Don’t F*ck Me Up With Peace and Love?

Maybe this post by George Hawley, “Solving Non-Interventionism’s Tough-Guy Problem,” wasn’t directed at Antiwar.com, but I’ll address some excerpts from it anyway.

In the years since I abandoned my status as a typical neoconservative chicken hawk and adopted Old Right non-interventionism, I’ve been somewhat uneasy with much of the movement’s rhetoric. Specifically, I often find much of the anti-war Right a little too reminiscent of the anti-war Left. That is, many anti-war conservatives and libertarians expend a great number of keystrokes lamenting the American war machine’s innocent foreign victims (see Chronicles
or LewRockwell.com just about any day of the week for examples). This is often my own preferred argument. My concern is that this kind of rhetoric does little to grow the non-interventionist movement’s ranks. …

Although their message is utterly vacuous, the Limbaughs, Hannitys, and Levins know exactly how to frame their arguments in a way that appeals to the GOP base. It’s time for more doves on the Right to learn to do the same.

But, of course, we do make coldly consequentialist, self-interested arguments
against militarism, war, and empire. We also make arguments on moral grounds, from a number of different starting points (including conservative Christianity, which I hear this GOP base is really into). Why make this an either/or matter? Why should we drop half (or more) of our arguments when they don’t conflict with the other half? (There are various types of “humanitarianism” that do conflict with non-interventionism, but we avoid those, so no problem there.)

As for learning from Limbaugh and Levin, please. I know their audience. I was born into it. If I ever write a political memoir, I’ll name it Up From Hannity. There is a Reasonable Right worth reaching out to, but it ain’t in talk radio. These people “think very little about foreign policy,” as Hawley puts it, not out of apathy, but on principle, because thinking leads to questioning, and questioning is a mere Bic flick away from flag-burning, bin Laden, buggery, and Buddhism. The funny thing is, the warbots are not allergic to “humanitarian, we-are-the-world gobbledygook” – in fact, they devour it when it’s in the service of American imperialism. Anyone who watches Fox News knows how quickly right-wingers can pivot from “kill ’em all” to “aww, purple fingers!” The problem is not that peaceniks have tried the wrong arguments on them; they will accept any argument, no matter how heterodox it appears on its face, so long as it reaches the correct conclusion, roughly summarized here. But any argument that reaches a different conclusion, no matter how consonant it is with “conservative values” such as traditionalism, small government, fiscal responsibility, or national sovereignty, doesn’t stand a chance with that crowd.

Lamenting the suffering created by harsh economic sanctions and bombing campaigns is a good way for non-interventionist right-wingers to suck up to their leftist friends and colleagues, but so what? The people moved by such arguments are already anti-war. Building a powerful anti-war coalition on the Right will require an entirely different rhetoric. At all costs it must avoid sounding like Code Pink.

This ignores the salvageable, non-Rush Right, whom we do address, and it seems a little confused about the purposes of advocacy. Not all arguments are about convincing someone to switch sides. Often, it’s more important to get those who agree with you on an issue to care more about that issue, in both absolute and relative terms. For instance, much of our commentary since January has been aimed at convincing our lefty readers that they shouldn’t surrender peace and civil liberties for the various goodies Obama has promised them. We’re always trying to make people rethink their priorities, or merely come out of the closet. Even after a majority of Americans soured on the Iraq war, most remained sheepish, even silent, in their opposition, revealing it only to pollsters. Part of our job is to get people fired up, to translate their dissatisfaction into action of some sort. And you know what? Moral arguments are often good motivators, even for people whose default modes of analysis are amoral.

Luckily, we already have a pretty good format that has worked pretty well in America’s Red regions, and can be applied to the cause of peace. There is a certain ethos that characterizes a great number of ordinary Republicans – or at least the ordinary Republicans with whom I prefer to spend my time. For the lack of a better term, I will call this frame of mind, “Who-Gives-a-Damn? Conservatism.” This is the type of thinking that leads to support for standard GOP policies, but not for particularly-sophisticated reasons. I have no doubt that a great number of grassroots Republicans oppose ideas like universal health care and more federal spending on public schools because they understand, and find compelling, conservative and libertarian arguments about the utility of such policies. I suspect much of the opposition to these schemes, however, is based on a more primal emotion. That is, a lot of people don’t like Big Government because they don’t want to pay for it and don’t really care about the people it is supposed to help.

If you think most self-described conservatives really hate Big Government,
then you stopped paying attention sometime around, oh, the Nixon administration. Good God, man, if they hated Big Government, wouldn’t they at least dislike the most wasteful and intrusive government programs of them all, from the War on Terror to the War on Drugs? No, they love Big Government, from its big, fat boots to its big, fat head. Oh, they’re angry that some of the loot falls on the, um… undeserving, but that won’t stop them from sucking the teats of Social Security and Medicare to the shape and texture of a deflated football. They won’t abide tax increases, but they see no connection between those and deficit spending. And why should they? Just keep those F-22s coming, barkeep! The grandkids are buying!

I do agree with this part completely:

The neocons’ democratist ideology should be treated as just another example of fuzzy-headed utopianism. Bringing “liberal democracy” and “democratic capitalism” to the entire world should be added to the category of ridiculous, never-going-to-happen ideas. The best argument against the neocons is that they are delusional. They are the eggheads dreaming up sentimental, utopian schemes, not us.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Nonetheless, we will gain nothing from adopting the language and posture of the neocons and their fellow travelers. Non-interventionism’s only “tough-guy problem” is the widespread attachment to a mindset derived entirely from dumbass action flicks, which are about as useful a guide for foreign policy as romantic comedies are for romance.

32 thoughts on “Don’t F*ck Me Up With Peace and Love?”

  1. It will be easier to get "conservatives" to jump on the anti-war bandwagon now that the war is the Democrats' war — and the stated aims of the war are being redefined into bringing leftist-style secular society to the Middle East. We don't want that sh*t here. Why should our kids get shot at trying to bring feminism and gay marriage to Afghanistan?

    As I recall many conservatives were opposed to Clinton's "humanitarian bombing" and "nation building" social work militarism in Kosovo.

    1. True, the crowd I'm talking about occasionally opposes a war for purely tactical political reasons. But that's not much use when they're either in power (see the Bush years) or completely out of it (see present).

      1. Well, I got nothing to say to those people who can't be persuaded by facts or moral arguments — those who only think in "tactical political" terms. FWIW, it appears that that group is larger than just "conservatives" who supported the wars during Bush's years. Much of the Left organized itself around opposition to the war(s) during the Bush years. Now look at them.

        In any case, while I am not long on ideas that might work, I have some sense of what does not help the anti-war cause. Living in red state South Dakota, I can say that there are some staples of anti-war protests that are like red capes at a bull fight: Upside-down flags (or any apparent disrespect for the flag, or other symbols of the country or military); Paper-mache puppets/mimes; "Teach-ins"; Banners for odd-ball causes — "Free Leonard Peltier" — or from groups wanting some attention "GLBT teachers for peace," etc.

  2. Honestly, speaking from the Pro-War Libertarian side, the biggest problem you Anti-War Libertarians have is escaping the Wimp label. You all just come across as huge Girlie Men, afraid to fight, not at all interested in serving in the Military, and denigrating those of us who have.

    And it doesn't help that some of your biggest leaders in your movement are Girlie Men physically, as well.

    I mean, you all aren't actually crawling with Macho Marlboro Men; More like Alan Alda.

    Some free advice: You want to win us Pro-War Libertarians over a bit, concentrate on the economic angle – We spend way too much money overseas on two Wars, at an enormous cost to the Taxpayers, ect…

    Eric Dondero, Publisher
    Libertarian Republican

    1. Dondero, you win the thread. Treat yourself to a Marlboro Red, no filter. By the way, what's with the 18th-century capitalization? Do you do that because men were more manly back then?

    2. I don't know HOW you can call yourself a "Libertarian". No true Libertarian can support America's CRAZY foreign policies or its two ludicrous wars.

    3. Dunderooo, and his vast army of one. We are supposed to somehow be worried about changing the minds of pro-war Libertarians. I know there are some of you confused idiots out there but I don't think pandering to the likes of you has any appeal around here.
      Your also confused if you believe that Libertarians other than the beltway type are seen as wimps. If you had said drug taking, whoring, gamblers with guns you would have at least hit at the proper misconception.
      I know just how unwimpish you are with your big scary tour while in the Navy. I know it happens that sometimes real combat vets still support useless wars (I will never understand why). In your case I think it's more like "I got so close I could taste it, but I can always act like a hero". I see the same thing with friends that I served with, the ones who saw little or no action are always the first to still act all macho and pro-war. I was deployed twice as an Infantry grunt and saw enough to call bullshit when I smell it. The only thing macho about war comes from books and movies. Funny how so many REMF's remain pro-war.
      Peace!

    4. If you're pro-war, I presume you've enlisted? Or served in the past? Not to boast, but I have Vietnamese blood on my hands, hence I'm against this war, too. Most wars.

  3. Dondero I rank about as high as the talk radio prototype, else he would realize that the expense factor should have precluded his support for the Iraq War before it started. You shoulda listened to
    pugilist Pat Buchanan, Dandy Don.

  4. "Pro-War Libertarian"?

    Isn't that like jumbo shrimp?

    Look, you're pro-war, or a libertarian, but you can't be both.

  5. The chickenhawks on my local fox affiliate are giving Obama props for "looking out for the troops in Afghanistan".

    I like bringing up the second amendment when reactionaries tell me scary stories about the Democracry-hating Islamofascists. America is armed to the teeth, they seem to forget that. They have never been able to tell me how Osama Bin Laden could manage to secure Los Angeles or San Antonio. Is he going to nuke every city in the United States? He would have to, I don't think Americans would take invasion all that well. It isn't like Osama Bin Laden could give a speech on TV from the Oval Office and all of a sudden we pay income taxes to him.

    I mean, what do the scaredy-cat reactionaries think America is anyway, a bunch of Wimps? We'd have countless militias of chest-beating Donderos chomping cigars, eating apple pie, milking cows, and sniping Islamofascist invaders from the rooftop of every town in America. Ain't nobody "following us home" or coming over here, unless they want Dondero to open up a can on them.

    1. Maybe they think that we'll respond to a bin Laden invasion like they expect Iraqis, Afghanis, et al. to respond when we invade–with roses and spontaneous choruses of "God Bless America" etc.

      Speaking as a far-out leftist and faithful antiwar.com reader (and occasional donor), I think Matt's dissection of the right-wing talk radio audience is very astute. I don't know if Limbaughites still call themselves "dittoheads," but to me, that term constitutes an immediate admission that you are not fit to vote or participate in any kind of political discussion. Anyone on the left or right who advertises their unwillingness to think for themselves is not going to be much of a citizen.

      Thanks for listening,
      Dave

  6. Administrator,
    What is up? Why the immediate deletions? Are you folks part of Clear Skys Communications now?
    richard vajs

    1. Don’t take it personally. Only a few posters have been banned. Our comments system is just, in a word, atrocious. My own comments are frequently deleted or blocked. I have no idea what the problem is.

  7. Our moderation system had some flags for common words. Could you email me (mike@antiwar.com) the exact comment that got deleted so I can remedy?

    1. You did the same thing to me and for the life of me I don't have a clue as to why. Instead of us e-mailing you why don't you post a list of your banned words? That way we will know which naughty words to stay away from. This is more that a little disapointing.

    2. Mike,
      I get bored repeating myself plus I've forgotten the exact words, but the essence was that I wasn't so sure that America wasn't a bunch of wimps. All I can deduce from our "macho attitude" is that 9/11 caused us to crap our pants and we haven't quit shaking to this day. The whole Bush Administration was just a bunch of back-shooting, sucker-punching cowards. And America tolerated them. And Obama is no braver.

  8. Actually, it's Anti-War Libertarian that's the oxymoron. The modern libertarian movement started off with the likes of Barry Goldwater, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, Hayek, Dana Rohrabacher, Jack Wheeler, and other Hawks and Commie haters. It was only in 1973/74 that the Libertarian Party was taken over by the Rothbardian/Raimondo leftist infiltrators. In fact, the very first LP platform said little about foreign policy, according to John Hospers, another Libertarian Hawk and a big Bush supporter.

    You all Newbies to our libertarian movement apparently don't know Jack about Libertarian Party history. Read up on LP history before you post about shit you know little about.

  9. I oppose war because it is immoral, not because I'm a libertarian or a liberal or a conservative or a progressive. In such a cause, morality trumps ideology/political-economic mindset.

  10. Dunderooo, what's oxymoronic is believing that maintianing an empire and waging unnecessary wars of aggression could somehow lead to greater freedom and liberty for anyone. The obvious consequence of this horrible waste of lives and treasure is less freedom not more. We see that manifested with torture and illegal dentention, wire taps etc. It's just too easy for the state to grab yet more power everytime they create a new enemy. So sorry but your wrong, you can't be a true Libertarian and be for these rediculous wars unless you believe that giving away freedom and liberty is what Libertarians call for. Aggression against innocents is as far from a libertarian idea as you can get. For anyone interested on what a true libertarian has to say read War, Peace and the State by Murray Rothbard http://www.mises.org/rothbard/warpeace.asp

    Peace!

  11. Dunderoo, Goldwater was a hawk but not a libertarian, he was mainly a Conservative who clashed with the religious right over a handfull of libertarian ideas. Milton Friedman apposed the Iraq war as a war of aggression. Quote from Ayn Rand "Wars are the second greatest evil that human societies can perpetrate. (The first is dictatorship, the enslavement of their own citizens, which is the cause of wars.)". You should also read F. A. Hayek's" Socialism and War" to see how far off you are. Dana Rohrabacher? you must be joking Unreason mag traitor to libertarian idea currently a neo-con. Now I see who you get your influence from. Jack (CIA man) Wheeler is that just a joke you threw in? Your idea of libertarians is more than a little twisted as is your list of so called pro-war libertarians. What tiny bit of credibility you had was gone after your opposition of Ron Paul.

    Peace!

    1. …not to mention that Hayek wrote in "The Road to Serfdom" that the roots of the socialist state come from war and the nationalized economy it brings about.

  12. Note also how Dondero frames his argument. What does or does not constitute libertarianism derives from what the first incarnation of the Libertarian Party has or had to say about it. He cites "ignorance of Libertarian Party history"… I'm more inclined to believe that his intellectual opponents here could give a fig about the history of a political party, preferring instead to take the long look back at libertarian philosophical history, which – were he to take a look – Dondero would discover a wealth of anti-war scholarship infusing the development of the libertarian "idea", whose central axiom, I always thought, was the non-initiation of force.

  13. "(including conservative Christianity, which I hear this GOP base is really into)"

    They practice some quasi-christian rituals, which they'd like to force on everyone else.

    "Oh, they’re angry that some of the loot falls on the, um… undeserving"

    Many want to humiliate and degrade their "inferiors," i.e., poor people, colored people, immigrants, people with different religious rituals. More than a few would like to own slaves again.

  14. Why do people always subject war as being either a yay or nay? Either a hawk or a dove? The US war that I am the most supportive of is WWII, the bloodiest war in the history of man-kind. Why? Because we didn't start it. We were minding our own when the Japanese attacked. Also, Germany declared war on us, not vice versa. The war in Iraq is the US war that I oppose the most. We were not attacked, Iraq was simply minding there own. Usama Bin Laden (It's spelled correctly, check the 9/11 Commision) attacked us, not Sadaam Hussein.

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  17. I oppose war because it is immoral, not because I'm a libertarian or a liberal or a conservative or a progressive. In such a cause, morality trumps ideology/political-economic mindset.

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