Skip to comments.Who bears blame for anti-war failures? (Barf Alert!)
Posted on 09/19/2007 12:00:19 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
For many in Washington, the biggest unanswered question from Army. Gen. David Petraeus high-profile, low-satisfaction testimony last week was not about military strategy but about political tactics. Why has the anti-war movement been unable to translate the clear public mandate they claim into any clear change in our governments Iraq policy?
To most war opponents, the blame increasingly lies with the Democratic leadership in Congress, for not taking a hard enough line with President Bush and not fighting to cut off war funding. And their frustration is visibly bubbling over the provocative group Code Pink, for example, has actually taken to protesting outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosis home in San Francisco in recent days
But there is a growing feeling among many Democrats, particularly within the D.C. establishment, that just the opposite is true. They may not say it publicly, for fear of arousing the grass roots wrath, but the realist wing of the party seems to think the Democrats biggest problem on Iraq these days is not that theres too much Bush Lite but that theres too much Bush Left.
Under this view, too many anti-war activists, not satisfied with berating the president, have too often wound up behaving like him. They have gone beyond fighting back and holding the Decider accountable to adopting the same divisive, dogmatic and ultimately destructive style of politics that Democrats have been decrying for the past seven years, with the same counterproductive results.
Whats the basis for that argument? Consider some of these stunningly similar parallels between Bush and his Democratic doppelgängers, along with the ramifications for progressives overarching goal of ending the war. (For the record, that is a goal I share, no matter my continued admiration and work for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut.)
Polarization. As last weeks New York Times magazine reported, the anti-war umbrella coalition Americans Against Escalation in Iraq started the new session of Congress with a clear, common-sense strategy to stop the surge: Turn up the heat on moderate Republicans, especially in the Senate, and separate them from the president.
They got the Democratic leadership to set up a series of confrontations and tough votes, culminating in the infamous all-night Senate session in late July, and launched a $12 million presidential-style campaign with major TV ad buys targeted at critical swing voters.
The trouble is, AAEI and its supporters ran the equivalent of a base-rallying primary campaign to win a general election debate. They mimicked Bushs polarizing, with us or against us rhetoric while doing little to actually persuade their swing voter targets to change or address their legitimate concerns with withdrawal deadlines.
Not surprisingly, this tack largely tanked the best the Democrats could do after several months of pressure tactics was, in that July showdown, to get four Senate GOP-ers to back a timeline for troop withdrawal, leaving them seven votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster and political light years away from the 67 needed to overcome a veto.
Intransigence. The anti-war movement has rightly castigated Bush for his reflexive inflexibility and, specifically, his maddening decision to stick with the same failed strategy in Iraq.
So what did AAEI and its allies do once it became apparent their pressure campaign was not succeeding in peeling off moderate Republicans? Just like the president and just as some modest signs of success were emerging from Iraq they doubled down on their bet and countered with an escalation of their own.
Over the August recess, after the Senate pajama party backfired and prompted the Republican caucus to dig in its heels even deeper, MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser said that he appreciated the Senate Democrats efforts to force concessions from the minority, but wed like to see it go further.
The movement itself went further by running more hostile ads against Republicans up for reelection in 2008, slamming Reid for suggesting he would pursue a bipartisan compromise without a hard deadline, and setting up the Petraeus report with the now-infamous General Betray Us ad in The New York Times.
Cheap shots. That ad, beyond being a terrible tactical blunder, marked a tragic turning point in the Iraq debate, the moment the anti-war movement seemed to fully morph into the thing it hates.
The very same activists who angrily denounced the Rove machine for broadly questioning the patriotism of war critics, and in particular for smearing disabled war hero Max Cleland in the 2002 Georgia Senate race, turned around and attacked a decorated general commanding troops in a shooting war as a liar and a traitor in one of the most visible ways possible.
Some have suggested that the MoveOn ad was a smart move in marketing terms, because its buzz-generating, base-energizing effect will help MoveOn expand its membership ranks. But as one anti-war Democratic strategist told me, that goes to show a fatal flaw in the movements MO it has elevated its own narrow constituency interests above the good of the party.
In this case, the short-term goal for Democrats, as MoveOns own Washington director says, continues to be to separate moderate Republicans from Bush. Yet all the MoveOn ad served to do was to alienate them and push them closer to the president.
Unaccountability. One of the Bush traits that galls the progressive community the most is his unwillingness to acknowledge or take responsibility for mistakes. Yet when substantive criticisms like the ones outlined above have been raised about the anti-war movements political tactics, the Bush Left has pointed fingers everywhere but at itself.
Instead, many in the movement have opted to punish their friends a campaign is now forming online to mount primary challenges against so-called Bush Dog Democrats from swing House districts who voted for the big war funding bill in May.
One of the few exceptions to this rule recently came from Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice.
In the Times magazine profile on AAEI, she questioned the anti-war movements over-reliance on the Internet as a means of mobilizing opposition to the war, saying it has undermined a little the more traditional approach to organizing, where you go and knock on doors and talk to people. ... People think, Oh, well, Ive signed a petition online, so Ive done my bit. So I think a lot of us as organizers have become a little sloppy. We havent put enough attention into talking to our neighbors, talking on the shopping line.
Not exactly a stinging rebuke, but it is revealing nonetheless in large part because it helps to explain why the anti-war movement has failed to force a wholesale change in our Iraq policy.
As Cagan suggests, AAEI and its allies have been borrowing a page from Karl Roves discredited playbook and talking the most to the people who agree with them most and, it should be noted, in terms that wont resonate with the people they need the most. In doing so, they have failed to enlarge their base and enhance their strength which is precisely what they have to do to swing moderate Republicans in Congress to their side.
That is not to say, however, that the anti-war movements pressure campaign has been a failure. Indeed, the great irony here, as one Democratic strategist told me, is that AAEI and its supporters could credibly claim some measure of victory if they were not so absolutist in their demands.
Their strategy, while executed in a flawed way, has still paid significant dividends: More and more moderate Republicans are on edge and ready to vote for a change in course. And Bushs announcement last week of a small troop withdrawal by the end of the year, as unsatisfying as it was to war opponents, was a concession in the right direction.
However, for the anti-war forces to consolidate and build on those gains, they are probably going to have to make some concessions of their own and accept some kind of bipartisan compromise along the lines that Reid is proposing.
The fact is, the swing Republicans whom Democrats need are even less inclined to support a hard deadline post-Petraeus, and they are never going to vote to cut off funding. But they will be hard-pressed to reject the political lifeline that Reid wants to offer them, which would increase the number of Republicans formally breaking with the president and accelerate the momentum for a true change in course.
In the end, much like the war itself, there are no good choices here for progressives. But they are inevitably going to have to decide whats more important: prolonging their war with Bush or ending the one in Iraq.
Dan Gerstein, a Democratic strategist and political commentator based in New York, is a regular Politico columnist.
The truth is, that during the 60’s most young Americans were not part of the counter culture movement. They were patriotic Americans who actually admired their parents generation. I was ten years old in 1967. I didn’t like Hippies then and I like them less now.
When you live in the liberal altered reality state it is easy to pack in the lies. Truth is entirely relative and subject to be re-invented if it does not fit with their agendas. Page 2, top of the page of the liberal handbook.
“Democrats biggest problem on Iraq these days is not that theres too much Bush Lite but that theres too much Bush Left.”
The Democrats biggest problem is that they won’t be able to get President Bush to accept the defeat that they have been pushing for.
I was seven that year, but I remember. Many people voted for George Wallace in 1968 as a protest against the counter culture. I think Ameriprise Financial is making a mistake using Dennis Hopper as their spokeman. That will alienate over half of the Boomers.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
Because they have abandoned true liberal policy for political gain? Ya think?
The best way to stop a war is to win it. Someone who is truly anti-war instead of merely anti-Bush or anti-American would recognize that. The people we're fighting aren't into negotiations unless it's a surrender and that turns out to be a tough sell in DC. What surprises me is that it surprises anyone.
From what I’ve read about many of the 1960s “rallies”, some band would be giving a free concert in the park and some stinking socialists would take the stage (and the mike) away from the performers.
The crowds were not always gathered for political reasons. But the politicos claimed them as their “supporters”.
“Why has the anti-war movement been unable to translate the clear public mandate they claim into any clear change in our governments Iraq policy?”
For a self proclaimed anti-war pol/leader to actually get a resolution to the war by bringing home the troops, etc., is like asking a skunk to take a bath.
He/she would suddenly be transformed into someone w/o a cause in which to be a leader. Like the freshly bathed skunk, the pol would initially “smell better” but ultimately return to the “smelly and anonomous beast” he is.
I disagree. Lefties, like they did before the air campaign against Saddam, can go to Iraq and be human shields. I suggest hundreds of thousands can disperse amongst the noble liberation fighters. I'll call them Carrie Brigades, in memory of Rachel Carrie, Peace Be Upon Her.
Because nobody is being drafted out of his safe, soft life.
Might I make a suggestion?
Don’t read beyond the headline.
My point being, isn’t that very very satisfying, in light of what we all thought after last November’s election cycle?
This is the only way a liberal can admit defeat...yep, the ‘reasoning’ found in this article is pathetic, but focus on the big, bright, glowing ‘warm fuzzy’ the title gives you, when you think it over.
Hope that helps. It sure gives me pleasure.
6 for 06 has turned into ‘1 and done’. And note the latest polling data on the congress itself, its never been lower from what I’m seeing.
Not to be picky, but you misspelled piss, as in “piss be upon her” ref: Rachel Corrie.
That would be a waste of good, natural ammonia.
The last paragraph of the article really says it all. This is NOT an anti-war movement, it is an anti-Bush movement dressed up in an anti-war movement's clothing. They do not see surrender in Iraq as bad for America, just bad for George Bush and so it must happen.
“However, for the anti-war forces to consolidate and build on those gains, they are probably going to have to make some concessions of their own and accept some kind of bipartisan compromise along the lines that Reid is proposing.”
Be prepared to see more and more of this type of persuasion coming from the left. They know Hillary will be the candidate and are attempting to assuage the anti-war crowd and get them back into the fold. Kos is doing the same with his folks.
There’s not one word in this screed about what’s in the United States’ interests or in the best interest of our national security. Not one. Nothing about winning; nothing about furthering our national interests; nothing about the interests of Iraqis in having a free nation; nothing but their moronic plan to ensure a defeat and a crushing blow to our national credibility. Morons, every one of them.
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