It’s time to temporarily put away our left-right differences and form a mass movement to oppose a war with Iran.
Progressives, libertarians, liberals, and even some high profile Trumpists are against another military adventure in the Middle East. Laura Ingraham criticized neoconservatives like Bret Stephens for seeking an Iran War. Tucker Carlson denounced Washington "warmongers" for their hawkish bent. Chuck Schumer voiced his concerns that Trump may "bumble into war." The Nation and The American Conservative have long denounced the prospect of an Iran War. Progressives like Bernie Sanders and libertarians like Ron Paul have consistently done the same.
But with such disparate political philosophies, how to form a mass protest movement to oppose an Iran war?
First off, Carlson, Ingraham, Ron Paul and the centrist democratic politicians have to invest their political capital in advocating that their supporters hit the streets in demonstrations.
As of now, the only antiwar protesters consist of America’s far left. Not only are they antiwar but many would prefer a form of socialism over capitalism.
For antiwar rallies to gain traction and help deter foreign adventures, those against war should be temporally willing to collaborate with their political opposites. Trumpists probably find the values of far-left progressives abhorrent and, certainly, vice versa. Yet to grow an antiwar movement that reflects the country’s wide antiwar sentiment, ideological differences must be cast to the side. The sole focus should be on preventing a war with Iran – no anti-abortion talk, no anti-Trumpism, no anti-imperialism, no talk of ‘libtards’ or left-wing ‘snowflakes’.
To expand anti-Iran war protests, the message must massage.
Leftists and libertarians can’t suddenly convince moderate Democrats or Trumpists that American policy overseas is imperialism and detrimental to humankind. Nor can Americans instantly be convinced that far-left economic policies are the way to go. Americans feel no solidarity with a protest where Iranian and Syrian flags are flown (as one often sees at these protests). This is an automatic turnoff for average Americans, Trumpists and the center left.
Instead, the far left – as the only visible antiwar movement on the streets thus far – should narrow the messaging. Instead of Iranian or Syrian flags, they should re-appropriate the American flag by advocating for a cosmopolitan patriotism that cares for the world’s peoples in so far as they are not doomed by perpetual U.S. wars and sanctions. They should remind Americans of their wallet and everyday common decency: endless war wastes the American dollar, causes undue harm to millions of civilians and usually results in blowback.
While creating a more inclusive visual atmosphere for politically diverse Americans transiently unified by an antiwar penchant, the messaging should focus on the goal. Instead of protest chants denouncing imperialism from "Palestine to Mexico" or equating capitalism with slavery, the focus should remain on preventing an Iran War. To this end, in speeches, US aggression toward Iran should be touched upon, including Trump’s breaking from the JCPOA that had worked rather swimmingly. Protest chants can alternate between "No war with Iran" and "Sanctions are murder, end the sanctions now." Both remain focused on war prevention and highlight the social and economic damage brought by yours truly on Iran.
Not only would those of antiwar ilk be more apt to join an overtly patriotic protest that does not denounce America from teeth to toe and flies American flags. It may help sway the undecided, making antiwar advocacy the norm rather than fringe.
Last Saturday, as I walked through downtown Boston in an anti-Iran war protest, I noticed the many passerby’s blank and often disdainful looks when American imperialism was derided. Unfortunately, Americans don’t conceive their country to be an imperialist nation. Instead, they think, United States preserves the liberal world order that supposedly benefits everyone.
Unlike anti-imperial rallying cry, when the "No war with Iran" slogan was called out, it seemed to resonate far more widely.
Keep the focus tight, message concise, symbols familiar and comforting – and a mass antiwar protest movement may yet burgeon.
That is, so long as libertarians, center-left Democrats and some Trumpists follow through with their anti-Iran war rhetoric and call for mass protest.
Peter Crowley is an independent writer and scholar with a M.S. in Conflict Resolution, Global Studies from Northeastern University. He works as Content Specialist/Production Coordinator for a prominent library science company.