Tuesday, November 07, 2006
This election provides the antiwar movement with some reason for optimism, but we shouldn't put our trust in politicians. Once they are in office, they tend to forget the reasons the voters put them there. Unless we hold their feet to the fire, they'll get comfortable in their new Washington offices, and will soon accommodate themselves to the ruling bipartisan foreign policy consensus, which is that we are in Iraq (and the Middle East) in a big way for the long haul, and there isn't much anyone can do about it. Now is the time to put the pressure on: where are those long-promised investigations into who lied us into war? The Democrats, most of them, claim they were tricked into voting for the war resolution, yet there has been a distinct lack of interest on their part in finding out how this occurred. Was the intelligence about Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction" faked – and, if so, by whom? What role did Vice President Dick Cheney's office play in the propaganda campaign that eventually succeeded in roping in most of the Democrats? What about those blatant forgeries that were somehow injected into the president's State of the Union address, the infamous "16 words" that turned out to have been quite wrong? Not to mention the machinations of Ahmed Chalabi, Iranian agent and the neocons' favorite to replace Saddam Hussein's – surely his shenanigans, conducted at taxpayers' expense, cry out for a congressional investigation.
INITIAL POST: As I write this, it is clear that the Democrats will have a majority in the House of Representatives, a substantial one, and it is now probable the three remaining Senate races, Missouri, Montana and Virginia, will also go their way, giving them a razor thin majority in the Senate as well. Discontent with the war in Iraq, and the President's style of leadership, has provided them with a victory that is psychologically more powerful than the numbers themselves. Even if the Republicans retain the Senate by prevailing in Virginia, they do so with the knowledge that the country has repudiated them and their President. Much like the Labour Party in Britain, they can only face the future with trepidation.
The most significant development in this election is the decline of religious right coalition that emerged in 1978, subsequently elected three Presidents and dominated this country's political discourse over the last 10 years. As Steve Gilliard recognized over at the News Blog, an AP exit poll discovered that one-third of evangelicals voted for the Democrats. In 2004, three quarters of evangelicals voted Republican. One perceives the initial cracks in the ice that may foreshadow the end of religious right dominance in American politics, and it is the war in Iraq that is threatening to permanent shatter it. Evangelicals have been strong supporters of the war, but that support has dramatically diminished. Beyond the over 2800 dead, the shock of wounded Americans returning home from Iraq, day by day, many with serious, permanent injuries, now over 20,000 total, appears to be having a profound effect upon a constituency previously known for its avid support for the conflict.
Paradoxically, the electorate has rejected the war in Iraq, having awakened from feverish imperial dreams that became nightmares, even as the victorious Democrats merely demand a 'smarter policy', and frequently attempt to envelop opposition to the occupation in the protective garb of other purported security threats in Iran and North Korea. In other words, they risk creating a justification for withdrawing from Iraq that accidentally empowers the President to launch even more catastrophic wars elsewhere. Consistent with the aftermath of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Americans have little appetite for new military adventures, but the elites persist in chattering about the transformation of the doctrine of preemptive war into informal imperial practices, derived from past experience, that present the allure of less risk for Americans: regime change through covert operations, use of so-called 'special forces', housed in secure bases, from where they can venture out into the countries around them, usually Middle Eastern and Central Asian, and, of course, the tried and true methods of economic coercion.
None of it has any plausible relationship to the world today, as all of these instruments have atrophied, and it will be the unhappy lot of the Democrats to attempt to mediate between the pragmatic insight of the American public and the grandiose attachment to empire among the governing elite in academia, fianance, media, government, and, most of all, the security services. All of them derive influence and a sense of self-importance through the expansion of the empire facilitated by the pretext of the war on terror, and it will be extremely difficult to persuade them to disassociate themselves from it. To date, there is no reason to believe that the Democrats understand the enormity of the challenge, arrogantly believing as they do that, because of their superficial internationalism, they are more suitable for imperial administration, especially as it relates to gently persuading satellites to conform to our wishes, as if the fact that Nancy Pelosi hails from San Francisco and John Kerry speaks French will encourage other countries to participate in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The cold, hard facts are that the US urgently needs to find a way to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, create a working relationship with the Iranians and develop the means for removing troops from East Asia by encouraging the Japanese, the Chinese and the Koreans, North and South, to resolve their own problems, instead of inflaming them. The US no longer has the will or the resources to seek to impose its will upon others, indeed, so many others, all over the world. Americans do not want their children to die for it, and the country lacks the financial capability to sustain it. If the Democrats fail to accept this changed landscape, and develop a political discourse to accomplish the dismantling much of this country's global military presence, the same anti-establishment sentiment that wiped out the Republican majority in the House (and, perhaps, the Senate) will soon destroy them, more rapidly than they could ever imagine.