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A Return to the Peace Party

A few weeks ago, I spoke to about 200 people at the famous Willard Hotel in Washington in a program put on by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. I had been told that this was a group of CEOs and owners of major companies in Southern California, obviously a very upper-income group.

I got to a point in my speech where I said: “It is long past the time when we need to stop trying to run the whole world and start putting our own people and our own Country first once again.”

Much to my surprise, the audience broke into applause. Middle- and lower-income groups have applauded when I have said similar things in my district and around the country. But many upper-income people claim to be moderates, and, contrary to popular belief, conservatives lose most very wealthy areas two-to-one or worse.

I have spoken to a very wide variety of groups in Washington, around the country, and in my district, and I have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response every time I have said that it has been a horrible mistake to spend trillions on unnecessary wars in the Middle East.

When I was a teenager, I remember reading a publication from the Republican National Committee that said, “Democrats start wars, Republicans end them.”

There was a time, until recent years, that the Republican Party could make a legitimate claim to being the Peace Party.

I sent my first paycheck as a bag boy at the A & P—$19 and some cents—as a contribution to the Barry Goldwater campaign. I have worked in Republican campaigns at the national state and local levels for over 50 years. And it saddens me to hear almost all the Republican candidates for President try to outdo each other in their hawkishness.

Based on the response I have gotten, I think it is a recipe for defeat if my Republican party becomes known as a party favoring permanent, forever wars—war without end.

All of our candidates try to convince people that they are like Ronald Reagan. President Reagan once wrote that we should follow these four principles:

(1) The United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest;

(2) If the decision is made to commit our forces to combat abroad, it must be done with the clear intent and support needed to win … and there must be clearly defined and realistic objectives;

(3) Before we commit our troops to combat, there must be reasonable assurance that the cause we are fighting for and the actions we take will have the support of the American people and Congress, and

(4) Even after all these other tests are met, our troops should be committed to combat abroad only as a last resort, when no other choice is available.

Reagan was certainly no warmonger Republican, or a man eager to go to war.

President Eisenhower, one of our greatest military leaders, was another “Peacenik” Republican. He knew the horrors of war, unlike many modern-day chickenhawks.

He famously warned us at the end of his Presidency about the dangers of being controlled by a very powerful military-industrial complex. I think he would be shocked at how far we have gone down the road that he warned us against.

In his book Ike’s Bluff, Evan Thomas shared this story:

When Defense Secretary Neil McElroy warned him that further budget cuts could harm national security, Eisenhower acerbically replied, ‘If you go to any military installation in the world where the American flag is flying and tell the commander that Ike says he’ll give him an extra star for his shoulder if he cuts his budget, there’ll be such a rush to cut costs that you’ll have to get out of the way.’

Thomas added that Eisenhower “would periodically sigh to Andy Goodpaster, ‘God help the Nation when it has a President who doesn’t know as much about the military as I do.’”

Pat Buchanan wrote in these pages [1] on March 20, “In November 1956, President Eisenhower, enraged he had not been forewarned of their invasion of Egypt, ordered the British, French and Israelis to get out of Suez and Sinai. They did as told. How far we have fallen from the America of Ike…”

Sen. Robert Taft, who was sometimes referred to as Mr. Republican in the 1940s and ‘50s, once said, “No foreign policy can be justified except a policy devoted… to the protection of the liberty of the American people, with war only as the last resort and only to preserve that liberty.”

Most of the Republican presidential candidates have attacked President Obama for acting in some ways that are unconstitutional, and he has. But where in our constitution does it give us the authority to run other countries as we have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, even making small business loans and training local police forces?

My Republican party was always the party of fiscal conservatism. Yet with a national debt of over $18 trillion, how can we justify continually spending mega-billions in religious civil wars between Shia and Sunni?

Some people and companies that make money off an interventionist foreign policy always very quickly fall back on the slur of isolationism.

But I and probably almost all readers of The American Conservative believe in trade and tourism and cultural and educational exchange with other countries, and in helping out during humanitarian crises. We just don’t believe in endless war.

We are told that if we don’t support an interventionist foreign policy, that this means we don’t believe in American exceptionalism. But this nation did not become exceptional because we got involved in every little war around the globe. It became exceptional because of our great system of free enterprise and because we gave our people more individual freedom than any other country.

I have said in thousands of speeches that we are blessed beyond belief to live in this country, and that the United States is without question the greatest country in the history of the world.

But there was much less anti-Americanism around the world when we tried to mind our own business and take care of our own people. And this nation had more friends when we followed a policy of peace through strength, not one of peace through endless war.

Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. represents the 2nd District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

72 Comments (Open | Close)

72 Comments To "A Return to the Peace Party"

#1 Comment By liberal On April 27, 2015 @ 10:04 am

Dennis Brislan wrote,

Nixon wound down Vietnam even if in a duplicitous manner…

LOL. Election was 1968. We finally left Saigon in 1975. Nixon and Kissinger spread the war to Cambodia, thus rapidly speeding the assent of the Khmer Rouge.

#2 Comment By liberal On April 27, 2015 @ 10:06 am

jocon307 wrote,

That’s all fine, provided that we institute a system, like say BORDER CONTROL, that will keep out jihadis and others who mean us harm.

Stupid. If we stop intervening over there (including dropping aid to Israel), they’ll have no beef with us and will leave us alone.

#3 Comment By liberal On April 27, 2015 @ 10:09 am

Matthew Kilburn blithered,

The question left unanswered in the feel-good sentiments of this article is, what, exactly the alternative to an interventionist foreign policy is.

Oh, that one was answered a long time ago, by George Washington in his “Farewell Address,” and John Quincy Adams, who stated Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

#4 Comment By cfountain72 On April 27, 2015 @ 12:35 pm

To be fair, I don’t believe the author was trying to broadbrush the Republican Party as the ‘party of peace’. The goal (at the very minimum) is to clear the way for people who call themselves ‘Republican’ to understand that being one does not ipso facto mean you must support the fevered foreign policy rantings of neoclowns like William Kristol or Tom Cotton or Sean Hannity.

jocon307, Have you ever considered that we are only fighting them ‘over here’ because we’ve been fighting them ‘over there’ for the better part of the last 30 years? Now, our continued intervention in the ME only serves to lay the groundwork for additional attacks on the US.

Peace be with you.

#5 Comment By Tom On April 27, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

The question left unanswered in the feel-good sentiments of this article is, what, exactly the alternative to an interventionist foreign policy is. Look at Syria today. Look at Ukraine. Look at the South China Sea. Do we really want to live in a wold where the course of international affairs is dictated from Beijing or Moscow or Tehran and Riyadh? Does that make us safer? Is it really more in keeping with our values? I don’t think so.

This comment is a perfect example of the circular reasoning employed by interventionists.

First, we poke our noses somewhere we don’t belong. Thus then causes more problems. The interventionists point to these problems as a reason for further intervention.

And look at the examples: Syria, Ukraine, South China Sea. These are not examples of what happens in the absence of American intervention! Rather, they all took place in the presence of American intervention. In all three cases, our intervention is escalating the crisis and preventing it from being resolved.

As for events being “dictated” from “Beijing or Moscow or Tehran and Riyadh,” what are you smoking? None of them are dictating anything. Nor are we, for that matter. Every country has a right to push its own interests. Other countries then push back. That’s how foreign relations always work.

The world without American intervention would be a different place, that’s all. On the whole, it wouldn’t be any better or worse — just different. And in ways that don’t matter to the United States.

I really can’t see why it matters to the United States to let West Ukraine oppress a bunch of Russians. Or to promote the genocide of the Alawites by a bunch of religious fanatics. Or to prevent the Chinese from drilling for oil in the South China Sea.

In keeping with our values? “First, do no harm” would be a great value to adopt. Our past intervention has done a lot of harm already.

#6 Comment By philadelphilawyer On April 27, 2015 @ 5:51 pm

EC:

I am not going to rehash the entire Cold War with you, and contend with your more or less absurdly one sided accounts of each incident therein. The point is that the so called “Peace Party” was more, not less, bellicose, on average, than the Democratic party, throughout the Cold War. That you think the bellicosity was completely justified in each and every case is neither here nor there, re the accuracy of that label. And, since the Cold War ended, the GOP has continued to be the more bellicose of the two parties. And so, even if your rationale/excuse held water pre 1989 (which it doesn’t), it is all wet viz a viz the last 25 years.

cfountain:

“To be fair, I don’t believe the author was trying to broadbrush the Republican Party as the ‘party of peace’.”

Then why is the article called “A Return to the Peace Party?” Is there some difference between the “party of peace” and the “peace party?” Why does the author say, “There was a time, until recent years, that the Republican Party could make a legitimate claim to being the Peace Party?” I guess it all depends on what the definition of “recent” is! If it means, though, anything after, say 1946, I really don’t see it. And why does he claim, quite incredibly, as I see it, that Reagan and Ike were “peaceniks?”

On some other points that folks have made…

As for Goldwater, he favored a more, not less, bellicose policy in Vietnam. And was in general a fierce Cold Warrior.

Even GHW Bush unnecessarily invaded Panama, and that leaves out the first Iraq War entirely.

#7 Comment By bears repeating On April 27, 2015 @ 9:56 pm

“But there was much less anti-Americanism around the world when we tried to mind our own business and take care of our own people.”

Right on.

Right on.

#8 Comment By Carter Mitchell On April 28, 2015 @ 1:01 am

I have to disagree with one point made by Rep. Duncan.

He said “and because we gave our people more individual freedom than any other country”.

He is dead wrong. The government did not “give” the American people liberty. Rather, the men who started this whole thing recognized that liberty is an inalienable right, either given by God or due to the innate nature of the human species, depending on whether you take your personal bent.

The government’s nature is to constrain human liberty, and to grow without limit.

#9 Comment By Dan Phillips On April 28, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

I like the article a lot, but I generally agree with philidelphialawyer that the idea that the Republican Party was once the party of peace is a bit of noninterventionist wishful thinking. It’s a nice talking point when trying to sell foreign policy restraint to Republican, but is it true?

#10 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 28, 2015 @ 5:32 pm

It might be a challenge today. But I tend to lean with the author, this has not always been the case.

#11 Comment By Rick On April 28, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

Here we go again. Let’s defend our parties and our ideological positions to the end. Let’s not look objectively at the entire situation. Let’s defend, defend, defend the indefensible. It’s very sad to me.

So JMWinPR is correct that under Obama 76% of the casualties in AFGHANISTAN have been under Obama’s watch. Nice job using the % stat which without context is always meaningless.

Here’s the stats for clarification (mind you I work hard for a living so these are the best I have given I don’t have much time for this):

– 1,663 of 2,235 casualties (roughly 76%) since Obama took office in AFGHANISTAN.
-20,068 wounded in Afghanistan since the beginning

The 76% of deaths under Obama is correct as far as I can tell. Who got us into that country?

A Republican.

Who continued to keep us there and get more Americans killed?

A Democrat.

Here’s more stats for clarification for IRAQ which JMWinPR so “skillfully” omitted :
– 4,287 killed in Iraq (named killed and reported killed)
– 30,182 injured in Iraq

So with the help of JMWinPR evidence shows that in the war on terror both Republicans and Democrats have allowed approximately:

– 6,522 killed abroad
– 50,250 wounded abroad

That of course doesn’t include the higher % of suicides, the completely overwhelmed VA which is a national disgrace created by both parties, the coalition dead, the dead civilians and on and on and on.

Nice job defending the indefensible JMWinPR. Your guy G.W.B. got less people killed in Afghanistan. What an accomplishment! He did however get a ton of people killed in Iraq. Bummer for your position.

Does it really matter? Both Democrats and Republicans got us into this mess. How can we defend any of them?

For David Lloyd-Jones, try asking the people in Latin America what they think of our interventionist meddling and you might get an earful. You know the ones raped, families killed, displaced, tortured, kidnapped and ransomed, starved as they were caught between two ideological forces “battling it out” at there expense. Again policies enacted by both Democrats and Republicans although in that case Republicans more so but who’s counting at this point and why?

As for comparing Schultz to Marshall well that would be laughable if I didn’t think you were 100% serious which is mind boggling. And Cuba? Another unnecessary bi-partisan disaster.

It’s fitting that the Duncan article focuses on Eisenhower as in retrospect he may indeed have been the last good President we had which means that in my lifetime I’ve never had effective leadership in the presidency or congress for that matter. This of course doesn’t lionize him as he had many faults and made many mistakes but Eisenhower seems less of a mixed bag to me which has so characterized the presidencies during my lifetime.

All of which goes back to my original point defending the indefensible. Defending Republicans and defending Democrats is no longer a viable proposition in our country today. If we’re honest I suggest both parties have been — in there own ways — utterly disastrous for this country and our people over the last 60+ years.

At what point do we stop defending these parties? At what point do we stop defending our ideological positions and come up with a reasoned alternative as liberals and conservatives (whatever that means) to engage the American people for change that is in the best interest of most of us.

As I said earlier:

“Otherwise we should all just shut the heck up already. I’m tired of hearing us. More young Americans are going to die needlessly abroad. Anything I (or you) have to say at this point is utterly meaningless in the gravity of those circumstances.”

Goodbye and good luck.

#12 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 28, 2015 @ 7:29 pm

“That you think the bellicosity was completely justified in each and every case is neither here nor there, re the accuracy of that label. And, since the Cold War ended, the GOP has continued to be the more bellicose of the two parties. And so, even if your rationale/excuse held water pre 1989 (which it doesn’t), it is all wet viz a viz the last 25 years.”

I think based on your comments, you are taking liberties with the term intervention. I would agree that interventions are also the use of advisors, in a narrow sense of the word. However, that is not the thrust here.

And in that regard, I would contend that the authors view, which he maintains in very particular frames is supported.

Republican executives have been prudent with their use of force and when they have done so they have been effective.
___________

Now if you jump the fence and discuss post cold war your view is in line with that of the authors. And you do jump that fence.

But suggestion that one ignore the details of the matters in question would be in my view to miss the point. Because it places all intervention, at least in my view on the same continuum, which means that said discussions would be meaningless. Either all interventions can be justified or none can.
And that makes for a very peculiar all of nothing standard.

My only other comment is to the use of the term bellicose. because it suggests a response which is over the top, excessive. And that is impossible to qualify minus an examination of the details, even if we were examining just one intervention.

#13 Comment By Junior On April 29, 2015 @ 1:59 am

@philadelphialawyer

“Even GHW Bush unnecessarily invaded Panama, and that leaves out the first Iraq War entirely.”

But isn’t making sure the Panama Canal stays open and secure to American shipping in our best national interest?

#14 Comment By Junior On April 29, 2015 @ 3:43 am

I think that the root of ALL these problems is money in politics. BOTH parties no longer have American’s best interest at heart (unless they keep their wallets in their breast pockets then I guess you could say they keep our interests at heart)

The only way to truly fix all these problems in BOTH parties is to fix campaign finance reform and also to fix our problem with the “Federal” Reserve. If we can do campaign finance reform then our elected officials can get back to governing in ALL AMERICANS interests instead of constantly fund-raising and taking us into needless wars only for the interests of the highest donors.

And as to the privately owned company that refuses to let us see their books that call themselves the “Federal” Reserve, any TRUE fiscal conservative has got to see the folly in EVERY single dollar that is already in or to be put into the system only resulting in MORE debt owed to the “Federal” Reserve because of the interest they charge us on EVERY dollar. We are FOREVER in debt under this system. War = More Debt. And so, who is ultimately pushing for and profiting from America’s unnecessary endless war debts?…

#15 Comment By philaelphialawyer On April 29, 2015 @ 9:01 am

EC:

Great powers, like the US at least since 1945, are always presented with situations in which troops, “advisors,” military aid, etc, might, arguably, be used. Same with maintaining a high “defense” budget. To be for “peace,” to be a “peacenik,” means being against using the troops, sending in advisors, taking “covert” actions, sending military aid, maintaining a high defense budget, adopting a generally warlike stand, etc, DESPITE the existence of what folks like you, even a half century or more later, might continue to think were good reasons for doing so. One is not really a “peacenik” if there isn’t even a case for war to be made, or being made, to overcome, discount, not buy into, etc.

And when the pattern, over the course of a fifty year Cold War, is that a party more or less continually supports most of the above, including flat out wars that might have began under the other party’s watch, but which it cheered on from the opposition benches, and then continued when in power, and that party continuously disparaged, indeed, frequently labeled as “treasonous,” real “peaceniks,” real opponents to the entire panoply of indicia of, yes, bellicosity, well then, I think that party was not a “Peace Party.”

#16 Comment By Charlieford On April 29, 2015 @ 11:46 am

There were two critical, watershed moments in the lives of each party: 1) The traumatizing of the Republican isolationists in 1941, which left them marginalized and then, during the early years of the Cold War, saw them go extinct; 2) The traumatizing of the Democratic Cold War hawks by Vietnam, and their marginalization in the party for the next 20 years.

The Democrats took Vietnam very much to heart, too much for the electorate, in fact. That was the lesson of 1972, but a lot of Democrats refused to learn it. Those that did came to power in 1992, and remain there. Enough die-hard peaceniks still remain in the party to lend plausibility to the Republicans’ claims that they’re the ones who have learned history’s crucial lessons.

That lesson was summed up by Tom Cotton in his recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg: “It’s unfair to Neville Chamberlain to compare him to Barack Obama . . .” The Republicans, after suffering a surprising and game-changing loss in 1948, have been playing that card ever since, often to great effect.

The lesson they’ve drawn from the last 15 years is “Keep playing it. Double-down, in fact.”

Iraq threw them into some confusion for a few years there (2006 to 2008) but, lucky for them, Barack Obama saved them from actually having to seriously rethink their posture (something they’re probably in no shape to do anyway).

By assuming command of US foreign policy in 2009, Obama became the executor of George W. Bush’s estate in Iraq, allowing the Republicans to blame him for the fallout. It’s a neat game.

There will be no shaking of either parties’ convictions without even greater traumas to precipitate a rethink.

One is seriously ambivalent about just what one should be wishing for.

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 29, 2015 @ 12:19 pm

“Great powers, like the US at least since 1945, are always presented with situations in which troops, “advisors,” military aid, etc, might, arguably, be used. Same with maintaining a high “defense” budget. To be for “peace,” to be a “peacenik,” means being against using the troops, sending in advisors, taking “covert” actions, sending military aid, maintaining a high defense budget, adopting a generally warlike stand, etc, DESPITE the existence of what folks like you, even a half century or more later, might continue to think were good reasons for doing so. One is not really a “peacenik” if there isn’t even a case for war to be made, or being made, to overcome, discount, not buy into, etc.”

Well,

as I noted previously, at least I think so. Details matter and they ,matter on their own acccord.

The above definition is broad enough to encompass any act of foreign policy that uses any branch of enforcement as intervention is not only unrealistic as unworkable. It is not true that the same means advocacy for war or even anti-peace. But it highlights our old differences to foreign policy.

You are correct, I do believe that there are times when the use of the military is appropriate. Whether that use is alsways an act of forceful diplomacy is another matter.

I prefer to examine, the US interests, goals, ethics and capabilities against the consequence. Depite your suggestion, the reality is that the US is engaged in various humanitarian efforts using the military. They are buiding bridges, waerways, roads, etc. and no small amount done covertly so as to avoid political backlash. These efforts are not purely to benefit the attended government, but because despite or inconsistencies and hypocrisies, we as apeople have genuine care for others. Based on your assessment, such use would be an intervention impermissible. And while I sympathize with those who mistrust any governemnet use of force, that mistrust does not demands one ignore scenarios in which the use of force is appropriate.

Appropriate here being the optimum term. And here I would that one balance poor implementation, bad strategy, ineffectiveness against the need for —
In post modern views, it is quite possble to examine the the errors and the difficulties as whether for was appropriate. Yet, that is the least effective means of assessing force. In short here’s the argument made by most. I decide I need milk. But needing milk requires that I drive across town. Should I opt to attempt the endevour and anything go amiss, the concluson must be that attempting to get the milk at all was “fool hardy” or a sign that the endeavour was altogether unneccessary, afterall, I could use water. This kind of foreign policy thinking means essentially, — do nothing. And while I might agree, that sometimes, perhaps even more often than not – doing nothing is the appropriate course of action, that is not always the case.

I would not characterize my foreign policy as it relates to force projection as “anything to justify its use. I am far more prudent than that. I think coming to the aid of the S. Vienamese to determine for themselves, their political, social and economic future as appropriate. I am dubious that an invasion was the best means to arrest, capture and kill 20 suspects was strategically wise, ethical or neccessary even to the safety of the US.

Somalia, feeding starving people was an appropriate endeavour/response. Changing the mission to chasing down who or who should not be governing the country, unwise, and unnecessary.

The nexus remains what is the case? And that demands an examination of the specifics againt the US goals, ethics, and abilities and consequences.

I think the examples above rebut the idea of what people “like me” are said to believe against what is actually the case. Sometimes, the rationale for force projection isthere sometimes not so much or as you say, “not at all.”

But in either case, broad clearing house definitions designed to end all discussion, are just infeasible. If i don’t belief this, then I must be a war mongering interventionist.

No, but I do believe that when we go to war. Then we must actually go to war. But sincerely, it remains a last resort. But should that last resort be employed — unlike those who advocated Afghanistan and Iraq, I am a warmogering advocate – cultural, ethnic, and museum preservation will take a back seat to the mission and safeguarding US troops in the process.

But as I say, such is situational as opposed to some broad all encopassing condition for the use of force or for not using force.

Bothare unworkable in my view.

#18 Comment By philadelphialawyer On April 29, 2015 @ 1:13 pm

EC:

The point is that the term “Party of Peace” is a, in your words, “broad” term. No matter how good in fact or in your opinion the use of force, the case for a high “defense” budget, and so on, in general and in each individual case, if a party generally, or “broadly,” supports the use of force, etc, and does so in many instances, then it is not a “Party of Peace.” It could be, conceivably, a “Party of the Prudent Use of Force” or a “Party of the Justified Use of Force” or a “Party of the Judicious Mix of War and Peace,” but not a “Party of Peace.”

And, in terms of the Cold War, there is even more reason to generalize. Because the entire 50 year exercise was one of bellicosity (again, justified vel non). And the Republicans, on balance and on average, were more consistently on board with that “War” than the Democrats. One cannot be a Cold Warrior and also a “peacenik!” (As an aside, the Congressman is perhaps employing the term “peacenik” semi ironically, in using it to describe Ike and Reagan…as the term was coined intentionally using the Russian, and thus by implication pro Soviet, “nik,” and was also influenced by the term “beatnik.” A peacenik, when the term was coined in the early Sixties, was a left wing, anti Cold War non conformist or proto hippy, possibly suspected of being a “Fellow Traveler,” if not an outright Communist! I hardly think Ike or Reagan fit that bill!)

#19 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 29, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

“Because the entire 50 year exercise was one of bellicosity (again, justified vel non). And the Republicans, on balance and on average, were more consistently on board with that “War” than the Democrats. One cannot be a Cold Warrior and also a “peacenik!” (As an aside, the Congressman is perhaps employing the term “peacenik” semi ironically, in using it to describe Ike and Reagan…as the term was coined intentionally using the Russian, and thus by implication pro Soviet, “nik,” and was also influenced by the term “beatnik.” A peacenik, when the term was coined in the early Sixties, was a left wing, anti Cold War non conformist or proto hippy, possibly suspected of being a “Fellow Traveler,” if not an outright Communist! I hardly think Ike or Reagan fit that bill!)”

I think your understanding about the terms origins are correct. But that is not the application. The application is juxtaposed against the time and space of the cold war, where it was generally believed that the Soviet treat was to be taken seriously.

In spite of that threat, the gentleman referenced acting with prudence and deliberate restraint, when compared against the rhetoric of today — veritable “peace niks.”

The comparison is not between them and hippies or far left intellectuals, many of whom were communists, socialists and marxist – depending on the band and blend of the schools of thought one subscribed to.

I think it’s a bit self serving to your response to create such broad scales and then proclaim if they are not by this, ten they are not. The broad scales is inaccurate for that which is being weighed.

In much the same fasion, you rearrange the context of the authors position to suit your advance. There is no suggestion that peace nik in this context if the leftest from which the term is derived. In this context it applied to an ethic the author suggests is not originally born from the Republican ethic, and that new ethic is the use of force and intervention careless, and minus the restraint that once governed or dictated it.

No, Pres, Eisenhower, nor Reagan would have been called “peace niks” in their day. But then neither would Pres. Kennedy, or Pres Johnson, both responsible for getting us deep into the Vietnam conflict. So applying your descriptors broadly as you intend, makes the meaning in the context of Pres. leadership of either party meaningless.

But when juxtaposed against the this time and this space, the meaning is fairly profound. And I think is evidenced by the current Republican leadership response to Sec. James Baker’s cautious admonition about moving against Iran.

In fact that example of recent events, is spot on.

#20 Comment By philadelphialawyer On April 30, 2015 @ 12:17 am

EC:

You seem to be missing the point. The issue is not whether the Cold War should or should not have been fought. Nor whether your or my general view of foreign policy is the correct one.

The issue is whether the GOP has ever been the “Party of Peace” in recent memory. I submit that it has not been. And whether leading Republicans were “prudent” or not during the Cold War, or whether the label fits the Democratic Cold Warriors or not (it doesn’t, I agree), or whether some Republicans in the post World War II past were more prudent than most of the current GOP crop or not (I agree, some were), is not the issue.

Thus, this:

“The application is juxtaposed against the time and space of the cold war, where it was generally believed that the Soviet treat was to be taken seriously,”

is therefor totally misplaced. Again, one need not be necessarily wrong to favor war or general bellicosity or a Cold War in a particular set of circumstances, and I have no desire to argue with you whether that applies here or not. But one can’t be all of those things and also be a person committed to “peace.” It is not a question of all or nothing, so much as it is a general term being applied to a general past, and, in my view, mistakenly so. Folks who fought a cold war were not peaceniks and their party was not the party of peace. No matter how “serious” the “threat” was “taken” or even objectively was.

“No, Pres, Eisenhower, nor Reagan would have been called “peace niks” in their day.”

Which means, I submit, that they were not peaceniks! Judged by the contemporary standards of war and peace, they were seen as, if not necessarily war hawks (although Reagan actually was seen as such, but let that go), not as being particularly in favor of peace, either. Peaceniks in the Eighties were for détente, and SALT II and against Star Wars and for non interference in Central America, for leaving Grenada alone, and so on. All of which Reagan disagreed with. Peaceniks in the Fifties were against the development of the hydrogen bomb, the intervention in Guatemala, aid to the French in Indochina, and so on, all of which Ike supported.

“But then neither would Pres. Kennedy, or Pres Johnson, both responsible for getting us deep into the Vietnam conflict.”

Right, but who said that they were peaceniks either? Or that the Democratic party in general was a “Party of Peace” either? All I said, was that, in general, looking at the whole of the Cold War period, the Dems were somewhat less warlike than the Repubs. Not that they were the “peace party.”

“So applying your descriptors broadly as you intend, makes the meaning in the context of Pres. leadership of either party meaningless.”

No, it simply means that neither major party was the “Peace Party,” and none of the presidents in the fifties and sixties were peaceniks. I fail to see why that is even controversial.

“But when juxtaposed against the this time and this space, the meaning is fairly profound. And I think is evidenced by the current Republican leadership response to Sec. James Baker’s cautious admonition about moving against Iran.”

I find that to be, beside ahistorical, an instance of setting the bar for “Party of Peace” awfully low. Being less for war than the worst of the current crop of GOP neo cons is all well and good. But there is a lot of daylight between that and being a peacenik!

#21 Comment By philadelphialawyer On April 30, 2015 @ 12:20 am

Much the same with Junior.

Even accepting your dubious rationale for the Panama intervention, it was still an act of war. Again, the label here is “Party of Peace,” not “Party of Justified War.”

#22 Comment By Dennis Brislen On April 30, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

This thread has provided a number of interesting comments dissecting Duncan’s premise that the GOP was ever a “peace party”. Let readers decide for themselves though I would concede the issue to those voting nay.

Of course EC and others, including myself, have pointed out that the claim at best is marginal but not without merit within those margins.

It is best that we not allow the debate to camouflage the more important point; that GOP penchant for bellicosity need change or the party will soon be over.

To whit: Tom Cotton’s childish “tweet” performance yesterday directed at Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, takes GOP “leadership” to a new low.

“Idiocracy” the movie, brought to life by your Republican Party.