Are Republicans no longer the party more inclined to military interventions and an assertive foreign policy?
It's a question raised by the enthusiastic response to Sen. Rand Paul's 13-hour filibuster and to his not-very-interventionist foreign policy.
It's raised also by House Republicans' willingness to accept the budget sequester, which includes defense cuts that former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called "devastating."
Barack Obama thought those cuts would be so unpalatable that Republicans would agree to increase tax revenues to avoid them. A decade or two ago, that would have been true. Not so today.
And it's a question raised by the silence on the part of most Republican officeholders and the contrition of others on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. intervention in Iraq.
Only John McCain and a few others have been defending a war that almost all Republicans and many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, initially supported.
Historically, neither party has always been either hawkish or dovish. Democrats supported the Mexican war; Whigs were against.
Republicans backed Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War; many Democrats wanted a compromise peace. Republican supported the Spanish American War and suppression of the Philippine insurrection; Democrat William Jennings Bryan ran against "imperialism."
For half a century, Democrats were the party more supportive of military intervention. Democrat Woodrow Wilson, after winning re-election as the man who kept us out of war, called for a declaration of war against Germany six months later. He got it, with 50-some dissents.
In the 1930s, Republican ranks included more isolationists than interventionists, and vice versa for Democrats.
Franklin Roosevelt scrambled to send arms to beleaguered Britain and cut off oil sales (when the U.S. produced most of the world's oil) to hostile Japan. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, all but one member of Congress voted to declare war.
But some notable Republicans, including Chicago Tribune publisher Col. Robert McCormick and former President Herbert Hoover, charged that FDR had maneuvered us into what people today call a war of choice.
Democratic presidents led America into wars in Korea and Vietnam, with death tolls more than 10 times what we have suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That was the history Bob Dole was referring to when he talked of "Democrat wars" in the 1976 vice presidential debate. But by that time, the term was obsolete.
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