OF THE WAR DOVES
to whether or not his palms ever got a little fuzzy, no record
exists. But the record of the Lefts betrayal of its
self-conception as generally opposed to U.S. military intervention
is long and well known. It was therefore no surprise when
a whole bevy of ex-peaceniks jumped on the CNN-driven bandwagon
and cheered Clintons humanitarian intervention
in Kosovo. It was a war, after all, initiated by a President
who, as a college student, had protested the Vietnam war and
artfully avoided the draft. Once he made it to the Oval Office,
however, this same man set a new record for intervening overseas:
Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, Sudan, Kosovo, East Timor, the list goes
on and on. And there is no end in sight, with Colombia now
high on the Administrations agenda, and indications
of a new U.S. plan to attack Iraq. How do we explain this
strange phenomenon, the evolution of yesterdays doves
for peace into the War Doves of the new millennium?
LIVE THE VICTORY OF NATOS WAR!
the case of President Clinton would no doubt be an interesting
topic for a column, we will leave that one to the presidential
scholars who have the leisure and the grants to pursue and
document such a weighty subject. At any rate, the case of
Clinton is less interesting than those of the more intellectual
and self-reflective ex-radicals: while the Presidents
chameleon-like stance was dictated by sheer pragmatism, the
leftist ideologues of yesterday seek to justify their stance
in moral and political terms, all the while protesting that
they havent betrayed anything. Having once chanted long
live the victory of peoples war! at leftist demonstrations,
these people see nothing inconsistent in their joining the
chorus of long live the victory of NATOs war!
And you know what? They are right although not
for any reason they would recognize or acknowledge.
WAR A CHANCE
War Doves have not been shy about proclaiming their newfound
adherence to the slogan give war a chance. But
the whiniest and certainly the most obnoxious recantation
apologia has flowed naturally from the pen of Todd Gitlin,
whose career as a chronicler of the New Left and its
chief apologist makes his case emblematic of a larger
End of the Absolute No which naturally appeared
in Mother Jones magazine, that left-Yuppie organ of
crunchy granola political correctness is a model of
touchy-feely I feel your pain left-Clintonian
rationalization. Combined with mawkish and irrelevant personal
anecdotes and a mushy, sloganeering self-righteousness, Gitlin
retains the style if not the letter of his New Left politics.
He describes traveling around the country last spring, and
having the same conversation with comrades with whom
I shared obsessions and convictions for the better part of
decade, and no conviction more passionate than our common
hatred for the Vietnam War. In subsequent years we had kept
opposing American military involvement hither and yon, whether
in Nicaragua, Chile, Guatemala, Grenada, El Salvador, or Panama.
Most of us had deplored the Persian Gulf War, too. Now, in
1999, we would gingerly feel each other out: So, what do you
think about this war?
notice that this proud record of noninterventionism mostly
involved supporting leftist guerrilla movements in struggle
against the capitalist U.S. Gitlin and his comrades
did not oppose the Viet Congs war against the Vietnamese
people, or the depredations against democracy committed by
the Sandinista dictatorship. They were unfazed by the Stalinist
leadership of the Chilean Popular Front, endorsed the tyrannical
regime of Grenadian strongman Maurice Bishop, and cheered
on the El Salvadoran guerrillas, who were conducting a ruthless
war not only against the government but also against each
other. But never mind all that: young Gitlin didnt start
to get a conscience until way past his fortieth birthday,
when it become not only convenient but distinctly fashionable.
OF THEIR OWN
the case of the Persian Gulf War, they could still point to
the Iraqis Third World credentials as a reason to oppose
the devastation wrought by the West. But there was something
different about the Kosovo war, and comrade Gitlin and his
old New Left friends sensed it at once: this was a popular
war, at least with the media, and it was being waged, after
all, by one of their own. Gitlins description of he
and his fellow War Doves coming out to each other
reads like a scene from some tiresome coming of age
novel about a bunch of graying hippies-turned-yuppies sitting
around comparing their middle-aged spread:
HIPPIES FOR WAR
relief, pleasure, some awkwardness, even surprise we discovered
that we still agreed. Some felt unequivocal, others agonized
and bewildered, but most of us supported the NATO war over
Kosovo. We supported it in fear and trembling--because what
NATO was doing was, after all, war. But still we supported
the war, if not its every tactic. We were certain it started
not too soon but much too late, and then was botched. A few
of my old friends even opposed this particular war, the air
war, because they wanted a ground war instead.
yes, all that fear and trembling the melodramatic
and relentlessly self-referential spirit of the New Left is
alive and well in Gitlin, a former president of Students for
a Democratic Society (SDS), the leading organization of the
sixties student movement. How does this compare to the fear
and trembling felt by the Yugoslavians as NATOs warplanes
rained death from the skies? How dare Gitlin speak
of his own alleged agony, even as he endorses
a murderous and cowardly assault on a people from 30,000 feet.
And notice how Gitlin squirms around trying to avoid responsibility
for NATOs tactics as if one could
separate the abstract idea of a war from the waging of it.
And what about those ex-peacenik friends of his who couldnt
wait for the ground war to start whats up with
that? Here we see the ugly consequences of Gitlin and
his draft-dodging Commie friends finally getting in touch
with their inner warrior after all these years
a decidedly dangerous development.
INCHES FROM NOWHERE
traces the evolution of his own thinking back to the (first)
Gulf War, in which one of his friends after a long back-and-forth,
decided that we were six inches apart, I coming out against
the war and he in favor. But what can this possibly
mean? In any ordinary sense, the issue of war and peace pits
opponents and supporters of armed conflict on different sides
of the barricades. But not for Gitlin, who, it turns out,
is not so much against war as for human rights,
which is the only rationale he gives for supporting the war
on Serbia. Oh, and, by the way, forget about opposing the
Persian Gulf War (or any other future U.S. attacks in the
region): Gitlin writes that if I had known now what
I know then he would not have been against the carpet-bombing
of Iraq, either. After all, according to Gitlin, it turns
out that Iraq was just weeks away from launching a surprise
attack with anthrax-tipped missiles. An attack on whom?
Gitlin does not say. But one presumes he does not mean Brooklyn.
cutting through the thickets of autobiographical conceits
and elaborate self-justifications, we find that Gitlins
case for intervention is pathetically weak. He argues by implication,
rather than by making a logical argument, calling principled
opponents of intervention Rejectionists and striking
a pose of middle-aged faux-wisdom, with the sage and somewhat
condescending advice that There Are No Easy Answers. After
the fall of Communism, he writes, the left stumbled
around trying to find traction. Still, for all the muddle,
anti-interventionism remained in place, a kind of Cheshire
politics--a unifying No in the absence of a compelling Yes.
Huh? What is so Cheshire about opposing the idea
of the U.S. as the instrument of human rights
worldwide or, indeed, of opposing any global
authority that presumes to dictate to the peoples of the world
how to fix their borders or decide their internal political
arrangements? In the Cheshire politics of our New Left globalists,
the right to national self-determination, invoked so often
during the Vietnam war and the regional conflicts of the Cold
War era, has disappeared completely, to be replaced by a woozy
internationalism that has the capacity to turn deadly.
with the death of socialism as a moral and political ideal,
Gitlin and his pinko brethren looked around in vain for a
compelling Yes, something they could be for.
After all, they didnt want to be negative, and
just be against everything somebody might think
they were actually challenging the status quo, or, worse yet,
accuse them of being "extremists." But what could they be
for? Not for capitalism, of course, or the growing worldwide
realization that the centralized state is a stultifyingly
oppressive force how could Gitlin give up his radical
egalitarianism and devotion to class warfare and still consider
himself a man of the Left? No, it was much easier to cut corners
on the question of war, and take the path trod by so many
others before him. Gitlin may not be growing hair on his palms,
but certainly his weak and even half-hearted attempts to justify
a war that even many of its initial supporters are beginning
to regret seem oddly unconvincing, even a little embarrassing,
as if he does not even care what his readers think of the
conspicuous lack of arguments. Boiled down to its essence,
his case amounts to this:
Those who condemned the NATO war categorically never
posed a serious answer to the key questions: What else was
to be done for the human rights of a systematically persecuted
hold on a minute: Why dont we apply this standard retroactively
to the people of Vietnam? The ethnic cleansing of the Montagnards
and other Southeast Asian minorities, as well as the grisly
fate of hundreds of thousands of pro-government South Vietnamese,
is well known. If Gitlin is willing to reconsider his opposition
to the Persian Gulf War on the basis of a few alleged missiles
aimed at Israel, then what about the several million Cambodians
exterminated by the Khmer Rouge? If the Kosovars needed to
be protected from Slobodan Milosevic, then why wasn't it ok
to protect the Montagnards (and the Vietnamese) from Ho Chi
Minh? Why doesnt Gitlin admit he was wrong and retroactively
support U.S. military intervention in Southeast Asia in the
sacred name of human rights?
QUINCY ADAMS VERSUS CHE GUEVARA
answer to this question, which Gitlin can no longer answer
if he ever could is that nothing on the land
mass of Asia is a vital or legitimate interest of the United
States government. The answer is that the Founders did not
foresee and would have abhorred a global empire run by vaunting
moralists: they expressly forbade us from going abroad in
search of monsters to destroy. But since Gitlin and
his revolutionary comrades never looked to their
own revolution for inspiration, but always looked abroad,
to the Third World, they overlooked John Quincy Adams in favor
of Che Guevara.
THE AGONY OF IT!
complains that, during the Kosovo war, he could hear
Rejectionists shrieking that we had become the warmongers
our younger selves had despised. Well, hadnt he?
Oh, of course not, because, you see, he and his friends
went through all kinds of twinges and qualms
agonies even. Oh, you poor dears! Never mind those innocent
Serbians killed by NATOs bombs the real
question is, how will Gitlin and his friends endure the sight
of it, not to mention the sight of their own hypocrisy? Considering
his own status as a moral paragon, it was a terrible
dilemma for Gitlin but not for long, as
he puts it, because backing down, it felt to me, would
be succumbing to yet another purity fetish.
purity fetish, indeed: Gitlins problem, and the problem
he shares with his fellow War Doves, is that his fetish involves
a fascination with the mystique of State power. Having failed
to establish socialism via revolution from the outside, Gitlin
and his fellow New Leftists long ago began the Long March
through the institutions. Today, academia, the media, and
government are all dominated by the left-leaning exemplars
of Gitlins generation, and their moralism over the years
has not abated but only become more entrenched, and more empowered.
The militant internationalism of the Third Way combines the
worst of both the old Left and the cold war Right: the radical
egalitarianism and messianism of the former is here married
to the Great Power chauvinism and outright militarism of the
latter. The War Dove is a singularly unattractive hybrid,
who bears, at least in Gitlins case, a rather strong
resemblance to the vulture a cowardly creature, who
only attacks the weak and the dying, and comes swooping in
long after the battle is over.
after the Cold War is over, and there exists no credible military
threat to the United States long after anyone could
possibly make the case for committing the nations military
resources to a series of regional wars on a world scale
Gitlin and his much-vaunted friends are beating
the war drums. Their capacity for moral outrage and revolution
has now become a global appetite, and the United States Army,
once their enemy, is now their instrument. But has anything
really changed? Gitlin and his crowd were never against
the Vietnam war in the sense that they sided with the North
Vietnamese. SDS made a hero out of Ho Chi Minh, chanting
in unison at one memorable SDS convention Ho, Ho, Ho
Chi Minh! The NLF is gonna win! War as an instrument
of securing social justice is not something they
opposed in principle, insofar as they had any principles.
Just as they ignored Communist atrocities back then so today
they ignore the methods and motives of NATO or convince
themselves that their own agonizing is sufficient
penance for any moral ambivalence on their part. Which just
goes to prove, once again, the veracity of that immortal bromide:
the more things change, the more they remain the same.
I dont like doing this hitting you up in the
middle of a column, that is but I dont really
have a whole lot of choice.
many of you know, Antiwar.com has been keeping tens of thousands
of regular readers all over the world informed as to the war
plans of our rulers. Faithfully and regularly we have been
keeping you updated as war clouds gather, usually up-to-the-minute,
sometimes beating out the big outlets like MSNBC and CNN with
breaking stories. Faithfully and regularly, you have been
sending us donations on a fairly steady basis. But we have
been expanding, as youll notice, with new columnists
and regular updates, and our expenses have gone up accordingly.
A lot of people are assuming that since we look good, and
continue to do the job weve been doing all these months,
that everything is fine and were fantastically successful.
But that is a pretty big assumption, and Ill tell you
right now it just aint true. We are barely a month away
from having zero in our bank account, and as much as we skimp
and save and refuse to even pay our columnists even a pittance
with any reasonable degree of regularity, we still find ourselves
short of funds not for any frills or executive luncheons,
mind you, but for basic operations.
short: send money. Now.
you dont, we might not be here the next time you log
on and if you think Im kidding, and just trying
to get as much out of you as possible, to tug at your heartstrings
or guilt-trip you into shelling out more than you ordinarily
would . . . well, just try me. And just think about what it
will be like finding out what really going on the next
time Bill Clinton decides to launch another humanitarian
invasion of a sovereign country without Antiwar.com.
By the time you find out, the war will be long over.
any of you read about the slaughter of 300 South Korean civilians
recently uncovered by the Associated Press? Now there is a
classic example of how truth is obscured by the fog of war.
Governments naturally attempt to mask their crimes. It took
all those years for the truth to come out but that
has much less chance of happening today with the technology
we have and the dawning of the information age. That is why
Antiwar.com is so vitally important to the future of peace
because today they couldnt get away with it,
at least not for long. We would have the news posted within
hours of its discovery. People the world over would raise
questions and raise their voices in protest. At Antiwar.com,
the Big Lie of the War Party that they are the Angels
of Light, the Forces of Goodness and Democracy is relentless
exposed five days a week and during a crisis
seven days a week.
have to ask yourself: can we afford to lose it?
you dont act now, you will lose it.
I dont want to over-react, but I am getting a
little nervous about our shrinking bank account. I dont
mean to hector you, but Im sure you realize the vital
importance of continuing our work or you wouldnt
have read this far.
then, now is the time to act.
can use our secure credit card payment system, by clicking
here, or you can send a check or a money order via snail
mail to the address below. And remember,
You can direct your dollars to peace instead of a new bomber
or guided missile: we are a nonprofit educational organization
and all contributions are fully tax-deductible.
NOTE: Our good friend, Ralph Raico, the noted historian,
has made a generous offer: he will donate $250 to Antiwar.com
if three other donors match his contribution. This would make
a big dent in our debts, and would earn you not only a free
load of books and pamphlets, but also the undying gratitude
of Ralph, myself, and the whole gang here at Antiwar.com.
Come on you guys its for a good cause.