Modern American Presidents who have taken us to war or promoted American intervention or expansion gain a lot more attention, and are more looked upon as role models, than those who attempt to avoid war, oppose expansion and promote peace where possible.
As one examines our 19 Presidents since 1901, the following six stand out as either peace oriented or anti military engagement as a major motivation:
Warren G. Harding—promoted the Washington Naval Agreement of 1921-1922.
Calvin Coolidge—promoted the Kellogg Briand Pact of 1928
Herbert Hoover—promoted the Stimson Doctrine of 1932
Jimmy Carter—promoted diplomacy over war, and refused to use force, except an attempt to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980
Bill Clinton—promoted diplomacy over war, and avoided commitment of troops in the Balkans in 1995 and 1998
Barack Obama—ended war in Iraq and dramatically cut military forces in Afghanistan, and avoided commitment of troops to fight terrorism in the Middle East.
For these standards and principles, the three Republican Presidents of the 1920s have been portrayed as weak and ineffective, but not only for foreign and military policy, but also domestic policy.
Many critics have portrayed Carter and Obama as weak and ineffective in foreign and military policy, as much as Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, but Bill Clinton has managed to survive some criticisms of his foreign and military policies, although now his wife Hillary Clinton is being bitterly attacked in that regard in the present competition for the Presidential Election of 2016, and some of those criticisms have started to cause a reassessment of Bill Clinton’s Presidency.
However, in the long run, the image of the three Democratic Presidents—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama— as Commanders In Chief, will be likely to rise as time goes by and passions cool!