|Author||Rating: 0 Topic: What's the Anti-War Movement's Next Move? Draft Anyone? (Read 1836 times)|
« Reply #0: Dec 08, 2009, 3:43 PM »
Obama Did the Expected to Afghanistan, So What's the Mass. Anti-War Movement's Next Move?
Any mystery about the content of Pres. Barack Obama's speech regarding U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was dispelled the moment it was announced that he would be giving his address from West Point. One does not give a speech from the nation's preeminent military academy if one intends to preach peace and love. As expected, the President said that we'd be sending more troops to that benighted country for at least the next couple of years. One can debate the whys and wherefores of this decision, and we certainly encourage our viewers to do that in the coming months, but one outcome is sure - whatever the projected cost of this latest imperial adventure, in lives and dollars, the actual costs will almost certainly be far higher than the initial estimates. This in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. So, to the lives lost in battle in a country that no other country has ever been able to subdue, we will then add a huge toll in lives ruined (and perhaps even lost) because money desperately needed for public jobs programs and other social safety net programs that could help working families make it through this "deep recession" relatively unscathed will have once again been allocated to the military budget - already the largest in the world by a huge margin. This toll will affect Massachusetts as deeply as the rest of the nation.
Our much-vaunted "progressive" Massachusetts congressional delegation does only the bare minimum they need to court anti-war voters at election time - witness Rep. Michael Capuano's latest weak efforts along those lines in the last few days in advance of the upcoming special Senate election - and no more. One of these worthies, Rep. Stephen Lynch, has actually managed to remain in office as a Boston politician while enthusiastically supporting pretty much every military action since his election.
There are many things that one can surmise from this state of affairs, but one thing immediately leaps to mind ... the anti-war movement has been unable to unite around a strategy that punishes pro-war politicians regardless of their party affiliation. More to the point, a number of erstwhile "progressive" organizations - particularly MoveOn.org - have carried water for the conservative wing of the Democratic Party and worked to deflect anti-war activity away from any criticism of sitting Democratic politicians (except those that aren't in good with party leadership) or the Democratic Party in general. Thus severely weakening the movement's chance of success. [It's worth noting that many of the same groups have done the same thing during policy fights on other issues of critical importance to working Americans like health care. But I'll have to cross those proverbial bridges as I come to them in future editorials.]
The ragtag coalition of left-wing community and religious organizations that typically spearheads the American anti-war movement has had great difficulty competing with lavishly-funded organizations like MoveOn.org for the hearts and minds of what would otherwise comprise the bulk of their normal constituency. Such is the nature of 21st-century agitational politics. Both major political parties have learned well the lessons of the last major period of social upheaval in the United States - the Vietnam War era.
Public opinion is no longer a thing to be left to chance by the ruling elites. Rather than allow grassroots mobilizations to again successfully challenge established elite policy, the major parties have learned how to create grassroots operations of their own - capable of converting broad anti-establishment sentiment into just enough public support for establishment policy goals to save face. We could call such operations "astroturf" groups (an appellation that progressives normally reserve for corporate front organizations), but MoveOn.org and their right-wing counterparts like the assorted "Tea Bagger" groups do have real grassroots support; so it would not be entirely fair to go that far. But it's absolutely fair to say that if we had any kind of level political playing field in this country that a strong anti-war movement would long since have put so much pressure on our government to extricate ourselves from the unjust occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that we would more than likely already have pulled the troops out.
Because we know that large numbers of Americans - across the political spectrum, for a variety of moral and cost-benefit reasons - support that outcome. Just like they support national health care and many other progressive policy reforms. Yet we also know that given the aforementioned state of affairs in American politics this positive commonsensical outcome is prevented from happening by fair means and foul.
Given all that, what is the anti-war movement - the real anti-war movement - going to do here in Massachusetts (and hopefully in every state in the Union) to put enough pressure on our Congressional delegation to make it impossible for them to remain in office if they do not do everything in their power to pull the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? And anywhere else U.S. corporate and governmental elites decide we need to project our military might for unjust reasons.
A tall order I know. But I think that is what is necessary. Despite having spent two and a half years launching and running Open Media Boston, much of my previous two decades as a progressive activist were spent participating in the anti-war movement - against a long sad chain of unjust American military actions - so my analysis and therefore the analysis of this publication is based on that experience.
So I guess I'm kind of asking an open question here, as I do from time to time. Do local anti-war activists agree that the strategy I've outlined is the proper one to take, and if so are they willing to do the very very hard work it will take to achieve the needed goal? I am well aware that successfully pressuring major party politicians to take any course of action contrary to the will of their largest campaign contributors - generally corporations and the wealthy people that own them - is extremely difficult. It is even more difficult to get politicians at the federal level to go against the will of their party leadership and of elite opinion in general. But history has shown us time and time again that elite opinion is as contested as the opinion of any other group of people. And that political parties constantly struggle to stay together and vie for power. Such frisson and infighting occasionally create openings that grassroots movements can exploit and use as entry wedges to force significant changes in national policy.
I believe this is one of those times and that the expansion of the US military presence in Afghanistan is one of those contentious issues around which elite opinion is sufficiently divided as to create an opening for the anti-war movement to split it to the advantage of working people here and abroad. But will the anti-war movement be able to seize this opportunity, and do its leaders agree that it exists and should be seized?
I don't know. However, I'd very much like to hear from them. If the leaders of local anti-war organizations would like to weigh in on this issue in these pages, I strongly encourage them to do so. Time is clearly of the essence in these matters. Every day that we stick with the status quo means more dead Afghanis, Iraqis, and Americans. And rising economic immiseration born of mistaken national policy priorities. And that is simply unacceptable.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston