I hope those who take my classes or read my articles will quickly learn that I do not believe my job is to convince anyone that my political beliefs are correct. I do have strong political beliefs, but those are mine. I hope to give students information they need to make their own political choices. However, what I do expect is for students to make informed decisions. There is so much false information today, especially about history, that I am trying to clear some of it up.
A quick example is Trump’s so called “Muslim ban.” I am not arguing for or against this ban. That is your decision, but I have heard too many say this ban is wrong because it is not American, or this is not what America does, or we are a country of immigrants. Yes, we are a country of immigrants; however, we are also a country that since its founding has banned immigrants. Not all immigrants, but over the 300 years of American history we have put restrictions on many. We did not allow Chinese in our country for more than 40 years, and that is only one example. So make your arguments (I myself am against the ban) but make your arguments correctly.
This brings me to my point for this article. Many are rightfully concerned about the President’s tweet towards North Korea that basically said, my nuclear button is bigger than yours. The President’s sanity and ability to lead the nation are being challenged because of the strong brinksmanship being displayed from Mr. Trump. Several talking heads have argued that Trump is not acting presidential enough. He is too hawkish and does not have the temperament to control the nuclear arsenal. Again, like the earlier example, formulate your beliefs over his stance to taunt the North Koreans, but do not for a second believe he is the first to use such brinksmanship. The real issue here is how he does it-by Twitter.
The problem is he is only the second president to serve since the scourge of Twitter, and the first to use it as a principle platform. Do not think that if other presidents had social media they would not have used it. I can only imagine James Polk tweeting “54-40 or fight” to the British when he was taunting them with war or Andrew Jackson tweeting out “Our federal union, it must be preserved” in reference to John C. Calhoun trying to nullify a federal law. Jackson was letting Calhoun know he planned to march on South Carolina if they did not back down. No, do not say Trump is not acting presidential; he is only doing it with 140 characters when most presidents had to say it in an entire speech.
Diplomacy usually is the answer in most diplomatic instances, but do not think our long list of presidents all avoided presidential brinksmanship. Much of the media has decided to criticize anything that Mr. Trumps says or does, but some of this is just having to get used to his platform. I personally do not tweet, but I seem to be one of the last. Most celebrities and companies have Twitter accounts. In fact, Twitter is how many communicate and get information. I wish the president would not use Twitter, but it seem the way of the future. So we can claim we don’t agree with the president’s stance towards North Korea, or you don’t like the fact that he is using Twitter, but please don’t say that’s not how presidents act. They just used different technology.
Let’s just think of a few examples and what it would have been like if they had had Twitter. President Teddy Roosevelt is a favorite of many. Talk about someone who would have loved Twitter. You think Trump is bad? Roosevelt gave a famous speech as vice-president, two weeks before becoming president, called the Big Stick Speech. From this speech, we receive Teddy’s foreign policy position of “Speak Softly but Carry a Big Stick,” a not so veiled threat to the rest of the world. That would have made an excellent tweet. I can only imagine after TR sent the Great White Fleet to Japan to show them the size of the U.S. Navy to warn them away from our positions in the Pacific that he would have sent a great tweet somewhere along the lines of “Hey Japan, my navy is bigger than yours.”
On the Democratic side, there are some good examples as well. First, there was Harry Truman who told Japan to “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” Unlike others so far, Truman followed through. I think that quote would fit into 140 characters. JFK, a man who worked towards peace when possible, also ran as one of his planks that the U.S. needed to make up a missile gap with the Russians. He said we were falling behind and if we wanted to compete with the Russians, we would need more nuclear weapons. In his speech during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he said “The 1930s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word…But now further action is required–and it is under way; and these actions may only be the beginning. We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth–but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.” This is more than 140 characters, but you get the point. JFK was hoping to avoid war, but this is still brinksmanship.
Later Ronald Reagan, another man who would have liked Twitter, referred to the Evil Empire when discussing Russia. George W. Bush called Iran, South Korea, and Iran the “Axis of Evil.” Using “Rocket Man” is a bit more childish, but Bush and Trump are doing the same thing. What these presidents all had in common was two things: they all used brinksmanship when dealing with their enemies and none of them had Twitter.
I could go on. Many more gauntlets were thrown and I have not even covered the 19th century, but, like Twitter, my editor wants this in less than 14,000 words. Therefore, here is the moral. Hate Trump or love him. Make any argument you want about him on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever you use, but make your agreements correctly.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha