A funny thing happened on the way to a war on Syria – in fact, several funny things. First the road to Damascus was blocked by the sentiment of the American people who are fed up with war. Second, international opposition from every corner of the earth, save two or three, joined the barricade, even unto the British House of Commons and its Tory majority, which derailed the clueless Cameron’s bid to join the planned strike on Syria. Third, Putin and Lavrov backed by Iran and China drew a line in the sand in Syria – and they won, a setback and possibly a historical turning point for the U.S. Empire. Fourth, the Republicans in Congress joined in the opposition to this latest criminal misadventure – in fact, they led the opposition. And that last is something not seen since the days before World War II. Peace is no longer a partisan issue.
But wait a moment, the faux progressives howl. Republicans for peace? Nonsense, they cry; it is all pure partisanship; they hate Obama; that’s all there is to it. Let’s consider that argument for a moment.
Suppose it is partisanship. What kind? In the past the strategy of the Republicans was to out-hawk the Democrats, to take up an even more belligerent stance. And indeed that is what a few Republicans did this time. Thus, John McCain and Lindsay Graham dragged their knuckles to the Senate floor to chide Obama for weakness on Syria and failure to provide even more arms to the “rebel” anthropophagi. But these senescent warriors were relatively few in number and without the sway which they held in the past. And they were indistinguishable from Democratic hawks like Diane Feinstein.
Instead a large number of Republicans in the House opposed the war. More than that they took leadership in opposing it, as documented here. Thus Scott Rigell (R, VA) initiated a bipartisan letter to Obama in opposition to the war, which was signed by 119 Republicans and 21 Democrats. In the “liberal” all Democratic delegation from Massachusetts, my home state, only one Congressman signed on, Michael Capuano. In response, the ever partisan Barbara Lee (D, CA) hastily drafted a letter which went to Democrats only and added another 22 Democrats. The final tally was 119 Republicans out of 232 signed the letter to Obama while only 43 of 200 Democrats signed on to either letter. That is new and it should be acknowledged as such.
But much more interesting was one feature of the bipartisan missive that was lacking in the partisan Democrat one. That feature was a mention of the war on Libya, which the bipartisan letter labeled as “unconstitutional,” the remedy for which is impeachment. A House majority, including an overwhelming Republican majority, hinting at impeachment for an unconstitutional war is something new. No substantial number of Dems did that under Bush.
It would be foolish not to acknowledge that something new has happened here. But the progressive press has been alive with accounts of “their” victory in stopping war on Syria with no mention of the new role of the Republicans. Authors taking this line range from Weatherman terrorist turned Obamabot, Bernadine Dohrn, who writes only about the role of the “peace and justice” movement, all the way to the listless prose of Robert Naiman in the Huffington Post. This gang is either totally isolated or completely in denial. And three words they dare not say are “Ron Paul libertarianism.” Where do they think this new spirit comes from in the Republican Party? Does it simply fall from the heavens? Did they watch the primary debates in the 2012 election to see Ron Paul infuriate Giuliani and the others when he called a spade a spade and an Empire an Empire? Did they pay attention as he refused to endorse Romney?
As a result of the Vietnam era, the peace movement was captured by the genuine Left. As that Left got older, more “reasonable,” more conventional, they became more enamored of “humanitarian” imperialism. Their crowning achievement was the cruel war on Libya, which under Gaddafi had the highest Human Development Index in all of Africa. Amy Goodman of HypocrisyNow! and progressives of like mind, sang the praises of the destruction of that poor country, day after day while Ron Paul was denouncing the whole venture. The Republican majority in the House has now done essentially the same. Surely the bombing of Libya marked the end of the progressive domination of the antiwar movement. Now there is a genuine competition to see who will lead a movement to give voice to the very human desire for peace. And right now the Conservatives and libertarians are ahead.
Instead of showing hostility to this new development or trying to explain it away or ignoring it, the genuine opponents of war amongst progressives should welcome it and work with it. It is our obligation to all those millions who have already died at the hands of the U.S. Empire and the countless more who will meet the same fate, absent effective action on our part.
Finally, we must be careful not to be too jubilant over this victory. There is a major segment of the imperial elite which chafes at being stuck to the Middle East tar baby for the sake of Israel. Obama and Hillary are itching to turn toward China, the only real obstacle to global domination by the U.S. Empire right now. That faction, which includes “offensive realists” of the Mearsheimer stripe but not the Kissinger flavor, would like to get out of the Middle East and bend every effort to bring down China. Israel obviously feels otherwise, and so AIPAC may be China’s best friend right now. As the pivot to East Asia develops, a strong and broad-based antiwar movement will be needed to keep us all out of mortal danger.