So are things getting better – or are they getting worse?
Every once in a while it’s necessary to step back and ask ourselves this question. otherwise, we have no clue as to what effect our efforts are having on the public policy debate – and no sense of where we are.
We set off, way back in 1995 – when Antiwar.com was founded – to launch a movement to reform US foreign policy, the course of which we saw inevitably leading to increasing aggression, more global instability, the radical erosion of our civil liberties and – of course – financial problems that could only end in national bankruptcy. To say nothing of the many lives to be lost along the way,
Have we succeeded?
If by "success" you mean decisively and immediately changing the course of history, the obvious answer is an emphatic no – after all, the US government is presently engaged in several simultaneous wars. Not only that, but our frequent predictions that domestic tyranny would come as the result of Washington’s misguided and reckless foreign policy have come true in ways we never dared imagine – and on a truly horrifying scale. The Surveillance State that Edward Snowden pulled the curtain back on is just the sort of monstrosity that haunted the dystopias of our worst nightmares. And of course it’s all "justified" in the name of "national security," i.e. defending and expanding the Empire.
So, no, we haven’t succeeded in the sense of putting an end to all that – far from it! – but perhaps that’s not a realistic question. Instead, we should be asking: Have things gotten better since September 11, 2001 – when our national nightmare really began?
The 9/11 attacks – and the now largely forgotten anthrax scare that accompanied it – changed the entire tenor of our politics, our foreign policy, and even our national epistemology – which was distorted and clouded by fear for many years. While the post-Soviet world was on course to change our internal politics and provide a domestic basis for a more rational foreign policy, the attacks changed all that – and set the stage for a new era of unmitigated aggression. 9/11 gave the War Party a permanent weapon, one they continue to wield: the fear of terrorism as veritable sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.
A good example of how the process works is the advent of Iraq War III. The "Islamic State" – the mutant offspring of our own policies – is now being held up as an alleged "threat" to the continental US – a bogus alarm if ever there was one. In response to an intensive campaign in the media, support for the new war has ratcheted up, albeit not as much as the War Party would like – and still not enough to give sustainable political support to troops on the ground.
Like the effects of all disasters, the damage inflicted by 9/11 on the national consciousness has been softened by the passage of time. The War Party has played the fear card too many times: it’s getting old. And the Snowden revelations have really done much to show that the really destructive effects of the 9/11 attacks have been self-inflicted.
Things began to turn around when those "weapons of mass destruction" failed to turn up in Iraq. The "mushroom cloud" Condi Rice kept telling us would bloom over American cities if we didn’t hurry up and start murdering Iraqis was exposed as what we always said it was: a neocon-created hoax.
Things really began to turn around when "neocon" – up until then merely shorthand for a certain sort of leftist who’d gone right – became a popular term of opprobrium. My first contributions to this site were focused on the then-little –known right-wing sect known as the neoconservatives, and while I can hardly take credit for their discrediting – they did that themselves – Antiwar.com was the pioneer in identifying and tracing their historical influence as a force for evil in the world.
When America’s intellectual weathervane – a.k.a. Andrew Sullivan – began to have second thoughts about the immoral and dangerous foreign policy he’d done so much to promote, the War Party knew the jig was nearly up.
Aside from the turn in the public mood, real gains were made in the political arena. While anti-interventionist sentiment has, in recent times, been largely confined to the liberal left, the complete failure of the neocons’ foreign adventurism led many conservatives to rediscover the Old Right – the proud tradition of conservative (and libertarian) anti-imperialism. This is a particularly gratifying development for us here at Antiwar.com, and for me personally.
We realized early on that a successful effort to change US foreign policy wasn’t going to come about unless we split the right over the foreign policy question. Our strategy was to hive off enough conservative support from the War Party to create a new trans-ideological, noninterventionist consensus that would set the terms of the foreign policy debate for many years to come.
Who would’ve thought we’d see the rise of a noninterventionist caucus amongst congressional Republicans? Well, we did think exactly that, right here in this space – long before the reality became concrete.
Slowly but surely, the growing anti-interventionist movement is indeed changing the terms of the debate – and that’s really the essence of our mission. For too long that "debate" has been over how Washington should try to impose its will on the rest of the world – never whether this is a goal a free people should pursue.
Sure, there have been setbacks: Iraq War III, for starters. But progress never happens in a straight line. After a solid decade of having virtually zero opposition, the War Party has recently faced a series of defeats: over Obama’s proposed bombing of Syria, which the public slapped down with impressive force and over the Chuck Hagel nomination (because of who was opposing him). Efforts to defeat antiwar members of Congress, particularly Republicans who had earned the ire of the neocons, were turned back.
And we can take pleasure in the little victories, too. Why, just this afternoon, as I’m writing this, word comes that the editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer, and the literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, have been pushed out by the publisher, who has decided to turn what used to be a magazine into a "media company," whatever that is. At any rate, TNR, as everyone calls it, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year – and it’s been a hundred years of absolutely consistent warmongering, now hasn’t it?
From World War I – which TNR hailed as the advent of progressive "reform" – through WWII, the cold war and indeed every damned bloody conflict of the modern era, the magazine has been the War Party’s flagship. Its projected demise as a "literary" enterprise is being mourned by every "literary" phony on Twitter (i.e. hundreds of DC and Brooklyn-centric white guys and their bluestocking equivalents). To which we say: Break out the champagne! Schadenfreude without guilt!
Remember how Foer predicted the demise of The American Conservative because Patrick J. “Buchanan and his rich friends could not have chosen a worse time to start a journal of the isolationist right”? Yet TAC is not only still around, it is thriving, while TNR is in its death agony – along with the brand of smug self-satisfied mandarin liberalism it was founded to promulgate.
"9/11 hasn’t boosted the isolationist right," Foer squawked, "it has extinguished it. … Sept. 11 has virtually ended conservative qualms about spending blood and treasure abroad.” The neoconservatives are “no longer a wing of the conservative movement," he triumphantly averred, "they are the conservative movement."
Are they now, Frankie boy? Good luck job hunting. Might I suggest a field every TNR editor is supposedly an expert on – the military? I hear they need guys to fight all the wars you and your fellow TNR’ers have been pushing.
Yes, the pro-war media is not only crashing and burning, it is totally discredited: respect for the "mainstream" media is waaaay down, and they’re resorted to masquerading as "alternative" in order to retain what’s left of their shrinking audience.
On the other hand, Antiwar.com has never been more visible, both to our growing audience and to the media universe: just in the past week or so Antiwar.com has been cited in US News and World Report, Bloomberg News, Foreign Policy, CoinTelegraph, ForexMinute, OpEd News, Empire Burlesque, and CoinDesk. We now have a Drudge link – and this, for me, as an old-timer who was there watching with awe when Matt Drudge was just starting out at the dawn of the Internet, is an important milestone. Drudge defined the online alternative media in the cradle: the links on his site point to what is important. To be included in that list is an honor and a sign that this site has truly come of age.
Journalism, the whiners whine, is in danger of extinction, and it’s all the fault of the Internet. It’s all because Craig Newmark took away their advertising revenue with Craigslist, they wail. To which I say: baloney! The Internet is giving people the tools to do what the "idealists" in the journalistic community always claimed they wanted to do: get ordinary people interested in the news. The public has never been better-informed, and that’s one of the great values of living in the age of the Internet. Indeed, people value this aspect of modern life so much that surely they’d be willing to pay for it – if asked nicely.
That means not putting up stupid paywalls, or any other completely counterintuitive barriers to information that yearns to be free. It does mean knowing how to ask and when to ask for someone’s hard-earned dollars.
The first thing you do is make it voluntary. Give people a choice. Say: okay, you can continue to receive this value for free, but you know of course that nothing is "free." As we libertarians like to say: TANSTAAFL – There ain’t so such thing as a free lunch. It takes considerable resources to run this site, even with our small staff.
For eighteen years, we’ve paid the bills by simply asking our readers for contributions – and it’s worked so far. Sure, we’ve had a few rough patches: we recently had to cut our health insurance coverage for employees by 40 percent. Inconvenient, but hey – times are tough for many of our readers and supporters. What’s important is that the mission continues – and that our modest but notable success in furthering the cause of peace leads to bigger victories in the future.
Remember: we can’t do it without you. Since 1995, with your support, we’ve been battling the War Party, exposing their lies, exploding their delusions, and detailing a consistent anti-interventionist alternative to a foreign policy of ceaseless conquest. Please help us continue the fight: make your tax-deductible donation today.
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.