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A debate between the war parties

[ 56 ] October 22, 2012 |

Tonight’s debate will among other things serve as a reminder that there is no longer an anti-war party, or even anti-war wing of a party, in American politics, at least among those political parties whose existence is acknowledged by the people who define the borders of acceptable public discourse. It’s completely impossible to imagine a “serious” presidential candidate saying anything about our current wars even remotely like what George McGovern said to his fellow senators in September of 1970 regarding the Vietnam War:

Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every Senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land-young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes.”

There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes.

And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.

So before we vote, let us ponder the admonition of Edmund Burke, the great parliamentarian of an earlier day: “A contentious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.”

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Comments (56)

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  1. Julian says:

    Thank you for posting that speech (snippet).

  2. thusbloggedanderson says:

    Instead of a debate, let’s just have an auction, where the candidates try to outbid each other on the number of Americans who will die in the pursuit of each candidate’s foreign policy.

  3. dewces says:

    Was there ever a anti-war party?

    • thusbloggedanderson says:

      Well, the GOP before Pearl Harbor, I guess.

      Don’t forget Bob Dole on “Democrat wars.”

      • Paul Campos says:

        It’s hard for the kids to believe, but there was a time in American politics when being, even vaguely, for less as opposed to more war was considered a plausible foreign policy position. Now the debates are between should we have more of this war or more of that one? Or maybe more of both.

        Also, SASQUATCH ISRAEL.

        • somethingblue says:

          Now the debates are between should we have more of this war or more of that one? Or maybe more of both.

          Exactly.

        • ajay says:

          Now the debates are between should we have more of this war or more of that one? Or maybe more of both.

          Really? I could have sworn that one of the candidates is actually running on “less of the main war, and none of it by 2014″.

          • You mean the guy who ended the even-bigger big war?

            Seeing this post, in reference to someone with Barack Obama’s political career, is bizarre. American political discourse doesn’t allow someone to argue for less war? Well, except for the guy who made his national reputation by coming out against the Iraq War, won his party’s Presidential nomination because of it, was elected President over the War Party candidate, then ended the Iraq War.

    • spencer says:

      1850s? I seem to remember something about anti-war parties in the pre-Civil War days, but I don’t really know. Maybe one of the historians that infests this place could answer this one.

    • ericincleveland says:

      Socialists under Debbs were anti-war. They did get a million votes.

      However, in the past both parties had large wings that were antiwar. before the nixon realignment it was fair to say that the republican party post korea was majority very antiwar. Some of the best antiwar speeches were by Ike [I think the cross of iron speech should be memorized in school]hr gross, and buffett sr. After nixon the dems became very antiwar and security state. Single payer will arrive here before anything like the church comission ever occurrs again.

      The other point is that there wasn’t alot of bluster from the prowar wings of each party. Even Reagens’ notion of a defensive system like star wars [leaving aside its cost and effectiveness] was really controversal in the 80′s as giving the appearence of bluster and war mongering. Today, foreign policy debates are just a list of who is and isn’t attackable pre-emptively. Today sadly there prob aren’t 10 members of congress who would be reliably anti-war.

      • dewces says:

        It seems every post war presidency has done some form of intervention. Even Ike had CIA meddling in all sorts of Countries. All we can hope for is who does the least amount of “interventing”.

        • Anonymous says:

          Ike was wary of committing American troops overseas. His administration, led by the Dulles brothers at State and the CIA, was very pro-interventionist in any way that was not an overt commitment of troops (and the CIA did not inform Ike of all the things, immensely unsuccesful and usually counter-productive, it was involved in). It would be a mistake to consider the Eisenhower administration as antiwar unless you interpret “war” to only mean massive committment of US troops abroad.

  4. Reasonable 4ce says:

    Debate drinking game: Take a shot of Beam each time Romneytron 2.1 says a href=”http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/romney-and-the-apology-tour/”>apology tour.

  5. Marc says:

    One word: Iran. It’s dangerous to pretend that there is no difference between the party desperately interested in starting a new, major war and the party against doing so.

  6. arguingwithsignposts says:

    I have a question: What about Carter?

  7. Murc says:

    Tonight’s debate will among other things serve as a reminder that there is no longer an anti-war party, or even anti-war wing of a party

    This seems a bit inaccurate. I also think the Democrats are way, way too enthusiastic about warmongering, but the fact of the matter is that Al Gore wouldn’t have gone to Iraq, and Obama will never go to Iran. That’s not incredibly anti-war, but it is anti-war.

    I also have some, perhaps vain, hope that 2008 sent a message to every Democratic Senator who thinks he could be President. One of the big tipping points in Hillary failing to get the nomination was that she’d voted for war, and a lot of primary voters weren’t going to support someone who’d done that. It can be argued that the only reason Obama didn’t have Iraq on his record is because he didn’t HAVE a record at the national level, but the fact remains a powerful Democrat lost the White House at least in part because of war votes.

    One hopes other paid attention.

    • Richard says:

      I think thats accurate. I dont believe there is a single prominent Democrat on the national scene who has been urging the President to take military action against Iran or even to arm the rebels in Syria.

      Hilary didn’t get the nomination because she had made the calculation that a war against Iraq was likely to be a quick, short and successful one, like the Gulf War, and she didn’t want to be on the wrong side of an easy victory. I think almost all Democrats have learned that the Gulf War was an anomaly, that military actions in the Middle East and the rest of the world are very unlikely to have a limited goal (get Iraqui troops out of Kuwait) like that war and therefore very unlikely to have a quick and easy outcome. Maybe that doesn’t make the Dems antiwar but it sure makes them much less likely to commit American troops overseas than the Republicans

    • JoshA says:

      I don’t know that you can say Obama will never go to war with Iran.

      Obama is far less likely to go to war with Iran than Mitt. I’d say there’s a 10-20% chance of war with Iran under Obama, and 75-85% chance under Mitt.

      • Murc says:

        You think there’s one chance in five we’ll go to war with Iran under Obama?

        Please to explaining what could PLAUSIBLY happen in the next four years that would make Obama think it is a good idea to send a couple hundred thousand troops into Iran. It would require a massive terror attack that successfully hits the continental US and can be traced back to the Mullahs, I think, and the odds of that happening seem a damn sight lower than one in five.

        It’s probably not true Obama would NEVER go to war with Iran, but I’d feel comfortable betting large sums of money on that outcome.

        • Davis X. Machina says:

          “It’s probably not true Obama would NEVER go to war with Iran…”

          Depends on definition of ‘go to war’. I’m reliably informed we went to war in Libya.

          • As we saw, a limited air campaign over Libya could accomplish significant goals.

            An air campaign over Iran cannot; it would take many, many boots onna ground – and not the phony “There are some CIA liaisons, which is exactly like the occupation of Iraq” boots onna ground, but a larger ground war the Iraq and Afghan Wars combined.

            Barack Obama is nothing if not practical, and the practicalities of a war with Iran are a nightmare.

    • david mizner says:

      So Obama escalated disastrously in Afghanistan, entered illegally into a civil war in Libya, and is waging covert dirty wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Oh, and he’s also using cyberwarfare, civilian-punishing sanctions (often a precursor to outright war: see Iraq) and who knows what else against Iran, which is showing impressive restraint and wisdom in not retaliating.

      Say he’s less brutal and reckless than Romney would be — I’d agree — but please don’t call him antiwar.

      • Oh, and he’s also using cyberwarfare, civilian-punishing sanctions (often a precursor to outright war: see Iraq) and who knows what else against Iran, which is showing impressive restraint and wisdom in not retaliating.

        Iran’s got hackers and they use them.

        • Ed says:

          Iran’s

          got hackers and they use them.

          Some of those brown people really do have their nerve.

          You think there’s one chance in five we’ll go to war with Iran under Obama?

          At this point we should really be calling it “outright” war. I hope we won’t. I think we won’t. But given how tonight both candidates went to great lengths to impress the American populace with how scary Iran is and how we should all be crouching under our desks at the prospect of Iran having a nuclear weapon, things could get…interesting.

        • RhZ says:

          …against Iran, which is showing impressive restraint and wisdom in not retaliating.

          Wow. Just wow.

  8. John says:

    Since World War II, the only time there’s ever been an anti-war party in the sense you’re talking about was in 1972. And remember that one of the reasons McGovern got crushed so thoroughly was because a large percentage of the Democratic coalition couldn’t get down with the anti-warness.

    • wengler says:

      Americans want blood. Guys that run for President appear to understand this. It’s part of the whole fake construct of force = security = peace. Until the electorate changes, the people at the top will insist on killing. They enjoy it even more than the plebes.

      • Linnaeus says:

        Ironically, an anti-war position in U.S. politics won’t be tenable until the freedom of the U.S. to wage war is blunted, either due to internal factors or due to foreign powers strong enough to deter it.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Yep. When there was a realistic chance that some stupid proxy war could end in nuclear conflagration with the USSR, there was a peace movement.

          • Linnaeus says:

            I do believe this is the first time I’ve been on the end of the Malaclypse rapier point.

            Though I wasn’t talking about a “peace movement”, in my defense.

          • Linnaeus says:

            Although now I don’t know if Mal was serious or not.

            There were antiwar/peace movements prior to the end of the Cold War, of course, though I will say I was talking more about politicians rather than popular movements.

            • Malaclypse says:

              I was not trying to be snarky, but to agree with you. Back in the 80s, a lot of people cared about peace and disarmament issues. Hell, Reagan proposed banning all ballistic missiles. As they say, nothing quite focuses the mind like the prospect of being hanged in the morning, and nothing quite motivates peace movements like the possibility that one’s children will be incinerated in a nuclear conflagration.

  9. Jim Lynch says:

    “It’s completely impossible to imagine a “serious” presidential candidate saying anything about our current wars even remotely like what George McGovern said to his fellow senators in September of 1970 regarding the Vietnam War..”.

    Should Romney prevail next month, that won’t be the case in 2016.

    • mpowell says:

      This is a theory I’d sure like to avoid testing out.

      I do imagine the public outcry against a war with Iran would be far greater than the one for Iraq.

      • ironic irony says:

        I do imagine the public outcry against a war with Iran would be far greater than the one for Iraq.

        I certainly hope you are right. I don’t have as much faith in my fellow citizens as you do, though.

      • PSP says:

        I’d suspect less of a public outcry. The neocons were just about the only people who wanted a war with Iraq. One of the main things going for the anti-war protesters was that no one knew exactly why Washington was starting a war.

        The anti-Iranian noise has been continuous since 1979. There is no doubt that they are building nuclear capability. The doubt is purpose and intent. The republicans are already lined up in favor of bombing Iran. If the White House joins in, the opposition will be muted, at least in this country.

  10. Joe says:

    Wouldn’t the debate be better shown when two national games weren’t playing, admittedly neither that competitive so far. (Giants up 7-0).

  11. Watching two men right now who seem to be trying to argue who can sabre rattle more, I can’t disagree…

  12. Another example of an interesting habit I first noticed at Reason’s blog: it’s always the people way out on the fringe who think that the world can be meaningfully divided into “us” and “the rest of the world.”

    There are libertarians and “statists,” a term that encompasses communists, liberals, the New York Times, conservatives, Nazis, monarchists, etc, all of whom can be meaningfully discussed as the same things.

    And there are “anti-war” people, and “the war party.”

  13. Bitter Scribe says:

    Would it be unfair to point out that McGovern voted for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?

  14. njorl says:

    What is an anti-war party? Would it vote against declaring war in Dec 1941?

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