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November 16, 2005

You should have listened to the doves

-- by John Emerson

(The below is an edited version of a comment I made at Unfogged. Normally Unfogged tends toward cultural and intellectual topics (and snark and fluff), but this particular post was from the point of view of a semi-repentant liberal hawk.)

The recent Iraq War was, for better or worse, an aggressive geopolitical war. If you read between the lines, both the administration and the majority of the warbloggers understood it that way and supported it that way.

Most Americans do not believe in that kind of war, so it was necessary to whip up all sorts of other reasons. These other reasons came into play after the decision to go to war had already been made. Even if they had all been valid, they were always peripheral to what was actually happening.

So after the decision was made, Saddam's "gassing his own people" became important, even though we hadn't cared before then. The rights of women became an issue, even though Iraq was the most secular and least Islamic state in the region. And so on.

After the fact, everything but the kitchen sink was thrown at the public. If there had been a significant astrological constituency in the US, we would have been told that we invaded because the moon was in Virgo with Aquarius in trine. (This is hardly a joke: at one point a major policymaker, Wolfowitz I think, was sent to fluff the Armageddon Christians. Is Saddam the seven-headed beast? Will the Temple be rebuilt? Will the Son of Man return in his glory? Tune in tomorrow.)

There is, of course, the possibility that, at some point, some of our Machiavellian policymakers were starting to believe the fluff that they were saying. When you think about it, that really makes things worse, and not better.

The above sounds like a "dove" position, doesn't it? Well, it is one. I think that the pervasive, knee-jerk dismissal of dovish arguments is a big part of the reason why we are in such a hard place right now. (In the same way, the pervasive, kneejerk dismissal of marijuana-legalization arguments is a big part of the reason why the US is becoming a police state.)

If it were up to me, I'd have all the doves get rid of their unicycles and puppets and drums and burn their hemp garments and cut off their dreads and start eating hamburgers. Obviously it's not, though. If you don't like hippies, fine. But you shouldn't have let that become the foundation of your opinions about foreign policy.

Posted by John Emerson at November 16, 2005 4:57 AM

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Comments

If it were up to me, I'd have all the doves get rid of their unicycles and puppets and drums and burn their hemp garments and cut off their dreads and start eating hamburgers.

You raise an interesting point. Why are so many "hippies" unwilling to make the slightest effort to improve their image? If stopping a war was really important to you, wouldn't they leave the djembes and hackey-sacks at home?

Posted by: space [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2005 11:04 AM

I became burned out on ultra-leftism including hippyism when I realized that a lot of people weren't particularly interested in figuring out how to accomplish anything politically. I recognize futility when I see it, but I can't resign myself to it. Too many of the people I ran into seemed terribly pleased with political gestures which were pretty much doomed.

It was the narcissism and complacency that bothered me. I don't know how effectiveness can be attained, so I can't blame someone for being ineffective, and if people's hearts are in the right place that's better than nothing. But people were too pleased with themselves.

Hippies aren't the real bad guys, though.

Posted by: John Emerson at November 16, 2005 12:10 PM

I'm curious what percentage of the millions of people who "preprotested" the war in the streets of the world you believe are "hippies"? Are there really two (or was it three?) million hippies in Madrid or in Rome?

It's not so much that doves are hippies, or even that all people who knew the war was going to go badly were doves (Scott Ritter?). It's just that in America any rational anti-war voices are ALWAYS characterized, subliminally, but effectively, by the politicians and the corporate media as "hippies".

Posted by: Anonymous at November 16, 2005 1:36 PM

That was me. I thought I had signed in. I hate this comments system.

Posted by: richard [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2005 1:37 PM

Agreed, Richard. I went to an early anti-Dubya demo in Portland. 95% of the people there were ordinary-looking people, but the TV interviewed the guy who stripped down to his American Flag bikini.

Posted by: John Emerson at November 16, 2005 5:23 PM

My original post was besically about anti-dove prejudice, not about hippies, of course.

Posted by: John Emerson at November 16, 2005 5:24 PM

I will grant you that if you trace their roots far back enough, -- back to Romanticism perhaps -- you will find the streams of ultra-leftism and bohemianism-for-bohemianism's-sake converging. Nevertheless, in the wild, you are unlikely to find many hippies reading up on Guy Debord or council communism or trying to set up a 5th International. The dreads and the hemp are cultural statements more than anything, and often veil completely ordinary political thoughts. Lots of hippies are actively anti-political and many are what you'd call libertarians and even eco-fascists.

In any case, the whole issue is a red herring. You can oppose the war on Pat Buchanan-style nationalist grounds or from somewhere to the left of Leninism, but the length of your hair and your other "lifestyle choices" won't change the fact that some 30,000 people are dead who wouldn't have been otherwise.

Posted by: guyy at November 16, 2005 9:21 PM

The "hippie" issue is pretty peripheral. I was specifically addressing Democratic Party bright boys who dismiss anti-war sentiment as hippyish. It's a form of mainstream cliche which I think is very harmful, and that was my main point.

That said, in Portland OR I did find some of the street-theatre / unicycle / juggler / drumming stuff I saw at demos pretty annoying. It's fun for that sector of the anti-war community, but I'm pretty sure it turns more people off than it reaches positively. It makes me sound like the dour, puritanical left politico when I say this, but anti war demos, especially when they're sure to be futile, should really be lot more like funerals than like jolly street fairs.

Posted by: John Emerson at November 17, 2005 8:09 AM

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