Foldvary: The Failure of Anti-war Protesters
|March 10, 2003||Posted by Staff under Editorials|
The Failure of Anti-war Protesters
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The anti-war protesters want two effects. First, they want to publicly vent their personal views, feelings, thoughts, and opinions about the war. Second, they want to achieve the outcome of avoiding war. These two effects are compatible only if the first effect does not contradict the second. Unfortunately, many protesters either only want the first effect or they unintentionally negate the second effect by failing to think clearly about what it is they seek to achieve.
If the purpose of the protests is to stop the war, who is it that they need to persuade? It is the chiefs of the United States of America, especially the chief chief, the president. The chiefs will be persuaded to avoid war for one of two reasons.
First, they would not go to war if they believe that much of the world is against the war and, if war starts, would be aroused into effective action. This action would not just be marches and speeches, but also civil disobedience, mass tax strikes, and other nonviolent resistance. The message would be that were war to start, the economy would grind to a halt, taxes would not be paid, and the economic means for war would collapse. But little such action has been planned.
A second reason why the chiefs would not engage in war would be if they were persuaded that peaceful alternatives have a greater net benefit. Such persuasion requires two factors. First, an intellectual case has to be made that the peaceful alternative is superior. Second, the message of the protests must be directed specifically to the case against war and avoid personal attacks on the chief.
In my observations of the anti-war protests, the second factor is ubiquitously violated. Everywhere in the global protest movement, the marchers carry signs vilifying president Bush. If Bush is the principal chief who needs persuading, will these anti-Bush signs, slogans, and shouting make him change his mind? No, just the opposite. These signs will confirm his opinion that the anti-war marchers are misguided, ignorant, mean, silly, and thoughtless. When attacked, people become defensive. This is human nature.
The first factor, a coherent, logical, persuasive intellectual case against the war, is also not being made. The main protest argument seems to be that the chiefs of the USA are oil men who seek to control the oil of Iraq for the benefit of oil-company chiefs. “No blood for oil!” is the cry. There are two problems with this argument. First, the chiefs of the USA deny that this is a reason, and thus the argument has zero persuasive power to the chiefs. Second, the logic and evidence for the oil argument is weak. If the goal is oil contracts, that could be accomplished by ending the embargo and the prohibition on US companies doing business there. It is unrealistic to think that American companies would steal the oil from the Iraqi people and eliminate the Russian oil interests in Iraq.
No, to be persuasive, the intellectual case against war must precisely confront the argument for war given by the chiefs. If their arguments don’t hold up, then they can be exposed, and they would either have to come up with new arguments or abandon the war.
Here is something the anti-war movement chiefs and proles don’t seem to understand: The chiefs of war require intellectual cover. In ancient times, a chief could wage war purely for land and booty. Now, they still want land and booty, but they need to cover this with a noble purpose. The anti-war movement needs to remove this intellectual armor.
The argument of the US chiefs is that the Iraqi chief is aggressive and seeks weapons that would enable him to seize the great oil fields of the Middle East, enabling him to dominate the Arab world and to destroy Israel. Removing the Iraqi chief would eliminate this threat, and then the US would help bring democracy and freedom to Iraq. A new regime in Iraq would end the financing of terrorists in Israel, making it easier to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
An effective counter-argument is that the UN inspections and the threat of war have been successful in starting a disarmament process, and so long as this continues, Iraq will not be a threat, and no war is needed. The US should also propose a just peace plan for Israel and Palestine and threaten to abandon support if the plan is rejected. The US would also announce that it will withdraw from its bases in Saudi Arabia and end the embargo in Iraq. The anti-war slogan should therefore be “Inspect, Disarm, Withdraw!”
The anti-war movement needs to do three things. First, it must arouse attention to the protest movement. This has been done very effectively in several countries where men and women have gotten naked for peace. They have formed messages of peace with their naked bodies, the message being that human lives and bodies are vulnerable to destruction. The big peace marches have also been widely reported. Second, the anti-war movement needs to provide an effective intellectual case against war, promoted in the protests. Third, to be fully persuasive, an anti-war movement has to go beyond words and marches, and promise mass nonviolent civil disobedience if war begins.
The latter two requirements have not been provided sufficiently. Many protesters instead have personalized their opposition to President Bush, making him the focus of their ire. Maybe this feels good, but anti-Bush slogans are counter-productive if the aim is to stop the war. If the anti-war effort continues to be deficient in both intellect and muscle, it will fail to prevent the onset of Gulf War II.
Copyright 2003 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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