Greg Scoblete explains why there are no “dove” Presidents:
Every Democratic president since Roosevelt has either initiated large wars, escalated those wars, ramped up military spending or used military force in some capacity. Any contemporary president inherits a foreign policy apparatus that is weighted heavily toward the military (with its global footprint and immense budget) and a bureaucracy that perceives itself as stewards of the global order. Throw in the war on terror, with its open-ended mandate for interventionism, and it’s silly on its face to call any president a “dove.”
True enough. Then again, apart from the example Conor dissected the other day I can’t think of any non-polemical examples of Obama’s being described as a “dove” of any kind. It is silly on its face, as Scoblete says, which is why no one without a partisan ax to grind ever does it. It’s a label that very few politicians would apply to themselves, and even regular skeptics of military intervention don’t want to be tagged with this label. War opponents are usually obliged to make the qualification that their opposition is to a particular conflict, and not to our government’s over-reliance on using military force abroad as such. For these and other reasons, there are hardly ever genuinely “dovish” candidates seeking the office of President, and those that can plausibly be described that way are immediately declared hopeless “fringe” candidates.
While “doves” were right about at least two of the biggest foreign policy blunders of the last half century (Vietnam and the invasion of Iraq), and despite the reality that the U.S. is far more secure than it has been in decades, it is much more difficult today for national politicians to adopt a “dovish” stance on foreign wars than it was in the 1960s or 1970s. Even though the burden of proof ought to be on the advocates of military action, in practice the reverse is true. There has rarely been a debate over military intervention in the last twenty years that the skeptics and opponents won, there is rarely any accountability for politicians that support wars that go awry, but the political costs for skeptics are potentially quite high. Ambitious politicians see all this, and they position themselves accordingly.