Friday, March 07, 2003

The Soviet dictator was the father of the first "peace movement," which for years served as an instrument of the Kremlin's global policy.

Stalin's "peace movement" was launched in 1946 at a time when he had not yet developed a nuclear arsenal and was thus vulnerable to a U.S. nuclear attack. Stalin also needed time to consolidate his hold on his newly conquered empire in eastern and central Europe while snatching chunks of territory in Iran.

This New York Post column by Amir Taheri is far from the first editorial to suggest that peace movements have often been manipulated by America's enemies, and that even when they haven't they are much more apt to protest anything the American military does than anything others do, and that peace protesters are always wrong. I think the first two points are well worth discussing.

The first idea is especially interesting in a backhanded way. Suppose China thought it was a really spiffy idea to support the opposition to the Vietnam war. Of course nobody could do the same to Russia while they were fighting in Afghanistan as long as the internal machinery of communist oppression was operating at all. It's hard to say what role the Afghan war had in the fall of the Soviet Union. A government always hates to back down - even if it's to their long term benefit to do so. Of course American opinion can be manipulated against an American war - unless the logic for it is compelling. Compare the number of protesters against the First Gulf War and the bombing of Serbia to the number of protesters against this war. Enemies who try to manipulate democracy do so at their peril. And all those "Yes but" people who believe in free speech but hate the results can remember that. Free Speech and Democracy may well be such a powerful combination that ANSWER thug supporters defeat themselves.

Err, wait. That's not as upbeat as I thought. This is one of the wars that have many protesters, for now at least. One of the great things about the anti war movement is it tends to build up steam if we get involved in the sort of thing that bled Russia dry, and fade away after a quick victory. Of course even a quick military victory won't prove we can win the peace. That brings up another point.

There weren't many protesters when the United States worked to prolong the Iran-Iraq war by helping first one side then the other. Unpatriotic, that's what I call it. It's every American's duty to speak out when the government is doing something wrong. Real life is not a Leave It To Beaver episode, and to blindly trust our leaders is to slight the constitution which gives us the right and responsibility to vote. Maybe the protesters really are controlled by anti-American forces, who finally realized that protests tended to gain more popular support when opposing misguided wars (on the average) than opposing justifiable ones, and held back the protests so nothing would keep us from setting up the current situation. No, wait. If the Russian commies were that smart they would still be in power. Protesters can be wrong too - sometimes even by not speaking loudly enough.

In general, even those who strongly supported American opposition to Slovobodan Milosevich didn't bother protesting against him. It seems we expect American governments to be interested in popular opinion, but not authoritarian ones. By and large the evidence is in favor of this. If anyone has any good arguments that American protests against atrocities of foreign dictators would help, I'll listen. Some have implied that the peace protesters gave Saddam hope that even if he didn't disarm, Bush would take his 200,000 troops and go home, thus weakening his motive to disarm. I never heard any war hawk suggest that popular demonstrations of support for war would make it unnecessary, but if so why didn't anybody organize some as anything other than counter protests? How about everyone who thinks we need regime change - do any of them want to thank the protesters for giving Saddam enough hope so that he didn't disarm and deprive America of a pretext to do what you consider necessary? It seems to me many of the people who hint at this are the same ones saying all along that Saddam would never disarm - and the evidence is almost conclusive that they are right. America has explicitly stated how it can be deterred, and if for some strange reason he did give away everything hidden he would have proven himself a liar once too many times to be believed when he told the truth. I don't see how people can go around even suggesting he might have if only their hadn't been all those protests.

No comments: