Hillary Is No Hawk

golden-pat-gaines1 I don’t see Hillary as a hawk necessarily. Someone whose first reaction to aggression is aggression along the lines of Lindsey Graham or John McCain is very definitely a hawk. This is a particularly Republican tendency; the drive for an ever stronger military and flag-waving support for the troops. A belief that government is best when small with the exception of its military might—these are the values of a hawk. Trump appears to focus on strength, on winning and winning through strength. A frequent “attack” is to call someone weak. His early campaign theme talked about winning; he’s a winner, with him as president, we would get tired of winning.

The Democratic Party tends to contain more anti-war ideals, although it is by no means anti-military. America’s war footing over the past 20 years is reflected in a belief that one can support the troops and support the country. The “love it or leave it” attitude so prevalent during the first Gulf War is somewhat shopworn. The George W attitude that “you’re either for us or against us” statement has been tempered with an understanding that we can support our President, and dislike some of his (or soon her) policies.

President Obama is not a Progressive in the traditional sense and this is no more evident than the almost immediate wave of anger towards his early decisions to keep troops in Iraq and leave Guantanamo open. Just as the Republicans, most Democrats are also fairly definite in their attitudes, varied as they might be, and unwilling or unable to understand the nuances, international pressures, and all that is involved in decisions at the presidential level. Very few have the time or inclination to synthesize political discussions in such a way as to truly understand why decisions are made. We also have limited access to all of the information available to those at the most senior levels and, like it or not, are subject to the opinions of the mainstream media. Their choices in what to report, how, and whom to interview, very definitely effect our understanding of the world.

A significant difference between the two parties, and their presidential candidates over time, is that a Democrat tends to view diplomacy as the first choice – with aggression used only as a last resort. To the Republicans and our current Republican nominee, this is reflective of weakness, of leading from behind. A true coalition has evolving policy and leadership either shared or distributed among members. An understanding that we are strongest when we work together. Even George W knew that he had to gather support before taking action.

Much of the deep divide within the Democratic Party comes from the wide umbrella that includes beliefs ranging from the far left to the center left. There is no definitive definition of who is more progressive, who is more liberal. The anti-war wing has espoused a black/white belief that all war is bad. I find myself surprised at myself in that, as a lifelong pacifist, I am anti-war, but as an adult, I understand that sometimes countries need to take actions I might not like, or even agree with, to maintain its position in the world.

While I do not agree with the notion that as “the” superpower we can tell other countries what to do, I do agree that we have to negotiate and compromise so that another country is not left with nothing in the win column. This will engender only anger that leads to lashing out at whomever they believe has wronged them. Witness ISIL. I am unable to say, despite my deeply rooted pacifism, that all war is wrong. I have known people with tattoos on their wrist; I have studied history; and I know that sometimes, the only answer is military action. Without a coalition of allies, without the entry of the United States, WWII would likely have turned out quite differently. Israel would not exist and the whole complexion of Europe and thus the world would be something that we would be unlikely to recognize today.

So what is a hawk? Someone, like Trump, who believes that the first response is a strong response. A belief that “they did it first” is always justification for any action desired. A notion that any criticism or disagreement is an attack, and that all attacks whether verbal, emotional, or physical is cause for an aggressive response.

President Obama’s tendency to wait and see, to collect information and discuss options, gathering opinions from his senior advisors before taking action is often seen as weakness by the Republican Party. Attacks on the Secretary of State are precursors to limiting the effectiveness of diplomacy. Congress controls the purse, and they may not be able to effect change through policy, but they certainly chip away at the effectiveness of an agency; of a belief system, by cutting funds. On one hand they demand action in the Middle East to stop terrorism, and with the other hand, refuse to approve a formal authorization for the use of military force. Their hawkishness is thus diminished by their unwillingness to allow a Democratic administration any success.

So what does that make Hillary? A Democrat. A center left, middle of the road liberal who understands the complexity of the world we live in. Someone who knows the world in a way we can never understand, and who will use the military as a last resort rather than a first. The hardcore supporters of Bernie Sanders seem not to understand that there may be times when military action is necessary. I admit I have a hard time finding those times, but someone who cares about the people of the military, rather than just the perception of might, is someone more likely to be judicious in her use of aggression. That is not a hawk.

I doubt that anyone could achieve the Presidency, or even leadership in any capacity at the national level, who is unwilling to ever use the military in defense of either this country or our allies. Those who believe that Sanders is anti-war do not know his history. A vote taken 20 years ago is not indicative of his belief. How many times does a Congress-person vote against a bill that they or we like because of the amendments added by the other side? Nobody who has been in Congress for 25 years can be defined by one vote either taken or not.

In my work, I have to evaluate and assess people. I explore their mental health. If possible, I learn as much of their history in an effort to determine where to focus my attention. For example, working with addiction, my specialty, when someone started abusing drugs is key to developing a treatment plan. Some diagnoses in fact, require the ability to make a historical diagnosis to add to current symptoms. An individual with anti-social personality disorder must have a history of conduct disorder, that by definition, is a diagnosis reserved for children under the age of 15. We are taught both in coursework and through ongoing ethical training that we cannot possibly evaluate based on a one-time visit. The more severe the diagnosis, the more in-depth the evaluation needed, the more context we need to find.

All of this is in aid of the belief that actions taken 20 years ago, or 10, or 50, are not reflective of current beliefs and plans. Of course, the best predictor of future behavior is past actions, but we also must recognize that we evolve, we change. We grow a little more mature over time and with experience. We see that the more we learn, the less we know. The absolute convictions held at 21 seem to fray around the edges as we move through life. The saddest individual is one who is incapable of the self-awareness necessary for change.

In my work, I don’t tell people what to do. I help them find the questions to ask themselves, to learn how to think about how many answers there are, and figure out which answer is the best for that individual at that time. The saddest thing I’ve heard in this campaign? Trump saying he’s pretty much the same as when he was 5 years old.

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