Antiwarriors: Divided and Conquered

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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.

February
14, 2008

John
Walsh [send him mail]
is a scientist who lives in Cambridge, MA, and is a frequent contributor
to CounterPunch.org, where
a version of this article first appeared.

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