Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Great Man-History may not be bunk as Henry Ford said, but historians are

Toward the end of his presidency, Bill Clinton was looking to his legacy, or so it was reported in the press.  According to Larry Kudlow, Clinton had governed as a supply sider on the economic front.  That is not a record to warm the cockles of the hearts of his party faithful.  By many, he is remembered as the goatish fellow serviced by an intern.  What does a guy have to do to go down in history?

Bill knew what a man needed to be considered great, war.  Outside of killing a few Serbs with bombing, Clinton never had one.  Too bad for him.  His claims about balancing the budget are not going to get him on a top ten list, cause that’s the way it is.

Yup, according to historians, to be considered a great president, you have to have a war.  To really hit the big time, you need deaths.  Death and war are go together for great pres. rankings.  Not just any death, but deaths of American soldiers really gets you noticed.  According to Patton no one won a war by dying for his country.  It was making the other poor bastard die for his that did the trick.  Not if you want to build a rep as a towering figure.  First in war, is better than first in peace.

Two economists, David Henderson of the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School and Zachary Gochenour of the Department of Economics at George Mason University have studied how presidential scholars do the rankings.  Of course, everyone already instinctively knows how it works.  Remember the movie, Young Millard Fillmore? Poor sap didn’t have a war.

Henderson and Gochenour’s work is valuable as it studies the positive correlation between war and US servicemen’s death.  Now on the face of it, this might seem perverse.  The historian might answer that the rankings are deserved because the great man successfully overcame a challenge.  It is a difficult argument, and in truth, if a war is foisted on a president and he brings it to a successful conclusion, even with a high kill rate, is that not greatness?  But what if the war could have been avoided without harm to the nation.  A president who could have kept us out of war and still needlessly got us into war is the opposite of great.

The Neutralist has in other places stated that Wilson was a villain for getting us into World War I.  I’ve heard the new Hoover book makes the case that Roosevelt did us no favors by sparking our entry into World War II.  

People say, what about Lincoln?  Well, he might have made the South the offer of reducing the tariff to the level that they could have lived with.  Instead he increased it.  It may not have averted the war, but he never made it.

That is the point.  A war president could only be a truly great man if war was unavoidable.  In truth, most of our wars were wars of choice.  It says much about historians as a class that there is so much worship of men who were by a valid measure failures.

You’ll have to excuse the Neutralist, I’m working on setting up a War of 1812 re-enactor group.

Link to the Henderson paper here.

Hat tip to John Glaser at Antiwar.com.

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