tv Lectures in History CSPAN January 17, 2016 12:00am-1:21am EST
on iran's cold war partnership with the united states. tothey had a look at britain help its imperial ambitions with russia. a whole generation of moved to the united states, a country that had no material ambitions and no history of colonialism in the region. announcer: and it 8:00, the real american. an interview with martin luther king, his comments on president kennedy's civil rights bill, and how gandhi influenced his work. for full schedule, go to c-span.org. next on lectures in history, arizona state university professor brooks simpson discusses the role of the president during wars, including those waged without a formal congressional declaration.
he examines the ways american foreign-policy and presidential powers have evolved. his class is about one hour and 15 minutes. brooks: we will talk about presidents and going to war. we have talked about the constitution already, the authorization of the president to act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. on the other hand, congress' role, they can fund military operations, can also pass various regulations for the armed services. and as well, congress can exercise oversight through congressional hearings on what is going on committees. we know that.
james madison once drew the distinction that congress declares war, the presidents make war. remember, there are only five wars where congress has actually declared war. 1812, mexican-american, spanish-american, world war 1 and 2. within the last declaration, several european countries that were allied with nazi germany. not italy or germany, hungary, romania, etc. let me give you a couple of case studies here to think about. what we will talk about today, first of all, i want to talk about the case that occurred not that long ago -- in my lifetime at least. richard nixon was president in 1969, he inherited the vietnam war. as you know. reports came to him that the north vietnamese forces were seeking sanctuary in then neutral cambodia. they were using that as a safe place, if you will, to launch invasions, operations against the south are in starting when nixon began to authorize the bombing of targets in cambodia.
in 1970, the first american ground forces actually crossed the south vietnamese-cambodia 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 protests, this is where you have the can't state shooting on may 4, 1970. you should also know there were protests in favor of the president invading cambodia. congress took a dim view, a president waging war without prior congressional approval?
it would resend something -- rescind something, the gulf of tonkin resolution authorizing lyndon johnson to act in the ways people would come to regret. it is also the root of what becomes known as the war powers resolution of 1973, a congressional attempt to hamstring the president in the use of military force. the fact is that is all that happened with nixon. he was not impeached. he was not curbing the american operations. though 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. the legacy of the war powers resolution, we will talk about that a bit. it doesn't really do very much in terms of constraining presidential power all that much. presidents now seek congressional approval, many times, but they do not have to. there is a lot of resistance to this. the modern presidency, modern presidents have a lot of power, etc. right? but talk about james k. polk. he comes to the presidency in 1845. the united states annexes the republic of texas. and in annexing texas, they inherit a border dispute between texas and mexico, as to where is the border between those two places? and tell me what does president polk do? we talked about this before, just sit there and wait for people to negotiate?
go ahead. he sends troops down into the disputed area. this is a theme we will talk about later on. he put troops in harms way. and so, he took those troops down to the rio grande, an area also claimed by mexico. so mexico sent troops there, as well. in the spring of 1846, opposing forces fire on each other. and president polk, who has tried it 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 does not talk about remedying the border dispute, the operation that would take over other parts of northern mexico, including the very place we are standing now. polk takes this moment, this
firing on american forces, and uses this as a reason to declare war. and his message to congress on this in may, 1840, he instructed that because after outlining the problems, the u.s. is injured in this sense as a party, against a recalcitrant and unresponsive mexican government, that war exists, notwithstanding all of our efforts to avoid it, like sending troops into a trouble area? it exists by acts of mexico alone. we will come back to this. this notion that when the u.s. goes to war, a ghost war because it has been attacked. it had nothing to do with creating the situation for hostilities to break out.
and you know that, in fact, there is an illinois congressman -- a whig from springfield. he introduces in the u.s. house something called the spot resolution, demanding that polk document the spot where blood was spilled, as a way to demonstrate to americans that polk had provoked the conflict. that was abraham lincoln. ok, so we have two incidences here, that i think are very important. over a century apart, but you see some of the same patterns. president being able to use his power as commander-in-chief to commit american forces to 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, and having congress declare war, you tell me? tell me now. if you are president, would you pay attention to the cosmetic? come on, i see that. grab the microphone and tell me what you think. >> i do agree that it is of a cosmetic thing. but 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.
brooks: without the congress or the voters, or whom? does the president have an obligation to tell americans what is going on? >> i think so. brooks: the president should be candid, open, transparent? that is what nixon did wrong, he does not tell people we are 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? how do you think the american people would respond to a president saying i have decided i have to expand this unpopular war, to a lot of people. i will have to violate a
country's neutrality because it was already compromised. what do you think the reaction would have been, if richard nixon said the war, which i pledged to end with my super plan, is now awarded has to expand? how do you think the american people would have taken that? when you want the microphone, raise your hand, so we know where to go. thomas? thomas: the people would not have responded well to it. they basically said you are not going to continue the war, now you are extending it? it is kind of a fundamental problem, 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 curate conflict, and regards to deciding. and that takes time, ward is not necessarily respond to time, or allow you to make a decision right then. brooks: andrew wants the microphone. ok, so we have the apologists for the president here. do not tell the people. andrew: i think another issue in that case, if there is an outcry against expanding the war 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. brooks: so? andrew: i am not necessarily saying he should lie. but from his point of view, that is the only way to effectively take the action he thought that needed to be taken. i am not saying that is good or bad. but i am saying i can understand from his perspective why he would do that. brooks: was it good or bad? define what you mean by good or bad. andrew: well, i would say that it ultimately did not help american interests. so it was probably a bad move, and maybe we all would have been better off if he had said that is what he thought needed to be done. and congress prohibited it. i would say that would have probably been the better move. i am just saying -- brooks: understanding what the figure does is not the same thing as justifying.
we do this all the time, trying to understand why they did what they did. that doesn't mean we say we approve of what they did. we may not care very much for what they did. but the fact is that we have to understand part of the past, why do you will do things that you might not think ought to be done? since you have a microphone right there. >> well, that raises the question, when we analyze historical figures such as presidents, do we define good as in following the will of the people? as in doing what would be in the nation's best interest? brooks: you have to define good or bad. harrison? harrison: i would say a president is sometimes going to have to lie. every president basically over the last 40-50 years, it was a
big lie. iran-contra, we did not sell weapons for hostages. monica lewinsky, stuff like that. brooks: not an issue of war and peace. harrison: everybody has to live. a couple of years ago, i remember obama was saying he would put ground troops in syria to make the russians back off, and get the weapons out. he lied to everybody. he had congress like, you are usurping our authority. but he got the weapons out there. i think there is a good lie, for sure. brooks: if it turns out well, you can do with it? harrison: everybody likes it when it works. but it is just the president's intention. brooks: you have a future as a speechwriter.
so, we have so far people embracing corruption. they are saying i'm very impressed. go ahead. >> i studied the first world war, but what i would say with the first world war, and wilson -- he did not exactly lie. but he exaggerated the truth, like the lusitania. there was evidence of weapons on the lusitania. brooks: not a perfectly neutral vessel. >> but the administration says it was carrying innocent civilians. and also, the zimmerman telegram. something that really should not matter at all, a low-level german foreign officer, but getting extremely exaggerated, in order to build up this kind of anti-german sentiment. brooks: ok.
>> so, and the question of lying when it comes to war powers, i think it is the responsibility of the president to always take the input of congress and the people, because if something were to go wrong, as in the case of nixon and cambodia, the responsibility is now shared by the american people. so it does not degrade the office of the president. in the case of nixon, when that happened, there was not a lot of public appeal to the president for a while after that. brooks: ok, let us go with that. what polk should have done, we want this land. we will go to war if they do not sell it to us. he would've gotten a lot of support for that, do you think? we got attacked, we had no choice, and there's nothing we can do.
>> i think that he would have gotten support because the american people were very migratory at that time. they were not in favor of expansion. brooks: ok. chelsea? chelsea: i am 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, when you are a kid and play the game of telephone, the message gets distorted and turns into something else. when it comes to wars, the more you try to include people, the easier it is the kind of mess up the whole situation, instead of having -- i am not saying the president should ultimately be a one person who can decide. but i do think there are certain situations, were the more people you tell, it could make the situation worse. brooks: the more people you have to hear. chelsea: it could change really the scope of what your actions
are trying to accomplish. >> i want to speak to both of those points. to start with, what you were saying about the idea of whether it was more impactful to go to war to impact american troops, versus some kind of american interest you are protecting, i think it is much of an easier thing to get people behind the war that is to protect troops for the everyday american, that sounds like a much more serious conflict, then we have this economic interest or this other interest we should probably take care of. does not sound like a good enough reason to go to war, and they might try to argue, cannot you do that by negotiating? try this first about but when a war is really necessary, speaking to get more people involved, i agree with what you said. when you get more involved, the debate can be drawn out to be a lot more longer than it needs to be.
sometimes, war needs to be dealt with quickly. brooks: you have to act now. talk or act. >> one of the things i wanted to bring back to the last couple of comments, looking at the polk versus nixon, the way the foreign policy interacts, the way that u.s. foreign-policy has changed historically, like before with the mexican-american war, no one was settled really in those areas. there was not a defined country, a state actor. americans were very light, westward expansion -- let us keep expanding. but across the continent, or in a different country confessors to bring in more like country boundaries and state sovereignty. i think it like shifts the framework of what you are trying to accomplish. and then like having the
president, james k. polk, i think more people would have been ok with the expansion because there was not a defined like entity, verses like going into cambodia or vietnam. where there were solidified borders. brooks: think about this. polk did not choose that route. and one of the reasons he does not choose that route, i think it is easier for somebody to say, i was attacked. i have nothing to do with this. i am just defending myself by taking over all of the north mexico. part of this is, again, presidents putting forces 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 the right to go to war, if the u.s. has been attacked? you know, the mexican-american war is a case where you have a declaration of war. what else to congress have done?
that would be unlikely, harrison? harrison: in regards to the reasons to go to war, i think 9/11 is an excellent reason for war. 3000 people dead. the problem can we do not wage it on the right people. i don't even know if there was a right people. but it is not just the media. you know, we put them there anyway. so, what is the difference? i think like, i think it is more than just a military thing. of course, people are attacked? we have more than just the iraq war, we got the patriot act, expanded nsa, all of those types of things. i think that is an instance where the presidential oversight and not go so well. brooks: i want to get some of these concepts out. we talked about nixon, polk.
but they are not standing alone in this regard. member, one of the things -- the notion that the 20th century brought about a substantially different presidency, while there is a change, we have talked about some of those things. but issues presidents have faced, have always faced them. the problems of before. we talk about wars that took place not a formal declaration, starts with the beginning of the republic. george washington's wars against native american tribes, all the way down to wounded knee. presidents do not go in ask permission, can we go to war against the sioux, apache? theoretically, the war against the apache in the southwest, they were the longest american
military engagement -- in terms of a hot war -- in american history. we do not really list those as wars, we think about wars. john quincy adams, a quasi-war against the french. he consult with congress, people were aware of it. but there is no declaration of war. thomas jefferson, barbary pirates, no declaration of war against the pirates. you look at them as the terrorists in this regard. so, we have got examples in the first three presidents of going to war in different ways that which do not involve the declaration. and then fourth president, james madison is the first to ask for a declaration of war against the british. the u.s. almost was to war against france, too, at the same
time. which is interesting. we are going to go to war against everybody. but that is how american presidents have use military force aggressively, sometimes with congressional approval, but in ways short of a declaration of war. now, this goes back to the beginning. one of the ways in which you do this is you put personnel, american military personnel, in harm's way. let us think about a couple of these. we just talked about james k. polk, where i think it is fair to expect there would be the possibility of military engagement against the military forces from mexico sent to the same area. people running around with guns, sooner or later, someone is going to want to use them. certainly, in the 19th century. but that is not the only time you have that.
in terms of international wars, 1898. spanish-american war, one of the major incidences leading up to that war was the decision by the mckinley administration, the battleship maine in havana harbor. that battleship blows up, no one quite knows why, the general consensus now is that it was probably an accident. but there were people that said the spanish deliberately blew up the ship. and in any case, there was a cry -- remember the maine health inspired the american declaration of war to take over cuba, free it from spanish rule. the united states takes out the spanish in manila bay. this is never a war about cuba, it is a war against the spanish empire with far ranging implications for the u.s. but troops were in harm's way.
you put a battleship where things are not going well, and we have seen that since then. like the u.s. as coal and other vessels -- u.s.s. cole and other vessels, they might get fired on. franklin roosevelt, in the undeclared war that preceded the formal declarations of war in december of 1941, american destroyers, merchant marine ships sending supplies to great britain, and later on the soviet union. those ships come under attack from german submarines. that is looking to have a military engagement. and there are, in fact, ships that engage those submarines. and there is basically a hot war going on in the north atlantic ocean. everyone is aware of it. so, long before pearl harbor, there have already been shots exchange between the u.s. and nazi germany.
they called it an undeclared war. studies from that period are sometimes entitled "the undeclared war." when you have those destroyer escorts come, and that is something that wilson did not buy into, there was no escort on the lusitania, for example. you know what the odds are, especially roosevelt should have known, that the odds are there will be hostile fire. you are going to put people in harm's way. lyndon johnson put troops in harm's way and american military personnel in the vietnam conflict. he was not the first. but in august of 1964, the u.s. reports that the north vietnamese have attacked american vessels in a place called the gulf of tonkin. whether this attack actually took place has become a matter of dispute, they interpret
radar, sonar, 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, an american base is attacked. and johnson uses that to expand the american commitment even more. and when people say, what is going on here? someone says, use the right streetcars, they come along. sooner or later, we know that will give justification for the president to act. 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 have done something fairly provocative that makes the
likelihood of an attack go up. so, even the reagan administration -- the blowing up of the marine barracks in beirut lebanon. why were there marine barracks in beirut? there was a good chance that harm would come to them. and you, as the u.s. president, can cite that event, if you so choose, to escalate involvement. and congressional approval is not something you ought 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 officiate the requirement that congress has to declare war, and many, many cases. we have that. so, link to that. i want you to think about another thing. the u.s. always want to say it has been attacked. i want you to think about ways in which the u.s., not quite in your lifetime but certainly your parent's lifetime, how the u.s. has used this notion that we are defending ourselves, or defending someone else was been attacked. alright? and a classic 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 is a garrison of united states military personnel in
fort sumter, in charleston harbor. we talked about lincoln telling the garrison has six weeks of food and supplies, and it needs be resupplied from or it will be forced to surrender. ok, what should lincoln have done and why? you have rebellion on your hands. these people are contesting your authority, doing something which you have claimed is unconstitutional. secession. >> i will support the president,
and i think you should have sent the reinforcements to fort sumter, even under the guise of being just food. obviously, it was more than that. but he said it was just food being sent to fort sumter so they would not starve. brooks: they had other vessels and military personnel in case that was attacked. but there was food, it was not the lusitania. but it had other people on it. military personnel. >> if i was president lincoln in this incident, i would have sent the vessel because they are already in secession, declaring independence already. it is going to need to be spinned, so the way your people will actually support you in conducting war. brooks: think about this. lincoln could have said this is wrong, this conflict -- this secession is wrong. i will compel military force. washington did that during the
whiskey rebellion. jackson threatened to do that, which involved south carolina. and so, you know, why not simply act this way more vigorously now? >> as i stated before, it is really powerful to put yourself in that defensive position, to say we have been attacked. they are the aggressor. but it is a political game domestically and internationally with the president kind of nudging the u.s. military in one direction, putting forces at fort sumter. and it is a political game with the south, a wargame with the south. go ahead and fire on us, see what happens. you get the guilt for starting the war on you. not only to galvanize support in the north, but also internationally. brooks: why not just simply withdraw, 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 does not withdraw the troops because, if he does, he shows that he is weak. which is different to be attacked, versus being retreated. brooks: remember, abraham lincoln is not the only american president involved in fort sumter.
and so, when lincoln says i will run force, in terms of resupplying the garrison, creating more soldiers there or ammunition, just food, just supplies, jefferson davis -- put yourself in his shoes. why did you fire? davis did not have to fire. davis could have seen this as simply a resupply mission. that continued the status quo. why fire? go ahead, thomas. thomas: i think the problem is that you have to take into account the facts, what if it is not just a resupply. what if you see anything that would put the -- that would compromise more the defensive situation that already existed at fort sumter, being a critical base to defend this whole area? and they actually continued to compromise their security in that area, if they did not starve out fort sumter. basically, you are giving up a major strategic advantage by not sinking that ship. so, yes, you did fire. you fired on the fort.
but you were kind of forced into it by the president's actions. it is kind of, either we declare war in that situation by having them fire and declare war on us, or give up military control of that sector entirely. brooks: ok, there were actual positive things for davis to consider. one thing davis was considering was the collapse, or what he foresaw as the erosion, of the sentiment for secession. there are seven states that secede to join the confederacy. and then, after those seven states come there, eight more slave states that do not secede by this time. alright, as we get to these other states, there is support for secession, but it is not
majority support. and there is concern that perhaps the enthusiasm for secession might die down. but if davis confronts lincoln, opens fire, that will encourage secession, especially if lincoln have to call troops to put down the rebellion. the president should not coerce people in this way. actually, i would argue that both presidents benefited from
escalating that conflict. davis got his stage, lincoln got his action. but notice there is a lot of argument with people saying, but lincoln did not cause the war. or did he? davis to not cause the war. both accepted the risk because they thought it might actually pay off. >> i think a contributing factor to a decision is not nearly the strategy, like the technical strategy, but also just the message. and how much of it little statement can be made. i think in the case of lincoln or any president, it is about what the people perceive, more about the power of persuasion, as opposed to the hard power of becoming commander-in-chief. it is about gaining the right perspective for people, and in that case, it is not particularly matter whether or not what the motivation was. >> definitely it is 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 fort sumter. davis could argue that because it is legal, they have no right to be at fort sumter.
they can both claim we were attacked, they are the aggressive. so they can both garner domestic support. brooks: davis argued we just want to be left alone. we are staying there, and not leaving us alone is a deliberately evocative act we cannot tolerate -- deliberately provocative act we cannot tolerate. we were the victim, we were forced into this. we did not do this willingly. but both sides make decisions that escalated the conflict, to the point of armed hostility. something that is in your lifetime, the you might not remember it, the invasion of iraq in 2003. and the claims that there were
weapons of mass instruction, that saddam hussein might use. why did the bush administration so readily adopt that? do you think that, for example, the american people would have supported and invasion of iraq, just on the grounds of removing saddam hussein? if he was not suggested he was a bigger threat than he was. abby? abby: i think it's thanks to the point that you might have to that i think it speaks to the
point that you might have to take care of it a meal economists early with congressional approval. so the garnering support behind something like that is a lot easier than saying there is some political interests, too, that we need to take care of. just like shock and all value, you can stand behind that as a reason, you will exploit that and take advantage of that. even if it is not true, or as true as you make it sound. brooks: not that there was a deliberate attempt to deceive. that is something of a still being argued. but weapons of mass destruction sounds like a much more compelling reason to go to war than, gee, we just need to go to the middle east. we have to go to iraq and take out the guy we forgot before. we need to finish the job. john? john: maybe it was the need for
the support. there was a lot of reporting that has been done in the past few years that seems to claim that the bush administration, that they do not necessarily intentionally deceive the american public, they needed to believe that there were wmds so badly because they needed to find something to get the public behind them so badly that they kind of had in their head tunnel vision, looking for selective evidence. brooks: ok, to give you another example, though. it might be a little less controversial in some ways, but not ours. as you know, the united states goes to war against japan in the immediate aftermath of the attack on pearl harbor. of course, we have already talked about the fact that some people think it might have been as unexpected as it was. but the american people were shocked when they found out pearl harbor had been attacked by the japanese. ok, we all know from the
american point of view, because we have talked about world war ii as the good war -- the greatest generation, good versus evil. whether you want to debate that are not is a different question. but it seems to have been -- hitler is a bad guy. we should go to war against germany. they do bad things. but notice that franklin roosevelt never went to the american people and said, you know what, if hitler wins, we lose. we need to go to war. hitler is taking over much of france, much of central europe. other than great britain standing there alone with winston churchill, there is no one standing in his way.
we should not have this man, with his political philosophy and his hatred of people unlike himself, in power. that is a bad thing. and so, i call upon the united states to go to war against nazi germany. why didn't roosevelt do that? if you are ever going to go to war against somebody, i would assume it is adolf hitler. harrison? harrison: he just did not need to. after he declared war on japan in return for pearl harbor, japan and germany both declared war. brooks: december 1941, the german tanks are rolling up -- they see moscow in the distance. no one understood that is very cold in the winter. what napoleon could have told him back in 1812, the fact is that britain is all alone.
they just bought off the luftwaffe. it is kind of tough at this point. would it not have been smarter to get involved earlier, before hitler could have taken over all of the stuff? >> i actually agree, because i think the attacks on pearl harbor were so surprising to so much of the public, that suggests that they were not prepared to enter that war. i mean, i don't think that very many americans would have said, yeah, i think hitler is crazy and we should leave germany alone. but they haven't ready to go to war, then i think the cymer 1941 would have turned out differently. -- december 1941 would have turned out differently. i think that we should not have been so surprised, right? i mean, japanese imperial
aggression was not exactly a secret. and yet, it was outraged -- where did this come from, how could this have happened? clearly, we were not ready. brooks: remember, hitler does the u.s. a favor. if you are angry on december 8, 9, 10, you're not angry about hitler. contrary to "animal house." it is important to get history right. it is up to the italians and germans to declare war on the u.s. and we return the favor. the hitler mistake was making a public relations effort easy. in fact one of the things that fdr had to do with the u.s. went to war was to remind people, by the way, although we are angry at the japanese can really have to worry about hitler. he is much more important, frankly, in the long term than the japanese.
we will get them 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 say, hitler did not attack us. the japanese did. we should go after them. >> i think in this particular case, a lot of it is the denial of the severity of the issue. i think a lot of people wanted to believe that hitler could be dealt with diplomatically, and like a nice, friendly way. talk to him and negotiate. fdr wrote him letters, maybe you should not invade these places. obviously, that did not work. from fdr's perspective, that should've been a warning sign, but i think the people want to believe we could do something without declaring war. because war is such an enormous move.
there was just a lot of denile. hitler is not that big of a deal, we don't need to take care of it right now. we kind of needed a pearl harbor to open our eyes to see this is a global conflict. we do need to get involved. brooks: ok, so the public needs to be inspired to go into a war it might not otherwise have considered, in terms of national interest and power politics. >> i was just going to say that i think the denial only works when the american interests or the american people, themselves, are not directly threatened. you see what 9/11, when americans are the ones who are being threatened, there is no denial about, maybe we can appease a threat or whatever. it becomes that war is necessary. so i really think it kind of just depends on the american interest. brooks: ok, that is a good point. once you are punched in the nose, andrew? my parents used to tell me walk away from a fight. on the playground with a
distilled me you have never been in a fight. >> like how you asked earlier, why did he not come out and say hitler is bad this is a threat? that is the reason we're going to war? i think the president would have to present the war to the american people as a war out of fear, and not immediate threat. it would have been more of let us see if there's a possibility of attack in the future. brooks: ok, we have actually conducted when i called preemptive wars. if we don't do this, something really bad. we have not been attacked, we will be. alright, and i think it is interesting that we do not have a president saying here is a global situation. here is the american national interests. to secure the national interest, we're going to engage in war.
and so i ask you. so polk does not say we really want this chunk of territory from mexico, it would help american expansion. we are a nation of expanding destiny. let us go to war to take it, because we tried to buy it and they will not sell it. so, we will take it. and notice that the president will not speak that way. we want stability in the middle east, we believe that saddam hussein is a destabilizing element in that region. we are worried about guaranteeing our supply of oil from that region. we need to take him out. that is the way it is. he may be connected to al qaeda and osama bin laden, but that is not important.
we need to take them out. those speeches, which would be a lot different, are not the kind of speeches that arouse a lot of popular passion. i suppose, yesterday, december 7, 1941, a day which will live in infamy, that can get you going. >> i would say that is an indictment of the public, not the president overreaching. because it is the real reason that we need to insert ourselves more aggressively into international conflict. it is real, serious american interest. but our lack of interest as a public in events outside our borders, that is our fault. not the president's. brooks: therefore, presidents are basically -- you are going
to give them a pass when it comes to lying? because the american people really are not ready for the truth. >> i don't know about not ready for the truth. i am not saying we are too stupid to understand our interest. i am saying we are not aware enough to understand that our interests are at risk. brooks: what if we are aware and we don't think they require war. >> that is a case when congress should restrain the president. but i don't think that is often the case. brooks: thomas, folks down there? thomas: the problem is that you are treating the american public as having one collective idea of what needs to be done. whereas it is a multitude of
opinions and ideas that everyone has that are different from everyone else's. i guess they cannot handle the truth because it is not really possible for a president to establish a unifying motive for the entirety of the american populace, besides something like an us versus them scenario. brooks: you could argue that it is the president's job to educate. i know you do not understand, there is not a reason you should understand. it is in a place far, far away. with people whose speak a different language. and so, i will explain to you what american interests are. we will let people in congress respond to that. i will let opinion makers respond to that, members of my administration will educate you.
you can make the decision. i will ask you to do this. i will explain why think this is a course of action to pursue. >> i agree that is something that should happen that has not been happening. but it is subject to the time lag problem involved in warfare. brooks: but it has changed things. time used to be a big factor in these events because of the delay in communications. for example, in the war of 1812, the british had actually given in to american demand. but by the time that word had reached washington, the u.s. had already declared war. remember, that war ends on christmas eve, 1814. in belgium, they signed an agreement, a piece agreement -- peace agreement. but that does not get to the u.s. until the battle of new orleans in 1815, a battle that elevated andrew jackson to become president of the u.s. >> this is going to go back
little bit, but back to the idea of world war ii as an indictment of both the public and president. i think that one of the reasons we did not a medially jump in, we were afraid of what it would mean if we lost. and the president did not exactly have an answer for that. in fact, he did not want to bring that to the public's attention. if you look at the executive government branch, we expect them to always have at least half an answer, or give us options in terms of what we can do as a public or support and indict ourselves, not having the idea that why are you going to give it to them if they cannot do anything about it? >> i want to touch on what we were talking about before. in terms of why we need to have some sort of big event the kind of inspire fear, why that is
important, i think that goes back to what we touched on in the beginning of the semester. the western political brain, the idea that we are not driven by logic. i mean, you can try to appeal to logic, but overwhelmingly, we are powered by emotion. while it is great to explain, most people are not going to be driven to support political action because of it. more importantly, when you get into these conflicts that have years and years of history behind it, only about 25% of the public actively pays attention. when we talk about maybe the president should be trying to educate people, it would be an overwhelming portion of the population they would have to educate. and you would probably be trying to educate people would not be interested in paying attention in the first place, and
difficult to do that. brooks: they don't want to go to class, they react to an event. we go back to thomas and his saying time is a factor. sean? sean: yet, i 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, there is always kind of one central, opposing threat. when this is overcome, we will go into peacetime. but ever since the cold war, war on terror, there has been less of a clear end. and that may have expanded the powers, as people became frustrated with no tangible outcome. brooks: the cold war is never declared. there are measures, steps, events, there is nothing called the cold war, in terms of the cold war today, beginning it.
it is there. there is nothing you can really do about it. ok? and it ends, not as an act of congress, but the cold war is over. harrison? harrison: with regards to educating the public, i think that is a great point. it would be really hard to give people the benefit of the doubt with israel versus palestine. a lot of people have a lot of different views. being elected president, we are really collecting someone whose discretion we trust. ideally, we can screw up and pick someone who is not the best under pressure. but we have to give freedom to, you know, do what he or she thinks is right. brooks: ok, remember, we may not like what the president does. and we get upset later, why did you tell us you are lying to us? claudia?
claudia: my issue is, as much as i feel about educating the american public is obviously the ideal for what we want, we all want to be united in an effort especially with war, because we are talking about sending people .ut to die how would you attempt to educate the american public in situations like when we drop a bomb and we do not even know what is going to happen with it? like in the case of hiroshima and nagasaki? brooks: we do not know how it will work until it is deployed.