War

War, Peace, and the Next President

More military engagement seems likely.

|

Army
U.S. Army

When President Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916, as Europeans slaughtered each other on an unprecedented scale, his slogan was, "He kept us out of war." If Barack Obama were allowed to run for re-election, he could use this slogan: "He kept us out of Syria." 

Will his successor? Given that the United States has been continuously at war for more than 14 years, you might think this topic would be a focus of the presidential campaign. But it's been largely ignored. Military involvement in foreign conflicts is no longer unusual enough to warrant much attention from the candidates or the electorate.

It wasn't always that way. In the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush expressed deep skepticism about using the American military for peacekeeping, nation building and other humanitarian missions. As his security adviser Condoleezza Rice put it, "We don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten."

Once in office, however, Bush abandoned this policy of restraint, launching ground wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Neither was finished, much less won, when he left office. 

By that time, Americans appeared weary of the toll. Obama was elected in 2008 in part because he was among the few politicians who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

He stuck to the agreement reached by Bush for the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011. But he ordered a major escalation in Afghanistan, hoping for a success that would facilitate an early exit. His hopes were not realized. 

Nearly 10,000 U.S. troops are still there, with no exit date on the calendar. The top American commander in Afghanistan said in December, "My intent would be to keep as much as I could for as long as I could." 

That war, of course, is rarely even acknowledged on the campaign trail. It has been pushed aside by the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Some 3,700 U.S. troops are in Iraq, assisting the Iraqi army in fighting the new enemy. Obama has been waging an aerial campaign against the group since August 2014, but he has rejected sending additional ground forces. 

Whatever he does, the problem will be awaiting the next president. If history and campaign rhetoric are any guide, the chances are high that we will wade deeper into the conflict. 

Some of the Republican candidates have endorsed sending more American troops to fight the Islamic State. John Kasich and Jeb Bush both favor that course. Marco Rubio said if he is elected, "our troop strength in that effort will be determined by what's necessary to achieve victory, not some artificial constraint or an artificial number that I make up in my own head." 

Though Donald Trump itches to "bomb the s— out of" the Islamic State, he has indicated he would put more troops into Iraq. Ted Cruz is also partial to assault from the air, pledging to "carpet-bomb them into oblivion." But he says he would dispatch American combat units "if need be." 

Hillary Clinton has been more cautious, without ruling out that option. In November she said the U.S. "should immediately deploy the special operations force President Obama has already authorized, and be prepared to deploy more as more Syrians get into the fight." 

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate with a strong aversion to expanding the war. He says the war against the Islamic State should be "led and sustained by nations in the region that have the means to protect themselves." 

It's not impossible that he will take oath of office 11 months from now. Barring that, though, our military role in Syria and Iraq will probably expand. 

Clinton is not exactly a safe bet to practice restraint, given her long history of erring on the side of aggressive action. The fierce martial rhetoric of the Republicans, meanwhile, will make it hard for any of them to resist demands for escalation. 

When you have promised to "destroy ISIS," as they do, you will ultimately be judged on whether you achieve that goal—or, at the very least, do everything possible to achieve it. Opening the door to greater involvement is easier than closing it. 

Judging from the campaign so far, Americans have come to expect more war no matter what. The next president is not likely to surprise them. 

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

54 responses to “War, Peace, and the Next President

  1. Here’s what you’ve overlooked this time – By the scale of our nation, the wars we are involved in at the moment are small, and there is no draft, so the odds of the war rounding on any large number of voters is small.

    The economy, on the other hand, and the general abuse of the electorate by the status quo are far larger and more visible issues which get the voters riled up with or without a candidate.

    When you’re talking about a meatgrinder like verdun, peace sells. When you’re talking about a distributed theater with fewer american casualties per day than the average major metropolitan area, the bulk of the voters aren’t going to rate the war as a major factor in their voting decisions.

    1. And with a drone and manned air war like now it’s even less of a concern.

      1. In our modern life various Today TechSpot and many technologies we are used, which helps to improve our life and easy going. Use of technology has a kind of the gift, which we can see in our society as well as our life also …
        http://todaytechspot.com/

  2. When you have promised to “destroy ISIS,” as they do, you will ultimately be judged on whether you achieve that goal

    Not until false campaign promises are treated like perjury.

    1. ISIS is fighting a two front war, with Syrian forces poised to consolidate wins against the other rebels. Its also finally running out of money after Obama decided it was okay to bomb oil tanker trucks.

      ISIS may be done in Syria by 2017. Expect a ton of roaches to scuttle out to every which place, but the videos of beheadings – now already desensitized – will stop.

      Maybe Libya will take over as ISIS HQ. The US has less at stake there. (No promises)

  3. Steve, you silly man, the GOP hasn’t selected their candidate yet. Once they pick their man, you can be sure the media is going to be all over their terrifyingly hawkish (and expensive) foreign policy and then you’ll see the anti-war consensus emerge.

    1. And Hillary would be the calm,thoughtful states women with all the ‘experience’.

      1. But of course!

      2. What difference at this point does it make?
        I still can’t believe nobody will use that in a commercial.

        1. I expect to see independent ads hammering on that. Maybe just on the ‘net, but that counts for more every cycle.

    2. And,Bernie only wants to declare war on the people in THIS country.

      1. Hillary wants to declare war on everyone.

  4. Interesting. I think Putin could run on “I kept the US out of Syria” and be more truthful.

    1. That is why I am voting for Putin for President!

      He kept us out of war in Syria and he sells us cheap oil!!!!!

  5. If Barack Obama were allowed to run for re-election, he could use this slogan: “He kept us out of Syria.”

    Only if you consider air strikes, special forces deployment, and supplying weapons to the next generation of America-hating terrorists “keeping out”.

    1. And turning Libya into a failed state was a dick move.

    2. I am surprised this isn’t raised more often. Bush was a disaster in the mideast but Obama has managed to fuck things up to a level even GW could only dream of.

      1. Look at the ages of the dictators who’s deaths have caused problems.

        The middle east was set for violence and chaos regardless of who was president in the USA.

        Assad Sr. dies, his son faces violent uprisings. Saddam would have been 79 this year, and his kids weren’t as good as Assad’s. Gadaffi was ancient. Mubarak was ancient, too.

        These guys all covered up brewing civil unrest.

  6. Once in office, however, Bush abandoned this policy of restraint, launching ground wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Neither was finished, much less won, when he left office.

    Well, in GWB’s defense, 9/11 happened. He didn’t just “abandoned this policy of restraint”. In no way do I support Bush’s invasion of Iraq, but retaliation against the Mullahs of Afghanistan was certainly in order. His policy of nation building there was a mistake, but destroying the government that had aided and abetted Al Qaeda was not.

    1. True,and the Afgan war should have ended in less that a year. Make your point and tell them you’ll be back if you fuck with us again.We’ll be watching closely.

      1. I’ve never understood why people somehow think this would have been some sort of effective political/military strategy. Isn’t that effectively what Obama did in Libya?

        Let’s say the US just bombed the shit out of Afghanistan and left. We’d have had one of two results:

        1) Taliban remains in power. Maybe they are cowed by our response, or- like every other way in the middle east or asia- maybe it becomes a recruiting move for radical Islamists who dislike US bombs falling on their religion.

        2) Taliban is knocked out of power and now a violent struggle emerges as everyone tries to take advantage of the power vacuum.

        Seriously, we have recent examples of both those scenarios. We left Saddam in power after Gulf War 1, and he was a nuisance to the entire world that we had to spend resources containing for a decade while also serving as a pretext for recruiting in al Qaeda. We deposed Gaddafi and Libya became a giant clusterfuck.

        I’m not saying Nation Building a bunch of terrorists into Connecticut is the way to go- as it obviously had its own problems. But there is no evidence that the middle east would have gotten its shit together and left us alone had we just gone in, tossed tables about, and left.

        1. I’m not saying Nation Building a bunch of terrorists into Connecticut is the way to go- as it obviously had its own problems. But there is no evidence that the middle east would have gotten its shit together and left us alone had we just gone in, tossed tables about, and left.

          I don’t disagree with your assessment. However, we had no obligation to fix Afghanistan’s social and political problems, but we did need to punish the Taliban for their complicity in the 9/11 attack, as well as destroy Al Qaeda.

          We just can’t solve the ME’s problems. But we do have to contain most of them or give up on the trade that transits that part of the world. Too many people think we can merely ignore the ME and SA but we can’t. Stability in the these regions has historically coincided with world wealth and peace while instability has brought poverty. Global prosperity requires global peace. If we can’t have peace, we have to choose between containing the unrest or giving up on prosperity.

          I’m not making any value judgements here, only an observation.

          1. Yeah I think the best assessment is “Fucked up beyond all Reformation”. The fact of the matter is that the region is filled with enough extremists who don’t care about building anything like a peaceful operating state. Even “Moderates” in the region are really just people who believe they can get more out of graft and chrony power plays than people interested in creating a functioning society.

            I question whether or not we could have killed al Qaeda in anything but a long occupation. As in Vietnam, the bad guys hide in villages and holes in the ground. Rooting them out takes a long campaign- and then what do you do while you are there? Live in tents and hope that the villagers aren’t willingly giving people support?

            This is the situation where we find ourselves. I don’t agree with Anti-War folk that the US caused all this, but absent a massive occupation of millions of Americans a la post WWII, and far more American casualties, we will never passify these regions. I’m not even convinced we can do smash and withdrawal in those regions. It is truly fucked up.

            1. It is truly fucked up.

              This is it. I hate that we’re becoming increasingly like latter day Rome with constant war against insurgencies, but it is what it is. Maybe we’re doomed to destroy ourselves internally as we try to avoid being destroyed externally.

        2. Isn’t that effectively what Obama did in Libya?

          The difference being that Libya had renounced its nuclear program and had not been harboring and supporting a group which actually did attack the US.

          1. Yes, and what lesson did we teach all these tinpots? Get a nuke and we won’t fuck. I still say that decades from now the true disaster of Barry’s foreign policy will be apallingly aparent to anyone not named Chapman or Richman.

            1. Especially considering that Obama is working very hard to give the Norks pretty much the same deal as he gave Iran.

    2. Neither the Iraq war nor Afghanistan war were justified. Instead of stealing money from people to hunt down crazies in third world hellholes for killing a few people, maybe we should focus on more important things. But if rich people want to personally fund such wars, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

      1. So you’d rather Al Qaeda had succeeded in attacking New York City with impunity, consequently getting a rush of cash from their benefactors, and then continuing their terror attacks unabated?

        You’re never-say-no-to-bullies approach is breathtakingly misguided.

  7. When President Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916, as Europeans slaughtered each other on an unprecedented scale, his slogan was, “He kept us out of war.”

    Inauguration – Jan 1917

    Asked for Declaration of War – April 1917

    Demanded Sedition Act, conscription and set up control of the economy through the War Industries Board and ran the choo choos and agriculture in a way General; “War Socialism” Ludendorff would have admired.

    1. He also escalated the war on the free market, developed a large body of academic work to undermine the great work of our founders, and spawned the FDR administration. Wilson might just as well have declared war on liberty.

  8. Hey, Obama already did campaign on getting us out of Iraq, and he did it. And look how well everything turned out!

  9. Hillary Clinton has been more cautious

    Bullshit. The Princess of Libya said, quoting directly, “Yes, bomb.”

    1. Hillary Clinton is a Wilsonian. Why anyone thinks a committed Wilsonian would be cautious about going to war is beyond me.

      1. Hillary Clinton is a Wilsonian

        In more ways than just this. She’d gleefully bring back the Sedition Act of 1918.

  10. Yeah because all it takes to have peace is ask for it.

    1. You just have to give it a chance. Would John Lennon lie to us?

  11. I really like Reason and most of its staff but you write an article on Bernie Sanders wanting peace. Why don’t you start doing some good and use your considerable influence to try to get the American people to break the strangle hold the Democrats and Republicans have on this nation. Our slave masters won’t ever vote in term limits so why not help me get the American people to do it for them. Start convincing people to vote a straight libertarian ticket for just 2016 and scare the hell out of political establishment. People aren’t going to listen to me but do you think that my idea will be any worse than Hillary or Trump. Use your ink to help save this country instead of talking about who is the least of two evil.

  12. ” Americans have come to expect more war no matter what. The next president is not likely to surprise them. ”

    As Randolph Bourne observed: “War is the health of the state”, meaning, if you have governments in the first place, you _must_ have wars- it is how all governments, throughout history, have survived [or tried to].

    Dream On?:

    “In your dream, the Pentagon is not a scam,
    In your dream, 9/11 was not a scam,
    In your dream, the war on terror is not a scam
    In your dream, al -qaeda was not a scam,
    In your dream I.S.I.S. is not a scam”

    Lyrics excerpted from: “Dreams [Anarchist Blues]”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMXtoU…..e=youtu.be

    Regards, onebornfree.

  13. Google pay 66 $ per hour my last pay check was $45123 w0rking 96 hours a week 0nline. My younger brother friend has been averaging 8 k for months now and he w0rks about 18 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do.. check this link,,,,,

    ==== http://www.workprospects.com

    1. I’ll vote for anyone who’ll declare war on spambots

  14. Who kept is out of Syria when the current administration was champing it the bit to bomb the regime? Obama kept us out of Syria, my ass, unless air war doesn’t count. Just a hint Chapman, you lying fucking hack piece of shit, it does.

  15. my friend’s sister-in-law makes $85 hourly on the internet . She has been without a job for ten months but last month her paycheck was $21785 just working on the internet for a few hours. look at this web-site….
    Clik this link in Your Browser

    ??????????? http://www.Wage90.com

  16. Is it libertarian to leave and let others clean up our mess or do it ourselves?

  17. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Click This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.Paybucket40.com

  18. just before I looked at the bank draft 4 $4970 , I accept …that…my father in law was like they say actualie making money in there spare time from their laptop. . there great aunt had bean doing this for less than thirteen months and at present paid the mortgage on there condo and purchased a brand new Volkswagen Golf GTI . check out here….

    Clik this link in Your Browser
    ????? http://www.Wage90.com

  19. Any village, unless it’s a fairy-tale, Disney-pretty, always-peaceful kind of village, needs a policeman. I don’t think anybody could argue that this little global world of ours makes a very peaceful village.

    USA is that policeman. You may like it or hate it, but to deny it you’d have to come up with an alternative. The UN? With Russia and China at the same table, waving their veto power? You got to be kidding, right?

    Just like being a human policeman, it comes with perks as well as price and sometimes sacrifice. Just like the human policeman, some people love you, but more people hate you, even though they wouldn’t be able to survive but for you. Just like the human policeman, there are often more than one option in each situation – often, but not always. Just like the human policeman, the less people know about the issue and the less training and direct experience they have, the more they will advise you on how to do your job.

  20. Start making more money weekly.This is a valuable part time work for everyone.The best part work from comfort of your house and get paid from ?100-?2k each week.Start today and have your first cash at the end of this week. For more details////

    http://www.workprospects.com

  21. just before I looked at the bank draft 4 $4970 , I accept …that…my father in law was like they say actualie making money in there spare time from their laptop. . there great aunt had bean doing this for less than thirteen months and at present paid the mortgage on there condo and purchased a brand new Volkswagen Golf GTI . check out here….

    Clik this link in Your Browser
    ????? http://www.Wage90.com

  22. “Once in office, however, Bush abandoned this policy of restraint, launching ground wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.”

    The grounds for Operation Enduring Freedom are understood. However, the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom are widely misunderstood. Once Saddam established his regime would not comply volitionally with the Gulf War ceasefire, the war that resumed on March 19, 2003 and ended on May 1, 2003 was only the preliminary step for the primary mission to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (Public Law 105-235), which only began in earnest with the start of the post-war on May 1, 2003.

    Explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Note especially the answers to “Was Operation Iraqi Freedom about WMD or democracy?” and “Was the invasion of Iraq perceived to be a nation-building effort?”.

  23. Friend-of-war-criminals Hillary Clinton is a neoliberal hawk. She is itching to get on the world stage. Domestic issues do not interest her, except as a ploy to get elected.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/int….._page=true

  24. Friend-of-war-criminals Hillary Clinton is a neoliberal hawk. She is itching to get on the world stage. Domestic issues do not interest her, except as a ploy to get elected.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/int….._page=true

  25. I’ve made $76,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student.I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money.It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..

    ??????? http://www.workpost30.com

  26. The Fit Finally programs and guides are based on over 600 research studies conducted by some of the biggest Universities and research teams of the world.
    We take pride in the fact that our passion for better health and fitness is 100% backed by science and helps 100’s (if not 1000’s) of people every year since 2010. Just try it:

    http://03615gbnxbyy5y42r9r8o80…..kbank.net/

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.