The Antiwar Movement since 9-11 Part3

On a political level, the antiwar movement from 9/11 on was emotionally disconnected from the rest of the country.

It's substantive arguments were also off the mark, drawing the wrong lessons from history.

  • The unexamined premise of the peace movement's analysis of the world situation is still Maoist. On the one side is the Imperialist Superpower, the United States. And on the other side is the worldwide United Front Against Imperialism. While virtually no one in the peace movement defended the Taliban, or Saddam Hussien, no one seemed to have an analysis which did not start and end with the necessity for restraining the United States.
  • While not defending the Taliban or Saddam Hussien, the antiwar forces also did not analyze them, nor Al Qaeda. The antiwar movement had been silenced during the Iranian crisis of the Carter administration and has never regained its voice because it could not fit Islamic fundamentalism, as a political force, into its unexamined premise of the United Front Against Imperialism leftover from its anti-Vietnam heyday.
  • It is another feature of the leftover Maoism of the antiwar movement was that their rhetoric always seemed to focus on economics -- the roots of terrorism was third world poverty, not religious grievances, nor political paralysis in the Middle East.
  • The antiwar movement tended to view the rhetoric about "democracy promotion" as culturally imperialist (democracy promotion was always described as "imposing Western-style democracy"), which carried the connotation that some people were not ready for democracy.
The bottom line was that the antiwar movement was right about what not to do about Iraq: do not invade, and having invaded, withdraw and come home. But being right about the policy is not the result of being right about the analysis of the situation.

Out of tune emotionally with the American people, and unable to provide any real wisdom about what is happening, the antiwar movement has played a negative role in the last five years. The turning of the people against the war has come from their observation of the failures of the administration's policy, not from the leadership of antiwar activists. In fact, public opinion has moved most against the war during those periods when the antiwar movement has been silent.


  1. Kermit's Daughter4:19 AM

    I have to say your post on the anti-war movement puts me in mind of Channing's habit of being highly critical of the Abolitionists, who also had more than a few crackpots and didn't do Abolitionism right according to Channing.

    Samuel May's historic admonition to Channing (rather eloquently) suggested that he was tired of Channing's critique of Abolitionists when, instead, he, as an eloquent leader, ought to be speaking out on the issues himself. Perhaps, said May, he could show them how to do it and provide the moral leadership and gravitas Channing felt they lacked. (Channing took May's words to heart and did begin to speak out.)

    It seems to me, as an eloquent clergyman yourself, you might try to provide the kind of leadership you think the Peace movement lacks. Isn't it time to get over your past errors of going too far left and try to do it better this time? (I believe that in fact there were many thoughtful and courageous peace activists this time 'round, but the media tends, as always, to give voice to the extremes rather than the thoughtful.) I usually find you thoughtful, but when you critique the left you often seem to be fighting the ghosts of your past rather than providing leadership in the present.

  2. Kermit's Daughter --
    Sorry, I am not trying to save, lead or improve the Peace Movement. They will go on merrily in their own self-righteous way.
    I am trying, instead, to account for my role in enabling the crimes against Iraq, and as I reflect on how I was thinking from 2001-2004, I run up against my emotional response to the antiwar movement.
    I would like to have the emotional wisdom to have been able to see past my own stuff, and past the shortcomings of the peace movement, to have seen the situation clearly. I didn't have it at that point. I felt that I needed to write out my issues with the peace movement as part of this work of moral accounting. If anyone loyal to that movement learns anything from hearing how they look to others, they have my blessing. But, in my experience, they tend to see that "people fail the movement", and never, that the movement fails the people.


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