We’re coming close to national election time, and voters should consider the following platform plank of the opposition party, promoting a different approach to US foreign policy:
"The Administration’s Iraq policy has failed — militarily, politically, diplomatically, and with relation to our own people.
"We condemn the Administration’s breach of faith with the American people respecting our heavy involvement in Iraq…. The Administration’s failure to honor its own words has led millions of Americans to question its credibility….
"We pledge to adopt a strategy relevant to the real problems of the war, concentrating on the security of the population, on developing a greater sense of nationhood, and on strengthening the local forces….
"We pledge a program for peace in Iraq — neither peace at any price nor a camouflaged surrender of legitimate United States or allied interests — but a positive program that will offer a fair and equitable settlement to all, based on a principle of self-determination, our national interests and the cause of long-range world peace."
Vague, isn’t it? Does the statement advocate a withdrawal of US forces, or simply describe a shell game akin to the new "sovereignty" in Iraq, whereby the US government still maintains a heavy presence and fighting between US troops and insurgents will continue or even escalate?
This platform plank sounds a lot like the vague, non-committal positions of John Kerry and the Democrats, but actually it’s an excerpt from the 1968 Republican Party platform, with the word "Vietnam" replaced by the word "Iraq" in every instance.
In 1968, many Americans, fed up with Lyndon Johnson’s murderous Vietnam War and his lavishly irresponsible fiscal policies, voted for Richard Nixon, and against Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Nixon won, and the war and lunatic spending continued unabated.
On a certain level, most Americans realize that John Kerry will likely send more troops to Iraq and drag America further down the bloody road of empire. Yet many "antiwar" leftists, as Justin Raimondo points out, will shirk their most admirable principles and eagerly vote for Kerry. Even the Green Party Vice Presidential candidate said she might vote for him.
Kerry would probably have to call for the nuking of Iran to lose a lot of his supporters, many of whom deplore the war, recognize he won’t stop it, but are so fed up with Bush that they’d do anything to help unseat the current president.
On the other hand, there are many libertarians, conservatives, moderates, and others who correctly fail to see a dime’s worth of difference between Bush and Kerry, and yet who agree with much of Kerry’s constituency about the disastrous Iraq war. Walter Block typifies such a frustrated American non-Leftist, and even says that he would happily tolerate Kerry’s most horrid socialist domestic policies, and even root for the Democrats in November, if only Kerry would promise to "stop this mass murder of innocents in the Middle East."
The last poll I’ve seen shows Kerry and Bush neck and neck, each with 45% of the electorate behind him. On the war itself, a majority of Americans finally have come around to opposing the madness. If Kerry came out strongly in favor of peace, all his remaining agenda aside, he would probably win more additional votes than he would lose. Few of his current supporters would refuse to vote for him if he embraced a more restrained foreign policy, and yet such a shift would likely win accolades and votes from fed-up Republicans and moderates who want to see the war end.
Imagine if, instead of mimicking Nixon from 1968, Kerry dusted off the 1972 Democratic Party Platform, and substituted a couple words to bring it up to date:
"We believe that the war is a waste of human life… that has divided us from each other, drained our national will and inflicted incalculable damage to countless people. We will end that war by a simple plan that need not be kept secret: The immediate and total withdrawal of Americans from the Middle East." (Emphasis mine: what a great jab at Nixon’s "secret plan!")
I know libertarians and conservatives who voted for McGovern in 1972, because they realized the central importance of the Vietnam War, and they also recognized that Nixon’s wage and price controls, destruction of the gold standard in international relations, and other interventions in the economy were about as socialist as McGovern’s domestic agenda.
Just as McGovern’s socialist rhetoric was not much worse than Nixon’s actual domestic policies, Kerry’s socialism can’t possibly be too much worse than Bush’s. In fact, on domestic matters, Republicans in Congress might provide gridlock, preventing President Kerry from getting away with what Compassionate Conservative Bush already has. On foreign policy, however, the president will have his way. Not wanting to appear unpatriotic, most congressional Republicans would unlikely resist a Democratic president’s drive toward war. That was certainly the case with the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam, anyway.
So if Kerry became the new George McGovern — as his conservative talk radio critics often and wrongly accuse him of being — he would clearly be the better candidate, and antiwar Americans from across the political spectrum could have a Democrat for whom to cheer, for more than the aesthetic and superficial reason that he happens to be someone who is not George W. Bush.
Instead, millions of peace-loving Americans will either stay at home, or vote for a third party contender who does oppose the war. Almost all the third parties have better ideas about US foreign policy than the Democrats and Republicans. Most radical is Libertarian Michael Badnarik, who wants to see the entire US empire dismantled.
But many voters — and nonvoters — would enthusiastically put all their differences with Kerry aside and pull the Democratic lever in November, if he represented a real alternative to Bush’s warmongering.
Why doesn’t Kerry change his position, even if it would likely win him the White House?
My guess is that Kerry has no interest in winning on a pro-peace platform, simply because it would diminish his mandate to make war once elected. He approves of Bush’s imperial presidency, voted for Bush’s imperial actions, and now wants the job of Emperor himself. He admires and seeks the power to drop bombs and deploy armies all over the globe, and he would rather risk losing the election than win a landslide victory, if winning meant he’d have a hard time rallying the nation behind his own ambitions to rule the world.
Even when the majority wants peace, the two major parties pursue war. So we see yet another failure of democracy to maintain a peaceful America.
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history at UC Berkeley, where he was president of the Cal Libertarians. He is an intern at the Independent Institute and has written for Rational Review, Strike the Root, the Libertarian Enterprise, and Antiwar.com. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.