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Voters for Peace

It seems an obvious thing to do, but then again, sometimes the most obvious things are those that are left neglected. So, I’ll send a link this morning over to Voters for Peace, but with a couple of questions.

The idea of Voters for Peace is to solidify antiwar voters into a potent political bloc. That’s a good idea. The group points out: “Polling has revealed an unrecognized anti-war voting block which is large enough (two-thirds of progressives) that candidates and incumbent politicians cannot afford to ignore it. It is larger than the pro-gun, anti-abortion, or the anti-gay marriage voting blocks.”

To this end, Voters for Peace is asking people to sign the following pledge: “”I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign.” The group defines a war of aggression as “any war that is not in response to an invasion, or attack on a nation.”

Here’s my questions: The group doesn’t mention the war in Afghanistan. Why? Is it because that war doesn’t qualify as a war of aggression? Does that mean that we could permanently occupy Afghanistan, and be perpetually fighting the Taliban there, and a group like Voters for Peace still wouldn’t oppose that war?

Let’s keep in mind that the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, which was a major justification for the invasion of Afghanistan, has been called off. The destruction of the Taliban, another objective of the war, has still not taken place – in fact, the Taliban seem to be getting stronger the longer American troops stay in Afghanistan. It’s been almost five years now that the Afghan War has been going on. How much longer must it persist?

I also have to question the definition of a war of aggression, because it seems to be open to a very broad interpretation. George W. Bush and the Republicans say that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was done in response to the attacks by Al Quaida on September 11, 2001. The Iraq War was a “response”, though Al Quaida had nothing to do with the Iraqi Government, and the Iraqi Government had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks. So, when voters take this pledge, how far can they accept the justification of response? Should they accept the idea that a war against Iran and Syria would not be a war of aggression? What are they to make of the war between Israel, Hezbollah, and Lebanon, where both Israel and Hezbollah claim to be defending themselves against aggression, and not committing aggression at all?

Why can’t a group calling itself Voters for Peace offer a more simple pledge, one to oppose any politician in Congress who votes to approve any war? Why has the categorical opposition to all war become taboo?

14 comments to Voters for Peace

  • Mark

    While our military’s failure to capture Osama bin Laden or destroying the Taliban fall short of the initial goals and reasons for invading Afghanistan, I would view the US invasion of Afghanistan as a justified response to the attacks of Sept 11, 2001. Credit the policy makers in Washington (i.e. the Bush administration) for failing to prosecute this war to its fullest by diverting resources (men and equipment) to the war in Iraq. Had they concentrated all of our nation’s efforts on finding bin Laden and destroying the Taliban we would be in a much better situation today.

    The problem with calling for a universal pledge to never support a war is that sometimes war is the only response that will do. The US tried to stay out of the war that engulfed Europe starting in 1939 making it all that much more costly for us once we finally were drawn into the war by the suprise attack at Pearl Harbor. Would you say that our response to the Pearl Harbor attack was unjustified? I would say that in the attacks of Sept 11 the Taliban government of Afghanistan had clearly attacked us and that we were not the agressors in our response to invade Afghanistan. Iraq, on the other hand, is a completely different story…

  • What do we do in the event of ‘an invasion, or attack on a nation’ that is caused by a prior ‘war of aggression’ that was left unaddressed. It is, oftentimes, the evil conditions to which we turn the apathetic cheek that leads to that which VFP deem reason enough to go to war.

  • “Why has the categorical opposition to all war become taboo?”

    Perhaps because they believe in the idea of a righteous war. I am not against such a belief. However, that would require further thought with regards to what constitutes a ‘righteous war’. Sometimes, that which might, at first glance, seem to be so, might not when the broader historical context is considered. A ‘righteous war’, in this sense, may serve as much to maintain an evil status quo whilst it seeks to eradicate immediate evils.

  • Kimberly

    *Very* interesting topic, and thanks Mark and Inquisitor for your articulate additions. I’ve also been thinking quite a bit lately about what constitutes justification for the use of lethal force against an enemy. Some believe (e.g.) that Israel is justified in using all force necessary to wipe out Hezbollah because Hezbollah has a clearly stated public goal of annihilating the Jews. When the Jews faced this same threat from the Nazis, it seemed that the use of all necessary lethal force to stop the Nazis was generally accepted by the rest of the world. Was this only (or in part) because of the wider threat from Germany against other Christian nations in Europe?

    This leads me to, does VFP allow for an interventionist war on humanitarian grounds such as these? Would a categorical opposition to all war become an exercise in isolationism at the expense of our fellow world citizens? I do think inaction in the face of serious aggression against others is not acceptable in a civilized society. If you were being assaulted on the street in broad daylight, wouldn’t you hope others would intervene on your behalf?

  • Junga

    Kimberly, intervention does not have to equal violence.

  • Here’s what it comes down to: It takes guts to be a pacifist.

    When violence happens, it’s the wimps who get all worked up, running around in a circle with their arms waving, screeching, “Please, protect me! I don’t care who you have to kill, just make me feel safe again!”

    You’ve got to be tough to be a pacifist, and react to violence by standing firm and saying, calmly, “You can hit me, but you can’t make me hit back.”

    So, are you going to be tough, or are you going to be a pro-war wimp?

  • Mark

    The Warden,
    I think there’s a huge middle ground between a “pacifist” and a “pro-war wimp”. There are times in life when you can’t simply sit back after being struck, you need to react in kind. I’m not saying that this should be your first reaction to being harmed, but you should never eliminate it as a possibility. A violent response should always be your last resort, used only when all else has failed or when the obvious response to your pacificm will be more violence against you.

    When your enemies know that you may respond violently, they are less likely to attack you in the first place. As a student of the martial arts I have avoided a few fights because, when confronted, I portrayed a stance of strength and expressed an ability to use it. My opponents in these situations invariably backed down.

  • Kimberly

    I agree with both Junga and the Warden, intervention needn’t equal violence, and it does take guts to be a pacifist. Believe me, I am no hawk!! But help me in my on-going debates with my hawkish family members. How do we effectively (i.e. in a timely manner, to prevent the loss of life) stop a large armed force who isn’t interested in diplomacy, such as Nazi Germany or Hezbollah, from killing hundreds of innocents?

  • As someone who has never taken a class in martial arts, I can tell you that I’ve never had anybody in my adult life attack me with anything more than words, Mark. And I never had to threaten to attack anyone.

  • Kimberly,

    One way you can stop them is in the way that Israel has been stoppped – at least temporarily. With shame. Imagine how difficult it would be for Israel to go on with its attacks, if it weren’t for the violent idiots in Hezbollah giving them all kinds of excuses. I really don’t think that Hezbollah could counteract this kind of international shame either.

    The truck is that this requires a lot of people caring, and doing something about it.

  • Greg

    Here’s one possible next move in your debates with family members: “Like Nazi Germany or Hezbollah” presumes too much.

    Nazi Germany was a nation state, and you could effectively weaken it by destroying the national infrastructure–roads, bridges, etc. Hezbollah is a non-state entity that relies for its strength on the weakness of Lebanon as a state. When you destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure, you make Hezbollah stronger, not weaker.

    There is a very easy assumption that pro-war people almost always make–that violence will be effective. We need to question that, again and again.

    We understand the conditions under which anti-U.S. terrorism thrives:
    1. A weak nation state that is unable to enforce the rule of law.
    2. A population in which a majority, or significant minority, of people resent the United States enough to enable terrorist activity in their communities.

    So what is the solution? The pro-war crowd says the violent overthrow of nation states. The U.S. tried that in Iraq. Has it worked?

  • Mark

    Peregrin Wood,
    You’re very lucky that no one has ever tried to attack you. I never go looking for fights and I try not to put myself in situations where one could ensue. But, I have been threatened with physical violence. I’ve never had to actually use my martial arts training, but I think that by letting the person who was threatening me know that I could retaliate, and would not hesitate in doing so should I be attacked, he backed down.

  • Jim

    I’m interested in the entrance of martial arts into the discussion, and by Kimberly’s (hi!) call for something to bring to her family members.

    To twine those two threads of the conversation, what do people think of Aikido? I openly admit I don’t know too much about it, but what I do know is really intriguing to me. It’s a martial art of a sort, but not exactly an offensive one. As far as I know, it consists of moves that take an aggressor’s energy and channel it in such ways as to disable an aggressor and defend oneself.

    Can principles of Aikido be applied to conflict? In social movements, I think they can and have. An example is the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s use of Bull Connor’s violent bigotry as a public relations tool to turn the nation’s sympathy toward the participants in the Birmingham Bus Boycott. The images of fire hoses and dogs used against children by Bull Connor’s police department, some people believe, tipped the balance. Is that Aikido politics?

  • Tom

    Actually, that’s more in line with Ghandi and MLK’s use of non-violence. Aikido is the use of an attacker’s energy against him, showing him the error of his ways. It isn’t meant to kill, but it can. Judo is similar, but requires a specific type of attack (grabbing collar and/or shirt front of uniform, called a gi, and attempting to throw one to the ground, and cause them to “submit” through various painful locks and holds). Aikido is beautiful, graceful,and very effective when done right. Applied to politics, it might be slightly more akin to “allowing” that the Republicans had two terms through their lying, cheating, bullying ways) to affect some positive change to our status both individually and as a nation, only to have their efforts doom them as elected officials. Karma is hard to cheat.

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