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Congressman John Duncan

Representing the 2nd District of Tennessee

Peace Through Strength, Not Peace Through Endless War

June 10, 2015

Mr. Speaker, several weeks ago, I spoke to about 200 people at the famous Willard Hotel in Washington in a program put on by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. I had been told that this was a group of CEOs and owners of major companies in southern California--obviously, a very upper-income group.

I got to a point in my speech when I said: ``It is long past the time we need to stop trying to run the whole world and start putting our own people in our own country first once again.''

Much to my surprise, the audience broke into applause. Middle- and lower-income people have applauded when I have said similar things in my district and around the country. Many upper-income people claim to be moderates, and contrary to popular belief, conservatives lose most very wealthy areas 2-1 or worse. I have spoken to a very wide variety of groups in Washington and around the country and in my district, and I have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response every time I have said it has been a horrible mistake to spend trillions on unnecessary wars in the Middle East.

When I was a teenager, I remember reading a publication from the Republican National Committee that read: ``Democrats start wars. Republicans end them.''

There was a time, until recent years, when the Republican Party could make a legitimate claim to being the Peace Party. I sent my first paycheck as a bag boy at the A&P--$19 and some cents--as a contribution to the Barry Goldwater campaign. I have worked on Republican campaigns at the national, State, and local levels for over 50 years, and it saddens me to hear almost all of the Republican candidates for President try to outdo each other in their hawkishness. Based on the response I have gotten, I think it is a recipe for defeat if my Republican Party becomes known as the party favoring permanent, forever wars--wars without end.

All of our candidates try to convince people that they are like Ronald Reagan. President Reagan once wrote: ``Our troops should be committed to combat abroad only as a last resort--when no other choice is available.''

Reagan was certainly no warmonger Republican or a man eager to go to war.

President Eisenhower, one of our greatest military leaders, was another ``peacenik'' Republican. He knew of the horrors of war, unlike many modern day chickenhawks. He famously warned us at the end of his Presidency about the dangers of being controlled by a very powerful military-industrial complex. I think he would be shocked at how far we have gone down the road that he warned us against.

In his book "Ike's Bluff," Evan Thomas wrote: "Eisenhower would periodically sigh to Andy Goodpaster, his Chief of Staff: `God help the Nation when it has a President who doesn't know as much about the military as I do.'"

Pat Buchanan wrote on March 20: ``In November 1956, President Eisenhower, enraged he had not been forewarned of their invasion of Egypt, ordered the British, French, and Israelis to get out of Suez and Sinai. They did as told. How far we have fallen from the America of Ike.''

Senator Robert Taft, who was sometimes referred to as ``Mr. Republican'' in the 1940s and 1950s, once said: ``No foreign policy can be justified except a policy devoted ..... to the protection of the liberty of the American people, with war only as the last resort and only to preserve that liberty.''

Most of the Republican Presidential candidates have attacked President Obama for acting in some ways that are unconstitutional, and he has. But where in our Constitution does it give us the authority to run other countries as we have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan--even making small business loans and training local police forces?

My Republican Party was always the party of fiscal conservatism. Yet, with a national debt of over $18 trillion, how can we justify continually spending megabillions in religious civil wars between the Shia and Sunni?

Some people and companies that make money off of an interventionist foreign policy always very quickly fall back on the slur of isolationism, but most conservatives believe in trade and tourism and cultural and educational exchanges with other countries and in helping out during humanitarian crises. We just don't believe in endless war.

We are told, if we don't support an interventionist foreign policy, that this means we don't believe in American exceptionalism, but this Nation did not become exceptional because we got involved in every little war around the globe. It became exceptional because of our great free enterprise system and because we gave our people more individual freedom than any other country.

I have said in thousands of speeches that we are blessed beyond belief to live in this country and that the United States is, without question, the greatest country in the history of the world, but there was much less anti-Americanism around the world when we tried to mind our own business and take care of our own people, and this Nation had more friends when we followed the policy of peace through strength, not one of peace through endless war.