A New War Paradigm: Hawks, Doves and Owls

Owl be seeing you!

I just read this analysis by Newt Gingrich and feel it so clearly describes where Americans stand with respect to our attitude toward getting involved in wars that I decided to print it in its entirety.

In a way filled with irony, there is something refreshing about nearly the entire nation being opposed to getting involved in Syria’s civil war. One of the things I hate the most about politics is the extreme polarization that exists on so many issues making it nearly impossible to find common ground or make peace with those we disagree with. That we finally found something that we — almost completely — agree on gives me hope because I don’t see how we can survive as a nation with so much bitterness and fighting.

Newt’s analysis provides us with a new way of thinking on this subject.

As we remember the horrors of September 11, 2001, I want to add a new bird to our national security language.

For years we have talked about hawks and doves.

The term war hawk goes back to 1798, when Thomas Jefferson applied it to Federalists who wanted to go to war with France.

In the election of 1810 the war hawks won and elected Henry Clay as Speaker of the House (the only freshman member of Congress in history to become speaker). In 1812 they got their war which was with Great Britain.

The dove as a symbol of peace goes all the way back to the dove bringing the olive branch to Noah as a sign the waters had receded.

During coverage of the Cuban missile crisis commentators began to describe the hawk wing which wanted to invade Cuba and the dove wing which wanted to find a diplomatic solution.

During the Vietnam War the concept of hawks and doves became wide spread.

For most of my career I would have been called a hawk. When we founded the Military Reform Caucus in 1981, I said that I was a hawk, but a cheap hawk.

We have gained a lot of experience with war and violence in the Middle East since then. Indeed, we have been in a struggle in the Middle East for at least 34 years (going back to the Iranian hostage takeover).

We lost 241 service members in Beirut in 1983 (almost certainly masterminded by an Iranian).

We liberated Kuwait from Saddam in 1991.

We tried to police Saddam through the United Nations and coalition efforts for 12 years before the second Iraq war.

In 1996 we lost 19 airmen when the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were attacked.

In 1998 we had embassies bombed in Kenya and Tanzania by al-Qaeda.

In 2000 in Yemen terrorists attacked the USS Cole and we lost 17 sailors.

Twelve years ago today in 2001, Islamist radicals attacked the American homeland with four coordinated aircraft hijackings, destroying the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon and killing nearly 3,000 people.

During the 12 years since then we have been fighting across the planet, particularly Afghanistan and Iraq. I was initially in favor of both the Afghan and Iraq campaigns. Beginning in December 2003, I said that the United States had gone of the cliff in Iraq and was engaged in an inevitably losing strategy.

The result of the longest continuous war in American history is a mess.

Libya is a mess.

Egypt is unstable.

Iraq is violent.

Afghanistan is unstable.

Pakistan has large pockets of violence.

Iran is working to build a nuclear weapon.

Yemen is a mess.

Mali is a mess.

Radical Islamists are gaining recruits and spreading around the world.

It is with this backdrop that 85 percent of the American people in one recent poll said they were opposed to the United States getting involved in the Syrian civil war.

The American people are right.

Assad is bad.

The opposition to Assad is bad and maybe worse.

It is inconceivable that the United States would project enough power to change the Syrian system of factional warfare and hatred.

Staying out is not a sign we are becoming a nation of doves.

If directly threatened the American people will be as hawkish and aggressive as needed.

The last few decades, however, have taught us a lot.

We want to think long and hard before committing to war.

We want to ensure there is no alternative to risking the lives of our young men and women.

We want to know that there is a realistic goal that is achievable.

We are as tough as hawks but the lessons of history have made us slower, wiser, and more cautious. We are not isolationists and we are not doves.

We are owls.

Your Friend,