Can the Democrats Cease Being Just another War Party?

January 13th, 2020 - by Hamilton Nolan / The Guardian

The Democrats Must Become a Real Anti-war Party

Hamilton Nolan / The Guardian

(January 10, 2020) — Geopolitically speaking, we are the bad guys. The United States government, that is. The extent to which this is true fluctuates somewhat from administration to administration, but in the postwar decades it has been a fairly reliable judgment. We sponsor coups, fund death squads, stage unjustified invasions and enable all manner of human rights violations in exchange for economic and political gain.

This is a fact that our political class has long deemed too unpleasant for the populace to swallow. What should be an uncontroversial observation of reality is therefore considered a taboo in mainstream political discourse. The Democratic party has long participated in this jingoistic hologram-weaving almost as enthusiastically as Republicans have. What we need are unapologetic soldiers for peace. What we usually get instead is . . . Pete Buttigieg.

Donald Trump got mad watching cable news, impulsively assassinated a top Iranian military figure, and has brought us to the brink of an entirely needless war. Unsurprising. We knew he was a tantrum-prone child when we elected him. We chose this incredibly stupid path. Guns and the flag are the bread and butter of the Republican party, and they will continue to feed these things to Americans as long as they continue to be an effective way to distract everyone from the fact that they are funneling all of your money to the rich.

The only hope of salvation from our B-movie nightmare lies in having an opposition party that actually opposes this stuff. As long as the Democrats themselves remain dazzled by militarism like a bunch of eight-year-olds gaping at a cool fighter jet, we are doomed to debate only how fast our world-annihilating stockpile of weapons should expand.

The gravitational pull of the US military and its more than $700bn budget warps our national politics like a black hole. It is plainly insane. It sucks up money that could be spent improving lives rather than planning to destroy them; it sucks up human talent that could be put to more beneficial use than blowing things up; and, like all bureaucracies, the military tends to create the conditions to sustain itself — in this case, a profusion of congressmen with military bases and defense contractors in their districts, who see forever wars as useful employment boosters.

This structural danger has been apparent since the Eisenhower years, but our situation today — the most powerful army in history under the total control of the biggest idiot in history — is another fun legacy of the Clinton-era Democratic triangulation strategy, which holds that the path to Democratic power is to act more like Republicans.

It is this approach to politics that earned us enthusiastic bipartisan backing for the Iraq war, and it remains the guiding philosophy of politicians like Joe Biden and his younger avatar Buttigieg. (The idea of joining the military reserve as a résumé line item right after joining McKinsey has a very strong Clinton-era vibe.)

These types of Democrats seek out veterans for the same reason that Republicans try to recruit black candidates: they see politics purely as an optics game, and they have an extremely low opinion of the voting public.. A Democrat with an M-16 or a black Republican are an idiot’s idea of a foolproof “checkmate!” moment in political debate.

Consequently, a substantive movement for peace has long been dismissed as foolish by the same political geniuses who transformed John Kerry, a veteran best known for being a peace activist, into a flag-saluting “Reporting for duty!” soldier man on stage at the Democratic convention. Kerry lost to a Republican draft dodger.

Now we are ruled by another Republican draft-dodger. Our military budget is still larger than those of the next seven countries combined. We’re still starting new wars in the Middle East. And other than Bernie Sanders, all of the Democratic candidates seem incapable of saying clearly and without qualification that this is insane.

The vast military buildup that followed 9/11 did nothing to prevent the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression. The “recovery” decade after that has been accompanied by inequality that continues to rise to ludicrous levels. From the perspective of a normal person, this has all been one long con.

This is how societies break down. Trump’s election was a blind grasp for the most different thing. Imagine if people were given the chance to vote for something even more different: peace. Not the political talking point of “peace through strength”, but peace through justice, a genuine acknowledgment that our empire-building days need to end, because all they do is get poor people killed in exchange for making rich people richer.

Most Americans can’t name their own senator. I’m quite sure they don’t know that the US sponsored a coup to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran in 1953 and strengthen an autocratic shah whose secret police oppressed and tortured citizens for decades.

It is little wonder Iranians whose parents and grandparents had their fingernails extracted by force thanks to America’s desire for “stability in the region” might feel less than gracious towards America. This is the sort of conversation we should be having in our country right now; instead, we are treated to elected leaders competing to see who can best explain away our recent assassination of a Very, Very Bad Man.

For decades, voters have not had a real alternative to militarism. The Republicans were all about it, and the Democrats were determined to show that they were too, like an undersized kid starting fights in a schoolyard. Those few Democrats brave enough to call for peace as a real policy goal have long been marginalized and mocked.

But we live in a different time now. In the same way that socialism has gone from a punchline to a platform, peace is ready for its turn in power. And just like the old-school Democrats who hew to the failed centrist gospel of triangulation are being replaced with a new generation, so too must those who think that they need to strike muscular war poses for political reasons be pushed out of the party. The Iraq war is their legacy, and they don’t deserve a chance to make the same mistake again.

Nothing requires less courage than letting yourself go along with a march towards war when you have the biggest military in the world. Show me a candidate willing to fight for peace, and I’ll show you the future.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.