“Wars of choice” and cheap partisan rhetoric
By: MICHAEL BARONE
Senior Political Analyst
10/04/09 12:14 PM EDT
In my Sunday Examiner column, I looked at Barack Obama’s apparent change of heart on Afghanistan. I took aim at his characterization, made as recently as August 17, of Afghanistan as a “war of necessity,” as compared to Iraq, which he and other Democrats have long characterized as a “war of choice.” A false distinction, I argued; all out wars have been, in one way or another, wars of choice. Recognizing that the case is hardest to make for World War II, since after all we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, I wrote:
Franklin Roosevelt could have avoided provoking Nazi Germany and imperial Japan; eminences like Joseph P. Kennedy and Charles Lindbergh were arguing that we could survive, perhaps uncomfortably, in a Nazi-dominated world. But Roosevelt chose to risk war in order to rid the world of evildoers.
That’s a very short version of an argument I’ve made at greater length elsewhere, and which Conrad Black makes very persuasively in his excellent biography of Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom—the best one-volume (though a long one-volume!) biography of Roosevelt in my opinion. Black writes that Roosevelt, from some time in 1938, was determined to destroy Hitler, and that his policies of aiding Britain and cutting off oil supplies to Japan were attempts to provoke the Axis into attacking the United States, as Japan finally did on December 7, 1941. Before Pearl Harbor, most Americans did not want us to fight; Roosevelt, in Black’s view and mine, did. So World War II was, in my view, very much a “war of choice.” We could have sat it out, as Kennedy and Lindbergh and many other isolationists advocated.