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Hawks And Doves

Pres Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy after Failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, Camp David, Apr 22, 1961

For years we have talked about hawks and doves. The term war hawk goes back to 1798, when Thomas Jefferson applied it to Federalists who wanted to go to war with France. In the election of 1810 the war hawks won and elected Henry Clay as Speaker of the House (the only freshman member of Congress in history to become speaker). In 1812 they got their war which was with Great Britain.

The dove as a symbol of peace goes all the way back to the dove bringing the olive branch to Noah as a sign the waters had receded. During coverage of the Cuban missile crisis commentators began to describe the hawk wing which wanted to invade Cuba and the dove wing which wanted to find a diplomatic solution. During the Vietnam War the concept of hawks and doves became wide spread.

We have gained a lot of experience with war and violence in the Middle East since then. Indeed, we have been in a struggle in the Middle East for at least 34 years (going back to the Iranian hostage takeover). We lost 241 service members in Beirut in 1983 (almost certainly masterminded by an Iranian). We liberated Kuwait from Saddam in 1991 We tried to police Saddam through the United Nations and coalition efforts for 12 years before the second Iraq war.

In 1996 we lost 19 airmen when the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were attacked. In 1998 we had embassies bombed in Kenya and Tanzania by al-Qaeda. In 2000 in Yemen terrorists attacked the USS Cole and we lost 17 sailors. In 2001, Islamist radicals attacked the American homeland with four coordinated aircraft hijackings, destroying the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon and killing nearly 3,000 people.

The result of the longest continuous war in American history is a mess. Libya is a mess. Egypt is unstable. Iraq is violent. Afghanistan is unstable. Pakistan has large pockets of violence. Iran is working to build a nuclear weapon. Yemen is a mess. Mali is a mess. Radical Islamists are gaining recruits and spreading around the world. It is with this backdrop that 85 percent of the American people in one recent poll said they were opposed to the United States getting involved in the Syrian civil war.

Ask The Hawks

Are we going to war soon? I hope not. Because I’m the one who will get shot at.

Other than dying, what sucks about war? Being cold, wet and hungry.

France vs. England: Who’d win? England, hands down. All they’d have to do is show up and France would surrender.

Are there any sleeper countries that are more of a threat than we realize? Pakistan and India surprised everyone—even the CIA. Probably the smallest country that is a real threat right now is North Korea.

From a practical standpoint, should you take a prisoner or kill him? From a practical standpoint, we don’t joke about that. You don’t kill prisoners—it’s a war crime. If one did, one would have to worry about our own government more than the enemy.

Does throwing yourself on a grenade really help anyone? Aside from the enemy? Yeah, the guys who didn’t fall on the grenade. It does work.

Can I keep what I find on the battlefield? Depends on what it is. There are actually rules for that. If you go after certain things, like civilians’ jewelry, it’s looting. If you take a prisoner’s backpack as a souvenir, so long as it’s not necessary for his survival, it’s OK.

Can you score free drinks during wartime? Depends on who and where you’re fighting. Go to war with a country that produces high quantities of quality wine, like France, and you won’t even have to fight over it.

How long does the mail take to reach the front? It reaches the front? Actually, in places like Kosovo and Bosnia, most everyone has access to e-mail.

I have trouble peeing in public—can this get me out of the service? Technically, you’re not out in public. So get over it, silky boy!

How do you get in the groove of not killing people when you return home? You don’t. You just go back to your video games.

What happens if they find out I shot myself in the foot to get discharged? They give you what you want: A discharge (dishonorable) and a free trip home (to Fort Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary).

Ever seen or heard of a survey about which uniform gets the most girls? No, but the opinion seems to favor the Marines, though few people on the outside seem to have ever noticed the U.S. Army blues-sharp!

Why does everyone say that the Air Force is full of pussies? Because military personnel are trained to be honest.

War spelled backward is raw. Coincidence? No. We planned it that way.

John is an active-duty U.S. Army artilleryman who thinks the less you know about him, the better.

Any cool new weapons on the horizon? The National Missile Defense system (NMD) is currently under development by the Army and Navy. The Air Force is developing an airborne laser capable of shooting down in-flight cruise missiles anywhere in the world. Initial testing is scheduled for 2003. The Army has recently tested a computerized battlefield helmet. This helmet gives the soldier a heads-up display, allowing him or her to see the location of everyone on the battlefield, communicate with any of them instantly, see the enemy at night and at long distances and even shoot around corners. The initial tests went very well.

Are there any sleeper countries that are more of a threat than the average citizen realizes? It is still possible that North Korea will attempt to solve its serious economic problems by invading South Korea. The next most serious hot spot is probably China-Taiwan. I strongly expect China to invade Taiwan within the next six years. For the average citizen, the biggest threat is terrorism from any number of countries using biological or nuclear weapons.

Who would win: France or England? Neither. Both have enough nuclear weapons to blow each other off the map.

Why do soldiers get up so early? In boot camp, soldiers get up early because it’s a 12- to 14-hour training day. Also, such a routine helps to instill discipline. After boot camp, a soldier may or may not get up early. Just like a civilian job, it depends on what shift he or she is assigned to work.

Is it really possible to avoid combat by dressing as a woman? Such a person would be referred for psychiatric evaluation. If the psychiatrists diagnosed him with a personality disorder or adjustment disorder, the individual would most likely be discharged. If no such disorder were diagnosed, the individual would be punished in accordance with how a court-martial ruled under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Rod Powers served for 23 years in the U.S. Air Force, 11 as a first sergeant. Now a military researcher and journalist.

Why is it so important to get up early and make your bed? You’ve got to have discipline so that you can get in there and face a machine gun. You’ve got to rise above that and look at the aim of the military. Is the cause worth the horseshit that goes with it? The big picture is, “Is this war worth dying for?” That’s what really keeps you going. Oh, Lord, I had five years of it. The crud that goes on, I don’t think you can ever change it. You can’t let the little things affect you. You can’t let the tail wag the dog.

From a practical standpoint, should you hold a POW hostage or kill him? We took great pride in that we treated prisoners really well. But the Germans didn’t. The Germans killed a hell of a lot of our guys that they shouldn’t have. We’ve done the same damn thing in the past, and our people were never punished. It’s interesting—the Germans and the Americans got along remarkably well. They did an excellent job of killing one another, but they didn’t have the God-awful hatred for each other that our Marines had for the Japanese and the Japanese had for our Marines. The Japanese took hardly any prisoners, and the Marines just didn’t want the Japanese to surrender: “Just go out there and fight, you bastards.” So many of the Americans were second-generation Germans, and there wasn’t a German that I ran into during the war who didn’t have a relative in Milwaukee or someplace here. But that didn’t diminish the fact that they did a pretty good job of mowing one another down.

Do you still have any animosity toward the Germans and Japanese? I do, I do. And I think the world’s going to be a better place when a lot of us old bastards get out of here. I finally gave up and bought a Japanese car about two years ago. I figured if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. But I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven them. Ninety percent of the Japanese alive now weren’t born at that time, and you can hardly blame them for the sins of their parents. But I guess I still do.

Did anything ever happen to the hippies who ran off to Canada during the Vietnam War? I can’t have much respect for them. I couldn’t live with that. There were too many honest kids who went over and died for that thing while others went back to college or fled to Canada or did something else. I wasn’t in favor of the war, but I hate to see anyone bucking the system. We defeated ourselves in that war because the government and the military didn’t have the people behind them. The officers who really won the Gulf War were junior officers in Vietnam, and they saw the mistakes that were made and vowed that they weren’t going to make them again.

Are there any sleeper countries that are more of a threat than we realize? I think we’ve passed the point where we’re going to have war as we’ve known it. It’s going to be terrorism from here on out, and the military is gearing up to fight those types of skirmishes. But it scares the life out of you when you think how many nuclear bombs are unaccounted for. Terrorism lends itself to the weak countries, and we’ve got a lot of people mad at us. Nobody ever loves a rich man.

Is it true that Air Force guys are a bunch of wimps? I think so. They may want to avoid getting down in the mud. It’s nice to go back to clean sheets. In most of the Air Force, the officers go out and do the fighting. It’s a romantic kind of thing. They want to avoid the hand-to-hand stuff on the ground. You can’t blame them. I was infantry, but I just wasn’t very smart. We kidded them a lot, but I don’t think there’s any resentment. From 1942 till ’44, the Air Force was really the only U.S. branch that was fighting in Europe. They took tremendous losses. And the ground force wasn’t doing anything. It was a nasty war for the Air Force. ,The poor Marines, they suck high tit. They’ve got this spirit that’s wonderful, but they’re the ones that go in first, and they take the heaviest casualties. They get the Navy’s secondary equipment, the secondary officers, the secondary airplanes. Times are such that it’s a real worry: The economy is so good that the Army is consistently under its quota for what it needs.

Hugh Tinley is a Retired army captain. During WWII, saw action as an infantry officer and worked in Eisenhower’s HQ.

The American people are right. Assad is bad. The opposition to Assad is bad and maybe worse. It is inconceivable that the United States would project enough power to change the Syrian system of factional warfare and hatred. Staying out is not a sign we are becoming a nation of doves. If directly threatened the American people will be as hawkish and aggressive as needed.

We want to think long and hard before committing to war. We want to ensure there is no alternative to risking the lives of our young men and women. We want to know that there is a realistic goal that is achievable. We are as tough as hawks but the lessons of history have made us slower, wiser, and more cautious. We are not isolationists and we are not doves.

Since the botched Christmas bombing plot, many of the president's Republican critics have tried to portray him as soft on national security. "Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war?" Dick Cheney asked. Democrats get nervous when the conversation turns to these questions; they're used to being unfavorably stereotyped as doves -- or worse, wimps -- while the GOP is portrayed as hawkish and strong on defense. But a look back at the past 60 years finds plenty of Democratic hawks, Republican doves and any number of curious crossbreeds.

While Republicans often talk like hawks, they don't usually end up governing that way. Dwight Eisenhower, who was elected president on the strength of his reputation as a war hero, spent his time in the White House fighting to cut military spending and ended his presidency with an address warning of a "military-industrial complex."

In the 1950s, Richard Nixon was known as a committed anti-communist, and in the 1960s, he railed against Lyndon Johnson for not using America's full arsenal in the Vietnam War. Once he became president, he broadened operations in Cambodia and Laos and authorized a brutal bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese.

But there was another side to Nixon, one that contributed to his landslide reelection in 1972. From his presidency's start, he hoped to undercut the antiwar movement by ending the conflict. "The president should become known next year," said Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman in 1970, "as 'Mr. Peace.' " Through Nixon's Vietnamization policy, the United States gradually withdrew its forces from Vietnam and ended the draft.

Most important, Nixon's policy of detente aimed to ease Cold War tensions. In 1972, the United States and the Soviets signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty and Nixon visited communist China, shocking conservatives.

Even Ronald Reagan, who early in his presidency talked tough against the Soviets, proposed a vast increase in defense spending and launched covert wars in Central America, changed dramatically over his time in office. Between 1985 and 1987, he conducted arms-control negotiations with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

And even though some Republicans accused him of appeasement -- the right-wing activist Howard Phillips called him the Kremlin's "useful idiot" -- he signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which helped reduce tensions between the two superpowers.

Many presidents have promoted alternatives to military force and remained popular. John F. Kennedy rejected the advice of military officials who urged him to strike Cuba during the missile crisis. And in 1963, Kennedy signed the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. "I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war," he said that year, ". . . but we have no more urgent task." Kennedy enjoyed an average approval rating of 70 percent.

And despite being stereotyped as doves, Democrats have often waged effective campaigns against Republican hawks. Johnson launched a devastatingly effective television advertisement -- the famous "Daisy" mushroom cloud ad -- warning voters that GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater would lead the nation into nuclear war.

In 2008, Barack Obama positioned himself as the candidate who would change the way the war on terror was fought, while John McCain ran as a hawk, emphasizing his support for the "surge" in Iraq and his background as a Vietnam veteran. It was Obama, who championed diplomacy and multilateralism, advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq and criticized Bush's counterterrorism tactics, who won.

Traditionally, Republicans have not been interested in using all-out force. Since early in the Cold War, they have argued that Americans can win wars without requiring great sacrifice from the citizenry, they've advocated airpower over ground troops, and they've supported a limited professional Army rather than a draft. They have wanted to win, but cheaply, quickly and without long-term commitments.

George H.W. Bush led the nation through two military operations, the first to capture Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and the second to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. But while he followed the "Powell doctrine," which said that when the United States uses force it should be overwhelming, his objectives were limited. In the case of Iraq, Bush said from the outset that he had no interest in regime change, and he stuck to that promise after a swift victory in Kuwait.

Without question, Cheney and the neocon advisers who surrounded Bush during his first term pushed an aggressive response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The resulting "Bush doctrine" endorsed regime change and led to two wars and the cessation of diplomatic relations with hostile regimes, among other things.

Yet by his second term, Bush had started to back away from some of his positions. He played down threats of military action against countries such as North Korea and Iran. By some accounts, Cheney became extremely frustrated with the growing influence of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and with the president's shift away from a harder position against terrorism and toward greater cooperation with allies.

Cheney's ally, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was replaced by Robert Gates, who argued that the war in Iraq was not working and that changes to strategy were needed. And after Bush ordered a "surge" of troops in 2007 to stabilize conditions in Iraq, he agreed to a schedule for withdrawing troops and turning power over to the Iraqis.

Hawkish Democrats have a proud tradition. Harry Truman worked with a Republican Congress to create the Cold War national security state in 1947 and 1948. And in promoting what came to be known as the Truman doctrine -- a policy whereby the United States committed to helping anti-communist forces around the globe -- he used bellicose rhetoric, following Sen. Arthur Vandenberg's advice to "scare the hell out of the American people."

In the 1950s, a group of Senate Democrats, including Missouri's Stuart Symington and Washington's Henry "Scoop" Jackson, attacked Eisenhower's campaign to cut military spending and warned that the country was endangered by a "missile gap" -- an idea Kennedy exploited in his 1960 campaign.

In the 1970s, Jackson became one of the most vocal advocates in either party of a more aggressive stance against the Soviets, and led a group of neoconservative Democrats in pushing for more defense spending and opposing arms-control negotiations.

Bill Clinton reinvigorated his party's national security credentials by authorizing military operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and bombing Iraq several times. He also made early strikes against al-Qaeda, as in the summer of 1998, when he responded to the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa by attacking suspected al-Qaeda sites in Sudan and Afghanistan.

Most recently, Obama has authorized sending more troops to Afghanistan. The sight of a Democrat ramping up a war started by a Republican goes to show that, however dovish or hawkish members of the two parties may sound on the public stage, what they do when it comes time to govern is a different matter.

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