Rove at the Rally?
Posted by Lorelei Kelly
"The liberals were pretty much right on Viet Nam. And what did that get them? They destroyed their reputation on national security for three decades"
This statement--coming from a thoughtful conservative journalist--was like a sucker punch at the luncheon I attended today. Especially since our nation is entering another public discussion about ending a painful bout of warfighting. This weekend, a massive anti-war march is coming to Washington. I'm not sure yet if I'm going, as I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I think protesting the Bush administration's strategic blunder is right-on. I also think demanding a policy on how we're going to transition from a combat mission to a peace support role is vital.
My interactions with peace organizations have been encouraging in the sense that they are willing to entertain complex policy ideas instead of "Out Now" slogans. This rally has the potential to be a positive step forward in encouraging liberal Members of Congress to agitate for an exit strategy. The rally could be an on-message, problem-solving American exercise in participatory democracy. But the left has its own strategic blunders to worry about. Which leads me to the question:
Is the organization ANSWER working for Karl Rove? Only he could hatch a plot to offer up a message muddling "Palestine Tent" on the mall coupled with an anti-Israel march to the ellipse in front of the Capitol. So now every elected leader who comes to show support is going to have to bear the wrath of the Israeli lobby and fend off right wingers who love to paint liberals as anti-semitic.
ANSWER is short for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. I wonder if they ever considered that one way to stop war is to help progressive leaders become seen as serious policy advocates on issues of national security and defense. (instead of spending time playing "cry uncle" with AIPAC)
We on the left have an interesting predicament. Our most progressive elected leaders in Congress are more conservative than their activist base. Our progressive leaders are being pragmatic--actually trying to make progress. ANSWER's antics hurt us. We don't have the Fox news buzzsaw to manage perception. We also don't routinely smear conservatives with a broad brush when their wacky base gets out of hand (like fundamentalist Christians protesting "Queers" at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq) It's not fair, but we don't. I have read that reports of leftists spitting on soldiers after Viet Nam were highly exaggerated (just like bra-burning, it took on a mythic quality and added fodder to the conservative cause)
So we have to be extra careful.
It is vitally important to the future of our nation to have articulate and passionate progressives leading on national security policy. Otherwise we will move ever closer to a militarized state. Our president and his cohorts in Congress are about to start fiddling with posse comitatus--the law that prevents the military being used for domestic law enforcement. While the issue deserves discussion, in the hands of this crowd, it's scary. Without progressive voices getting involved in the debate about lessons learned in Iraq, our troops will not get the training and preparation they need for future conflicts, humanitarian included. This would be tragic. Lacking pro military progressive voices, the anti-recruitment drive taking place across the country will be portrayed as the same old anti-military antics on the left. Yes, high school dragoon tactics are awful, bounties to join-up are a perversion of service. BUT, we civilians are the ones who put the military in this desperate situation. The buck stops with us, the American public. They are desperate because we've forced it on them.
Remember, the military will hardly ever say "no" to a request. They will do or die until the very end. This is why we love them but it is also exasperating for those of us who would like to see military professionals offer more expert advice to policy makers about how to share responsibilities with civilian agencies. But they are not the ones who will ultimately establish the limits placed on themselves. This is a task for civilian elected leaders. Progressives must be at the table, and soon.
Like the military itself, the average American citizen’s notion of national security is in transition. The Cold War framework of the nineties has given way to a new era defined by less discernable threats: terrorism, climate change, global pandemics, and a growing energy crisis. Because increasing numbers of Americans are aware of the need to do things differently, and are unhappy with the polarization of our political system, there presently exists a window of opportunity to reframe the public conversation away from antagonism and toward cooperative problem solving. In my opinion, this is what a true progressive should focus on.
The military and peace activists have much more in common than meets the stereotype. Both seek cooperation over conflict. Besides the pacifists, both want force to only be used as a last resort. These are long term strategies that can be dashed by the tactics of groups like ANSWER.
Instead of decrying American imperialism, why not fight for our civilian agencies to have the ability to create international networks of democratic peers like the US military does?
I know it's not emotionally satisfying to carry a sign that says "more judges for Nigeria" OR "Do we really want to be so in hock to China?" But translating the energy of the peace movement toward these ends is the monumental progressive challenge.