There is an enormous antiwar majority in this country–upwards of 70%. And yet the war goes on and on and on. Who is to blame? We could blame the denizens of the two war parties in Congress. The leading Republican and Democrat presidential candidates have a record – and without exception it is a prowar record. McCain froths at the mouth at the prospect of more war. Hillary was there from the beginning and has voted yea on every prowar resolution in the Senate–from authorizing the war to voting for the trillions that have been used to fund the damned thing.
Comparing the votes of Edwards and Obama is especially instructive. When Edwards had a vote in the Senate, his votes declared him prowar. Once without a vote, he said he was against the war – but there was no voting record to show it. He was for it before he was against it. Obama’s record is even less defensible. He said he was against the war until he had a Senate vote. Then he voted for each and every prowar appropriation. Hence, Obama was against it before he was for it. In every case, give them a vote and they vote to kill.
But what about the rest of us? We know that the world is bristling with nuclear weapons; and wars and a war mentality threaten us with their use. Nuclear winter threatens all higher life with extinction, and nuclear winter is still all too possible. In fact nuclear winter would make global warming look like a kiddy sandbox.
And beyond the threat to our very survival, empire and the wars that spring from it threaten our civil and political liberties, without which no change, no progress is possible. The Libertarians especially have raised the point that, once empire crowds out a republic, then the days of liberty are gone. The paleoconservatives agree. And the progressives also agree, recognizing as well that valued social programs cannot be funded with enormous wealth plowed into our empire of 757 foreign military bases and 969 domestic bases, none designed for defense but instead for offense to “project power” throughout the empire.
With such strong and varied antiwar sentiment, is it not remarkable that the antiwar movement has come to nothing? Our country is now embroiled in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in countries on Russia’s perimeter, in Iran, in many parts of Africa and elsewhere. And the war parties, Democrat and Republican, are itching for a fight with China. Altogether the situation is pretty miserable.
So why the great gap between popular sentiment and effective antiwar action? I submit that the war parties, Democrat and Republican, very effectively use a divide and conquer tactic–and the antiwar forces play into it, usually quite eagerly. So when some on the left have good things to say about Ron Paul, the sterile lefty ideologues quickly change the subject. If that does not work, those who speak favorably of Paul are excoriated for being right wingers in our innermost thoughts, which we ourselves cannot plumb, we are told, although the psychoanalysts of the left can. And if that does not work, the thought nannies tell us that Ron Paul is a Nazi, another Hitler, who is to be opposed at all costs. That kind of stuff emanates especially strongly from the precincts of the New Republic, which has been calling for Paul’s head ever since he dared say “AIPAC” in public. In so doing the asps at TNR are merely repeating the hate campaign against Pat Buchanan whom they and their allies at the National Review labeled an anti-Semite. And so the antiwar left is manipulated into avoiding alliances, which might actually make some headway. Thus we have the spectacle of progressives who eschew alliances that might make–well, progress.
The same is true on the other side. The Paleos and to a lesser degree the Libertarians cannot put aside differences with Greens and other leftists long enough to make headway against war and empire. As soon as common cause begins to be made, then the specter of increased social spending is raised by the Libertarians and of creeping secularism by the Paleos. Because everyone wants only allies that are in complete agreement, no alliances are made. And presto, the ruling war parties have divided and conquered.
Such behavior on the part of the antiwar movement is childish in the extreme. For the sake of ideological purity, we give up on making common cause with others who agree with us only in part. For an impossibly long shot at gaining everything, we sacrifice gaining the most important thing at the moment–an end to war and empire. That is not politics. That is theology–or perhaps more accurately the behavior of spoiled kids. Or perhaps even more accurately behavior unencumbered by the thought process. And it is boring to boot. The crowd one hangs with has all the answers to every question; and no matter how much reality shifts, as with the end of the Cold War, the answers remain the same.
So what is to be done? It is time for the various antiwar groupings and ideologies to get together and to do so in a way that can have an effect on the ’08 elections. First we have to begin a conversation to decide on a course of action. And we must do it soon. So far the only places that seem willing to host such a conversation are CounterPunch.com, Antiwar.com and The American Conservative (TAC). There are also lots of smaller grass roots groups like AntiwarLeague.com and the Second Vermont Republic, which have made strides at unifying the various antiwar factions. It is clear, however, that UFPJ, ANSWER, “P”DA, The Nation and others will never serve this function. They will put loyalty to the Democrat Party over all else. Nor will the DemoGreens or the inside the beltway Libertarians ensconced in their high-priced digs at Cato act to break down barriers. They too put party, whether Democrat or Republican, first.
Perhaps with more debate revolving around the question of how we, the antiwar majority, are effectively marginalized, we can move forward. But to do so we all have to suspend some of our ideological certainties and stereotypes of the other and concede that there are more things in heaven and earth than we have dreamed of–or at least embraced in our theories. And we may find we have more in common than we thought. Why not do this? We have nothing to lose and much to gain. So let us hope that this discussion can begin in earnest. And let’s move fast; 2008 is slipping away.
JOHN V. WALSH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org