Nathan Newman is one of the first serious Lefty commentators to step back and look at where the peace movement went wrong.
I’m not a pacifist (a pacifist Armed Liberal? A double oxymoron…), and while I certainly don’t consider my self a hawk, probably stand a little more on the “kill Americans and you’re toast” side of the spectrum. But I think we need an engaged and useful peace movement, if for no other reason than to keep the true nutcases on the right in check.
And we haven’t had one. We’ve had a form of bad psychodrama in which various unhappy people act out their issues with Authority.
Newman raises most of the right issues:
The antiwar argument had to be about whether there was an alternative way to achieve the goal of a freer and more democratic Iraq (and questioning the good faith of war proponents to achieve that result).
The antiwar movement lost the argument on timing and on the efficacy of alternative means of addressing peoples broad concerns on Iraq. And I attribute that partly to their simplistic focus on “no war” unity over developing a more sophisticated positive message that also would have required more outreach to non-rallygoers (and probably less focus on rallies).
And I continue to argue with a range of activist friends that when we allowed groups that defended the Hussein regime in the past to lead some of the rallies, many folks who don’t like Hussein rightly could think that such a movement has no real plan for an alternative challenge to Hussein’s regime.
For some of the left, they’ve retreated to almost isolationist pacificism as all the argument they need, without any need to address strategy and why THIS PARTICULAR WAR is the wrong direction.
The left in this country has an honorable history of leading the fight internationally for human rights, from challenges to Belgium’s mass murder in the Congo at the end of the 19th century (led by among others Mark Twain) to denunciations of the fascist regimes in Europe in the 1930s to attacks on colonialism in the 1950s to denunciations of death squads in El Salvador and Apartheid in South Africa, the left has always called for challenges to bad regimes.
Well, there’s a start.
Nathan places more emphasis on techniques of organizing and less on thinking through positions than I would, but that’s a post that’s coming soon. I’m glad to see that someone with credibility on the Left is talking critically. It’s a start…