The personal and the political often meet and merge – and, in my case lately, this has certainly been quite true. I won’t go into the details of my recent cancer diagnosis, which I wrote about here, except to say that it has certainly intensified and sharpened my perceptions of what’s wrong – and right – with the world. And of course it’s made me look at things in retrospect, as old memories are dredged up and seen in a new light.
When I look back on the twenty-plus years of my time here at Antiwar.com, I’m struck with wonder: how did we ever survive this long? What’s significant is that we did far more than merely survive – we greatly expanded our very faithful audience, extending the reach of the anti-interventionist cause across traditional left-right lines. Of course, it’s easy for me to portray our success as a constant upward arc of progress, but the truth is that it wasn’t that way at all.
The erratic and entirely unpredictable path to an always uncertain success reminds me of the course of my cancer treatments, which I’ve been undergoing now for six months or so. There are periods of relative ease and even sunny optimism – and then there are the other days, the kind I hope you never experience. The parallels with my work – our work – are obvious.
When the cold war ended and the Soviet Union imploded we here at Antiwar.com – yes, we’ve been around that long! – had good reason to be optimistic about the future of US foreign policy. The rationale for globalism had suddenly collapsed, and with it, we hoped, popular and political support for such cold war institutions as NATO.
The Kosovo war really marked the beginning of our activism, and that’s when the Great Change started to occur. Formerly “antiwar” types were suddenly all in for the Clintons’ war. It was a “liberation struggle” – one that produced what is today a gangster state, run by the Albanian Mafia. They don’t call it the heroin capital of Europe for nothing.
Most Republicans opposed that war: they even voted in Congress to defund the operation. That’s when neoconservative Bill Kristol threatened to abandon the Republicans: after some twenty years of trying to hector the GOP into following his invariably bad advice, he and his warmongering wing of the party are now on the outs with the GOP, the White House, and (as always!) Middle America. Bill has joined the Hollywood crowd, Mother Jones magazine, and the obsessed-with-Russia “Resistance.” Meanwhile, on the right, such national figures as Tucker Carlson – and the whole “America First” phenomenon – are highly skeptical of foreign wars. Some people, at least, can learn from history, and it’s perfectly logical that this process is happening on the conservative side of the aisle.
In short, we’re back to the immediate post-Soviet era, where the “left” is pro-interventionist and the right is increasingly “isolationist.” It’s as if the long interregnum of the 9/11 era was just an accidental interlude interrupting the main trend.
In any case it’s been a long road indeed, with many twists and turns.
Oh, the flips I’ve seen, the flops I’ve witnessed, all motivated by partisan advantage, kneejerk impulses, political opportunism, and even financial interests.
One day the left is demanding that we give peace a chance, the next day they’re crying “Wolverines!” in a cheap Red Dawn remake.
One minute the right is shouting “America First!” and wanting to know why we have to rebuild the countries George W. Bush destroyed, and in the very next moment they’re proposing we destroy (and presumably rebuild) yet another Middle Eastern country: Iran.
So we have our work cut out for us here at Antiwar.com.
I’m a long-term optimist albeit a short-term pessimist. The general trend in popular opinion, especially in Middle America, is moving in our direction: that is, toward support for returning to the foreign policy of the Founders.
The elites are a different matter altogether: they are, basically, the enemy: a bicoastal War Party consisting of embittered Clintonites and even more embittered neoconservatives, who stomped out of the GOP as Trump took the White House. I’ve argued that, in the long run, the outlook is positive because the consensus has been broken. The bipartisan internationalism that considers it a duty for the US to maintain the post-WWII “international liberal order” is in retreat. And we are moving forward.
Even in the short term, peace seems to be breaking out, with the administration’s admirable refusal to enforce anti-Russian sanctions, and, more spectacularly, the sudden rapprochement between the two Koreas. Are we witnessing the deal of the century – the last capstone of the cold war finally put in place?
On the other hand, the War Party is hardly defeated: indeed, they are on the march alongside their close allies in the Israel lobby. The same gang that lied us into war with Iraq think they can pull off the same scam with Iran, which is grouped alongside Russia and China as a “threat” and perhaps even the principal enemy of the United States.
It’s funny how American and Israeli interests supposedly merge into one great big Interest whenever Tel Aviv decides it needs us to finish off one of their enemies. The last time, it was Saddam Hussein: this time, it’s Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, another secular despot under attack from Islamist fanatics.
A sinister alliance of Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is intent on pulling us into a conflict not only with Assad but with the Kremlin. The US attacks that killed Russian soldiers on at least two occasions raises the question: have the first shots of World War III been fired?
This is the greatest danger right now: an open conflict with Russia. The domestic political interests of the Democrats and their neoconservative allies militate in favor of a new cold war – one that could all too easily turn hot. I’m old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis, when it wasn’t certain whether a nuclear war could be avoided: we are headed straight for a reenactment of those dark days.
At this point it should be clear to you why my long-term optimism is tempered by a healthy short-term pessimism.
As in the case of my current medical condition, the cause of peace and liberty has good days and bad. The latter have to be endured. But that doesn’t mean we’re conceding a single inch of ground to the War Party. Since 1995, Antiwar.com has been the online resource and indispensable crusader for truth in wartime, the antidote for the war propaganda that dominates the media.
In the beginning, we didn’t solicit our readers for funding. We were too busy to stop and bother with such details. People sent in donations without being asked. I wrote a daily column, “Wartime Diary,” that chronicled the folly of the Kosovo war and exposed the media’s partnership with the Pentagon. Looking back on that time, what strikes me is that Bill Clinton’s Balkan adventure was cheered on by the same liberal-neocon alliance demanding what could turn out to be a military confrontation with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. So here we are, come full circle.
As usual, the War Party has the resources and the media connections to mount an impressive propaganda campaign on pretty short notice. Wherever and whenever the opportunity arises and the jagged edges of Russo-American relations – Ukraine, the Baltics, Syria – rub up against each other, the War Party is ready to call for “action.”
We, on the other hand, depend on you, and you alone – our faithful and very engaged readers – for the financial support we need to keep Antiwar.com afloat. Today is the first day of our fundraising drive, and I’m calling on my readers to support the kind of independent foreign policy journalism you don’t find anywhere else. Please make your tax-deductible donation today.
A personal note: I’m told by the staff that many readers have inquired as to the state of my health, and I have to echo what I said in today’s column. There are good days and bad days, but the trend is with the former. The medicines – Keytruda and Alimta – appear to be working. A lot of my symptoms are clearing up or becoming less persistent. The irony is that the side effects of the medicine itself have the most impact on my daily life. But that impact is lessening, or so it seems to me. Prognosis: so far, so good.
I’ve been able to keep to a two-columns-a-week schedule, but there will be times when I just won’t be physically capable of it, and the column will be posted late or skipped entirely. This seems unavoidable at the present moment. The drugs I’m being treated with are barely out of the experimental stage, and so we basically don’t know what’s going to happen: a prospect at once scary and exciting. Like life itself.
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.