Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Militarily Pivotal Presidency

Simple raw calculations are all that is needed to determine which president was the economically pivotal presidency. Finding out that Herbert Hoover was economically pivotal comes as little surprise to those that never fell for his false reputation as a do nothing president.

Trying to figure out which president is the most pivotal in terms of use of the military and foreign affairs is more complicated. Each particular war could, in theory, be considered the turning point in United States foreign relations. But there is one war in particular and also one president in particular that stands out.

Reading "Recarving Rushmore" by the Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute gives an interesting perspective to a usually overlooked president, William McKinley. It is commonly assumed that he wished to avoid war with Spain, but research by Ivan Eland shows otherwise. William McKinley played a very coy game of pretending to oppose the war while encouraging it behind the scenes.

While previous wars had some sort of arguable pretext, even though in the Mexican-American war the actual course of the war went far beyond the pretext, there at least was a case to be made for military action by the United States. There wasn’t always a good case, but there was some case.

The case for the Spanish-American war was imperialism, nothing less and nothing more. The sinking of the Maine served as an incident, but didn't serve as a cause. More than any other military action, it set the course for future United States military involvement around the world, setting the state for the many crimes of Woodrow Wilson.

The reason why William McKinley doesn't get the recognition he deserves is because while preparing for war, advocating war, and later waging war, his public statements were to the effect of opposing war. Why he spoke out against a war that he wanted is a very curious subject to examine, which can be read about in "Recarving Rushmore."


KN@PPSTER said...

Assigning the pivotal role to McKinley puts too much stock in pretext vs. no pretext, etc.

I'd argue that Lincoln is clearly the militarily pivotal president.

When he took office in March of 1861, the US Army was 16,000 strong.

By July of that year it had multiplied in size by a full order of magnitude, to more than 180,000 troops.

As of two weeks after his death on May 1, 1865, it boasted 1 million soldiers.

There were battles in the first year of that war in which more soldiers died on a single day than had died in all previous US wars combined.

The first big jump in army size was pulled off by executive decree and presented to Congress as a fait accompli -- a very pivotal aspect.

He also introduced the draft.

Ayn R. Key said...

I thought about that. I really did. But it was McKinley who shifted the focus to using the military to create empire, with his war against Spain and the acquisition of the Philippines.

Lincoln is more pivotal in terms of the relationship between the states and the federal government.