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Why is the Antiwar Movement Stalled?

In two words: the Left, or so says Justin Raimondo.

As long as the organized antiwar movement remains a leftist sandbox, where sectarians get to pontificate – and do little else – it will stay a sideshow. Once we get beyond all that nonsense, however, there are no limits to what we can do: just look at the polls. The American people are with us – and they’re ready to join us in our fight. Indeed, they’ve never been readier. The question is: are we ready to receive them, and lead them?

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9 replies »

  1. Keith,

    Is there a common explanation amongst the Left that you know of for why America is so pro-war, e.g., greedy corporations like oil companies enjoy using the American war machine to generate revenue and then use the media outlets they own to sell their wars to the gullible masses?

    I would like to write something on what I think is a major explanation, which is American’s transformation from a republic to a democracy (which Hoppe maintains is soft communism).

    Dave

  2. “Is there a common explanation amongst the Left that you know of for why America is so pro-war, e.g., greedy corporations like oil companies enjoy using the American war machine to generate revenue and then use the media outlets they own to sell their wars to the gullible masses?”

    By “America,” do you mean the American state or the American public? Either way, you’ve outlined the gist of the Left’s take on the issue. Being Marxists or Marxism-influenced, they regard U.S. imperialism as simply an effort by the capitalists to secure access to foreign markets, labor, and resources. The state is an instrument of the capitalists, the military is the armed wing of capitalism, and the media is the propaganda arm of capitalism.

    While I think the Left’s explanation carries some weight, I also think it’s overly reductionist and reflective of Marxist economic determinism. We also have to consider the role of ideology, geopolitics, the expansionist nature of states, the influence of domestic pressure groups of a non-economic nature, and a number of other things. It is interesting that the more America has become a mass democracy, the more war-like it has become. Indeed, America’s worst wars have typically been fought during what are considered the most “progressive” points during the country’s history: the Lincoln presidency, the Wilsonian/Progressive Era, the New Deal/Roosevelt era, the Fair Deal/Truman, and the Great Society/LBJ. Hoppe’s critique of liberal democratic societies as “soft communism” also overlaps pretty well with the European New Right critique of such societies as “soft totalitarianism.” These relationships are definitely worth exploring further.

  3. A lot of people on the left de facto support the war. This is especially true of the feminist wing, and those on the left who bow before feminism (i.e., the PC left). The war is seen as something of a crusade to liberate women from the horrors of the Taliban. Gotta rescue those women, no matter how many people get killed. When it comes down to it, leftist Betas want in on the Alpha action called “war.”

  4. Keith,

    Sorry for taking so long to answer your question. I meant the American public.

    I agree that this leftist explanation is partially right. I was thinking about this and two other explanations offered from the left are racism and American chauvinism/myopia, both of which are also partially true. Right after 9-11, I heard grumblings that we should nuke them all, that is, all Arabs, since they’re all evil, a collectivist, racist, stupid sentiment. The other alleged feature of America is true as well. Many Americans simply have no interest in what goes on in other parts of the world, even if what’s going on entails Americans killing foreigners. The Onion did a great video satirizing the America media’s lack of concern for Mexico:

    http://www.theonion.com/video/hurricane-bound-for-texas-slowed-by-large-land-mas,14262/

    The racism, however, was a momentary surge of anger, and has mostly disappeared. The chauvinism/myopia explains why Americans are unconcerned by the costs of war on the lives of foreigners, but it does not explain why they are actively pro-war. For that, I think the most important factor is democracy worship, which includes the desire to spread democracy far and wide, at gun point if necessary.

    Californian,

    I agree. I believe the desire to spread democracy is what inspired GW to pull the trigger on Iraq. I’m guessing we went into Afghanistan to get Bin Laden and revenge, and then democracy building became an objective. Once the vested interests emerged, the wars took on a life of their own. Now, interested parties want the wars to continue, and they’ve looked for new ways to justify them as the old ways stop working. I believe PC feminism is one of those new ways. It probably is designed to appeal to PC leftists and chivalrous conservatives, who both believe that men should be sacrificed for the sake of women.

    Dave

  5. I think we have to differentiate between the American state and American public.

    The Marxist interpretation of American foreign policy being all-about access to labor and markets, and building economic and political hegemony, explains the conduct of the American state itself fairly well. Rothbard himself had a lot of admiration for the works of Gabriel Kolko and William Appleman Williams on this question. Add to the Marxist economic interpretation the libertarian/anarchist analysis of the state as an essentially criminal organization whose purpose is to control resources, monopolize territory, exploit subjects, protect an artificially privileged ruling class, and expand its realm of power, and I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of how foreign policy actually works. Of course, I’d reject a narrow determinism of either an economic or state-centric type. We also have to consider geopolitical interests involving rivalries between states and empires, the role of ideology (like democratism or American exceptionalism), non-economic interests (like the Israel lobby), and the individual personality traits of policy-makers.

    As for the American public, the big question is why are Americans more war-like than other industrialized societies? Some of this may be a lack of experience with real war being fought on their own soil to the degree that it spoils their taste for it. Since Vietnam, Americans won’t put up with war if it involves high casualties on their side, the draft, rationing, or war taxes. That’s why all wars since then have been fought with proxy armies (like Central America), all-professional military (like the two Gulf Wars), and increasingly even mercenaries like Blackwater. Also, war has been paid for through indirect means like inflation. What this says to me is that the state knows the public will not sacrifice for the cause of war. Occasionally some grandstanding politician will try to introduce legislation re-imposing the draft. It’s almost always either some Charlie Rangel-type playing the race card, or some “Freedom Fries” idiotic jingoist moaning about the supposed lack of patriotism in the larger society. They always get laughed out of court.

    I think the culture of American exceptionalism explains the yahooism among certain parts of the U.S. public as well as their complete indifference to foreign casualties. I also think there’s a correlation between support for war and adherence to apocalyptic forms of evangelical Christianity. I suspect some in the those subcultures at least subconsciously regard war as helping usher in the End Times.

  6. Justin Raimondo makes an interesting point. In regards to the American State’s mind set, in this era of the imperial presidency, it really comes down to the contents of one mind, the President’s:

    http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2010/09/14/blaming-obama/

    Of course, this is to some extent only rhetorical, because there are and will always be people with competing interests and ideologies trying to sway him, so it gets complicated, but perhaps it is simpler than it was twenty years ago. Now, what the President decides, goes. What follows here is from Raimondo:

    As long as Obama’s been in office, Obama’s progressive supporters “and even some sensible conservatives” have been “surprised and dismayed” that his military and diplomatic posture seems nearly identical to that of his predecessor in the White House. Was he merely a good actor, or are there hidden factors chaining him to the “missteps of the Bush White House? Has he cracked, or is he “trapped”?

    Walt believes the latter: “I don’t really blame Obama,” he writes. The President “can’t simply wage a magic wand,” after all, reverse course and “get the rest of the government to fall into line.”

    Let’s stop right there and ask: why, exactly, not? It’s true there are various factions within the administration with goals that might conflict with his own, but why can’t he do what George W. Bush did and simply ignore their advice?

    After all, how many times in the run up to the invasion of Iraq were we confronted with reports of dissident CIA analysts, who challenged the administration’s evaluation of the intelligence; how many diplomats, generals and military experts disputed the wisdom of trying to export democracy to a region that had never known it? How many people marched against the war all over the world in a vast and vocal expression of impassioned protest? Yet President Bush – having more power than any Roman emperor ever dreamed of – ignored their good advice, and launched the invasion anyway.”

  7. A question that obviously arises from this is how much power does an American president actually have? Is he an elective dictator, or is he simply a figurehead for vested interests pulling his strings? I’m generally inclined towards the latter view, while recognizing the president also has unique powers that makes his office particularly dangerous.

    Also, the more I look at state autonomy theory, the more I’m convinced it has something to say for it. The state’s monopoly on violence and its control over the military and police would seem to make it a class unto itself, over and above any kind of plutocratic economic elites.

  8. Besides the reasons already noted, there is also the matter of Zionist concentration in the media, which helps to put forward the idea that most of us are unaffected by the war. As long as a lot of our folk, even some that should know better, fall for that, it’s easy to leave the antiwar stuff to the America-Last lefties.

  9. Keith,

    The question over who’s ultimately in control is one I don’t know the answer to, but here’s an insightful quote from Stephen J. Sniegoski’s The Transparent Cabal (214) that shows that the neocons converted GW into a democracy worshiper:

    “Before the invasion,… democracy was but a secondary reason for war, with the major rationale being Saddam’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. As the evidence mounted that Iraq did not possess such weapons, Bush increasingly placed his emphasis on building democracy in Iraq, which he claimed would inspire democratic change across the region. For example, Bush emphasized the significance of promoting democracy to his foreign policy in a speech to the National Endowment for Democracy in November 2003. ‘Our commitment to democracy,’ Bush stated, ‘is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come.’ In his view, ‘[t]he establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.’

    “The administration’s full adoption of the democracy theme became apparent in Bush’s Second Inaugural Address in January 2005, when he passionately proclaimed that the fundamental goal of American foreign policy was to spread democracy: ‘It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.’

    “The ideas for Bush’s speech derived from The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror by Israeli Natan Sharansky, a work that Bush had recently become infatuated with and that, in all likelihood, had been introduced to him by his neocon advisors. Sharansky was a former Soviet dissident who had been connected with the neoconservatives since the 1970s. And input for the inaugural address came from Elliott Abrams, William Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer.

    “This call for global democracy contrasted sharply with Bush’s explicit rejection of nation building during his 2000 presidential campaign. In fact, the entire occupation of Iraq was an example of a nation-building effort. In essence, Bush had adopted the neoconservative agenda.”

    In Sniegoski’s opinion, the neocons are primarily motivated by their interest in Israel’s interests as they perceive them to be, and their promotion of democracy is a disingenuous propaganda tool. I don’t know enough about the neocons to have an opinion on this, but whether or not they really believe in the democracyism they promote, nevertheless others buy into it, including self-professed “Deciders.”

    Jon,

    Ryan McMaken, in his article “Democracy and a Free Press” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/mcmaken/mcmaken105.html), points out why the American media does not express as much outrage as it should to American wars:

    “The public claims that it wants the press to be a watchdog, but ‘woe to him’ that might suggest anything particularly sinister or boldly critical about a sitting government. The public don’t like to be told that the men they have selected to run the government are liars and fools, since the voters themselves are foolish enough to think themselves masters of the State. Thus, if the voters consider the government to be the servant of their will, the public will hardly appreciate it when the press begins calling its will into question. Consequently, many defend these ‘formidable barriers’ to liberty of opinion as a matter of practical good sense since it prevents any significant or potentially violent ideological differences from taking shape. Yet, this is like saying it would be best for everyone on a sinking ship to keep quiet about the rising water level lest any disagreements rise among the crew members over what sort of action should be taken.

    “For Tocqueville, this is due to the democratic habit of closing off any discussion once a decision has been made by the democratic mass. After the public has made its pronouncement, regardless of any questionable means of arrival at this conclusion, all further questioning or skepticism is prohibited with any dissent labeled subversive or destructive to democracy and the public will….

    “In a society where there is a non-democratic element poised against the democratic element, there is always some place for the dissident, the heretic, or the revolutionary to find protection from either the democratic mass or from the non-democratic authorities. Yet in America – the claims of the Constitution notwithstanding – every branch of the government, as well as even non-government organs of opinion and criticism, are all ultimately and directly beholden to the powers of public opinion.

    “After a time, what was once considered debatable becomes ‘common sense’ and anyone who might challenge this consensus is labeled a kook, a traitor, or worse. It is hard to see then how a society that is so fundamentally egalitarian and democratic (as is Tocqueville’s America) could ever truly value journalists and intellectuals who offer anything more than the most banal and mundane criticisms of the American State. Having what is now an essentially unlimited democracy in America makes the stakes too high for everyone involved to allow any sort of truly biting or insightful questioning of the government or its officers.”

    Dave

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