tv Lectures in History CSPAN February 16, 2016 10:45pm-12:01am EST
policy and presidential powers have evolved. his class is about an hour and 15 minutes. >> we're going to talk about presidents and going to war. we've already talked about the constitution, how the constitution basically authorizes the president to act as commander in chief of the armed forces. on the other hand congress has a role in this as well. congress can fund military operations, congress can also pass various regulations for the armed services and as well congress can exercise oversight through congressional hearings on what's going on or through committees. so we know that. so james madison once drew the distinction that congress declares war, but presidents make war. and remember, i've talked -- there's only five wars where congress has actually declared
war. 1812, mexican american war, spanish american war, world wars i and ii with the last declaration coming in june 1942 against several eastern european countries that were allied with nazi germany. so it's not italy and germany, but rather hungary, romania, et cetera. so let me give you a couple of case studies here to think about what we're going to talk about today. first of all, i want to talk about a case that occurred not that long ago, in my lifetime at least. richard nixon was president of the united states in 1969. he inherited the vietnam war, as you know. and reports came to him that the north vietnamese forces were seeking sanctuary in then neutral cambodia and they were using that as a safe place, if you will, to launch invasions against the south.
starting in 1969 richard nixon began to authorize the bomb bombardment of targets. and ground forces crossed the south vietnamese cambodian border and invaded cambodia. nixon did not ask for any congressional authorization. this was a secret operation from the beginning. when it was discovered, there were a lot of protests. this is where you have the kent state shooting on may 4th, 1970. you should also know that there were a lot of protests in favor of the president's action in invading cambodia. congress took a dim view, however, a president waging war without prior congressional approv approval. and we'll talk about a little
bit later on, the resolution that had been passed back in 1964 authorizing lynn don johnson to act in vietnam in ways that people came to regret. it also is the root of what becomes known as the war powers resolution of 1973, a congressional attempt to hamstring a president in the use of military force. but the fact is that's all that happened with nixon. he wasn't impeached. there wasn't a large curbing of american operations. although he got slapped on the wrist, he really had no significant impact on the outcome of the vietnam conflict. it did create more opposition to the actions of the administration. and so the war powers resolution, we'll talk a little bit about that, but the war powers resolution doesn't do
much in constraining president's power all that much. presidents seek approval, and many times they say, i'm doing this but i don't have to. and there was a lot of resistance to this. okay. you say that's the modern presidency, but remember somebody else we talked about before james k. polk. polk comes to the presidency in 1845. the united states annexes the republic of texas, and in annexing texas the united states inherits a border dispute between texas and mexico as to where's the border between those two places. and tell me what this president polk do? we've talked about this before. just sit there and wait for people to negotiate? yeah, go ahead.
>> they put troops in that area. >> that's right. he sends troops down into the disputed area. and this is going to be a theme we'll talk about later on. you put put troops in harm's wa. and so he took those troops down to the rio grande, an area also claimed by mexico so mexico could send troops there, as well. in the spring of 1846, opposing forces fire on each other. and president polk who has tried through various ways to gain his way with the mexican government and it was already planned for a major military operation should war break out an operation that simply doesn't talk about the remedying the border dispute between texas and mexico, but an operation that will take over other parts of northern mexico including the very place we're
standing right now. polk takes this moment, this firing on american forces, and uses this as a reason to declare war. and polk's message to congress on this in may 18 -- instructive because after outlining the problems with the united states as an injured innocent party, against a recalcitrant and unresponsive mexican government says that war exists notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it. like ending troops into a troubled area. it exists by act of mexico alone. this is a thing we're going to come back to, this notion when the united states goes to war, it goes to war because it's been attacked. it had nothing to do with creating the situation where hostilities break out.
and you know that he, in fact, there's an illinois congressman, a whig from the central part of the state, lives in springfield. he introduces in the house of representatives something called the spot resolutions demanding that polk document the very spot where american blood was spilled as a way to demonstrate to americans that polk had provoked this conflict. that congressman was abraham lincoln. okay. >> so we've got two incidents here that i think are fairly important. they're over a century apart but you see some of the same patterns. president being able to use his power as commander in chief to have commit american forces tore places where war breaks out or
to expand an already existing conflict. so does the constitution matter anymore? you tell me. is the original vision of the founders in having congress declare war, you tell me. tell me now. if you were president, would you pay attention to congress except as a cosmetic? callie, come on. i see that. grab a microphone and tell me what you think. >> i do agree that it is a bit of a cosmetic thing that we pride ourselves on being a nation of the people so we need to justify ourselves to the people. the president can technically do whatever they want. but they have that responsibility to report to the
people who put them in office. >> would that be congress or the voters or whom? does the president have an obligation to tell americans what's going on? >> i think so. >> what do the rest of you think about that? the president should be candid, open, transparent? that's what nixon did wrong? he just didn't tell people we're bombing cambodia? i want you to think about that. let me ask you this. what if richard nixon had gone to the american people and told them what he was doing before he did it. how would you think the american people would respond to a president saying i've decided i have to expand this war, a very unpopular war with a lot of people, i'm going to have to violate a country's neutrality
because that country's neutrality was already compromised. what do you think the reaction would have ever been if richard nixon said the war i've pledged to end with my secret plan is now a war that has to expand? how do you think the american people would have taken that? when you want the mike, raise your happened so we know where to go. thomas? >> the people definitely would not have responded well to it. you're a president who came into office and beak said you're not going to continue the war and now you're expanding it. it's kind of a fundamental problem is that it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission. in this case, i would say that the constitution really doesn't matter because the constitution as a fundamental document is intended to create conflict in
regards tore deciding. and that takes time. war doesn't necessarily respond to time or allow you to. >> you've got to make that decision right then. >> you have to make the decision right then. >> andrew wants the mike. >> okay. so we've got an apol gist for presidential autonomy here. and it made sense and don't tell the people. andrew? >> i think another issue that nixon would have faced in that case is if there's an outcry against expanding the car into cambodia, then he faces the chance that congress actually expressly prohibits that expansion and then he faces either blatantly breaking the law or his hands are tied. >> so he should lie? >> i'm not necessarily saying he should lie, but if he's -- but if he's -- i think that from his
point of view, that was probably the only way to effectively take the action that he thought needed to be taken. i'm not saying that's good or bad but i'm saying i can understand from his perspective. >> you can understand it. >> why he would have done it that way. >> okay. was it good or bad? define what you mean by good or bad. >> well, i would say that it probably ultimately didn't help american interests and so it was probably a bad move. and maybe we all would have ever been better off if he had said that that's what he thought needed to be done and congress prohibited it. i would say that would probably have ever been the better move. i'm just saying i understand from his perspective. >> no, understanding what a historical figure does is not
the same as justifying it. we do this all the time. we try to understand why people did what they did but that doesn't mean we say we approve of what they did. we may in fact not care very much for what they did, but the fact is we have to understand part of the past of the past is understanding why do people do things that you might not think ought to be done. >> since you've got the mike right there handy. >> well, that raises an the question when we analyze historical figures especially presidents, do we define good as in following the will of the people or as in doing what would be in the nation's best interests? >> that's what i'm saying. that's what i'm saying. you've got to the define what is good or bad. mike down there. harrison. >> yeah, i would say that like a president sometimes is going to have to lie just because it's -- every president beak the last 40, 50 years has had a big lie.
iran-contra, we didn't sell weapons for hostages or you know, monica lewinsky, stuff like that. you know. >> not an issue of war and peace. >> yeah. not nearly as important. but every president has to lie sometimes. sometimes it's worked well. i remember like a couple years ago when obama was saying he was going to put ground troops in syria to make the russians back off and get the chemical weapons out, he had everybody played. it was great. he had congress you're usurping our authority and it was a great move because he got the weapons out of there. i think there's a thing as good lies for sure. >> if a lie turns out well, you can deal with it. >> i mean, everybody likes a bad idea when it works. it just depends on like the nature of you know the president's intention. >> good. you have a future as a presidential speechwriter.
so we have so far people are embracing corruption. so we've got halderman and erlichman are here. i'm very impressed. go ahead, john. >> so i studied the first world war lot. i'm a european historian. what i would say with the first world war and wilon kind of he didn't exactly lie but he kind of exaggerated the truth like the lewis takenia. i think in hindsight there was evidence of weapons on the lewis takenia. >> so it wasn't a personal neutral commercial vessel. >> the administration spins it as it was carrying innocent civilians and then also, the zimmerman telegram something that really shouldn't matter at all. low level german foreign officer, but getting extremely exaggerated in order to build up this kind of anti-german
sentiment. >> okay. >> so on the question of lying when it comes to war powers, i think that it is the responsibility of the president to always take at input of congress and the people because if something were to go wrong as in the case with nixon and cambodia, then the responsibility is now shared by the american people, congress and the president. so it doesn't degrade the office of the president and in the case of nixon when that happened, there was not a lot of public appeal to the president for a while after that. >> okay. >> so let's go with that for a moment because let's go now to polk again. so what polk should have done is say we want all this land and we're going to go to war if they don't sell it us. he would have gotten a lot of support for that, do you think? spoosed is we've got to the attack. we had no choice. and so there's nothing we could do. >> i think that he would have gotten support because the
american people were very migratory at that time and they were in favor of expansion. >> okay. kelsey? pass it down to kelsey. >> well, i'm going to kind of go a different direction. i don't necessarily think that the president owes it to congress to tell them things. when i think about it it, you know when you are like a kid and play the game of telephone as you go through more people, the message gets distorted. the more people, when it comes 0 people, the more people you try to include in something, the easier it is to kind of mess up the whole situation instead of having i'm not saying like the president should ultimately be like a one person who can decide. there are certain situations where the more people you tell can make the situation worse. >> the more people you have to hear. >> it definitely. >> he please for people.
>> it could change the scope of what your actions are trying to accomplish. >> uh-huh. >> yeah. >> i actually want to speak to both points. what you were saying about the idea of whether it's more impactful for people to say you're going to war to protect american troops who have ever been fired upon versus going to war pore some sort of american interests that you're protecting, i think it's true it is a much easier thing to commit people and get people behind a war that is to protect troops because for the everyday american, that sounds like a much more serious conflict than well, we have this economic interest or like this other interest we should probably take care of. that doesn't sound like a good enough reason to go to war and they might argue can't you do that by negotiating. isn't there another way we could try this first when war is eventually going to be necessary. also speaking to the idea of getting more people involved are, i completely agree with what you just said. when you get more people involved, the debate can get drawn out to be a lot longer
than it needs to be and something war needs to be dealt with quickly. >> which is what tom said. you've got to act now. >> you don't have time for debate. >> so one of the things i wanted to kind you have bring back to the last couple of comments is like looking at the polk versus nixon and like the ways that foreign policy interact because like the way u.s. foreign policy has changed historically, like before with like the mexican-american war, like we didn't -- no one was settled in those areas. there wasn't like a state actor, a defined country. the americans were like let's keep expanding but when you go to a different situation where it's like across a continent or in a different country, that starts to bringing in more like country boundaries and state sovereignties. it like shifts with the framework of what you're trying to accomplish and then like having the president if polk was to say this is what we're doing,
i think more people would have ever been okaying with that because there wasn't a defined like entity versus like going into cambodia or vietnam where there is like solidified borders. >> thinking about this. polk didn't choose that route. one of the reasons he doesn't haas that route, i think it's easier to say to somebody, i was attacked, i had nothing to do with this. i'm just defending myself. i'm going to defend myself by taking over all of northern mexico but i'm going to defend myself so part of this is again is presidents putting forcings in harm's way or acting without prior approval in ways that certainly test the notion of congressional oversight. because how is congress going to deny a request to go to war if the united states has been attacked? so you know, the mexican-american war is a case where you have a declaration of
war but what else could congress have con at that moment given american forces were under attack. >> that would be unlikely. harrison. >> yeah, i was going to say with regards to reasons to go to war, 9/11 is an excellent reason to go to war. 3,000 civilians are dead. the problem is we didn't wage it you know on right people. i don't know if there even was a right people to wage it against, but you know, it's not just the. >> probably al qaeda. >> but you know we put them there anyway so what's the difference. but i think it's more than just a military thing, of course. especially if the people are attacked. we got more than just the iraq war. we got the patriot act, panneded nsa. all those types of things. i feel that's an instance where presidential lies did not go so well. >> so i want to get some of these concepts now.
we've talked about nixon and polk. obviously they're not standing alone in this regard. and remember one of the themes of this course is that as opposed to the notion that the 20th century brought across a modern presidency that was substantially different than the previous presidency that while there is a change from a original presidency to a modern presidency, we've talked about some of those changes can, there are also issues that presidents face that they've always faced. and these problems have come up before time and again in terms, for example, we talking about wars that took place without a formal declaration of war. native american tribes all the way down to first nation wars down to wounded knee. and we go to war against account sioux, can we go to war against the apache. theorirically the war with the
apac apaches, wars in the northwest are the longest military engagement in terms of a hot war in american history. we don't usually list those as wars when we first think of -- john quincy adams a quasi war against the french. he consulted with congress. we were aware of it. but a declaration of war. congressional oversight. no declaration of war against the pirates. . you look at them as the predecessors of the terrorists. and it's at mediterranean. examples from the first three presidents of going to war in different ways which don't involve the declaration, james madison is the first president to actually ask for a declaration of war against the british. one of the great trivia things involves the war of 11.
the united states almost went to war against france which would have ever been interesting. but that's how american presidents have used military force aggressively. sometimes with congressional approval but short of a declaration of war. to the beginning, one of the ways in which you do this is you put personnel in harm's way. so let's think about this. we just talked about james polk. he puts military personnel in an area where i think it's fair to expect that there would be the possibility of a military engagement against the mexican forces sent to the same area. generally speaking, you've got people running around with guns. that didn't want to use them.
but that's not the only time you have that. in terms of international wars, 1898, spanish american war. one of the major incidents leading up to that war was the decision by the mckinley administration. i battle ship blows up. no one knows why. general consensus why it's probably an accident but there are people that say the span flish deliberately -- the maine helps inspire an american declaration of war to take over. cuba to free it of spanish rule and, of course, what's one of the first moves in that war but the united states takes out the spanish fleet in manila bay. this was never going to be just a war about cuba. it was going to be a war against the spanish empire with
far-ranging consequences for the united states. but troops were in harm's way. if you put a battle ship in a place where things aren't going well, like the "uss cole" and other ships, as well you put military personnel in a place, they might get in trouble. they might be fired upon. franklin roosevelt in the undeclared war that preceded the formal declarations of war in december 1941, are american destroyers escort merchant marine ships sending supplies to great britain and later on the soviet union. those ships come under attacking from german submarines. that's looking to have a military engagement. and there are in fact ships and then engage those submarines. and there's basically a hot war going on in the north atlantic ocean. everyone's aware of it.
so long before pearl harbor, there are already -- there have already been shots exchanged between the united states and nazi germany. that's why they called it an undeclared war. studies of that period are sometimes entitled the undeclared war. this is again, you're -- when you're having those destroyer escort come and that's something wilson did not buy into, there's no escort around the lewis takenia, for example, you're -- you know the odds are that especially roosevelt should have known that the odds are that there's going to be hostile fire. you're going to put people in harm's way. lyndon johnson, put troops in harm's way and american military personnel in harm' ways in the vietnam war. he wasn't the first. there were american advisers already in vietnam but in august
1964, the united states reports that the north vietnamese have attacked american vessels in a place called the gulf of tonkin. whether this attack actually took place has now become a matter of dispute that they interpret radar, sonar, did they interpret what was going on correctly. the fact of the matter is that johnson used this to get the gulf of tonkin resolutions passed by congress almost unanimously authorizing him to use military force more aggressively. the following february a place called quake cue, american base is attacked. and johnson uses that to expand the american commitment even more. and when people say what's going on here? someone says kay cue is like street cars. they come along. in other words, sooner or later we know there's going to be an incident and that incident will give the president justification to act. so if you put people in harm's
way, sooner or later harm is done to them. and then you can portray yourself as having been attacked when in fact, you've done something fairly provocative that makes the likelihood that an attack goes up. so even the reagan administration, remember the blowing up of the marine barracks in beirut, lebanon. but there's a marine barracks in beirut lebanon. why are there marines in lebanon you? put american forces in harm's way. there's a good chance that harm is going to come to them. and then you as president can site that event if you so choose to escalate american involvement. and congressional approval isn't something you have to worry about because who in congress is going to vote against protecting
american military personnel. so you could put troops in harm's way and basically vitiate you the requirement that congress has to declare war in many, many cases. so we've got that. so linked to that, i want you to think about another thing is that the united states always wants to say that it's been attacked. i want you to think about ways in which the -- even not quite in your lifetime but in certainly your parents' lifetime, how the united states has used this notion of we've been attacked. we're defending ourselves or defending someone else who has been attacked. all right? and a clack case where this becomes troublesome in american history is actually the beginning of the american civil war. abraham lincoln becomes president in march of 1861. there's a garrison of united states military personnel in
fort sumter in charleston, harbor. we talked about how had fort sumter is built to repel attacks from the sea but notes it's going to be attacked from the very areas it's supposed to defend. lincoln is told that garrison has six weeks of food and supplies and it needs to be resupplied or it will be forced to surrender that the point. what should lincoln have done? and why? >> you've got a rebellion on your hands. these people contesting your authority. they're doing something which you have claimed is unconstitutional secession. >> i'm going to be continue to support the president in that. i think he should have sent the reinforcements to sumpter even under the guise of being just food. obviously it was more than that, but it was supposed to be he said it was just food being sent
to fort sumter so they wouldn't starve. >> they had other vessels with military personnel in case that vessel was attacked but there is a vessel with food. it's not the lewis takenia where the vessel has sent -- but part of the flotilla had other people on it and miller personnel. >> i was president lincoln, i would have sent that vessel because they're already in secession and basically declaring that independence already. it's going to turn into war anyway. it's just you need to spin it to a way that your people will actually support you in conducting war. >> because think about this. lincoln have just said this is wrong this conflict is -- secession is wrong. i'm going to compel military force. washington had done that during the whiskey rebellion. jackson had threatened to do that during the nullification
crisis which involved south carolina. and so you know, why not simply act this way more vigorously now? >> as i stated before, it's powerful to put yourself in that defensive position to say we've been attacked. they're the aggressor. it's a political game both domestically and almost internationally with the president kind of nudging the administration, the united states military in one direction, putting forces in harm's way keeping forces at sumpter and it's a political game with the south, a war game with the south. go on, fire at us. see what happens. the blame for starting it the war is then going to be on you. not only to galvanize support in the north but also maybe internationally. >> okay. but why not just include withdrawal? this is not a good place to be. our troops are vulnerable? this is not the time or the place i want this war to happen?
>> i think he doesn't lift all the troops because if he does, he shows that he's weak which i think it's different to be attacked than it is to retreat. >> okay. >> remember, abraham lincoln is not the only american president involved at fort sumter. and so when lincoln says i'm going to reinforce the garrison in terms of resupply, in terms of creating more -- putting more soldiers there or ammunition, just food, just supplies, jefferson davis has a choice. put yourself in jefferson davis's shoes. why did you fire? davis didn't have to fire. davis could have seen this as simply a resupply mission.
that continued the status quo. why fire? >> go ahead, tom. >> according to -- i think the problem is that you have to take -- he had to take into account the fact that what if it isn't just a resupply in what he's putting more troops, more ammunition, more anything that would put the would compromise more the defensive situation that already exists in that with fort sumter being a critical base to defend this whole area and they actually continued to compromise their security in that area. they didn't starve out fort sumter. beak, you were giving -- you're giving up a major strategic advantage by not sinking that ship. so yes, you did fire. >> firing on the fort. >> you did fire on fort.
however, you were kind of forced into it by the president's actions. it was kind of either weep declare war by or put ourselves in a bad situation by firing and allowing this em to declare war on us or give up military control of that sector entirely. >> okay. but there were actual positive things also for davis to consider. one thing that davis was considering was the collapse or the erosion of sentiment for secession. there are seven states that secede to join the confederacy. after those seven states come there are, eight more slave states that don't have secession. they don't secede by this time. of by the time he becomes president, there's only seven. as we get to these other states, there is support for secession in those states but it's not
majority support and there's a concern prance the enthusiasm for secession might die down but if davis confronts lincoln, opens pire, that will encourage secession forces especially if lincoln then has to call for troops to put down a rebellion. then other people say the president shouldn't coerce people in this way. i would argue that both presidents benefits in us putting that confrontation to the point of military conflict. davis got his states. lincoln got lisa if i weretive action but notice there's a lot of argument with people saying but lincoln didn't cause the war or he did. davis didn't cause account war or did he? i would argue that both of them accepted the risk of war because they thought it might actually pay off. >> i think a contributing market to a president's decision is not merely the strategy like the
technical strategy but also just the message and how much of a political statement can be made. i think in the case of lincoln or any president, it's about what the people perceive and it's more about the power of per sbaion instead of the hard power of becoming the commander in chief. it's talking about the ability to gain the right perspective for people. and in that case, it doesn't particularly matter whether or not what the motivations are. it's more about getting the right message across. >> yeah. >> yeah, it's definitely persuasion and garnering domestic political support because both president davis and president lincoln satisfied their own goals. because lincoln argued secession is illegal. therefore we have a right to be at for the sumpter. davis could argue because secession is legal, they very no right to be at fort sumter so they can both claim they were attacked, they're the aggressor.
>> and so they can both garner that domestic support. >> jefferson's argument is to say we just want to be left alone and you're staying there at fort sumter is a deliberately provocative act that we cannot tolerate. it's very important for both sides to say we're on the defensive. we're the victim. we were forced into this. we didn't do this willingly but both sides in fact take measures and make decisions that escalate the conflict to the point that it breaks out in armed hostilities. okay. that's actually in your lifetime although you probably in many cases don't remember it the invasion of iraq in 2003. and the claim that there were weapons of mass destruction that saddam hussein might use.
why did the bush administration so readily adopt that explanation? do you think that the for example, that the american people supported an invasion of iraq just on the grounds of removing saddam hussein if he couldn't -- if it wasn't to suggest that he was a bigger threat than he was? yeah. abby. >> i think it speaks to the point of sometimes you have to exaggerate the threat to get support for it and wmd sounds like a really big scary threat we should take care of immediately and shouldn't necessarily go through the congressional approval process. >> he did tell congress. >> but garnering support behind something like that is a lot
easier than saying there's some political interests here that we need to take care of. just like shock and wau value it sounds a lot more powerful. if you have something like that that you can stand behind and use as a reason for war, you're going to take advantage of it even if it's not as true as you make it sound. >> so i'm not going to hear whether there was a deliberate attempt to deceive. that's something still being argued but wmds, weapons of mass destruction sounds like a much more compelling reason to go to war angie, we just need to go to the middle east. we've got to the go to iraqing to take this guy out. we forgot to take him out before and now we're going to finish the job. john? >> maybe it was the need for the support i mean there's a lot of reporting that's been done in the past years that that seems to claim that the bush administration, they didn't necessarily intentionally
deceive the american public but they needed to believe that there are wmds so badly because they needed to find something to get the public behind them so badly that they kind of had tunnel vision for that one end goal and kind you have looked for selective evidence. >> okay. so let me give you another example though. which might be a little less controversial in some ways but not in others. as you know, the united states goes to war against japan on december 8th, 1941, the immediate aftermath of the attack on pearl harbor. okay. there's any time we talked about gee, we he had no idea what was coming and there it was supposedly it's pearl harbor in the eyes of people. some people think it might not have ever been quite as unexpected as it was. certainly the american public was shocked by what happened when it found out the base at pearl harbor had been attacked by the japanese. but we all know from the
american point of view because we've talked about world war ii was the good war, the war of the greatest generation are, the war of good versus evil. whether you want to debate that or not is a different question. but it seems to have -- hitler's a bad guy. we should go to war against nazi germany. they do bad things. but notice ben franklin and roosevelt never went to the american people and said, you know what? if hitler wins, we losses. we need to go to war. hitler's taking over much of france, much of central europe. other than great britain standing there alone with winston churchill, there's not a lot else standing in his way. we should not have this man with his political philosophy and his hatred of people unlike himself in power.
that's a bad thing. and so i call upon the united states to go to war against nazi germany. why didn't roosevelt do that? i mean, if you're ever going to war against somebody, i would assume you would go to war against adolph hitler. harrison? >> he just didn't need to. i mean, after he declared war on japan in return for pearl harbor, japan and germany both declared war. >> wait. december, 1941, the german thanks are rolling up. they could see moscow in the distance. no one understands that it gets really cold in russia in the winter. hitler is about to understand what napoleon could have taught him back in 1812. the fact is britain is all alone. they've just fought off the luftwaffe, the bat alf britain, the threat of invasion but it's kind of tough at this point. wouldn't it have been smarter to
have gotten involved in this war earlier before hitler had taken over all this stuff? >> i actually agree because i think that the fact that the attack against pearl harbor was so surprising to so much of the public suggests that they weren't prepared to enter that war. i mean, i don't think that very many americans would have said yeah, i think hitler's great and we should leave nazi, germany alone but if they had been ready to go to war, then i think disease, 1941 would have turned out differently. >> you wouldn't need december 1941. >> well, i think that -- i think we shouldn't have ever been so surprised. right? i mean, japanese imperial aggression wasn't exactly a secret. and yet, it was this outrange that where did this come from and how could this have happened. so clearly we weren't ready.
>> remember, hitler does the united states a favor. if you're angry on december 8th, 9th, 10th, you're not really thinking about hitler. you're thinking about the japanese. hitler didn't bomb pearl harbor contrary to animal house. i mean, so it's important to get are history right, okaying? it's in fact the germans and italian who's declare war on the united states and then we return the favor. i mean, you want to call hitler mistake was making an the pr effort for fdr pretty easy. so you know, and in fact, one of the things that fdr had to do once the united states went to war was to remind people, by the way, although we're angry at the japanese, we've really got to worry about hitler. it's much more important frankly in the long-term than the japanese. we'll get the japanese sooner or
later but we really have to go after hitler and focus on those operations as much as possible. at least have a divided effort. because before then, you would have said hitler didn't attack us. the japanese did. we should go after them. >> i think that in this particular case, a lot of it also is like what people have ever been saying. a case of denial of the severity of the issue and that i think a lot of people wanted to believe that hitler could be dealt with diplomatically in a nice friendly way and talking to him and negotiate. fdr wrote him letters about maybe you shouldn't invade these places. obviously that didn't work. and from fdr's perspective, that should have ever been a pretty significant warning sign. i think the american people still wanted to believe we could do something without declaring war because war is an enormous move. it was a lot of denial. hitler isn't that big a deal. we don't need to take care of it right now and we needed a pearl harbor to open our eyes to see
this is a global conflict. we need to get involved. >> microphone down there. okay. so the public needs to be inspired tough gf into a war it might not otherwise have considered in terms of national interest and power politics. >> i was just going to say, i think that that denial only works when the person interests or american people themselves aren't directly threatened. because you see with 9/11, when americans are the one who are being threatened, there's no denial about oh, maybe we can appease the threat or whatever. it becomes that war is necessary. so really it kind of i think it just depends on the american interests. >> okay. all right. that's a good point. once you are punched in the nose, it's not like you know -- >> i don't know my parents used
to tell me walk away from a flight on the playground. i said that just tells me you've never been on the playground. go ahead. >> but if like how you asked earlier, why didn't he come out and say you know, hadityler is bad, he's a threat and that's the reason we're going to war, i think the president would have had to present the war to the american people as a war out of fear and not immediate threat. it would have ever been more we're fearful of a possibility of attack in the future. >> okay. but we've actually, you know, conducted what i call preemptive wars. if we don't do this, something really bad -- we haven't been attacked but we will be. all right? and i think that's -- it's interesting that you don't have a president in any of these presidents saying here's the global situation. here's the american national interest. to secure the national interest, we are going to have to engage
in a war. and so i ask you to engage in a war. so polk doesn't go and say we really want to have this chunk of territory from mexico. it would help american expansion. we are a nation of conquests and expanding westward. this is our manifest destiny. we tried to buy it and they won't sell it. so we'll take it. and notice that the president is going to speak that way. he wants to go to the middle east. we believe that saddam hussein is a destabilizing element in that region. we are worrying about karen teeing our suppliable oil from that region. we need to take him out. that's the way it is. he may be connected to al qaeda and osama bin laden but he may not be. that's not important. we they'd to take him out. those speeches which would be a
lot different are not the kind of speeches that arouse a lot of popular passion as opposed to yesterday december 7th, 1941, i day which will live in infamymy. well, that gets you going. andrew. >> so i'd say that's an indictment of us, the public. not of the president overreaching because if the real reason that we need to insert ourselves more aggressively into an international conflict is real serious american interests, but our disinterest as a public in. >> or lack of interest in this case. >> yeah, in events outside our borders that's our fault, not the president's fault.
>> and therefore, presidents are basically you're going to give them a pass when it comes to lying because the american people really aren't ready for the truth. >> i don't know about. i don't know about not ready for the truth. i'm not saying that we're too student to understand our interests. i'm saying we're not aware enough to understand that our interests are at risk. >> what if we're aware and we just don't think those interests require war? >> well, that's a case when congress should retrain the president but i don't think that -- >> thomas and andrew down there. >> the problem that you're coming across here is that you're treating the american public as having one collective idea of what needs to be done. whereas it's a multitude of opinions and ideas that will
each person has ha are different than everyone else's. and so i guess they can't handle the truth because it's not really possible to for a president to establish a unifying motive for the entirety of the american populace besides something like an us versus them scenario. >> people could argue it's the president's job to educate, to explain, to educate. like the president could say i know you don't understand this. there's really not any reason you should have understood this. it was in a place far, far away with people who speak a different language. and so i'm going to explain to you what american interests are. we'll let people in congress respond to that. i will let opinionmakers respond to that, members of my administration, i'm going to educate you. you can help make a decision. i'm going to ask you to do this. i'm going to explain to you why
i think it this is a course of action to pursue. >> i agree with that. that's something that should happen that hasn't been happening but that is the time lag problem involved with warfare. >> that would be one thing where modernity has changed things. time used to be a big factor in these events. because of the delay in communication. for example, in the war of 1812, the british had actually given in to american demands but by the time that word had reached washington, the united states had already declared war. and remember, that war ends on christmas eve, 1814. gent belgium, they've signed an agreement and reached a peace agreement. but that word doesn't get to the united states till after the battle of new orleans on january 1815, a battle which helped elevate andrew jackson to a national hero abpaved his way
later to become the seventh president of the united states. >> so this is going to go back just a little bit. but going back to the idea of world war ii an indictment of both the public and the president. i think one of the reasons we didn't immediately jump in was that we were afraid of what it would mean if we lost and the president didn't exactly having an answer for that. and thus didn't want to bring that to the public's attention because when you look at the executive branch in the government, when they bring us a problem, we expect them to have already have half an answer or give us options what we can do as a public or what we can support or indict ourselves. not having an answer or option to present sort of it made the idea why are you going to give it to them if you can't tell them what they can doing about it. >> okay. >> i want to touch on what we're talking about slightly before. in terms of why it is that we need to have some sort of big event to kind of inspire fear
and why that's important. that kind of goes back to what we touched on towards more the beginning of the semester. run of the readings mentioned the book "the political brain." it's the idea we're not driven by logic. you can try to appeal to people's logic but overwhelmingly we're power bid emotions. while it's great we can try to explain here's our interest and this is why it's important, most people aren't driven to support some sort of political action because of it but especially when you've got into the conflicts that have years of history behind it, only about 25% of the public actively pays attention toness given issue. when we talk about maybe the president should be trying to educate people, it would be an overwhelming with portion of the american population they would have to attempt to educate and you would probably be trying to educate people who wouldn't necessarily be interested in paying attention in the first place. >> so they don't want to go to class. they react to it. we go back to thomas's time is a factor in the way that it wasn't
a factor in the 19th century. shaun? >> yeah, i think it's also important to think about before congress declares war on someone, is there a clear beginning and end to this war. and i think up until the cold war, that there's always kind of been you know one central opposing threat that they were thinking oh, you know, when this is overcome, we'll go flow peacetime. but ever since the cold war and onto the war on terror, there's been less of a clear end. and that may have expanded the president's powers as people became more frustrated with no tangible outcome. >> the cold war is not declared. there are measures, there are steps, there are events. but there's nothing called the cold war in terms of we're going to talk about the cold war today and beginning it. it was there. there's nothing you could really
do about it. okay. >> and it ends for other reasons. there's not an act of congress saying by the way, an the cold war's over. harrison? >> with regards to like educating the public, i think that's a great point. it would be really hard to give everybody the full history of let's say israel and palestinian. but know, a lot of supreme way different views, resources what have you. we're electing somebody whose discretion we trust ideally. we can screw up and pick somebody who is not the best under pressure, whatever. but i think we have to give the president some freedom to you know, do what he thinks is right. >> okay. into but remember, we may then not liking what that president does. and then we'll get upset later on and say why didn't you tell us. you were lying to us. claudia? >> my issue with trying to as
much as i feel educating the american public is you know, honestly the ideal. it's what we want. we all want to be united in an effort especially with war because we're talking about sending out people to die and resources, et cetera. but how do you even be realistic to educate the american public in situations like when we drop a bomb and don't even know what's going to happen with it like in the case of had irrow shem ma and nagasaki. >> we don't know the the bomb will work the way we think until it's deployed and then it works in ways that even its designers didn't fully participate. okay, then this notion of how to arouse public opinion goes is the next thing i want to talk about which is portraying wars as crusades. that there are great principles. you talk about woodrow wilson,
for example, the 14 points. the war to end all barpz war to save democracy. the war to impose a new world order. the war against terrorism. that have wars become crusades because that's one way in which you tell people this is a war of good against ebola. we of course, are good. and we are going to subdue evil. and think about how that sometimes turns out. sometimes in the end, we wonder who really is good and who is really ebola or some combination thereof. sometimes a war to destroy evil requires us as americans to work with people who later on we find aren't a heck of a lot better than the people that we've joined with them to fight against the soviet union and, of course, the soviet union would view the united states in the
same way. they would say this is just a moment. and have good reason to distrust the united states. from the soviet point of view, they would say if you thought hitler is so bad, why did you not do anything when he invaded us? why did you wait till he's on the outskirts of moscow. then you came in because the japanese attacked and the germans did you a favor. there's no reason from the soviet point of view to trust american interests and motives any more than for the americans that came to trust soviet interests and motives. but we like to fight wars as crusades so here we are, the innocent country. we've been attacked. we haven't done anything to cause this. but now that we're engaged in this war, this war becomes something more than just a fight to the retaliate. wilson's 14 points, they were going to really remake the
world. in an american image complete with an international organization that's going to americanize global politics. and one of the reasons americans become disenchanted is with world war i and its results is what's not what happened. the wilson vision is not realized and a lot of americans didn't even want to get to that vision. that's one of the things congress always resisted at this time especially and wilson was unwilling to compromise on key points of the treaty of versailles when it came to american league in the league of nations which is the forerunner of the united nations because that would surrender had he thought congressional autonomy to commit american forces and fdr's design of the united nations when the united nations is proposed it's proposed with safeguards that say everyone's equal but some are more equal
than others if they're members of the security council including the united states. the united states -- the u.n. supposedly on big issues will never do anything the united states doesn't want it to do. which sounds, well that protects everything. but in which the event in which the united nations played a most critical role, the korean conflict, the only reason that the united states was able as part of the united nations coalition to commit itself to that conflict and a we don't have to ask for war, we're simply observing our obligations as a united nations charter member is because the soviet representative happened not to be there that day because he was protesting the fact that nationalist china was still part of the security council and not the people's republic of china. so there was no one to veto anything. but notice that even there, we've got this great cause. we want to make sure that
communism doesn't spread. we're going to protect american values. hadow what do you make of that? john. >> this goes along with our last point of portraying it as a defensive war in order to galvanize domestic support and administrations do this to put the united states in the best position to win the war as possible, at least world war ii and before that. especially the universal con description. you need the entire public to be behind the war or how do you know the quality of troops we're sending over. >> we need 100% dedication from almost 100% of the public. >> it's easier again if you're defenseless but you're fighting for a great cause. it's easier to sell that conflict. although on the other hand, you're bound to be disappointed
with the results because the results of that conflict will rarely meet the expectations that you've aroused in trying to get flow it. one of the reasons americans were jaded about entering world war ii is they felt that american entry into world war i really hadn't accomplished very much. and why do that again. >> you know, don't you learn, you know, insanity is the definition is doing the same thing again and thinking there will be a different outcome. why do that. it took a long time just to try to say the conflict of 1914 is not the conflict of 1939 but even then, it was an act by the japanese that propelled this argument further forward. late say a persuasion that the act of persuasion of telling the american public we need to get involved in this war because the nazis are ebola. americans were willing to kind of commit a helping hand to great britain and later the
soviet union. but not to get involved to the point that it was going to involve a serious number of american lives. harrison? >> so we talk about this idea of how we'd like to envision like a big grand scale thing to put ourselves to. so i guess i kind of have a question, a sidebar question. other types of i guess you call them crusades, social crusades, stuff like illiteracy, poverty, why is do we say war on drugs, war on poverty, whatever, do you think that helps mobilize the american people at all? >> yes. or else we wouldn't use those terms. we like to talk about things as conducting wars and wars that we assume are going to end up with victories. and to sell it in a different way i had i is very difficult. let me give you an example. george w. bush early on when he talked about the war on terror,
argued that it would be a different kind of war. there was a war without any final resolution. it was a war without an appomattox, a surrender ceremony. that this war would continue and that beak america's engagement with the world had fundamentally changed because there would always be terrorists. you could never quite -- you could still do this group but you wouldn't subdue other groups. and i mean historical examples of that. including the american reconstruction. you could subdue the ku klux klan as a terrorist group but it was replaced by other supremacist groups like the red shirts in south carolina, the knights of the white camellia in louisiana. in other words, you think just because they're no longer wearing their bed sheets, that they're out. well, no, there are other people and you know, instead of white sheets there were red shirts in
south carolina. same thing. american terrorists. all right. >> so bush makes this argument. subduing terrorism is a different kind of war. different measuring stick. different way to wage what we're doing. people didn't like that. it was much easier to land on an aircraft carrier and say mission accomplished. we've won, statues have ever been pulled down in baghdad. everything's fine. few casualties. we'll just help them set up shop. then we'll come home. victory is ours. all right? and much like the american civil war. prolonged occupation, terrorist warfare. unconventional conflict. et cetera. same thing as what had happened between 1865 and 1877. claudia. >> in the case of trying to fight terrorism, we just create more terrorism and resentment is that that would be the other
thing. one would argue the measures take it on wage a war against terrorism involved military operations that sometimes among other things kill innocent people which creates more resistance. sometimes the rhetoric that accompanied american operations in the middle east over the last 15 years included we're going to remake the world in an american vision which is exactly way to motivate many terrorists in the first place. we are protesting the westernization of our traditional culture. when you say you're going to make us over this way, this is exactly the problem in the first place. so for example, in afghanistan, the interventioning in afghanistan, if you look back at the discussion about that, there's a discussion that emerges about the status of afghani women. and that one thing that the united states will do in this intervention is elevate the
status of the afghani women, that they've been mistreated. again, no one had talked about this issue beforehand. all of a sudden, this became a major issue. well, in other countries and other cultures and other religions stotts of women, status of men are very important and you're going to remake every everything in your vision? isn't that what we said they were going to do? so that every time that the president or someone in the administration made this argument, it was a gift to the terrorists who said, you know what, we warned you that this is what they were really about. they're going to take away who we are and substitute pizza huts and mcdonald's and coax and do away with those values we hold dear as a traditional society. they are a threat to what we
believe. so there is an ideological conflict that justifies jihad. that justifies terrorism. we have to stop them. after all, the world trade center, if you actually know who occupied the world trade center, there wasn't a lot of world trade center occupants, but one of the reasons you target the world trade have is that you see that as the center, the headquarters of american global capitalism. their way to dominate the entire globe and you're going to take it down. you're going to damage it in some way. the world trade center, i remember when it went up. and it was designed for something completely different than it ended up being. michaela. >> in looking at these situations, should we consider iraq as sort of an attempt at overcorrection for our inaction in world war ii like coming in
late? because we tried to paint the same idea that we ended up finding out about hitler, oh, weapons of mass destruction. like this is an awful person that we need to take care of and threeing to overthrow 1993 certainly saddam hussein would be compared by many people top adolph hitler. you can't deal with totalitarian regimes. but there are two other things and we'll end by describing these two things that also got into the american foreign policy. first was something called the munich syndrome, that is based on the agreement between nazi germany and great britain in 1938 to allow the germans to occupy the border land, the mountain ranges on the border what's now the czech republic, then check low vaccia. and the british prime minister neville chamberlain said this is peace in our time. we've appeased hitler. we've made a deal with them rather than go to war at a time
when many many in britain did not believe the british could fight that kind of conflict. they weren't mobilized. appeasement became a dirty word afterwards. you can never an spees a dictator. they'll always want more. so when american foreign policy was discussed in the 140s and 1950s, it was discussed in terms of let's learn from history. and one piece of history you need to learn from is you can never negotiate with a totalitarian regime. that wants to expand. you can't. you have to stop aggression. this helps to shape what goes on during the coiled war. you can't let them go. if you let them come here, the so-called domino theory, once one country falls an, another one will follow. that's one. of course, what's the culminating point of that debate in vietnam. that's followed by something called vietnam syndrome which is americans don't want to use
military force abroad because they will find themselves in a quagmire. an endless war costing many lives that doesn't seem to achieve anything. and in fact, president george herbert walker bush after the 1991 desert shield, desert storm operation said we've whipped vietnam syndrome. we've gotten that out of the way. the publicity leading up to that conflict, one of the things when it came to both generals pourl and schwarzkopf, was look how much they learned from their experience that you have to define an objective that's achievable. you must get public support, be transparent. must do those things again. one could argue now we're about to have a middle east syndrome come out of this of look what happened to the united states when it committed military force in iraq. it committed military force in
afghanistan. where did that leave us? and then presidents are going to have to weigh the next time i feel that we need to commit american military force somewhere is the american public ready, willing and able to ready, willing and able to understand my argument? captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008