Second Term Presidencies Taken Over By Foreign Crises: Will It Happen Again Now?

Three American Presidents in the last hundred years have been faced by foreign crises leading to war, and disrupting their domestic intentions for their second term of office. All three hoped to accomplish much more internally, but were distracted and diverted by major wars they could not avoid.

Woodrow Wilson had accomplished the most domestic reform in American history of any President until his time, but then World War I intruded, and his second term was dominated by the war and its aftermath.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had surpassed Woodrow Wilson in domestic accomplishments in his first term with his New Deal, but his second term became one of growing concern over the threat of the Japanese Empire to our territories (Hawaii, Guam, The Philippines) in the Pacific, plus the growing threat of Fascism and Nazism represented by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in Europe—leading to concern of its effect on our traditional European friends if not formal allies, Great Britain and France. Although America would not enter World War II until FDR’s third term, the threat of war was ever present, and divided this nation in a massive way between internationalists and isolationists.

Harry Truman had a much more difficult time domestically, and had to deal with the Cold War with the Soviet Union, but hoped to promote a Fair Deal in his second term, but instead had to deal with the Korean War.

Now, Barack Obama faces the growing threat of real war with two nations who have lunatic leadership, and are capable of provoking major wars, emboldened by their nuclear intentions—Iran and North Korea.

Iran moves ahead on nuclear development, unaffected by the major nations bringing pressure and economic sanctions on them, and still seen as potentially able to threaten the survival of Israel, and cause a major cut off of oil in the Straits of Hormuz. While President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is leaving in June, it is clear that the Ayatollah Khamenei and the extremist Shiite Muslim leadership really dictates policy, and that anything is possible, including war.

North Korea, under its new young (30) leader, Kim Jong Un, has now declared that the truce agreement which ended the Korean War sixty years ago is null and void; has been testing nuclear weapons against international outcry, including China; and has threatened this past week that it might launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on South Korea and the United States. This all seems bluster, but who can say for sure?

So our need as a nation to face the possibility of war with two international outlaws makes the whole budget issue much more complex, and makes the odds of more domestic reform activities all the harder to accomplish.

Much like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, Barack Obama may face being a war President against his will, and his Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be sorely tested over the next four years in their hope to avoid a war, just as we are trying to exit a war in Afghanistan, after having done just that in Iraq!