Why Liberals Can't Make the Case Against War

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After
my recent article,
some of my liberal friends, the ones who have been anti-war all
along, patted themselves on the back and gave me the “I told you
so” treatment. Unfortunately for all of us they told me no such
thing. The inability of the left in this nation to make a convincing
anti-war argument has done irreparable damage to their political
power and to this country’s reputation.

Support for
Clinton

The root of the problem lies in the inherent hypocrisy of the
leftist anti-war position. Clinton was their hero, hailed for the
apparent success of the economy and for his amicable foreign policy.
However, Clinton’s military incursions give the lie to the idea
of a peaceful Democratic party. When my anti-war friends told me
to stop “Bush’s” war, I simply replied, “where were you during Clinton’s
wars?” The ad hominem attacks on Bush never ceased, and to be sure,
he is not the model President I dreamed of in my youth. However,
there are many things about Bush that people find appealing, particularly
that he is not Clinton – he is free from the debauched image
that stained Clinton’s presidency and distracted everyone in the
nation from, well, everything else. When someone attacks Bush I
felt obligated to defend my choice of candidate, and if Bush had
kept his campaign promises this would have been much more justified.
In any case, liberals today spend way too much time attacking Bush
and way too little trying to convince people why he may be wrong
about certain things. And yet when you compare Bush to Clinton,
Bush’s estimated 200,000 Iraqi deaths due to malnutrition compared
to Clinton’s near-million, Bush’s direct invasion compared to Clinton’s
eight years of air raids and stalling, Bush doesn’t come up short.
Surely, both men appear to have made poor decisions regarding the
Iraq situation.

Liberals can’t make the good anti-war arguments because that would
undermine the Democratic party, too. If they are too convincing
the nation might not support their next military adventure.

Blood for Oil

Next down the line of hypocrisy from preference of Clinton’s way
of messing things up to Bush’s way of messing things up is the accusation
that America is motivated solely or mostly by Iraqi oil concerns.
Honestly this criticism doesn’t make sense. The situation where
Iraq produces oil and sells it at a price that we determine in a
quantity that we determine, and can only do so with the money/supplies
that we deem appropriate, seems to be an ideal one from the point
of view of someone looking to exploit Iraqi oil. Indeed, the biggest
exploiters of Iraqi oil, France and Russia, opposed any change
of the status quo from the get-go. America, by taking on the cost
of the Iraqi war, has spent far, far more money, time, and resources
than we would have spent if we simply wished to have oil. We could
have bought oil, for money. Instead we engaged in activities which
caused the price of oil to increase in anticipation of a decrease
in supply, and then we followed through and caused the actual decrease
in supply. Now there is less oil and oil costs more. Given the counterproductive
nature of State activities I could almost believe that America *did*
hold access to oil as a primary motivation. However, it appears
to me that the only people truly concerned about oil were the opponents
of the war.

Church and State

There were many who made the argument that this was actually a
religious war – Christian vs. Muslim. Bush was criticized for
his belief in a higher power, and the dispute over General Boykin’s
statements was a prime example of the ridiculous lengths liberals
will go to to discredit religious folk. My liberal friends at the
time referred to Bush and his kind as “fanatics.” I’m sorry, but
simply believing in God does not qualify one as being a fanatic.
They invoked the “separation of Church and State” clause of the
first amendment. Actually, the amendment says that Congress shall
make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Last time I
checked neither Bush nor Boykin were members of Congress. In fact,
Congress very definitely did not declare war on Iraq, a point overlooked
by most liberals challenging the constitutionality of the war.

Propaganda

A favorite target of liberals are WMDs. “Where are the WMDs,”
they ask. “Bush lied,” they say. Yet they ignore the simple logic
of the situation. We armed Iraq with certain weapons and then told
them that they had to rid themselves of them. We knew Iraq had other
such weapons that we also asked them to rid themselves of. Iraq
delayed for ten years instead of showing us conclusively that they
had, in fact, gotten rid of the weapons. I think that this would
lead any reasonable person to the conclusion that Iraq was still
hiding these weapons somewhere. The argument was rarely put forth
that there are many possibly hostile countries with WMDs –
I guess the liberals didn’t want to give Bush any new ideas.

Another target is 9/11. Bush lied about the connection between
Iraq and 9/11. Yeah, and what are you going to do about it? Most
self-respecting, reasonably well-informed people didn’t believe
for an instant that there was a connection. The people doing research,
i.e. the swing voters, already know that this was a lie. Bush’s
propaganda is aimed at keeping the base in line. You aren’t going
to change these people’s minds by educating them, because they will
ignore you. If someone says that they support the war in Iraq because
of Iraq’s involvement in 9/11, feel free to set them straight. But
otherwise don’t bang your head against the solid wall of Bush’s
hardcore constituency.

Liberals have a tendency to fight Bush on his own turf. When Bush
picks the battle liberals have already lost. The 2004 election proved
that. People don’t feel safe because of 9/11 and WMDs, whether they
are true or not. Just like people don’t feel safe in an empty house
or a dark forest, whether ghost stories are true or not.

If you want to win people over, how about coming up with a solid
national defense strategy so that we don’t have to be afraid to
fly or take the subway anymore? Not that it would make us safer,
but at least we’d all think we were. Bush has painted liberals as
people who want everything to go back to the way it was before 9/11,
who are soft on homeland security and national defense. Liberals
have simply allowed this to happen because all they ever do is mindlessly
deny anything Bush says.

Protesters

It always shocked me how shallow the anti-war protesters seemed
to be. My question to them was always, “you have protested the war,
now what?” The protests didn’t work, of course, because Bush is
the type to “stay the course.” And yet the protesters, who were
willing to take to the streets to express their views, did not seem
willing to act or investigate further the roots of the war. They
did not seem willing to blame anyone but Bush. They ignored the
unconstitutionality of undeclared wars and the failure of similar
American wars. They went back to their daily lives, perhaps slightly
more bitter, but convinced that their man would win in 2004 and
everything would be alright. I was told repeatedly that millions
of Americans marched in protest against the war. Where does the
money for the war come from? It comes from taxes. If millions of
Americans stopped paying their taxes I’m sure the federal government
would notice. Yet the protesters continued to fund the very war
they were protesting! I could not help but feel that the protesters
were less concerned about reform and more concerned about stoking
their own egos. Protesting was, in my opinion, not about opposing
the war, but about convincing themselves that they had done something.
Protesting, after all, is a valid, State-approved activity, and
it’s supposed to be healthy for democracy. But what is democracy
healthy for? War, apparently.

Academia

America’s colleges and universities are, for the most part, solid
liberal territory. And yet the reason that I supported war in Iraq
was my flawed understanding of American history. Yet rather than
challenge the establishment about the success of American adventures
in foreign intervention, liberal academia focuses on teaching us
tolerance and diversity. That is to say, people who are not straight,
white, Christian, or male must be learned about and tolerated and
given special treatment because the system has held them down for
so long. Academia teaches “social conscience” yet ignores the largest
social problem of all – war. The most we are taught is that
war is bad, and that by our women’s studies professors who decide
to use their classrooms to vent their frustrations. Perhaps I am
being unfair to these disciplines, yet it seems to me that learning
the truth about history should trump indoctrination into the politically
correct affirmative-action welfare machine, especially since the
latter only bothers to protest wars waged by Republican presidents.
Furthermore, the left’s emphasis on moral relativism and other dead-end,
nihilistic philosophies hampers the search for universally applicable
truths and leaves students unreceptive to empirically or aprioristically
determined facts. Who cares if socialism doesn’t work – that’s
not THE truth, it’s A truth. Liberal academia teaches students to
ignore reality in favor of wishful thinking or intellectual laziness.
In many cases I ignored the arguments of my peers simply because
I doubted the validity of their knowledge base. And the fact is,
people aren’t going to listen to college kids if colleges are seen
as indoctrinating more radical leftists rather than filling students
with actual knowledge.

The Right Argument

The best argument against any State action is the constant failure
of the State to meet is stated goals. Any argument a hawk might
advance about why we should go to war in Iraq is actually a counterargument
to itself. When they say it’s to make the world safer, point out
that it will make the world less safe. When they say it will help
Iraqis, point out that it will hurt Iraqis. When they say that it
will bring liberty, point out that force is the opposite of liberty.
When they say it will enrich America point out that it will impoverish
America.

The left can’t recognize the incompetence of the State because
to do so would undermine its own favorite platforms, the slew of
socialist agendas that it tells us we must implement in the name
of compassion. I have learned that arguing that welfare isn’t fair
does not work – because poverty also isn’t fair. However, arguing
that welfare decreases the general welfare seems to have a greater
impact. Arguing that socialized medical care costs lives rather
than saving them, that public education makes people less educated,
that public roads make transportation less safe and more costly
– these are the arguments that, when made well, will bring
the staunch liberal to the libertarian side. The irony is that until
the left sees the libertarian side of things they will never be
able to stop the neocons.

Conclusion

I don’t agree with the liberal position on war. I have not come
around to the liberal point of view. Rather, I have come around
to a point of view that happens to coincide accidentally with the
liberal position in this instance. To liberals, being against the
war is about stopping Bush and diverting attention and funding back
to the welfare aspect of the State. It’s about opposing the use
of force that they don’t agree with so the government can use the
force they do agree with. To me, being against the war is about
being opposed to the State and all its trappings because I know
that it will only ever make things worse. Liberals couldn’t convince
me not to support this war because their reasons are hollow and
paper-thin. For those of them who are truly principled or care about
making a difference I urge them to learn about the failures of the
State, and about how the principles of private property, self-ownership,
and free exchange allow people to work together to meet each of
their individual goals.

January
3, 2005

Neal
Zupancic [send him mail]
is a bartender in New York City. He moderates the Knowledge
Is Liberty weblog
.

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