The revenge of Col. Douglas Macgregor by Mark Perry for Responsible Statecraft
Amid an unprecedented Pentagon shakeup, an outspoken defense reformer who wants out of endless war, finally gets his shot.[But] there are also outliers — like Macgregor — whose statements on America’s overseas adventures have been so controversial, and so outside the military’s own well-trodden path, that they actually make sense.
Macgregor, a West Point graduate, is an acquired taste: outspoken and controversial. He has flagged reporters with his statements about immigrants (we need martial law at the U.S.-Mexico border), Iranians (we need to look for areas where we can cooperate), Afghanistan (we have no business being there) Iraq (we should have left, long ago), and Syria (we should get out immediately). Those views aren’t to everyone’s liking, but they’re especially controversial in the military, whose staid stance on foreign interventions does not countenance the kind of dissent in the upper ranks that Macgregor represents. Macgregor, it is said, has refused to “stay in his lane,” has been too outspoken, too vocal, and not really a team player.
Yet, senior military officers quietly admit that in terms of sheer intellect, no one quite matches Macgregor. Several years ago, I asked a senior U.S. Marine Corps officer to name each of the services’s most creative thinkers. His answers were entirely predictable to anyone with even a passing knowledge of those in uniform, except when it came to the Army. He didn’t hesitate: “It’s Doug Macgregor,” he said. “He’s the best thinker they have, living or dead.”
Deja vu: Republicans fracturing over Ukraine, just like Korea by Brandan P. Buck for Responsible Statecraft
The early days of Cold War foreign policy were marked by significant political dissent. Despite the perceived threat of the Soviet Union and fervor of domestic anticommunism, there was considerable disagreement over how to address these new realities, particularly within the Republican Party and especially its Midwestern cohort. Conservative skeptics opposed the Marshall Plan, conscription, and involvement in NATO. For committed non-interventionists, the start of the Korean War served as another medium to assail the emerging Cold War order.
The most strident opposition came from proto-libertarians like Republican Representative Howard Buffett of Nebraska. Buffett was an early critic American militarism and conscription. He viewed these domestic policies as bigger threats to American liberty than the foreign scourge of communism. The war in Korea deepened his skepticism of U.S. foreign and military policy, and in 1950 he ran on an anti-war platform. In his opposition to the Korean War, Buffett went so far as to assert that the U.S. government was the primary initiator of the conflict.
Former President Herbert Hoover mirrored many of Buffett’s assertions. Despite the ignominious end to his presidency, Hoover, who still held sway within his party, vocally opposed Truman’s policies on the Korean peninsula and in Western Europe. The former president took his concerns to the air in a speech on December 20, 1950. His address touched off “the Great Debate” about America’s role in the new Cold War.
The GOP’s conservative standard bearer, Senator Robert “Mr. Republican” Taft, similarly opposed American involvement in the war and used the conflict to critique President Truman’s Cold War policy. Despite some early accommodations with the Cold War state, Taft returned to the oppositional fold with the start of the Korean War. In his campaign tract, A Foreign Policy for America, Taft asserted that the U.S. “had no right to send troops to a nation, with whom we had no treaty, to defend it against attack by another nation, no matter how unprincipled that aggression might be.”