'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Middle Class Turns Against the War as Liberals Learn to Love It 

[This post is by guest blogger Richard Estes. Richard lives in Northern California, and co-hosts a radio program, with an emphasis upon peace, civil rights, labor and environmental issues, on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, CA.]

Some on the left have expressed dismay at the unwillingness of purportedly progressive organizations like MoveOn.org to oppose the occupation of Iraq. But perhaps the sky is not quite so dark. On Friday, the New York Times acknowledged the emergence of parents opposed to the military recruitment of their children as an discomforting, anti-establishment force in American politics. Disorientation was in evidence throughout an article entitled, Growing Problem for Military Recruiters:Parents.

After all, parents, not easily stereotyped activists like myself, were asserting that President Bush had lied to them about Iraq, and, even more alarming, they were analogizing Bush’s propaganda and hard sell marketing tactics to the equally dishonest efforts of military recruiters to induce their children to enlist in the military. Furthermore, while some have a past history of activism, most of them are mainstream middle class people fearful over the prospect that their children could be seriously injured or killed in Iraq, the kind of people who otherwise volunteer during school board elections because they sincerely care about the quality of life in their community.

Such people present a constituency against the "war on terror" that cannot be smeared, deceived or manipulated by guilt. How is a NYT neoliberal, pro-occupation columnist like Thomas Friedman supposed to induce them to motivate their children to risk death in Iraq to implement his grandiose vision of the world? After all, the elite no longer steps to the front of the line to volunteer as many did during the Civil War, the Spanish American War and even World War I. In today’s allegedly classless country, some animals are even more equal than they were in the past.

It is doubtful they will be anything other than angered by the threat presented by Colonel David Slotwinski, a former Army chief of staff for military recruiting:

They don't realize that they have a role in helping make the all-volunteer force successful. If you don't, you're faced with the alternative, and the alternative is what they were opposed to the most, mandatory service.

Naturally, neither Slotwinski nor the NYT considered the alternative that the United States could end the occupation of Iraq, but I am more interested in the substance than the predictable ideological bias. Most importantly, the parents are succeeding in their efforts to deprive the US military of the soldiers required to police an expanding empire in the Middle East and Central Asia. Recruitment is trapped in a downward spiral, and, independent of their efforts, experienced soldiers are increasingly looking for alternatives to reenlistment. Release of recruiting data for the month of May has been
uncharacteristically delayed by the Pentagon.

Furthermore, there are signs that the brutality of the war, along with the efforts of high profile individuals like Fernando Suarez del Solar, the father of a son slain in Iraq, and Camilo Mejia, a soldier sentenced to a year in prison for refusing to return to Iraq, are persuading Latinos to follow African Americans and women down the path of declining enlistment. Enlistment of so-called "green card Marines" has fallen by about 25%.

Of course, everyone understands the consequences if declining enlistment does not provoke a fundamental change in US policy: the draft. And, there is good reason to suspect that there is a bipartisan coalition willing to support such an action if necessary. What happens if the Democrats and the Republicans insist upon implementing a draft to prosecute an unpopular war despite a growing resistance that cuts across all classes? The irresistible force will collide with the immovable object.

Perhaps, they are confident that the abandonment of the antiwar movement by MoveOn.org liberals, along with a firewall of political and media elite opinion, will protect them from retribution. If so, they should be less confident. In a similar situation, the French, confronting a unified political and media establishment insistent upon the creation of a neoliberal Europe, brought down the entire corrupt edifice by voting NON!

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