, while you make some informed points about Kennedy, I was responding more to your general observations about Dems leading to war. As I exampled, a lot of actual war came from bipartisan resolutions, not presidential decree. And Democrats, as in the Tonkin case, were notably more opposed to land wars overseas. And more proactive on nuke disarmament (most recently, contrast Trump and Obama). I think my basic point stands. And I am impressed by a Limey who knows our history better than most of us Yanks do!
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Lomax on February 13th, 2018, 3:37 pm 

Flattery will get you everywhere :p Well there were only two senators who opposed the Gulf of Tomkin incident, in a Senate with a 65% majority, so that doesn't seem significant to me - two Dems is what we'd expect if we'd picked any two Senators of the 88th Congress out of a hat. The point about bipartisan resolutions is interesting and demands some enumeration (from me, when I get time) to throw into the mix. I'd only been counting presidents.
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Lomax on February 13th, 2018, 7:24 pm 

Asparagus » February 13th, 2018, 4:55 pm wrote:Liberals are generally more emotional and driven by moral concerns. Rightists are relatively colder and governed by practicality. Generally speaking, war isn't good for business unless you're an arms merchant, so American rightists were historically staunchly isolationist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_non-interventionism

That changed after WW2, which reshaped the American social landscape so that there were direct ties between Business and the Pentagon.

I missed your post earlier. As I said to SciameriKen, I accept the existence of the military-industrial complex, but I don't take this as a full explanation for war. Arms dealers would still be in business if a well-armed military stayed at home (or, say, camped in the Philippines, Germany, and around the 38th Parallel) wouldn't they?
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Asparagus on February 13th, 2018, 8:44 pm 

Lomax wrote:
It's also generally accepted by historians that Kennedy felt embarrassed by his weak performance against Krushchev at the Vienna conference and was trying to save face by compensating.


Krushchev apparently made Kennedy cry. The story goes that Kennedy was pointing out the number of people who would die in a global nuclear war and Khrushchev responded with: "So?"

Kennedy came home and told people around him he'd never met someone like Khrushchev and started supporting the fall-out shelter movement or fad. This is from Leebaert's book. The picture is of a hoard of young Americans who had no experience with global politics, no one to teach them, thought they knew everything, but were just generally clueless.

At one point Kennedy approached the British to ask if they had somebody like James Bond who could take out Castro. The British said they didn't do that sort of thing.


Lomax wrote:I missed your post earlier. As I said to SciameriKen, I accept the existence of the military-industrial complex, but I don't take this as a full explanation for war. Arms dealers would still be in business if a well-armed military stayed at home (or, say, camped in the Philippines, Germany, and around the 38th Parallel) wouldn't they?

True. But somehow Reagan still came across as hawkish. Maybe it was just the "evil empire" rhetoric.
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby wolfhnd on February 13th, 2018, 8:48 pm 

If Democrats are more warlike and if they are less conservative than republicans then some speculation is in order.

The country was founded on separation from the affairs of Europe. The idea of avoiding being entangled in European rivalries may have played a part in the isolationist attitudes that continued right up until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Some people would argue that it was based on self interests not a moral stand against Imperialism or unnecessary wars. Some would even argue that from the beginning it was a hypocritical position without honor making the point that the refusal of the US to support France after France secured victory for the American revolutionary showed remarkable disloyalty to a friend. In any case tension with France soon increased resulting in the Quasi War in the West Indies. Again for the sake of argument lets ignore the contradictions and say the US was until WWII an Isolationist country and that avoidance of war was part of the founding principles. From that perspective conservative Republicans such as Ohio Sen. Robert Taft and North Dakota Sen. Gerald Nye, FDR’s Hyde Park, New York, home district’s congressman, Hamilton Fish and others were fallowing the traditional values of the US in avoiding involvement in "foreign" wars.

I think it would be better to characterise the Democrats as being friendly towards establishing a global agenda than warlike. I suspect however you can't have one without the other but that is a story for another time. I also wouldn't say the republicans were less warlike but perhaps inclined towards an attitude of American interest before the interests of what has become known as the globalists. Oddly enough the Democrats attitude is more elitist and at odds with the attitudes of the "average" person. I would say Henry Ford and his hatred of the banksters and Nazi sympathies sums up how there is no way to define the good guys and bad guys. We can say that Trump and his America first attitudes are not out of line with Republican attitudes prior to the rise of the dreadful fascist Neo Cons. Bottom line> it ain't simple.
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Lomax on February 13th, 2018, 11:16 pm 

Asparagus » February 14th, 2018, 1:44 am wrote:Krushchev apparently made Kennedy cry. The story goes that Kennedy was pointing out the number of people who would die in a global nuclear war and Khrushchev responded with: "So?"

I'm surprised by this, given that Krushchev sacrified his job and reputation by keeping quiet about the deal to dismantle the bases in Italy and Turkey in exchange for withdrawal of warheads from Cuba. Maybe scare he got from the Crisis led to a change of heart. I'll have to check out Leebaert's sources.

Reagan still strikes me as extremely hawkish, and a lot of his overseas aggression was done covertly, which I guess is another methodological problem with my OP. But I don't know to what extent we can blame that on the military-industrial complex. It would stand in need of argument, at least.

Asparagus » February 14th, 2018, 1:44 am wrote:At one point Kennedy approached the British to ask if they had somebody like James Bond who could take out Castro. The British said they didn't do that sort of thing.

We'd never admit to it ;)
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby Lomax on February 13th, 2018, 11:21 pm 

wolfhnd » February 14th, 2018, 1:48 am wrote:I think it would be better to characterise the Democrats as being friendly towards establishing a global agenda than warlike.

I try to be straightforward with my thread titles and this probably makes them seem sensationalist or irksome at times. I don't necessarily mean "warlike" as an insult - as far as agendas go we could do worse than America's, and I don't always oppose the US's wars. Which makes me unfashionable among the liberal left. But at least that distracts from my shirts and haircuts.
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Re: Why Are Democrats More Warlike?

Postby wolfhnd on February 13th, 2018, 11:47 pm 

Lomax » Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:21 am wrote:
wolfhnd » February 14th, 2018, 1:48 am wrote:I think it would be better to characterise the Democrats as being friendly towards establishing a global agenda than warlike.

I try to be straightforward with my thread titles and this probably makes them seem sensationalist or irksome at times. I don't necessarily mean "warlike" as an insult - as far as agendas go we could do worse than America's, and I don't always oppose the US's wars. Which makes me unfashionable among the liberal left. But at least that distracts from my shirts and haircuts.


I assumed as much.

I just didn't want to write a book.
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