[An earlier version of this essay was presented at Historical Materialism Toronto, May 2012.]
The end of the US military occupation of Iraq on December 31, 2011, although by no means an end to US imperial intervention in the country, augurs a radically new context for the political development of Iraq. This essay will argue that it also shows the need for a fundamental critique of strategies in the US antiwar movement, as the real process by which the occupation ended falsified the conceptions of both the liberal and left wings of the movement.
The liberals’ expectation that some combination of executive and legislative action by the Democratic Party would end or at least ameliorate the war was false; it will be shown, in fact, that the Democrats’ commitment to antiwar policies collapsed as soon as they gained control of Congress and the White House. However, the left wing’s contention that the occupation would be expelled by the triple action of a US civilian movement, US military movement, and Iraqi national resistance was also incorrect.
It will be seen that both wings of the movement derived their strategies from distinct readings of the same historical phenomenon: the movement against the US war on Vietnam. The conclusion suggests that opponents of imperialism in the US need to take a wider view of the nation’s political history, looking particularly to its legacy of explicitly anti-imperialist movements in order to discover new models of activism relevant to the current conjuncture.
It’s not an endorsement; I think the guy is a gold-plated asshole. It’s a prediction! Think about it:
- An incumbent Democrat who’s almost comically weak, resented most sourly by the people expected to do the donkey-work to reelect him;
- A Republican field dominated by nutters or people pretending to be nutters;
- Record levels of disapproval of both political parties in the broad public; and
- A growing elite consensus that the American two-party political system is dysfunctional (eg, the S&P downgrade, which was entirely political in its real content).
On top of all that, Bloomberg has been quietly, but very effectively, building a political infrastructure that could be activated for 2012. His mayoral scandals–such as buying the third term, CityTime, and the fiasco over Cathie Black–never penetrated too far outside New York City and are sure to be politely forgotten by our “watchdog” press. And he’s got more money than God, which means he’s instantly competitive and doesn’t have to announce his candidacy 18 months in advance (which most people find irritating anyway).
If a totally undisciplined kook like Perot could be a major player in 1992, I see no reason why Bloomberg couldn’t win it in 2012. It would really be interesting….
The New York Times today published two pieces in its Sunday Review, each of which directly contradicted the other foundationally and prescriptively. The first piece is by Prof. Drew Westen and asks “What Happened to Obama?” (but don’t decide it’s frightfully boring just yet). The second piece is by one of the NYT’s newbie columnists, Frank Bruni: “True Believers, All of Us.”
The Westen is definitely part of that raft of liberal whining that breaks out whenever Obama does something particularly depraved, that the White House seems to have more and more trouble stifling, though there’s no reason to think that they won’t eventually. Admittedly one feels slightly, darkly sympathetic to Obama Mission Control, which can’t be held entirely responsible for the gullibility of America’s liberals. It’s like a person who buys a car from a well-known notorious crook, and then gets furious angry when it turns out to be a lemon. Well, what did he expect?