Forty Years Ago At the Democratic Convention: Democrats, War and Intervention

In 1972, Democrats nominated South Dakota Senator George McGovern for president. Though the war in Afghanistan is America’s “longest war,” American intervention in Vietnam predated the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident commonly used to mark the beginning of the “Vietnam War,” known as the American war in Vietnam. George McGovern opposed that war, saying at the 1972 convention in Miami Beach:

This is the time for truth, not falsehood. In a Democratic nation, no one likes to say that his inspiration came from secret arrangements by closed doors, but in the sense that is how my candidacy began. I am here as your candidate tonight in large part because during four administrations of both parties, a terrible war has been chartered behind closed doors.

I want those doors opened and I want that war closed. And I make these pledges above all others: the doors of government will be opened, and that war will be closed.

McGovern promised that if he won (he lost, spectacularly, to Richard Nixon, who felt the need to try to cheat to win that election anyway), he’d stick to principles, quoting one of America’s first modern interventionists, President Woodrow Wilson. Said McGovern:

Let us say to Americans, as Woodrow Wilson said in his first campaign of 1912, "Let me inside the government and I will tell you what is going on there."

Wilson believed, and I believe, that the destiny of America is always safer in the hands of the people then in the conference rooms of any elite.

Woodrow Wilson, yikes. The next Democrat nominated for president, in 1976, was Jimmy Carter. He served as president for four years and boasts that under his administration “we never dropped a bomb, we never fired a bullet, we never went to war”. After Iranian Islamists seized the American Embassy in Tehran, the U.S. did crash a helicopter there in a failed rescue mission though. In nearby Afghanistan, in the meantime, Jimmy Carter secretly ordered aid to the Taliban in July 1979, six months before the Soviets invaded. Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski defended the decision to support the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in a 1998 interview:

That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war…  What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Jimmy Carter may be a self-proclaimed pacifist but his foreign policy was hardly non-interventionist. Carter became a pronounced critic of U.S. foreign policy during the administration of George W. Bush. He took to the New York Times op-ed page in June to argue that “the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior,” but failed to mention fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama, responsible for those policies, by name once.

In 2008, Barack Obama campaigned on the fact he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, something some of his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls couldn’t say themselves. He called Afghanistan the “good war” in 2008 but barely references this time around. The Democratic Convention has been heavy on veterans of America’s 21st century land wars but light on policy, except for taking credit for ending the war in Iraq. And since Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night put Democrats into a 90s kind of mood, here’s a reminder that even before Obama interventionist foreign policy was a bipartisan project:

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  • SIV||

    In 1972, Democrats nominated South Dakota Senator George McGovern for president.

    ACID AMNESTY AND ABORTION

  • Ed||

    That anonymous quote actually came from Eagleton. So between that and getting dumped from the ticket he was a real winner for McGovern

  • ||

    So basically, TEAM BLUE's war boner is pretty much as hard as TEAM RED's. Got it.

    (I already knew that.)

  • AlmightyJB||

    It's a jobs program

  • T||

    So, you're kind of an expert on boners, then?

  • ||

    Kind of?!?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Did you really need to ask?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

    Well, it looks like the answer is the Taliban and some stirred-up Moslems.

    In a sane and just world, Zbigniew Brzezinski (and his daughter) would be brought out, in chains, into the middle of Kabul and beheaded to raucous cheers and applause.

    Alas, our world is neither sane nor just.

  • Cytotoxic||

    What? Why? He helped tear down the Soviet Union. He's a hero.

  • Paul.||

    The Democratic Convention has been heavy on veterans of America’s 21st century land wars but light on policy

    The only reason Democrats have become friendly with military types is because they've discovered a huge healthcare consituency of people who claim this or that vague owie post-deployment.

    They spend short-shrift on veterans with their legs blown off, but reams of time talking about "mental health issues".

    Not to say that these issues aren't real or something to be ignored, but they're too delicious for the modern liberal Healthcare State. A long term, difficult to diagnose disorder with nebulous symptoms which requires a constant and never-ending source of funding from a large government institution.

    Oooh, you've got Afghan War Syndrome! Let's spend a gajillion dollars on that!

  • Spartacus||

    Wilson believed, and I believe, that the destiny of America is always safer in the hands of the people then in the conference rooms of any elite.

    That must be the Woodrow Wilson who owned the dry goods store in Mayberry. It couldn't possibly be the prick we had as President.

  • Drake||

    Couldn't be the guy who had a secretive closed-door administration. The guy who hid his health issues to the point that his wife was effectively President.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We should've elected McGovern. Then the media would've called his administration the McGovernment, and McDonald's would've sued. Entertainment for all!

  • AlmightyJB||

    Would McBurgler be the head of the IRS?

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's the Hamburglar, you fool, and yes.

  • JeremyR||

    Even by presidential standards, Wilson was one of the biggest liars in this country's history.

    Unfortunately, I think history judges people by quotes and soundbites not actually what they did.

  • Drake||

    Hey! "He Kept Us out of War" at least until after the election.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    I said would you beleive this man has gone as far
    As tearin' Wallace stickers off the bumpers of cars
    And he voted for George McGoveren for president

    Well he's a friend of them long-haired hippie type pinko fags
    I betcha he's even got a Commie flag
    Tacked up on the wall inside of his garage

  • SIV||

    Words of the true patriot from Mt Juliet

  • Cytotoxic||

    who felt the need to try to cheat to win that election anyway

    Lies. There's no evidence Nixon ordered the break in -why would he? He was going to win anyway. He only covered it up.

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