With another peace march approaching, I would guess that the leaders of the peace movement are quite excited to see if the President's low approval ratings and the low approval ratings of the situation in Iraq will bring a united call for immediate withdrawal.
At my university, I remember the early peace movement well and attended the few debates on campus about the need to go to war. What struck me most was the absence of any groups representing what I would think of as the middle ground or the mainstream. There were a few hawkish, young republican neo-cons who were dwarfed by a much larger group of hippy types and punks (I’m trying to descriptive, and intend no offense.) They were outfitted in their respective uniforms from Hot Topic or from the Salvation Army. They were also, based on what they had to say, completely devoid of any specific reasoning regarding the specific question of invading Iraq and Afghanistan.
Their messages were generic anti-war slogans and pacifist mantras. I remember thinking to myself that these kids were simply playing the part; they hadn't taken the time to educate themselves about the specific case of invading Iraq and Afghanistan. They wanted to experience the counter-culture movement that they had heard so much about, and that they expected to be a worthy experience during their college years. No doubt, drugs were still a big part of the anti-war culture (as was music -- you wouldn't want to be caught dead in the anti-war culture listening to anything remotely mainstream or common. And a polo shirt would be a death sentence.)
And yet, a common and mainstream anti-invasion movement was what was needed to stop the quagmire that has become Iraq. This should have included average looking Americans (preferably parents of soldiers, spouses, and their children) who had misgivings about the idea that the president was selling.
The Democrats in the Senate and House were duped into thinking that the threat was something more than the half-baked utopian ideology that it was. But many of them weren't prepared to offer a counter solution. For too long they had shrugged off foreign policy or failed at it.
I think the Democrats now need to put a bold agenda for the military out there to win back the trust of the American people. Here's my stab at a few general points.
1. Rebuild our military. Bush's war has left us weak and vulnerable. We need to rebuild our military: make it better, stronger, faster, lighter so that America can be safe from opportunistic enemies. Rather than issue drastic cuts in military spending, we need to spend more to rebuild our military strength at home to scare off potential enemies. Rather than take on the military industrial complex, Democrats need to embrace and make it more fair – an opportunity for Americans to move up in a staid economy.
2. Refocus our future military interventions into humanitarian missions. We could have saved millions with our military in Rwanda, East Timor and Darfur. I believe our military would have been more successful in these places in dealing with insurgencies. There is a world of difference in their ability to perform when the world is behind them and the cause is just. The good will we could win could rebuild our soft power around the world, and reunite our traditional allies behind the real war on terrorism that isn't being fought.
3. A strategic redeployment plan in Iraq. We need to move our forces into theatres they can win in. Move more troops to Afghanistan (the only country that really should have been invaded) and pull existing troops in Iraq into fortified, remote bases for responses to civil war.
Now here's the shocker: I think Hillary is the best candidate to lead us on this front. She has won the respect of the military and the U.S. Senate as someone who takes the military seriously.
I know that a lot of people want to take her to task for her vote to invade Iraq, but I really think that a mainstream, common, anti-war movement needs to be lead by someone who was involved in the initial invasion.
Keep in mind, the U.S. public strongly supported the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Are they going to appreciate the Democratic Party making 2008 about getting back at them and making them feel ashamed for supporting the war? I think a majority are going to be far more likely to support someone who initially supported the war, but has come to see that it was a mistake -- just like they did. And it’s the majority that is going to rule in 2008.
Granted, lcloud, the Billary thing is chauvinistic. But Bill is part of the team and everything I’ve heard about Bill Clinton's post presidential years indicates that he is most sorry and trying to make up for his failure in Rwanda. Perhaps a Hillary presidency would allow him a chance to make up for that. I think it's a worthy task to give him.