An Antiwar Effort Only the Right Can Lead

by , August 10, 2009

"These are extraordinary times [in the UK]. Flag-wrapped coffins of 18-year-old soldiers killed in a failed, illegal, and vengeful invasion are paraded along a Wiltshire high street. Victory in Afghanistan is at hand, says the satirical Gordon Brown. On the BBC’s Newsnight, the heroic Afghan MP Malalai Joya, tries, in her limited English, to tell the British public that her people are being blown to bits in their name: 140 villagers, mostly children, in her own Farah province. No parade for them. No names and faces for them. The suppression of the suffering of Britain’s and America’s colonial victims is an article of media faith, a tradition so ingrained that it requires no instructions.

"The difference today is that a majority of the British people are not fooled. The cheerleading newsreaders can say ‘Britain’s resolve is being put to the test’ as if the Luftwaffe is back on the horizon, but their own polls (BBC/ITN) show that popular disgust with the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq is strongest in the very communities where adolescents are recruited to fight them. The problem with the British public, says a retired army major on Channel 4 News, is that they need ‘to be trained and educated.’"

Thus writes John Pilger of antiwar sentiment in the UK. For those in the U.S. opposed to war and empire, perhaps the most important of his words are "popular disgust with the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq is strongest in the very communities where adolescents are recruited to fight them."

That disgust certainly puts the parties of war and empire in a bad place. A similar development is also apparent in the United States. A draft is no longer possible, since the majority of the population is unwilling in its heart of hearts to die for empire – or to send sons and daughters, mothers and fathers to do so. So the U.S., since Vietnam, relies on those areas and elements of the population ideologically committed to war and empire. Many of these are poorer and more rural whites, many from the "red" states.

So an interesting question presents itself. Is it possible to generate opposition to war and empire in the very population on which the empire relies for its fighters? I submit that the "Left" and "liberals" cannot do this. They do not speak the language of this population used for cannon fodder, nor do they share its values – at least not now.

So what is to be done? Who can turn the tide? It seems that this great and crucial contribution can be made by the libertarians and the paleocons. They speak the language of patriotism, "isolationism," and individual liberty, which are certainly not the first words that pop onto the tongues of the Left. But these ideas are part of the bedrock of the ideology informing the population from which the soldiers of empire are drawn.

And so the libertarians and paleocons can do what the Left cannot: convert the soldiers of empire into anti-imperialists. Why then has the genuine Right failed at this? A minor reason is that some opponents of empire are inconsistent. For example, Pat Buchanan’s columns on war and empire are often strikingly at variance with his pronouncements on The McLaughlin Group. But a major reason is that the anti-imperialist Right has not attempted a serious organizing effort aimed at the population used as cannon fodder. It has not attempted to go much farther than writing, and that largely for an audience that is likely to be more urban and "Left." So it is writing for the wrong audience, and it has entirely failed, largely because it has not even tried to organize and mobilize the population whence the warriors are recruited.

In this failure, both libertarians and paleocons have lost two great opportunities. First, if they were to engage in such an effort, they could deal a blow to empire, which would perhaps be devastating. In so doing they might save the peoples of the world, including Americans, from untold suffering. Second, if they were to slow the exploits of empire, they would be looked to as great successes, and thus the rest of their program on minimizing the power of the state would gain respect and strength. Nothing succeeds like success.

So a great opportunity presents itself to the Right – both paleos and libertarians – whose movement has been captured and distorted by the neocons. The Right has a world to win, if it might be put that way, or at least an empire to terminate. What could be more inspiring than a view, an ideology, which rescues mankind from the suffering of war that has plagued humanity over the millennia? The Right can do this because it has a following at a crucial point in the machinert of empire. All that is required is the will and then the action.

Read more by John V. Walsh