Americans have a reputation for being loud, rude, warmongers–basically some of the last people you might want to have nukes.
And while we are definitely loud and probably rude, ironically, we’ve been trying to get OUT of wars since at least 1945.
Remember Truman? He succeeded to the presidency on Roosevelt II’s death in ’45, then
was narrowly defeated by Dewy in ’49. Then, after 20 straight years of Democrat rule, the Republican Ike (whom everyone liked) was elected in ’53.
Truman oversaw the surrender of Nazi Germany (on his birthday, no less,) the conclusion of the Pacific war (by dropping atomic bombs on Japan,) and America’s return to peace. Nonetheless, his popularity plummeted from 85% (in 1946) to 22% (1952)–making him possibly the least popular president in history (even Nixon had a 24% approval rating when he resigned.)
Truman had a genuinely rough job: he had to oversee the end of a colossal war, then the demilitarization of the US and its economy and the return of our troops, and navigate an entirely novel role for the US, as one of the world’s two remaining superpowers. Should we prepare for nuclear war with the Soviets? Would communism consume Europe and China? Should the US help Europe and China rebuild? What about Turkey? And on top of that, North Korea went and invaded South Korea.
For the first century or so of America’s existence, such an invasion would have been none of our business–indeed, the average American likely would have heard nothing about it. Now, as the world’s only counter to Soviet hegemony, Truman thought we had to do something–and so began the terribly unpopular Korean War (1950-1953.)
Ordinary people understood very well why we entered WWII–the Japanese bombed us, an event that is still seared into our national conscience, and then Germany declared war on us. But the North Koreans weren’t attacking us–they just wanted South Korea. Yes, you can make some intellectual justification about stopping the spread of communism, but as far as the average Joe is concerned, Koreans ain’t us and their war was, therefore, none of our damn business.
When the war began, 78% of Americans approved of Truman’s decision. By 1952, only 37% agreed. The war only received the support of half the American people again when it ended.
The war’s unpopularity was Truman’s.
Eisenhower ran against the Korean War and won with an electoral margin of 442 to 89, (though the popular vote was closer.) In ’53, he brought the war to an end. According to Wikipedia, “Since the late 20th century, consensus among Western scholars has consistently held Eisenhower as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.”
All went well until Kennedy (’61-63.) His term opened with the disastrous, CIA-run Bay of Pigs invasion. By the Cuban Missile Crisis (’62,) fallout shelters were common, schools were running nuclear attack dills, and people were convinced there was a very high chance we were all going to die. (The state of Florida was particularly terrified.)
Kennedy almost immediately changed Ike’s policy on Laos & Vietnam, and one month after the Bay of Pigs went south, formally committed America to a more active role in Vietnam.
In ’63, Kennedy was assassinated by a homegrown communist and Johnson took office. Kennedy has been glorified because of his death; it is hard to speak ill of a man who was murdered by your enemies for trying to defend you, even if his policies were not the greatest.
Johnson enjoys no such halo. He increased the American presence in Vietnam from 16,000 non-combat advisors in 1963, to 550,000, mostly troops, in 1968. Crime (which people tend not to like) also soared under LBJ’s tenure, due to scaleback in policing and general integration of African Americans into US cities.
1968 is known as the year America went crazy. Students at Stanford rioted, striked, burned down buildings, torched the president’s office, and fought with the police:
April 29: Cambodia invasion protested… a day-long sit-in at the Old Union erupts into a rock-throwing, club-wielding battle between several hundred students and more than 250 police.
April 30: ROTC, Cambodia protest… demonstrators demanding immediate elimination of ROTC battle police… Property damage for the moth is estimated at $100,000, with 73 injuries in the past two nights.
Say what you will for student protesters, draft dodgers, or Marxists, America had no business being in Vietnam (we could barely scrounge up a single American who spoke Vietnamese to translate for us!) I have multiple relatives who were drafted or volunteered for service in Vietnam and one who died there, so I have opinions on the matter.
Oh, and a Palestinian Christian assassinated Kennedy’s little brother, RFK, for helping the Israeli military.
Despite Johnson’s electoral victory in ’64, his ratings tanked in ’68 (down to 35%,) and he decided not to run for re-election. Wikipedia relates:
One of the most tumultuous primary election seasons ever began as the Tet Offensive was launched, followed by the withdrawal of President Johnson as a candidate after doing unexpectedly poorly in the New Hampshire primary; it concluded with the assassination of one of the Democratic candidates, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, just moments after his victory in the California primary. …
Nixon’s Democratic opponent in the general election was Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was nominated at a convention marked by violent protests. Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval. …
He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender by the Democrats of the United States’ nuclear superiority. Nixon promised “peace with honor” in the Vietnam War and proclaimed that “new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific”.
Nixon came into power, ended the Vietnam War, ended the draft, and opened peaceful relations with China (a major pivot from America’s previous stance.) He was reelected in one of the largest landslides in US history, before the WaPo and Judge Sirica decided to destroy him.
After the Nixon fiasco, Americans elected Carter, one of the peaciest of peaceful guys ever to peace in the White House. Carter, though well-liked as a person, had, shall we say, bad luck: the oil embargo, Iran hostage crisis, economic troubles at home. He was replaced by Reagan, who, despite his tough rhetoric got the Iranian hostages released and negotiated nuclear arms reduction treaties with the Soviets.
Bush I, Reagan’s VP and successor, won handily in ’89 and oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He entered into a new kind of warfare, the UN-backed, fast in-and-out, minimal American death removal of Saddam from Kuwait. Americans do not mind wars so long as they are fast, relatively bloodless, and we win.
Bush got done in by economic troubles and lost to Clinton, who oversaw prosperity at home and tried to broker peace abroad, from the Oslo Peace Accords to UN “peacekeepers” in the former Yugoslavia. Clinton was popular despite Republicans’ best efforts to sabotage him.
Clinton was not eligible to run in 2000, but the Republican candidate, Bush II, positioned himself in opposition to Clinton’s “nation building” and advocated for a more isolationist, less interventionist American foreign policy.
Bush turned out to be a liar. He was just telling people what they wanted to hear, and then he went and spent trillions of dollars and got thousands of Americans killed in Iraq.
Yes, Americans supported the war in Afghanistan, because they blamed Afghanistan (or at least people in Afghanistan,) for the attack on 9-11. But support waned quickly for the Iraq War II, Bush II became hugely unpopular, and the current Republican candidate, Trump, is running on his opposition to the war vs. the Democratic candidate’s support for it.
Obama ran on “Hope and Change”–a promise to pivot foreign policy away from Bush’s disastrous wars. His campaign was so successful, he was almost immediately awarded a Nobel Peace Prize (though by Swedes, not by Americans.)
In our current election, people on both sides of the political aisle are concerned that the other side’s candidate is a war-monger who will get us into another war. Trump’s supporters are concerned about Hillary’s history/support for violence in Libya, Benghazi, and Syria, not to mention her aggressive stance toward Putin, leader of the world’s other nuclear superpower. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m concerned about Hillary starting a war with Russia, something Americans have been trying to avoid since 1945.
And the pro-Hillary side is concerned that Trump is a violent hothead who will send US troops to Syria, get embroiled in a bunch of costly wars like Bush II did, and maybe launch off some nukes just for the fun of it. And they’re concerned that he’ll put illegal immigrants in concentration camps and make Muslims wear yellow crescents on their clothes.
Regardless of which side you think is right, both are trying to avoid being killed in yet another stupid war that has nothing to do with our actual interests.
America might fight a lot of wars, but we sure as hell don’t want to.
Oh, and apparently you can buy countryball plushies.