The Man in the Street: The Impact of American Public Opinion on Foreign Policy

By Thomas A. Bailey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
THE AMERICAN WAY IN WAR

"It would be not merely foolish but wicked for us as a nation to agree to arbitrate any dispute that affects our vital interest or our independence or our honor."--THEODORE ROOSEVELT, 1911


1

THE EXPERIENCE of the American people, as earlier noted, gives little support to the popular fallacy that democracies are less likely to provoke war than other forms of government. We are undeniably more peace-loving than other nations in the sense that we plunge into war without adequate preparation. Someone has well said that we are a warlike but unmilitary people.

The brutal truth is that the citizens of a democracy are at times the hardest and most unreasonable bargainers. Without give and take there can be no successful international negotiation in peacetime, and the American people, not properly appreciating this principle, are likely to demand all take and no give. The masses of any country are less prone to prevision than the leaders of an absolutist government. While a dictator may provoke a war with Machiavellian motives, he is less apt than the mob to embark upon a war of impulse or passion. Hitler appeared to be an exception when he attacked Poland in a fit of exhausted patience, but up to that point his plans had certainly been laid with diabolical cunning.

A further glimpse at the record is rewarding. In 1812 England was a monarchy (though the last bulwark of constitutionalism in Europe), and she did not want war with us, but our "War Hawks" got out of hand and we found ourselves fighting at the side of the Hitler of the Napoleonic era. In 1898 the Spanish monarchy did not want war with us, and was doing all it decently could to avert hostilities, but public pressure in America forced President McKinley's hand. Both of these conflicts, aggressively declared by the American democracy upon a reluctant monarchy, were wars of impulse, and as such could theoretically have been avoided.

One may conclude that during certain periods democracies have been known to fight more often, more irrationally, and over more trivial causes than certain contemporary monarchies. Much more depends on circumstances than on form of government. A designing dictator will fight when his interests are vitally touched; the masses of a democracy will demand war (and get it) when they think, whether correctly or not, that their interests are critically threatened. The citizens of a democracy may be oversensitive on points of national honor, they may be subject to the terrifying whims of mob psychology, but, unlike the dictator, they cannot engage in a mass conspiracy against the peace. A mass conspiracy is a contradiction in terms.

-76-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Man in the Street: The Impact of American Public Opinion on Foreign Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 338

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.