Rep. John Duncan: GOP as War Party is a ‘Recipe for Defeat’

by | May 19, 2015

In an in-depth interview at C-SPAN’s Washington, DC studio on May 13, Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) appealed for the Republican Party to change its ways so it can be viewed as the Peace Party instead of as the War Party. Duncan’s comments in the interview expand on the arguments he presented in his April article “A Return to the Peace Party.” In both the interview and the article Duncan suggests that Republicans advocating for peace instead of war would be politically advantageous in addition to being the right thing to do. The Republican Party being seen by most people as the War Party, Duncan argues, is a “recipe for defeat.”

Duncan elaborates in the interview:

Well, I think traditionally the Republican Party could make a good claim to being the Peace Party, and the theme of my article that I wrote for The American Conservative magazine was that, in my opinion, we are long past the time when we need to stop trying to run the whole world and we need to start trying to take care of our own country, our own people. And I think that the people in this country don’t want permanent, forever wars. And I think that, if we turn out to be seen by most people as the War Party, then it’s a recipe for defeat.

So, I said that Republicans traditionally have believed in peace through strength, not peace through permanent war. And I think the foreign policy of the Republican Party, the foreign policy of this country has been hijacked in recent years by a group that are generally referred to as neoconservatives, which George Will said in a column in 2010 that that was a group that was magnificently misnamed. And he said in reality they were the most radical people in this town.

Duncan, who has served in the House since 1988, proceeds in the interview to detail his longstanding involvement in the Republican Party, dating back to contributing his first paycheck as a grocery store bag boy to a Barry Goldwater campaign.

A particularly intriguing part of Duncan’s interview is his discussion of his interaction with the Bush administrations, senior and junior, during the administrations’ efforts to obtain congressional support for the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War. Duncan, a Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity Advisory Board member, relates:

Well, I’ve been in Congress a long time. This is my twenty-seventh year, and I was here for the first Iraq war. And I voted for that war because I went to the briefings by Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and General Schwartzkopf, and they convinced me that Saddam Hussein was almost like another Hitler….

And then I saw Saddam Hussein’s so-called elite troops surrendering to CNN camera crews and empty tanks. And I realized then that the threat had been greatly exaggerated.

And, so, when the second Iraq war rolled around, I read everything I could get my hands on and looked at it very closely. It had tremendous support in my district. And it was a very, very difficult vote.

But they called me down to the White House and put me in a small room with Condoleezza Rice and George Tenet and John McLaughlin — the top two people at the CIA. And there had been a headline in the Washington Post a day or two before that said that… Lawrence Lindsey, the president’s economic adviser at that time, said a war with Iraq would cost as much as $200 billion. And I asked about that, and Condoleezza Rice said, “On no, it wouldn’t cost nearly that much; it would be 50 or 60 billion, and we will get a lot of that back from our allies,” which had to be the greatest underestimate in the history of the country. [Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld] also gave that kind of a figure.

I asked at that meeting, I said, “You’re going against every conservative tradition in the country of being against massive foreign aid and huge deficit spending and conservatives being the biggest critics of the UN, and you are going to go to war to enforce a UN resolution.” I said, “If you are going against all those conservative traditions, do you have any evidence of any imminent threat?” And they didn’t. And George Tenet confirmed that in his first speech at Georgetown University the day after he left the CIA.

The 42-minute interview and call-in program contains many insightful observations and much compelling information.

Watch the complete interview here:


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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