Continuing a theme from Alex’s post, I wanted to highlight two stories highlight just how much things change when the man in the White House has a D after his name.
First, you remember all the anti-war protesters we had under Bush? You might have been wondering where they were. Well, CNN, MSNBC, NYT, etc. couldn’t be bothered so it’s up to … Buzzfeed to ask those questions:
Activists who turned out thousands of protesters during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq say they’ve been unable to effectively organize or raise money since the end of the Bush years, and that newer causes like drones have seized the space on the left once occupied by opposition to conventional warfare. And some acknowledge that the energy has leaked out of the movement because a Democrat is now in office. Though some groups have organized online petitions and some real-life protests, the antiwar crowd that was on fire before the war in Iraq has made hardly a dent in the conversation surrounding Syria.
“Well, the most incredibly depressing thing was that most of the groups that existed before don’t exist anymore,” said Medea Benjamin, the founder of Code Pink. “That’s the number one problem, is that the antiwar movement is a shadow of its former self under the Bush years.”
Benjamin pointed to groups like United for Peace and Justice, a Communist Party-connected group, as examples: “They’re down to a couple of volunteers,” she said.
Some people are trying to blame the economy or the attention on drone strikes. But the more honest war protesters — i.e., the ones who are just as fired up about Obama attacking Syria — admit that they simply can not drum up the support because it’s Obama. Now I will grant that bombing Syria is not the same thing as a full-on invasion of Iraq. But the protesters were also silent during the bloody Afghan surge. And if you really oppose war, really oppose intervention, the scale of the operation shouldn’t really make a difference.
Now you could accuse the Republicans of hypocrisy too for opposing this while they supported Iraq. It’s a fair point. However, it’s important to remember that the Iraq War started only a couple of years after 9/11 — we were still on edge about terrorists and WMDs. Moreover, as someone who supported the Iraq War and now opposes this one, my explanation is that I learned my lesson. At least in Iraq, we had some shadowy goal — removing a dictator, destroying his WMDs and setting up a democratic replacement. Goal one was accomplished, goal two had already been accomplished by Bush I and Clinton. Goal three is still shaky. But what are our goals in Syria? What’s the mission? If it’s destroying the WMDs from afar, I’m not completely opposed. But if it’s to “send a message” or “maintain or credibility”, I don’t put much stock in that. And if it’s too empower one side in this war, I think that’s a terrible idea.
The second story is that Obama is waffling on whether he needs Congressional approval for this war, police action, kinetic action, conversion of potential energy or whatever he’s calling it these days. Friersdorf reminds us that Joe Biden said attacking another country without Congressional approval was an impeachable offense. I will say what I said on Libya, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on everything: if there is any doubt, get Congressional approval. And that point is becoming increasingly obvious even to many on the left.
Of course, the reason Obama doesn’t want to go to Congress is because he’d have to justify an attack (indeed, Boehner has already sent a letter asking about this very point). Unfortunately for Obama, going to Congress and saying, “I’ll look weak if we don’t do something” probably won’t fly.