Bryan Caplan  

What's Wrong With the U.S. Peace Movement

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I'm a pacifist, but I've never been intellectually impressed with the U.S. peace movement.  The sound argument against war, in my view, combines (a) the common-sense moral view that, "You shouldn't kill innocent people unless you know with high certainty that the long-run benefits heavily outweigh the short-run costs" with (b) the empirical fact that predictions about war's long-run benefits are extremely inaccurate.  U.S. peace activists' typical arguments against war are both too weak and too strong: Too weak because they focus on the badness of particular leaders and regimes rather than the murderous essence of modern war, too strong because they make overconfident, overblown predictions about the long-run effects of wars they oppose.  Worse still, U.S. peace activists have a ghastly tendency to side with despicable totalitarians and bloodthirsty nationalists.

Reading Michael Heaney and Fabio Rojas' excellent new Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11 (Cambridge University Press, 2015) confirms many of my deepest misgivings about the U.S. peace movement.  The book begins with a puzzle: Democrats' war policies were very similar so those of their Republican predecessors, but the antiwar movement still durably dissolved once the Democrats gained power:
The antiwar movement became a mass movement from 2001 to 2006, as Democratic Party loyalty and anti-Bush sentiment provided fuel for the movement. However, the 2006 elections and their immediate aftermath were the high point for party-movement synergy. At exactly the time when antiwar voices were most well poised to exert pressure on Congress, movement leaders stopped sponsoring lobby days. The size of antiwar protests declined. From 2007 to 2009, the largest antiwar rallies shrank from hundreds of thousands of people to thousands, and then to only hundreds. Congress considered antiwar legislation, but mostly failed to pass it. In 2008, the Democrats nominated an antiwar presidential candidate in U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). But once Obama became president, his policies on war and national security resembled those of his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush. 
In case these patterns are in doubt, check out the data on antiwar protest size and media coverage:
heaney4.jpg

heaney5.jpg

Drawing on a a vast number of original surveys - most conducted in the midst of antiwar protests - Heaney and Rojas reach a cynical resolution of the puzzle: Democrats energized the antiwar movement, then dropped it as soon as their side regained power.  "We observe demobilization not in response to a policy victory, but in response to a party victory."  Why?  Because Democrats' real target was not war, but Republicans.  The authors present wide-ranging evidence, but I'm impressed by this simple graph of partisan breakdown over time.
heaney3.jpg

Since total participation was sharply falling, the overwhelming majority of Democratic protestors simply lost interest as their side gained power.  Heaney and Rojas strive to be diplomatic, but read between the lines:
When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the antiwar movement may or may not have gained an ally in the White House. However, it definitely lost its prime enemy: President Bush. The antiwar movement had relied on Bush as a mobilizing meme for almost eight years. For example, the radical antiwar organization World Can't Wait had adopted "Drive Out the Bush Regime!" as its slogan (Sweet 2008), though it never adopted the slogan "Drive Out the Obama Regime!" With Bush leaving the White House, some activists may have felt that their goal had been achieved...

Activists in the antiwar movement cared about the substance of foreign policy. They wanted more than just a change of party. However, for many of them, partisanship served as a lens through which to see policy. On the most basic level, Obama had promised a withdrawal from Iraq. Perhaps it would require substantial grassroots pressure to compel him to keep this promise. But for self-identified Democrats, it might also make sense to trust Obama to keep his word without actively applying pressure. These activists might not necessarily look closely at the details of the administration's policies. Yet, even if they did, they would find considerable ambiguity, leaving room for interpretation. While it was possible to consider Obama's policies to be mostly prowar, it was also possible to see them as antiwar. Self-identified Democrats might have been more likely to see Obama's policies in an antiwar light than non-Democrats would have. They might also be more likely than non-Democrats to make excuses for the president's policies, seeing them as the only practical option under the circumstances.

The period from 2001 to 2012 was a time of shifting identities for Democrats and antiwar activists. The initial shift occurred from 2001 through 2003, as Democratic identities began to be coupled with antiwar identities. Democratic identities raised the salience of antiwar identities, and vice versa. From 2003 to 2006, antiwar and Democratic identities were (mostly) self-reinforcing. However, starting in 2007, antiwar and Democratic identities began to conflict with one another. For some activists, the emergence of Democratic majorities in Congress was enough to satisfy their demand for change. Others, however, were troubled when Congress not only failed to use its power of the purse to end the war in Iraq, but also voted for supplemental appropriations to fund Bush's surge in Iraq. Likewise, once Obama became president, his promises of withdrawal from Iraq were good enough for some. Others were troubled by the prolonged timetable in Iraq, negotiations to extend the SOFA, the escalation in Afghanistan, the administration's liberal use of drones, the U.S. intervention in Libya, and the president's unsuccessful efforts to close the controversial U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Activists were increasingly compelled to choose between their identities. "Am I a Democrat? Or am I an antiwar activist?" It became difficult to be both.

The bad news for the antiwar movement was that activists were more likely to favor their Democratic identities over their antiwar identities. Especially once Obama became president, there were too many good reasons to be a Democrat.The country had its first African American in the Oval Office, an important symbolic outcome after centuries of struggle for racial equality. The Democratic majority in Washington - which was nearly a supermajority - meant that comprehensive health care reform would stand a real chance for the first time in fifteen years. Thus, many former antiwar activists shifted their attention to other issues on the progressive agenda.
The great Bastiat once wrote, "The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended."  Though they're too polite to come out and say it, Heaney and Rojas' book shows that the good cause of peace was not merely ineptly defended, but insincerely defended.  While the peace movement no doubt includes some honest-to-goodness pacifists, they're honorable outliers.  The peace movement was not about peace.




COMMENTS (40 to date)

Spurious correlation is an obvious possibility. A lot of other things happened in 2007-2009... Epic recession, decline in violence in Iraq, change in strategy...

Do they deal with that in the book? And is there really no other time series data like this from other times and places?

Matt Moore writes:

These conclusions broadly apply in the UK too, I think.

The UK "Stop the War" coalition is little more than a front for organisations such as the Socialist Worker's Party (a revolutionary organisation) and the UK Communist Party. This is easily verified by looking at the leading figures these organisations. Nonetheless, it became the focus for much popular protest regarding Iraq. Since Labour was in power for almost the entire occupation, its hard to know if more would have been done under a Tory government.

Moreover, I suspect that principled (rather than politically opportunistic) pacifism is even less prevalent in the UK. Living memory of a very real invasion threat tends to mitigate that type of thing, I would expect.

[Sidebar - what are the main "minor parties" in the graphs above? LP? Or Communists? They increase in importance as size falls, suggesting that they are the "hard core" of activists]

Procrustes writes:

And note that the scale on the first chart is a log scale - astonishing.

Radford Neal writes:

"predictions about war's long-run benefits are extremely inaccurate"

The problem I have with this argument is that while it may be true at present, it's likely to cease to be true if ever your preferred policy is adopted.

Suppose that present policy is purely utilitarian, with no deonotological bias towards inaction (not that I'm claiming this is entirely true). We'd then EXPECT that the benefits of military actions taken will be extremely uncertain, since policy is aiming at an optimum at which the derivative will be zero, with the result dominated by noise.

But as soon as you start being much more reluctant to engage in war (even "defensive" war), this will change. Aggression will be encouraged, and the benefits of resisting this aggression will start to be large.

So while I agree that substantially greater reluctance to use military force would be good, I don't think the desired end-point is one where one abandons all military options.

ThomasH writes:

While I agree with many of your observations, I don't think that explaining the difference between stances toward the Bush and Obama administrations is that difficult. Perhaps both administrations had/would have had competent people doing the best that could be done in the period 2009-2015. Is it hard to believe that the "peace movement" would give the benefit of the doubt to an administration whose leader opposed the war to begin with?

Think about two doctors treating a patient for severe loss of blood. I know nothing about medicine and what the proper treatment for blood loss is. Do I trust Doctor A or Doctor B more knowing only that Dr A does not believe in bloodletting as a cure for the disease the patient suffers from or Dr B who prescribed the bloodletting?

ThomasH writes:

Having disagreed in one way, let me agree in another. The anti-war movement before the invasion of Iraq was much weakened by arguments that the invasion was "about oil," that is by attacking the supposed bad intention rather than the bad effects.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Inept and insincere is a weak argument and I think unnecessarily nasty on your part Bryan. As someone that did protest during the Bush administration but not the Obama administration and who knows other people like that, I can tell you the reason for many of us is that the policy we opposed was the invasion and escalation, not the exit. Who cares if Obama continued the Bush exit policy? The two big drops occurred when withdraws began after the surge, and around the time of both the signing of the SOFA by Bush and yes the election of a president that was strongly opposed to the war.

That's not partisanship - this behavior coincides with the bringing to an end of a war we opposed and an election that vividly reflected those priorities.

You're typically proud of your bubble and the idiosyncratic ways you relate to other people. If all that means is accusing people of being inept and insincere perhaps you shouldn't be.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Is the fact that for many of us the choice between Clinton and Obama in the primaries hinged solely on the latter's stronger opposition to the war a sign of partisanship and insincerity too?

Doesn't quite fit your narrative, I guess.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

One last point on this: a thought experiment for everybody that things there's something to Bryan's attacks. If Ron Paul got the nomination and won the election do you think the protest trend would have been any different from what it is?

sam writes:

All politics in America is about one thing, the welfare state.

Protests occurred during the Bush years to discredit Bush (who was a threat to the welfare state) and to prevent money from being diverted from the welfare state to the war.

During the Obama years, the welfare state was not under threat, thus there were no protests.

TonyD writes:

Daniel Kuehn,

An initial drop in anti-war activity following Obama's election would be justified given Obama's supposed anti-war positions. However, the movement's failure to resurface following Obama's failure to do anything all that anti-war suggests that the inept/insincere interpretation is correct.

Ann on a Mouse writes:

*checks date on calendar to make sure it's not April 1st before replying*

Dr. Caplan, please allow me to introduce you to a word: Pacifist
noun:
1.
a person who believes that war and violence are unjustifiable.

adjective:

1.
holding the belief that war and violence are unjustifiable.

Even a stone-cold warmonger would have trouble writing: ""You shouldn't kill innocent people unless you know with high certainty that the long-run benefits heavily outweigh the short-run costs"

Are you referring to the benefits accrued to the killers and the costs to the killed?

Wow. I totally agree that almost all "anti-war" folks are really just phonies, but if that's what you really believe, I think I have to say it's disgusting.

You are not a pacifist, you are a utilitarian, and not even an "innocent" one at that.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Daniel Kuehn,
I’m actually torn here. But one big data point you need to contend with: the fact that Obama almost tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan. That doesn’t sound like exit.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Tony D and David raise much the same point, and I spoke to this yesterday. Iraq and Afghanistan are not interchangeable. I protested Iraq in the early 2000s but never protested Afghanistan because I was not opposed to that war. Indeed one of the many problems with the Iraq war was precisely that it drew resources from Afghanistan and the broader war on terrorism (to say nothing of the new terrorists it created).

Some people I was protesting with were pacifist, many were not. I am not a pacifist. I don't think we can assume the entire movement against the war was pacifist (most people aren't after all).

My biggest concerns with the Obama administration's foreign/military/intelligence policy has been the NSA spying. I support his draw down in Iraq and long-standing opposition to it, I support his re-commitment to Afghanistan, and I support his targeted prosecution of the war on terror (drones, etc.) - specific instances and tactics potentially excepted, of course.

Those had been my positions well before Obama was elected, and it made the difference for me between Hillary and Obama.

David writes:

Daniel,

So what about the killing of an american citizen in Yemen by a drone? Seems to me that an execution of an American without due process would be something to protest. The idea that anti war protests are only necessary during the initial stages of a war could be seen as inept/insincere.

I wonder how many anti war activist actually voted for Ron Paul?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Daniel,
I’m sorry I didn’t make myself clearer. I wasn’t alleging inconsistency on your part. I was considering the antiwar movement as a whole. You might still be able to make the case that they weren’t protesting that war before 2009, but that’s the case you need to make.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

David -
On each of your questions:

1. American citizenship is completely irrelevant. *Persons* enjoy due process, not citizens. What due process consists of varies by circumstance, of course (due process means something different if I am accused of murder than it does if I am seeking access to a dataset through a FOIA request or trying to vote). So the question is - what due process does a person deserve if they are actively involved in a terror group planning attacks on the United States? I'm no expert but presumably due process in that case consists of review of the case by someone in the chain of command that is ultimately responsible to the United States and a response that conforms to established rules of engagement. If that all holds, I'm fine with killing an American citizen in Yemen guilty of those things and as far as I know that all held.

2. I agree somewhat on your point about the initial stages of a war in that there's certainly nothing special about the early stages. Some of us are more deeply involved in active marching on the streets than others. I'm typically not into that sort of thing and the fact that I am not is a big determinant of why I was protesting in 2003/04 and not 2005/06/07. I'm not sure how many times you want people to punch their protest time care in order to be sincere. I think when you get to the point where a withdraw is actually going on there's any necessary reason for protest. That would require you to think that going cold turkey and withdrawing immediately is clearly better than a planned withdraw. I don't think you've made that case.

3. Ron Paul had a lot more wrong than right with him. I'm guessing few. That's not really relevant. The point is if he had been elected you would see the same drop in protesting.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

EDIT: I *don't* think when you get to the point where a withdraw is actually going on...

Daniel Kuehn writes:

David Henderson:

"I’m sorry I didn’t make myself clearer. I wasn’t alleging inconsistency on your part. I was considering the antiwar movement as a whole. You might still be able to make the case that they weren’t protesting that war before 2009, but that’s the case you need to make."

Sure, it's a diverse group. Like I said, some are complete pacifists some aren't at all and there are different views on the two wars.

I don't ultimately have the data on that, perhaps this book does. Gallup polls have always shown higher support for Afghanistan than Iraq, though that's obviously not the protest community specifically.

I have nothing wrong with you conditioning your view of people based on their own positions. That's precisely what I want to see! But I'd think that precludes painting the movement as a whole with this brush.

As for who needs to prove the case, I'd think it would be whoever is making the claim. If Bryan is suggesting that the non-inept, sincere cases are outliers it seems like it's Bryan that needs to prove that, not me!

guthrie writes:

@Daniel,

To answer your Ron Paul question, I believe protests would increase. I am currently cynical that *most* people who protested the Iraq war were sincerely targeting war. Rather, they are protesting 'The Other Guy', politically speaking, and regardless of previous statements or voting record, Paul would still be 'The Other Guy'. They would find a rationale.

I have not yet given time to Heaney and Rojas' report either, but based on my own (admittedly anecdotal) observations, I've no reason to doubt the suggestion that *most* of those who protested the war during the Bush administration did so for tribal and political reasons, rather than a sincere desire to end conflict.

Or, if that's not the case, it seems to me that most former protesters are willing to set their objections to conflict aside to keep from rocking the boat for 'Their Guy'. There are even those who go so far as to be apologists for Obama's continued (and expanded!) military actions overseas, rather than be philosophically consistent in regard to US military action. I'm not sure which is worse.

Again, I admit, my observations are anecdotal and perhaps I'm succumbing to confirmation bias. Are there other ways to take my observations plus the information Bryan has here and interpret them differently?

Daniel Kuehn writes:

I think all my comments above offer a different interpretation, right?

Short of doing a survey myself I'm not sure what there is to add. I think it's a really sweeping and unsubstantiated claim.

guthrie writes:

I am unpersuaded by your above comments. Here's why:

1). Actively protesting is only part of the picture. Anti-war folks tended to react strongly in any social situation if (or sometimes 'when') the question of war came up. One way to think of this is that these people are passionate about ending US military involvement overseas. Another way to think of it is, these are Democrats seeking to gain an advantage by highlighting and underscoring the misgivings political 'undecideds' (if you will). I am convinced - based on the following points - that the latter was/is the more pervasive attitude.

2). After Obama was elected it appeared - to me at least - that the energy of folks opposed to 'Bush's war' shifted. They were either significantly less vocal and willing to engage (not rocking the boat), or actively engaged in apologizing and defending Obama's actions. At what point does 'Bush's War' become 'Obama's War'? Never? Are we allowed to give a blank check to any/all of Obama's decisions because he 'didn't start it'? How far back can we go with that line of thinking?

3). Perhaps I've missed the full accounting of the 'Due Process' regarding Anwar al-Awlaki's son, but I am deeply skeptical that a 16 year old deserved to die without being tried in person in a court of law. To me, this killing makes Obama's wartime actions more deplorable than Bush's, and would appear to be more worthy of protest. Yet, what I see is more apologetics.

In my opinion this last point alone is an indictment against the 'Peace Movement' as nothing more than a radical arm of the Democratic Party. Compiled with everything else, I'm fairly convinced against your position. What might I not be considering?

Daniel Kuehn writes:

guthrie -
You're mostly restating Bryan's points which I've addressed. I'm not sure what here I haven't addressed. I guess we just disagree.

It would be really nice if people could just disagree without all this stuff about giving Obama a blank check, doing it for political advantage, etc.

On al-Awlaki's son, the comment above did not get specific and I presumed they were talking about al-Awlaki. My understanding is that his son was not targeted, he was killed in a strike on al-Banna. If that's true I think it's unfortunate collateral damage but not necessarily a violation of due process. If it is not true and they were targeting him that's a different story and I'd have to know more about his background but I'd tend to agree with you.

David writes:

@Daniel,

So it would seem that you disagree with the threat level that the Bush administration placed on Iraq but not the threat level placed on a single person by the Obama administration? I don't see the philosophical difference in a government killing one person or starting a war based on the same idea of "winning the war on terrorism" its still bombs being dropped in a foreign country to achieve the same goal. Im not sure what information Bush had on Iraq and Im not sure what Information Obama had on the guy in Yemen but that isnt the issue. The issue is why is one act deserving of protest and the other not? Your reasoning in response #2 isnt very strong and I dont it think explains the inconsistency.

I dont know the answer but what was the anti war response when Clinton bombed Iraq?

Are the feelings towards Ron Paul because he has an R in front of his name?

guthrie writes:

Fair enough Daniel.

I admit I am quite cynical about the political process and the intersection of politics and the actions of particular 'movements'. That very well could be what's energizing my own position and interest in the subject, thus coloring my observations. I can be just as tribal and insular as anyone else, but I promise I'm trying to work through it! :)

At any rate, I do appreciate your thoughts, Daniel, thank you for engaging on this topic.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

These decisions are made based on intelligence that we don't have, for good reason. If you don't think there's a good reason for us not to have the intelligence, fine. You disagree. If you think our lack of that intelligence obligates us to oppose all action on that intelligence, fine we disagree. But don't act as if peoples' decision rules rely only on trusting intelligence holders. A war is a different action from a strategy in a war, which is a different action from a tactic or specific strike in a broader strategy in a broader war. The further down that list you go the less information we have as citizens and the more you have to make a decision for yourself whether you trust the institutions in place to do the job. At the top of that list (the war itself), we are making different ethical and financial decisions that we have the information to make, even if it's imperfect information.

On #2 I guess we disagree. I didn't think it was a strong point of yours to begin with and it was easily dealt with.

On Ron Paul - what "feelings" are you talking about exactly? My feelings on him have nothing to do with the R. I don't think people too closely associate him with Republicans - or put it this way they recognize that it's a lot more complicated than that.

pnips writes:

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Moebius Street writes:

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the Obama actions in Libya.

I think this is directly relevant, because it sounded to me like a large portion of the earlier protests (against GWB) were arguing "we shouldn't be in this war, we're only there because GWB misled us".

But a few years later, when Obama dragged us into Libya, I asked my Democrat friends who had that mindset, why they weren't protesting Obama. To my mind, Obama was *worse* in this respect: GWB solicited the opinion of the public and Congress, but may have had his thumb on the scale; Obama, by contrast, refused to be subject to the democratic process or the Constitutional requirements (and those of the War Powers Act), and dove right in.

It seems to me that Obama's flouting the law is worse than GWB's misdirection, yet my democrat friends refuse to entertain that argument at all.

guthrie writes:

@pnips

As I mentioned, I am only speaking out of my own interactions with friends and acquaintances who declaimed themselves as 'anti-war'. To a person these folks also described themselves as 'Democrats' or 'Liberals' (as opposed to 'Libertarians' or 'Classical Liberals'). I'm not sure I ever encountered a libertarian/Libertarian at the time the protests were in full swing.

As such, these folks would have seen the 'R' behind Paul's name and - it is my supposition - would have generally opposed him as a member of the 'Other Team'.

It is my experience and thinking that most people (including me sometimes) don't think very deeply beyond seeing a candidate's party affiliation or some other kind of signal. Most folk tend to look for shorthand/shortcuts to either arrive at a position or justify a knee-jerk reaction. Most folk tend to think and behave 'tribally' (if you will), and their words and deeds tend to follow suit.

Therefore, it is my assumption that most of those who protested under Bush refrained from doing so under Obama, but would have continued to do so under a President Paul. Our guy 'good', their guy 'bad', and Paul as a member of the other team is 'Their Guy'.

However, as I admitted to Daniel, this is very much my own observation which could be colored by my cynicism, personal experience, and as such a measure of uncharitably. It is by no means a broad sample of all war protesters. It may mean I need to get out more, rather than having a full and accurate accounting of how people think and act on this issue. Hopefully, though, this answers your question as to why I might be so insistent.

Brian writes:

Daniel,

I agree with you about Bryan's way of phrasing things. He tends to be black and white in some of his statements when shades of grey are needed. There's no need to charge anyone with insincerity.

On the other hand, the graph that breaks everything down by parties shows pretty clearly that involvement by Democrats was largely based on party affiliation. During the surge, Democratic involvement appeared to wane, only to see a huge spike right before the election. After Obama's election, involvement by Democrats crashed. This can only be explained by party affiliation and not by some principled antiwar response to what was happening in Iraq or elsewhere.

Mark V Anderson writes:

I think Daniel's interpretation of the drop in protests do not make sense. He says that it was the original invasion that was the reason for the protest. So why did the protesting go on from the invasion in (was it 2003?) all the way to 2006? What is the point of protesting for several years after the actual invasion?

I think the data pretty well prove that it was partisan reasons for the drop. I think several postings have it right that it was the R's being protested, and the war was pretty incidental (for most). I don't think this was conscious behavior for most of the protesters, but their behavior proves it.

Brian writes:

Mark,

Yes, the drop among Democrats was clearly a partisan move. There's no other easy way to explain the data. Their drop after Obama's election is especially noteworthy since the unaffiliated or those associated with other parties either held steady or increased their percentage. They had less reason to see Obama as an improvement over Bush and therefore had more reason to continue.

wodun writes:

Notice that some of the anti-war protesters are defending their hypocrisy by saying the Iraq war was ending. First, it didn't end, take a look.

Second, Iraq is far from the only war we have been engaged in and Obama started, escalated, and mismanaged his own wars.

Libya was a war of choice where Hillary was literally busted in emails talking about how to divide the oil spoils among her donors. Obama lied us into that war by claiming it was to prevent civilian deaths but was really an effort to oust Gaddafi. Obama didn't even go to congress!

Afghanistan was escalated but Obama failed to listen to his commanders on troop levels. We had more casualties in Afghanistan under Obama than Bush but the anti-war protesters don't give a rip. Part of this war is the shadow drone war in Pakistan. Once again silence from the anti-war crowd.

Yemen is another country where a shadow drone war is conducted. Obama assassinated three Americans in Yemen. Yemen is now a battleground between AQ, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and US.

Black site prisons still exist. Rendition is still practiced.

The author of this blog is correct, the anti-war movement was never really anti-war. Just people who rooted against their own country in an effort to sabotage our efforts so that the Democrats could seize power. And what do Democrats do when in power?

Abuse civil liberties of innocent political dissidents with late night SWAT raids on trumped up charges in WI and Jim Crow style IRS enforcement of activist groups.

Then the party of slavery, the KKK, Jim Crow, and segregation wants to lecture us on race while scapegoating us for their party's historical sins.

You guys literally don't believe in any of the core values you badger others about.

Jackass is the perfect mascot.

Justin Raimondo writes:

The explanation is really quite simple, but requires a knowledge of the inner workings of the organized antiwar movement. The primary antiwar coalition at the time was United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), which was controlled by the Communist Party USA. The CPUSA is fanatically pro-Obama, so when he was elected UFPJ was formally disbanded.

wodun writes:

"The primary antiwar coalition at the time was United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), which was controlled by the Communist Party USA."

You have no idea how many arguments have been about the existence of communists in the Democrat party, especially in the militant activist wing. Their existence was often denied despite photographic evidence. Now, that Democrats are openly electing socialists around the country, they still deny their existence or claim nothing is wrong with socialism.

Do Democrats realize this is akin to holding a rally with the Nazis or the KKK?

And no people, having roads isn't socialism.

wodun writes:

The Democrat anti-war protesters had a devastating impact on the global view of our country and the war. When people reflect on our reputation during those years remember it had nothing to do with Bush and everything to do with Democrats rooting against their own country so that we would lose.


Our troops needed everyone's support but one party was out there cheering for their deaths and doing everything they could to make us lose. Obama even went so far as to abandon Iraq to genocide to prevent Iraq from being successful. History will put that on him not Bush.

Don't forget that before the war, Democrats flew to Iraq to be human shields.

But don't dare say Democrats hate the USA.

Brian Cantin writes:

Since there are so many progressive Democrats, the anti-war movement during the Bush years was dominated by those folks. However, it is hardly surprising that progressive Democrats would support war under Obama.
Progressive Democrats support war under Obama partly for partisan reasons. Also, consider the history of the progressive movement. The most progressive presidents in American history were Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Truman, LBJ, and Obama. All of these guys were war mongers, and their progressive constituencies supported the wars they promoted. So, is it any surprise to find today's progressives supporting war?
As Rove supposedly said, we are an empire now. Most politically mainstream people implicitly support our empire without even realizing it. Having an empire drives policy in both parties toward militarism. Consequently, foreign policy disputes usually do not involve fundamental questions of war and peace. Rather, the issues involve question of how war will be waged, and who will be in power.
Having worked with anti-war groups, I find hard core socialists, Greens, and Marxists are more likely to consistently oppose the American empire than progressives. Hard core libertarians also tend to consistently oppose empire and war. What these groups have in common is that they are sufficiently removed from the political consensus that they are willing to question the existence of the American empire.
Another factor here is the kill rates of Bush versus Obama. Despite the absolutely appalling things Obama has done(e.g., Libya), Obama hasn't killed anywhere near the number of people that Bush did. This is true in terms of both American troops and foreigners. Killing at a lower rate tends to dampen down protests.

wodun writes:

"Obama hasn't killed anywhere near the number of people that Bush did."

I am not so certain of that. You have to look at Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq. Surely more than 150k people have died,many more displaced, in these countries since Obama took over.

You have to look at the consequences of inaction as well as action too, especially when not going to war doesn't mean we didn't play a role in what transpired.

Also, the ideal of being pacifist or anti-war shouldn't be based on body bags, otherwise you aren't really anti-war. After all, the Iraq war had historically low casualties for our soldiers and civilians.

Plus, more troops died in Afghanistan under Obama than under Bush and yet never a protest or nightly examination by our Democrat media.

Rationalize it however you want but Democrat opposition to the Iraq War was purely partisan, put party before country, and just as detrimental to our country as the war itself.

Tell us how much Obama loves the troops while they die in the thousands from a corrupt government run VA. Don't worry, they will do much better with YOUR healthcare...

CS Action writes:

[Comment removed for rudeness.--Econlib Ed.]

Brad Smith writes:

The anti-war movement didn't simply fall apart because individuals left after Obama's election. There was a decision made by the leaders to end the protests. These leaders were for the most part strong supporters of Obama and very much anti-republican. As a member of Veterans for Peace I was arrested twice for violating the no-speech zones. I don't think anything felt like more of a kick in the teeth than when the decision was made to end the protests. It wasn't just that I had now been abandoned by the left, I realized I had been used by them all along. I do not apply this feeling towards the many strong believers in Peace among the left. Many on the left tried to continue the protests but without leadership it all fell apart.

As for the ideologues known as progressives; this group is not anti-war and never has been. They can always be sold a war as long as it's done so on a "humanitarian" basis. They are also far more concerned with their own agenda (class and group victim mentality) that only happens to coincide with the anti-war movement when a Republican is in office.

There were many on the left who cared deeply about our troops and were protesting to bring them home. I do not include the progressives among them. Progressives would be the ones spitting on our troops and blaming them for following the orders of the people they themselves helped elect.

When you look at the anti-war movement it's very important to remember that there is a huge difference between the "typical" Democrat and the typical Progressive and that they have two completely different mindsets. It only confuses the issue when they are lumped in together.

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