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No U.S. President Can Be a Dove

Via Andrew Sullivan, Conor Friedersdorf laments some mislabeling:

In summary, President Obama escalated a major war and sent tens of thousands more troops to fight it, even as he joined in regime change in a different country, ordered drone strikes in at least three others, and sent commandos into Pakistan, a list of aggressive actions that isn't even exhaustive.

It's perverse for that record to be rendered, in America's newspaper of record, as Obama "straddling the precarious line between hawk and dove." In fact, he is a hawk. Republicans are misrepresenting his record and positions and some progressives are doing the same, because they are rightly embarrassed by the gulf between his campaign promises and the record he's amassed.

I think what Friedersdorf has identified is the bankruptcy of the hawk/dove label. In reality, no post-Cold War U.S. president could accurately be called a "dove." 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."

What's always interested me is why Republicans have chosen to ignore the tradition of Eisenhower and Nixon (presidents who stepped in to end the failed or stalemated wars initiated by their Democratic predecessors) and instead run as the amplified id of America's quasi-imperial foreign policy. Rather than step back and question some basic premises of America's global footprint or set of "interests" in need of a global nanny state funded by U.S. taxpayers, most Republicans run on a platform of global activism and big government.