No President is 100 percent flawless in any aspect of their presidency. Even former generals can make bad calls when it comes to being the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. And even though their military decisions may look good at the time, history could judge the president for not having the vision to nip potential trouble spots in the bud.
1 – George Washington
His attack on the British at Long Island came while they were at their strongest and most well-armed.
2 – John Adams
With the Alien and Sedition Acts, Adams infringed on the very rights he and the other founding fathers just finished fighting for.
3 – Thomas Jefferson
His appointment of Commodore William Bainbridge to command the Philadelphia led to the capture and enslavement of the ship’s crew.
4 – James Madison
He vastly overestimated the United States’ ability to wage war, and when U.S. troops burned York (present day Toronto), he opened the door to the burning of Washington.
5 – James Monroe
Monroe sent Andrew Jackson to invade Spanish Florida and attack the hostile natives there, despite not being at war with Spain.
6 – John Quincy Adams
Rather than build up the Navy to project U.S. power and protect American interests, he just did nothing.
7 – Andrew Jackson
Jackson began the systematic removal of natives from American territory, while neglecting the Navy.
8 – Martin Van Buren
Van Buren continued Jackson’s anti-Native policy while continuing to neglect the U.S. Navy
9 – William Henry Harrison
Harrison died thirty days into his presidency — before he could even make a military decision.
10 – John Tyler
Built the world’s largest naval cannon, which exploded during a demonstration.
11 – James K. Polk
Micromanaging the war with Mexico took its toll on his health and eventually killed him.
12 – Zachary Taylor
He ate cholera-ridden ice milk and cherries.
13 – Milliard Fillmore
Fillmore’s worst call was not invading Cuba, despite the constant headaches it posed then and in the future.
14 – Franklin Pierce
Pierce let Kansas decide if it would be a free or slave state, which led to Kansas being flooded with zealots from both sides, who promptly killed each other.
15 – James Buchanan
He left the secession crisis for Lincoln.
16 – Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln kept McClellan in command of the Union Army for way too long.
17 – Andrew Johnson
Instead of fulfilling the vision of Abraham Lincoln’s Reconstruction, Johnson used federal forces to punish the South.
18 – Ulysses S. Grant
The former Union general worried about being perceived as a dictator, but he still used the military to enforce laws in the South.
19 – Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes used the Army to break up workers strikes in nonessential industries, which was especially violent in Pittsburgh.
20 – James. A. Garfield
James Garfield’s biggest mistake was foregoing a security detail (he was assassinated).
21 – Chester A. Arthur
Arthur hired political cronies to overhaul the Navy, which angered Congress, who withheld much of the funds.
22 – Grover Cleveland
Cleveland vetoed pensions for Civil War veterans.
23 – Benjamin Harrison
Harrison ordered the Massacre at Wounded Knee.
24 – Grover Cleveland
Cleveland broke up a rail workers strike with the Army because he wanted them to deliver the mail.
25 – William McKinley
Instead of giving the Philippines its independence, he subjugated the population.
26 – Theodore Roosevelt
The man’s been dead for almost a hundred years and I’m still afraid to criticize him (no comment).
27 – William Howard Taft
Taft kept U.S. troops as occupiers of Latin American countries, sowing mistrust and discord in the Western Hemisphere that continues to this day.
28 – Woodrow Wilson
Wilson was more concerned with his Fourteen Point peace plan than noticing Germany was being beaten up in the WWI armistice, one of the major causes of World War II.
29 – Warren G. Harding
Harding removed U.S. troops from Cuba instead of annexing it, which would give the U.S. a lot of trouble in the coming decades.
30 – Calvin Coolidge
Silent Cal neglected to maintain the Navy because World War I was over.
31 – Herbert Hoover
Hoover ordered a young General MacArthur to disperse the Bonus Army by force.
32 – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Roosevelt put a lot of misplaced trust in Stalin, who promptly used that trust against the U.S.
33 – Harry S. Truman
Truman thought the Chinese wouldn’t intervene in the Korean War even if MacArthur conquered the entire peninsula.
34 – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ordered the CIA to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran and put the Shah back in power.
35 – John F. Kennedy
Kennedy greenlit the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and then neglected to give them air support.
36 – Lyndon B. Johnson
LBJ escalated what was a civil war into a grand international conflict because he could only see Communists and didn’t understand Vietnam was fighting more for its independence from outside domination.
37 – Richard Nixon
Nixon’s scheme to get the country out of the Vietnam War started with bombing and then invading Cambodia.
38 – Gerald Ford
Ford ordered Marines back to Indochina to rescue hostages on a mission that ended with a 41 percent casualty rate, adding to the Vietnam War dead even though the war had been over for 2 years.
39 – Jimmy Carter
Carter ordered the all-too-complex Operation Eagle Claw to get hostages out of Iran, which ended disasterously.
40 – Ronald Reagan
Sent Marines to Beirut as peacekeepers, even though half the Lebanese factions fighting there were allied with Iran and lost 241 troops in a barracks bombing in 1983.
41 – George H.W. Bush
Bush’s invasion of Panama, while one of the most successful military operations in U.S. history, took a large toll on the civilian population and infrastructure.
Related: 21 Facts about the First Gulf War
42 – Bill Clinton
Instead of bombing Osama bin Laden, he bombed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan.
43 – George W. Bush
44 – Barack Obama
Obama drew a “red line” for Bashar al-Asad of Syria to keep him from using chemical weapons, then didn’t do anything when Asad used the weapons.
45 – Donald Trump
We’ll let you decide this one…
46 – Joe Biden
And this one’s mistakes remain to be seen.