The Anti-War Movement and The United States..Peaceniks vs War Mongers. Who's right?
Are Americans War Mongers?
In 1783 the United States was recognized, by the world community, as a free and independent nation. After nearly 7 years of conflict with the British Empire victory and freedom had finally been won.. Little did the world, of that time, realized what had truly been achieved and how much impact this new nation would have on all the nations of the world. There had never been, at anytime in history, a nation quite like the United States of America. While the founding fathers looked to ancient Greece and the Roman Empire for some of their inspiration the United States was to be more that either of these historical examples. The example of the democracy of early Greece helped to lay the foundations of the American system while the form of the Roman republic helped shaped its government minus the emperor of course..
While the ancient examples were helpful neither of these two civilizations and world powers could have understood this ,new, world changing idea that was to be the United States of America.. They could not conceive that a nation could be founded upon the principles of Liberty, Justice and Freedom for all. With a system of government where the leaders served at the pleasure of the people. Where government change was regular and peaceful. To ancient Rome and Greece this concept would not have been understood or accepted. While Greece had the beginnings of this form of democracy it was founding of the United States that fulfilled the dreams and aspirations of oppressed people everywhere.
America has always been under the world's scrutiny even as a young upstart. Many of the world"s nations are thousands of years older than the US. Gaining the respect of the world, in the early years, was not an easy task for this new country. The United States became a wealthy nation very quickly and along with wealth came the perceived notion of power. The way to project power, whether politically or otherwise, requires a strong military. By the turn of the 19th century the US had begun to build a professional military force both for protection and projection.
Throughout it's history the US has been accused of being not only a bully but also of waging war for personal and territorial gain. Often accusations such as bloodthirsty and murderous have been leveled at the nation. .. Most of the accusations are spread throughout it history with the 20th century being the most infamous for the US in terms of criticism. But are these accusations true? Has America been an empire builder and is it accurate that the US has, willingly,shed innocent blood and therefore deserves the label of a war mongering nation. Excluding the Civil War the United States has fought in eleven major conflicts in it's history. Let's take a brief look
1775-1783----Revolutionary War...defeated England...Won it's Independence.
1812-1815 ---War of 1812 failed to expand the northern or western territory.in a bloody conflict against England, Canada, and various Indian tribes. Truce declared in 1815. There were a great many Americans who were opposed to this war. For some the war was about gaining territory. That is what the Canadians thought then and still do. From the American position it was really a war about respect. Since the defeat of the British in the Revolutionary War the Americans felt and believed because the British still occupied much of North America they, the Americans, were not getting the respect they felt they deserved and for them the solution was to push the British out from all of North America. They failed and. It was to be many more years before the British would leave. Some would argue that the War of 1812 extended the British military and political presence, in North America, by at least an additional 50 years. The Americans failure to expel the British from North America had many long term consequence..........good and bad.
1846-1848 The Mexican War Beginning with the loss of Texas during the rebellion of 1835 The Mexican government determined they could not stand by and lose more territory to the US. While the Mexicans were victorious during the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 it was to be their swan song as a military nation. From 1846-1848 The United States gained California, New Mexico , All of Texas and much of the South West. The Americans also drew the border at the Rio Grande river.At one point during the war American troops occupied Mexico City. In all the US added 500,000 sq miles to its territory. The defeat of Mexico proved to be very advantageous for the US. While winning the war solidified the supremacy of the United States in North America it also meant that the British would now be unable to establish a foot hold on any of the former Mexican territory. While the evidence that the British were even interested ,in taking advantage of the situation, is circumstancial at best the Americans were always a bit paranoid, of the British intentions, especially in the early years.
1898--The Spanish/American War While this was a very short war beginning in April and ending in August this is , perhaps, the only war that could be call an expansionist war for the United States. The US was annoyed with the influence Spain held over areas that the US saw as rightfully being in their sphere of influence. The war began with the sinking of the naval ship The Maine in the harbor of Havana Cuba and when it ended the Spanish had lost much. They had been chased from North America not only losing Cuba and Puerto Rico to the United States but they also lost control of The Philippines and the island nation of Guam. The US had increased its territory during this war and their influence, world wide, grew dramatically.
1917-1918 World War I Fighting alongside her allies Britain[for the first time], Canada and France the United States took her rightful place at the head of the world's nations. This would be the recognized time where The United States supplanted the British which had reigned over a world wide empire for close to 300 years. The fight against Germany was long and costly in lives and material. The US came out the war in better shape militarily, financially and politically that any other nation and with Woodrow Wilson leading the charge formed the League of Nations which was the forerunner of the United Nations. The United States for the first time became, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, a world leader
1941-1945 World War II The United States was attacked on Dec 7, 1941 and entered the war against Japan the next day. A few days later Germany also declared war on the US and for the first time in it's history the nation was fighting the equivalent of two world wars on two fronts at the same time.. Only Germany attempted to duplicate the American feat with disastrous results. This was the war that solidified America as the World's Super Power although after the war she would be joined by Russia and a whole new conflict was born. The new reality was a political and military fight that would fundamentally change the United States and the rest of the World for the next 50 years.
1946-1991---The Cold War This war described the period after WWII Where the two main powers on the Earth, The USA with her NATO allies and the USSR and her WARSAW PACT allies faced each other in a period that was a to become a continuing state of potential conflict and military tension that held the world in it's grip for nearly 45 years. While the two main opponents never actually came into direct armed conflict they did, through their proxy's fight many wars and actions. This was also the time when a change in American foreign policy was applied and a new term was coined. The Policy of Containment. The US, as the leaders of the free world would actively seek to deter the forces of Communism wherever it arose in the world and would oppose the take over of free nations and people. They would not have to wait long to test this policy.
1950-1953 The Korean War This Korean war was mostly fought under the leadership of President Harry S.Truman. He was the first President to invoke the policy of "containment" and with the United Nations support entered the conflict in 1950 to push the Communist North back across the 38th parallel which was the, recognized, border between the two nations.The war was on the verge of being won when the Communist Chinese, North Korea's only ally, sent one million soldiers across the Yalu river pouring into North Korea and very nearly over ran the Americans and her allies. It was at this point that the use of nuclear weapons was contemplated. Fortunately that idea was quickly rejected by President Truman and the war was eventually fought to the stand still it remains today. The fact is that no peace treaty or truce has ever been negotiated or signed. The only thing, that has remained in place for the last 56 years is a cease fire agreement which the North Koreans recently pulled out of this year. This war is still not officially over.
1950-1975 The Vietnam War Most Americans are not aware of just how long this conflict went on. It was not an American war in the beginning. It was actually the French Army who fought in the early years. The French were defeated, by the communists, and left indo-china for good in 1956. The policy of Containment, like in Korea, was also applied to Vietnam. American military advisers entered Vietnam at the request of the South in 1950, during the Korean war, on the orders of President Truman. President Eisenhower continued this policy through 1959 building up the adviser force to 900.
By 1961 President John F Kennedy, in his words, "drew the line in the sand". He determined that the communist must be stopped here. He was still dealing with the Bay of Pigs fiasco, in Cuba, and the building of the Berlin Wall by the Russians. President Kennedy did not believe that the forces of freedom could endure a third hit, like the loss of Vietnam, to the communists. By the middle of 1963 President Kennedy had increased the "military advisers force" from Eisenhower's 900 to a staggering 16,000. Kennedy was committed to Vietnam. He did however believe that the Vietnamese must fight and win the battle themselves if possible.
This war has been called President Johnson's war but that is not completely accurate. There were six Presidents involved with Vietnam from Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Gerald Ford. President Johnson did escalate the war in order to try and end it. Not only did Johnson fail miserably he was also surrounded with the most inept political and military advisers any president has, quite possibily, ever had to deal with. The soldiers ,fighting in Vietnam, were abandoned and betrayed by their leadership and throughout most of the heavy conflict were controlled by political appointees who pocessed no military experience.The disaster that was the Vietnam War ended in 1975 with the North Vietnamese Communists victorious. Many, sadly, remember the tv news footage of helicopters ferrying the last of the Americans from their Embassy in Saigon.. It was not our finest hour. The military received the blame and for years the men who served were treated shamefully by American society. Eventually the full story and the truth about the war came out and the blame was placed where it belonged on the Political leadership of the day. Their incredibly dishonest and failing leadership lost the war. The soldiers who served have been recognized with honor, however belatedly and have taken their rightful place as the hero's and defenders of our nation that they are.
1990-1991 The Gulf War
2001 The Afghanistan War
2003 The Iraq War
I have left out the details of the ongoing wars along with the many minor conflicts the country has fought over it's history. I will deal with those in future hubs. The question posed "Are Americans War Mongers" was a valid one and the answer, in my opinion, is a resounding no!.
America has never made any attempt to build a empire like the most powerful nations in history had done. Her beginnings came from rejecting empire building and embracing freedom. In the wars she has fought only one could be described a war to gain influence and territory. The Spanish/American War of 1898. While the Mexican War of 1848 bought the US huge territorial gains the purpose of that conflict was much more complicated. One of the little known facts to come out of that war was after the war ended there were 1600 Mexican families living in California and nearly 7000 families in New Mexico. Of these over 6000 Mexican families choose to stay in the US and not return to Mexico.
The wars and conflicts America has fought have almost exclusively been on ideological grounds ,of freedom and liberty, not for gain. We stand for freedom. We were attacked by the British, The Spanish, The Germans [through their submarine forces], The Japanese and the Islamic Radicals who were based, at the time, in Afghanistan. In each and every case the attacking country or force was soundly defeated. Have we made mistakes....of course we have---many of them. Are we still doing so....almost certainly.
I , personally disagree with WWII U.S. General George S Patton"s statement "True Americans love to fight". I believe America , by it's very nature, does not like to fight and does not seek armed conflict. Indeed throughout most of our history we have often times exhibited isolationist tendencies.The Anti War Movement was not an invention the 60's peace marches. History teaches that this sentiment has always existed in America.. From the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War there has never been a time where anti war sentiments did not proclaim itself through our fellow citizens.We are, by nature , a peaceful nation and, if we had our choice, we would only wish to live in peace and freedom. Unfortunately their are forces in the world that do not long for peace and freedom. They seek power and conflict and would like nothing more that the destruction of America. We are not War Mongers and we will try to avoid conflict, until we are given no other choice.....then we war... and to our enemies the warnings are clear,,,,,we do it better that anyone else!
President Reagan said "There is no substitute for Victory!" We all know that but perhaps President Kennedy put it best when he said in his inaugural address. "We will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty".
The United States has always been ,and probably will always be, a target for forces who wish to destroy our way life,our liberty and our freedom.It is not because of what we do it is because of what and who we are and what we stand for. Don't let them tear your country down because in this world, so full of evil, if America and all she represents is not worth fighting for.......... what is?