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« 3/27/2007 | Main | Pod people »

A Leftist's Opinion of MoveOn

From American Leftist:

MoveON.org has been one of my personal obssessions, but it is important to understand its centrality in preventing the emergence of an empowered antiwar movement. It has done so by calculated appeals to liberal pragmatism in relation to the electoral process. Sensing opportunity, MoveON.org organized against the invasion of Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003 on the slender pretext that it hadn't been authorized by the UN, as if to suggest that the colonial enterprise would have otherwise been acceptable. It participated in protest marches as part of a broader strategy to exploit antiwar sentiment to expand membership, while simultaneously limiting criticism of the impending conflict to the methodology of approval instead of the more compelling immorality of it.

The Iraqis? They were rarely, if ever, mentioned. Focusing upon the lack of UN authorization enabled grassroots liberals to subsequently support the occupation as questions related to the launching of the war were now considered irrelevant. It was a crude, but necessary finesse. Post-invasion, the Iraqis remained invisible, as the new mantra was Support the Troops.

Iraqis had died, and continued to die, in large numbers, with those still living lacking food, shelter, electricity and an uncontaminated water supply, but the new emphasis was about the extent to which the occupying force lacked sufficient body armour. Visitors to the MoveON.org website in 2004 and 2005 were subjected to a politically expedient fetishization of the military that, after repeated encounters, induced nausea. Removing the troops and liberating the Iraqis from the predations of the occupation was apparently not congruent with the objective of electing more Democrats.

Support the Troops is therefore one of the most insidiously effective advertising slogans in recent memory. It satisfied the legitimate motivation of people to empathize with the plight of soldiers in Iraq, while, paradoxically, enabling Democratic politicians, including liberals, to perpetuate the occupation. Or, to be more precise, people experienced the emotional release of remorse, while ensuring that there was no change in policy. Meanwhile, plans for the privatization of the Iraqi economy, and transnational control over the Iraqi oil supply, elicited little comment, except among global justice advocates. Support the Troops additionally served the essential purpose of concealing bipartisan support for the planned neoliberal transformation of Iraqi society.

The consequences of this success are dire. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have fled the country and the US military is being destroyed by politicians who refuse to extract it before the command and control structure is shattered. It is a defeat so calamitous, so impossible to acknowledge, that the only solution is to expand the war to Iran and beyond. A more violent confrontation is required to conceal the stain of failure, even if the outcome is likely to be the end of US hegemony. Was it ever possible to peaceably scale back the American Empire? We will never know, but we do know that American liberals are among those responsible for excluding the possibility.

I'm inclined to agree with American Leftist at least partially on this. I have long felt that the Left has been too ready to compromise, too ready to take any scrap they can and herald it as a step in the right direction. The "center" of politics has taken a massive shift to the right in the last twenty years. Instead of these compromises slowly shifting the center back to the middle, it seems more like those on the Left are being pulled to the Right.

It's the mentality that in order to generate the greater consensus, in order to make the idea, bill, meme to succeed, you've got to build compromises into the original proposal. This seems like a stupid way to negotiate. You're already giving away half of your position before you've even sat down at the table.

This latest bill with the non-binding timetable for troop withdrawal is a good example. Instead of Barbara Lee's more aggressive proposal to strictly use funding towards troop withdrawal, many liberals pushed for Pelosi's softer bill. Yes, Pelosi had a better chance of getting hers through, but the idea is to make the other side fight for it. At least a little. It would help me personally shake that "Democrats are weenies" idea.

Also, what's with this "non-binding" crap? If you can't make him stick to it, what's the point in expending all this energy to get it passed? You would gain just as much by taking an add out in the paper.

I'm not sure of MoveOn is the root of all evil, though. I think they believe what they're doing is helping the Left make progress. I'm just not sure if i agree with the strategy.

By min | March 28, 2007, 1:31 PM | Liberal Outrage