Do Anti-War Presidential Candidates Exist?

Created: 02 October, 2015
Updated: 18 October, 2022
5 min read

I try not to be a single-issue voter. I methodically compare and contrast the voting records of those seeking my vote. However, I have carried one policy stance with me from the time I was a young high school idealist to my current state of cynical curmudgeonism: I am staunchly opposed to war.

I am a strong proponent for scaling back military spending and America’s role as cop of the world. I believe all diplomatic concessions should be fully exhausted before any boots, bullets, bombs, or bodies hit the ground. Every country has the right to defend itself from foreign aggression, but the preemptive and clandestine wars of recent years only fuel instability and insecurity.

Case in point: Iraq. The Iraqi invasion is the root cause for the rise of ISIS, the current refugee crisis, and our present diplomatic fallout with Russia. We are less safe because of this idiotic war.

Now I have something really embarrassing to admit. In 2008, after Ron Paul dropped out of the race, I believed that Barack Obama was the only legitimate anti-war presidential candidate left in the race. He impressed me with his fiery rhetoric that lambasted the Bush administration for its costly invasion of Iraq – costly from a financial, diplomatic, and moral standpoint. So I voted for him.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

Since taking office, Obama has bombed twice as many countries as his predecessor – more than any other president since WWII. To add insult to injury, Obama brags about “ending two wars” in countries that are still being bombed at this very exact moment. The juxtaposition of his Nobel Peace Prize and his constitutionally-dubious drone strategy abroad is Kafkaesque at its best, Orwellian at its worst.

I vowed never again to be duped by another hawk in dove’s clothing.

Following Obama’s election, the anti-war movement became stale and complacent. It was nothing more than “that thing we did when Bush was in office.”

The signs of cognitive dissonance were there all along; they just took some time to rise to the surface. In 2015, a YouGov poll showed that 65% of Democrats – the so-called “Party of Peace” that was supposedly opposed to Bush’s hawkish foreign policy – “recalled” opposing the invasion. They conveniently forgot that a majority of registered Democrats (including 58% of Senate Democrats) were actually in favor of the invasion.

How soon we forget.

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Now, with a new election upon us, what is an anti-war voter supposed to do? Who are we to vote for?

There are, of course, the true believers and purists who can be found in the underground of third parties. Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Rocky Anderson all campaigned with uncompromising anti-war platforms in 2012 and will likely do the same again in 2016.

Even though he ran as a Republican, Ron Paul was as marginalized as his third party peers. But we all know the fate of third parties during elections. Voting third party feels good, but doesn’t produce much of a result.

But then again, the two major parties don’t appear promising either.

Yes, Bernie Sanders voted against Iraq. But he also supported supplying weapons to the Peshmerga to battle ISIS, the NATO bombing campaign against Kosovo (which actually inspired the resignation of one of his advisers), the continuation of Obama’s drone program, and increased funding of the military-industrial complex time after time after time.

Up until recently, the Sanders campaign website suspiciously lacked any content regarding foreign policy. For a while, Donald Trump provided more of a foreign policy platform than Sanders. (Granted, it only involved Mexico, but one country is more than zero, eh?)

Then, there’s

Rand Paul. When it comes to comparisons to his father, Rand is an apple that fell far from the tree. In an effort to appeal to mainstream GOP voters, Paul opposes the Iran nuclear deal, voted to boost defense spending, and supports Israeli aggression against Palestine (even after backtracking from his suicidal proposal of denying foreign aid to our “infallible” ally).

Rand has managed to appropriate a degree of support from the diehard libertarian base that buoyed his dad’s campaign, but that street cred dwindles with each bloated military budget passed with his “yea” vote.

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As far as mainstream candidates are concerned, however, Paul and Sanders are the best bets for the anti-war vote, which is lukewarm at best. Since neither candidate will likely receive their party’s nomination, we can expect a leader who is hunky-dory with the United States spending more on defense than the next seven biggest militaries combined.

If you have fooled yourself to believe that Hillary Clinton offers the best chance for peace and diplomacy, then your thirst for Kool-Aid has already been quenched. To battle the effects of said Kool-Aid, I offer the following: Clinton voted for Iraq, admitted it was a mistake, but still refused to withdraw troops. She also double-downed on nation building in Afghanistan, said the world would “feel the wrath” of the U.S. following 9/11, voted for the Patriot Act twice, and thought arming Syrian rebels was a good call (even after the weapons had fallen into the hands of our enemies).

Clinton's hawkish credentials are more prominent than any other candidate in the field.

Back in 1968, Will Durant, author of The Lessons of History, wrote, “In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.” Even 47 years after he wrote these words, the 268 year figure still holds true. If war is an essential element of the human experience, then you can count on me – and anybody else who opposes increased militarization – to be sorely disappointed again in 2016.

To borrow from Fight Club, “I am George McGovern’s inflamed sense of rejection.”

Photo Credit: Sadik Gulec / Shutterstock.com