On Politics: Dissent during conflict is in USA’s DNA (opinion)
Once again Bashar al-Assad has employed unlawful poison gas against his own people and once again President Trump has whacked him on the side of the head with a precision missile strike. This time he invited Great Britain and France. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and most Republicans backed the president. However, some Democrats (Nancy Pelosi) and even a Republican or two (Rand Paul) heaped criticism on the President for “not seeking Congress’ approval” to conduct the strike.
If the Democrats fail to recapture the House this November I predict a major reason will be independent and swing voters thinking: “What a putz Pelosi is … she expects the commander in chief to submit to the congressional debate mill while he’s trying to line up allies and prevent further deaths?”
If you believe when it comes to international conflicts “politics ends at the water’s edge” you’re right in theory but it’s never been that way. During the Revolutionary War colonists were divided roughly one third loyal Tories, one third patriots and one third neutral.
During the War of 1812 the Atlantic Seaboard states nearly seceded from the union over disagreement with President Madison’s trade embargo. The Civil War needs no comment … the entire fight was over political disagreement.
The U.S. was isolationist for most of World War I until President Wilson decided we needed to keep the world safe for democracy.
We think of World War II as having been fought by the greatest generation, the victory being attributable to a great nation’s military and civilians working hard together. However, there was dissent.
If you haven’t yet seen the Oscar-winning film “Darkest Hour” you should. It is set in May, 1940 when Britain was facing capture of its whole army in France and some political leaders wanted a peace parley with Hitler. Winston Churchill had just been made prime minister and was enveloped in the maelstrom. I won’t give the plot away but it is interesting to note some simultaneous occurrences that weren’t dealt with in the movie.
England’s King Edward VIII had reigned for less than a year and abdicated the throne to marry divorcee Wallace Simpson. He and his new bride visited Hitler and roamed Germany. When World War II broke out in 1939 he joined the British Army and was sent to France. When the Brits were evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940 Edward went to Spain and negotiated a royal title for his bride. He was made governor of the Bahamas where he spent the war.
U.S. Ambassador to Britain Joseph Kennedy (JFK’s dad) also was partial to Hitler. After Dunkirk, predicted England would lose the war. He returned to the U.S. in 1940.
Charles “Lucky” Lindbergh was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic. As a US Army Air Force reserve officer he was sent to Germany in the late 1930s to examine the Luftwaffe. He admired the Nazis and was presented with a medal by Luftwaffe head Herman Goring. He returned to the U.S. where he championed isolationism (after Pearl Harbor, however, he flew 50 missions in the Pacific).
In 1940, as Roosevelt contemplated running for an unprecedented third term, a major isolationist force emerged … Republicans. As their convention loomed in Philadelphia leading candidates, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, Michigan Sen. Arthur Vandenberg and New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey were all isolationists. At the final vote interventionist Wendell Willkie won.
Of course Roosevelt won his third term defeating Willkie and turned America into an “Arsenal of Democracy” supporting Britain.
In 1950 President Harry Truman sent our Armed Forces to Korea without asking Congress because it was a “UN police action,” not a war. Lyndon Johnson sacrificed a second term as president because of violent protests of the Vietnam War.
So although we should applaud the military targeting illegal weapons, dissent is in our national DNA.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.