ADVICE TO THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT

ADVICE TO THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT

Max Sawicky posts a long, reflective piece by Michael Berube about the problem faced by patriotic opponents of war with Iraq when the antiwar demonstrations are organized by the lunatic fringe. Berube is somewhat apologetic about his conclusion that the antiwar patriots should keep their distance from the antiwar America-haters:

After all, I know, the antiwar movement in the Vietnam era began with a handful of loopy Maoists and did not win the hearts and minds of most Americans until the early 1970s.

This is, I think, completely wrong. The antiwar movement never won the hearts and minds of most Americans. On the contrary. I recall a paper by Sidney Verba showing that after the November 1969 “March on Washington” public dislike of the antiwar movement was a primary source of support for Nixon’s war policies. For a generation, progressive causes in this country have been suffering from the memory of those NLF flags and the Ho-Ho-Ho-Chi-Minh chants.

[Note: Max also challenges’s one part of Berube’s history, claiming that the early antiwar movement was pacifist rather than Maoist. He may be right. Certainly the leadership of the New Mobilization Committee, which organized that disastrous March on Washington, was antidemocratic and largely anti-American. (As a minor-league organizer, I participated in one hastily-called “board meeting” about some factional fight between the New Mobe and one of the SDS splinters.) Ending the war was not their goal: their goal was revolution. Opposition to the war was merely an “organizing issue” ]

Since I’m not actually an opponent of the war that’s about to start, I don’t have either standing or strong motivation to give political advice to those who are. But I’m seriously afraid that an “anti-war movement” led by people who hate this country will once again generate mainstream political support for the reactionaries in power. If the war goes well, all the demonstrations in the world won’t change the fact that the public will be happy about it. If the war goes badly, I’d like the anger to be directed toward Bush & Co. and not diverted to a bunch of demonstrators.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com