There is a popular cliche in American politics that holds the Democratic politicians as more peaceful than the Republicans. Supporters would frame it as Democrats being diplomatic versus the Republican warhawks. Opponents would frame it as Democrats being “weak on defense” versus the Republicans who are “strong on national security.” But both supporters and opponents of the Democrats agree that they are more peace-loving than the Republicans. I mean, Barack Obama and Al Gore both have Nobel Peace Prizes!
Yet as with most of the conventional wisdom concerning U.S. politics, this bit of “everyone knows” is completely wrong. Here are some inconvenient truths to fit into the standard narrative:
==> Woodrow Wilson led the U.S. into World War I. His actions before U.S. entry were so belligerent that his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, actually resigned in protest. (Bryan wanted the U.S. to stay neutral, and thought Wilson’s policies were clearly pro-British and anti-German.)
==> Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted policies that were hardly neutral and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, led the U.S. into World II. FDR was in office to oversee the Manhattan Project. After FDR’s death he was succeeded by Harry Truman, the only political ruler in human history to order atomic weapons to be used against civilians.
==> John F. Kennedy in 1961 told a NYT reporter, “Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place.” While (Republican) Dwight Eisenhower had sent 900 advisors to South Vietnam, by the time of his assassination in November 1963 Kennedy had sent 16,000 military personnel.
==> Under Lyndon B. Johnson, U.S. forces in Vietnam went from 16,000 in late 1963 to 550,000 by early 1968. LBJ also approved “carpet bombing” campaigns. For example, Operation Rolling Thunder from 1965-68 involved more than 1 million sorties and 750,000 tons of bombs.
==> In August 1998 Bill Clinton launched dozens of cruise missiles at targets in the Sudan and Afghanistan, a move described in the NYT this way: “With about 75 missiles timed to explode simultaneously in unsuspecting countries on two continents, the operation was the most formidable U.S. military assault ever against a private sponsor of terrorism.” Cynics claimed the timing and boldness of the operation was to take the Monica Lewinsky scandal off the front pages. (Clinton’s grand jury testimony and nationally televised admission of guilt had occurred earlier in the month.)
==> And of course, President Obama has only escalated the “global war on terror” that mushroomed under his predecessor. His actions have been so opposite to what his supporters had hoped that we’ve got this yard sign:
So in conclusion, no, the Democrats are not the party of peace.