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Whither the Antiwar Movement?


“Imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion too.”

A more useful line when it comes to our current wars may be “Imagine there’s no duopoly.” It’s hard to fault John Lennon for his idealism, of course. In his day, many blamed religion on the wars of history. But a much bigger obstacle right now, at least in the U.S., is partisanship. The two major political parties, in power and out, have been so co-opted by the war machine that any modern anti-war movement has been completely subsumed and marginalized—even as American troops and killer drones continue to operate in or near combat zones all over the world.

Aside from the very early days of the Iraq war, the anti-war movement has been a small, ineffectual pinprick on the post-9/11 landscape. A less generous assessment is that it’s been a bust. After liberals helped elect the “anti-war” Barack Obama, the movement all but disappeared, even though the wars did not. By putting a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Democratic face on his inherited wars, Obama expanded into new conflicts (Libya, Syria, Yemen) with little resistance, ultimately bombing seven different countries during his tenure. By 2013, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin lamented, “We’ve been protesting Obama’s foreign policy for years now, but we can’t get the same numbers because the people who would’ve been yelling and screaming about this stuff under Bush are quiet under Obama.”

It’s easy to blame the military-industrial complex, the corporate media, and the greed and malleability of politicians. But what about the anti-war movement itself? Why has it failed so miserably, and can it revive as President Donald Trump continues the wars of his predecessors and threatens new ones?
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