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September 22, 2005

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.

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Comments

Hi -

How naive are you?

See http://www.infoshop.org/texts/wwp.html
and http://www.answers.com/topic/a-n-s-w-e-r

ANSWER is a communist front organization, always has been and always will be. Progressive politicians will never be taken seriously until they throw people like ANSWER, with a deliberatively confrontational agenda, out into the gutter as they deserve.

ANSWER is the progressive's albatross around the neck: until you get rid of them, including their organizational abilities, you will be forever tarred with their goals and agenda. In other words, you will be, in their jargon, a "useful idiot", blissfully unaware of who you are helping.

Sorry to be so negative, but this really takes the cake: how naive can you be to accept fellow travellers at face value.

um, Mr Opie-- did you READ the post?

Lorelei-

If you want to march on Saturday with "Do we really want to be so in hock to China?" I'll be right next to you with "More judges for Nigeria." Or maybe we could both just wave "Support S/CSR" signs.

-Judah

Don't get too hung up on this "being taken seriously" kick. How seriously would YOU take Pat Robertson, Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum, etc. And look who's in power. The policy wonk finesse you're talking about is only good for climbing the career ladder of the status quo. If that's what you consider 'serious' good luck with global warming.

A "Replace Rumsfeld" sign might be emotionally satisfying while appealing to just about everyone other than Dick Cheney. It's not hysterical, we really need some new ideas on Iraq, and even conservatives see that Rumsfeld is just not delivering.

I'm too far from DC to show up with my own "Replace Rumsfeld" sign, but that's what I'd carry.

I can not agree that Iraq was a strategic blunder. The way it was carried out was the blunder. That is a reflection of the Bush Presidency decision to use the GWOT as a political weapon domestically.

That said the rest of your argument is very valid. It is not simply the progressive elected officals are more conservative than the electorate. It is the progressive movement to long ago made the critical strategic decision to not recognize that there are legitmate reasons to have military options. They do not recognize that war is politics by another means.

As a consquence we have few military people in positions to speak about the use of military assets. This manifests istself as an ignorance about the simplest aspects of the military. Thus when spokesmen speak about the military issues they come off as stupid and incapable of explaining the issue. They can not even tell you the difference between hard power and soft poweras strategic and tactical weapons.

Until knowledgeable people can be recognized as experts in the real world(NYT, Chicago Tribune, Washinton Times, Delaware County Times and Observer) not the net one(Democracy Arsenal, the Truman Project) and are accorded postions of real power and influence that come with such expertise progressives are going to LOSE.

As to spitting on vets during the Viet Nam War. It was true and a sense of shame is why it was not reported by the vets. Vets did not openly wear their uniforms because of the rage and hositility that caould be openly vented against them. Their knowledge that the political system had essentially left them out to dry and the shame they had because they made a decision to survive this situation(especially the infantry armor and artillery units) at any cost. When you have this occuring in an organization where shared sacrifice means dying and you take that away what you have is a very hollow and damage individual.

This posting is a great example of the feckless, muddle-headed thinking that has reduced modern day liberals to a bunch of hand-wringing namby pambies. You make so many points with which one must take issue I hardly know where to begin. But I'll try.

Let's begin with your uncertainty about attending Saturday's march. If you are serious in your opposition to George Bush's vanity war and your schedule and circumstances make it possible to attend, you need to be there. Period.

Forget your quibbles with ANSWER's political orientation. This organization is not the sole sponsor of the march. And even if it is, who cares? So what if ANSWER has an agenda that can be labeled Communist or Socialist. That's not necessarily a bad thing in this day when Hurricane Katrina has blown back the curtain on what our society under untrammeled crony capitalism has become. But how many of the marchers will be aware of ANSWER's political leanings or care? The important thing is for those of us against the war to stand up and tell this administration, and the world, that not all Americans are knee jerk chauvinists who have fallen asleep in front of their televisions wrapped in bloody flags. We demand an end to this crime against humanity, and we demand that George Bush pay for the crimes he has committed in pursuing his megalomaniacal ambitions.

You object to the inclusion of pro-Palestine messages because it might evoke charges of anti-Semitism from the Israeli lobby? Here's the deal - this country's blind support for Israel is one big reason we are in our current mess. This support is one reason the 9/11 terrorists were inspired to attack us. It's also one of the reasons we are in Iraq. To deny the nexus of our Israel policy and Bush's "War of Terror" is to deny reality. Charges of anti-Semitism are bludgeons used by Zionists to silence any criticism of Israel, a racist, fascist state embarked on a vicious progrom of ethnic cleansing. It's time this truth is brought to the light.

You spend a lot of time worrying about the lack of pro-military progressive voices. Here's some news for you - a pro-military progressive is an oxymoron. We need to drastically reduce the level of militarization in our society, not try to make the military kinder and gentler. The military is trained to shoot first and ask questions later. Few soldiers understand the nuances and subleties of diplomacy. And those who do are forced from the ranks by the doctrinaire Bushistas.

We don't love the military and we don't want military professionals offering expert advice to policy makers. We tried that and look where we've ended up - in another self-defeating quagmire. We need our civilian politicians to get out from under the hypnotic influence of the arms-making corporations and over their little boy war toy infatuations and place serious controls over the military.

To better understand the military mindset, one need only to look at the behavior of the troops sent to help with the aftermath of Katrina. You might think they were patrolling Falluja they way they are acting in New Orleans - pointing assault rifles in the faces of the disaster victims and ordering them about like they were suspected insurgents. This is not the way to treat American citizens who have lost everything and need a little compassion, a little kindness.

You write how the peace movement and the military have a preference for cooperation over conflict in common. Are you kidding? The military exists to solve disputes through conflict. That's why all the generals were parading to Capitol Hill to help make the case for war against Iraq. They wanted to unleash all the expensive toys they'd been stockpiling.

Then you fly off on another flight of fancy when you entreat us to help civilian agencies to create international networks of democratic peers just like the military does. What are you smoking? The military is built on anti-democratic principles. Just what international democratic networks has our military ever supported? The anti-Sandinista contras? The Colombian and Salvadoran and Guatemalan right-wing death squads? The 1980s version of the Saddam-led Baath Party in Iraq? Need I continue?

You are right about one thing - we need a new concept about national security. But this concept needs to rest on the idea that security does not depend on more guns or Blackhawk helicopters or 500 lb. bombs. We need a national security based on a rational energy policy that emphasizes conservation and the development of alternative fuels, on access to affordable health care, on access to good public education all the way through college, on the availability of jobs that offer dignity and a living wage, on a retirement system that provides security in our old age, on a healthy environment, on cooperation with the other countries on this planet rather than imperialistic greed.

The coming march on Washington is about moving the debate about ending Bush's insane war policies forward. If we make enough noise and push far enough ahead, then perhaps our elected leaders will somehow find the courage to follow us.

What's our policy response to Iraq? Alot of us knew before it happened it was going to be a disaster but that's cold comfort now.

It's simply not enough for us to say "Out Now" without proposing some sort of alternative which is militarily (and therefore politicaly) viable, if for no other reason than to do otherwise plays into Karl's bumper sticker attacks of "Cut and Run", etc.

We should be thinking about what the "ground truth" in SW Asia is right now and about ways it can be improved. Specifically:

1. The war in Iraq is over and we've lost. All our staying will accomplish is more carnage. We need to go.

2. We are in fact losing two wars in SW Asia -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- and for the same reason: an insufficient number of troops on the ground. It's no coincidence that Karzai is telling us to lay off the air strikes -- they've always been a bad substitute for soldiers on the ground.

3. "Immediate withdrawal from Iraq" in militaryese means " Withdrawal in good order plus with enough force protection so that the last battalion/brigade in country doesn't have to fight its way out after it turns out all the lights and padlocks the doors". Accordingly, as a practical matter, "immediate withdrawal" from Iraq means being out in nine months to a year.

4. If we don't reduce the troop levels in Iraq soon, both the Army and the USMC are going to be irretrievably broken. Both braches' equipment is just about shot and now the Army has soldiers going back for third tours.

Given the above, a rational alternative to the slow motion train wreck that is Iraq could be:

1. Within the next 90 to 120 days reposition most/all the regular Army and USMC light infantry/air assault/SF troops now in Iraq to the Afghan-Pakistan border. Their missions would be to kill/capture al Qaeda types on both sides of the border and to stabilize Afghanistan. Once the first mission is accomplished, when Karzai tells us to go, we go. After all, no oil there.

2. The remaining forces in Iraq -- Reserve and NG units plus Army and USMC armor/armored cav/light reconnaisance/mech infantry -- are repositioned into Kuwait on the east and to temporary basing in Jordan in the west.
Their missions are to rotate in country and continue to train the Iraqi forces and to act as a Quick Reaction Force if/when the Bandini hits the air supply. (But they stay OUT of the cities. Urban combat in Iraq is eating us alive.)
When the dates for the Reserve and NG units to come home roll around, those units come home and are not replaced. Same for the regular units, except they would be moved to wherever they were needed -- States, Korea, etc. Most importantly, the regular units get back on a normal rotation schedule.
Eventually, say within a year, we would be down to about two or brigades in Kuwait, about what was there when the invasion took place.

Something like this (or any of its thousand variants) allows us to counter Karl's bumper sticker accusation of "Cut and Run" with a bumper sticker response: "Remember 9/11; Let's finally get Osama Been Forgotten".

"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)"

So, you're comparing pro-Palestinian activism, which is about justice for a dispossessed and oppressed people with fundie Christian homophobia.

Pathetic, and so telling.

"America left Vietnam and Lebanon to their fate. They survived. We left Aden and other colonies. Some, such as Malaya and Cyprus, saw bloodshed and partition. We said rightly that this was their business. So too is Iraq for the Iraqis. We have made enough mess there already."
Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

The state of American politics is grotesque, divided between defenders of empire and narcissist romantics.
To be a modern intellectual is to be an internationalist; whether one can act upon that belief is another matter. That's realism
You idiots make me laugh.

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