Wednesday, June 25, 2003

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The half-life of the antiwar movement

George Packer has an excellent piece in today's New York Times Magazine on the network of antiwar movements. Eli Pariser, a staffer at one of the larger antiwar groups, is the likeable protagonist of the piece. Read it to get Packer's main thesis, but here are three vignettes to chew on:

1) The origins of the antiwar movement: According to Packer, "On the day after Sept. 11, Pariser, who was living outside Boston at the time, sent an e-mail message to a group of friends that urged them to contact elected officials and to advocate a restrained response to the terror attacks -- a police action in the framework of international law. War, Pariser believed, was the wrong answer; it would only slaughter more innocents and create more terrorists."

I wonder three things -- a) Does Pariser now acknowledge that Operation Enduring Freedom was "a police action in the framework of international law"? Or was that action just too violent for his tastes? b) Given the success of Enduring Freedom, and the more fragmented nature of post-9/11 Al Qaeda attacks, does Pariser still think military action was the wrong answer? c) Would the people that form the backbone of the antiwar movement ever justify the use of force to advance the cause of freedom?

2) The prejudices of the antiwar movement: I love the condescension that drips from this quotation: "he [Pariser] found that opinion polls and political rhetoric didn't come close to doing justice to Americans' beliefs. 'There's all this gloss and spin and whatever, and then there's actually what people think,' he told me. 'Even when we talked to people who are racists, pro-gun folks, I couldn't make myself dislike them just because of their political views.'" (my italics)

Maybe I'm misreading an admittedly vague phrasing, but it sounds to me like Pariser thinks that racists are either identical to or just as bad as pro-gun folks. I can't believe Glenn Reynolds hasn't commented on this yet. [Well, now he has--ed.]

3) The shallowness of the antiwar movement: One of Packer's closing grafs:

"A young woman from Def Poetry Jam shouted: 'We send our love to poets in Iraq and Palestine. Stay safe!' The notion that there is little safety in Iraq and, strictly speaking, there are no poets -- that the Iraqi people, while not welcoming the threat of bombs, might be realistic enough to accept a war as their only hope of liberation from tyranny -- was unthinkable. The protesters saw themselves as defending Iraqis from the terrible fate that the U.S. was preparing to inflict on them. This assumption is based on moral innocence -- on an inability to imagine the horror in which Iraqis live, and a desire for all good things to go together. War is evil, therefore prevention of war must be good. The wars fought for human rights in our own time -- in Bosnia and Kosovo -- have not registered with Pariser's generation. When I asked Pariser whether the views of Iraqis themselves should be taken into account, he said, 'I don't think that first and foremost this is about them as much as it's about us and how we act in the world.'" (My italics)


Despite my extracts, Pariser seems like a genuinely nice guy. The thing is, genuinely nice guys with such an inward and uninformed view of world politics scare the crap out of me.

posted by Dan on 06.25.03 at 02:31 PM