An Anti-War Movement of One.
September 12, 2002 12:21 PM   Subscribe

An Anti-War Movement of One. by Philip Gold, senior national security analyst for Seattle's conservative Discovery Institute. "...of late, I've taken to constituting myself as an anti-war movement of one--a man of impeccable conservative credentials and long experience in the national-security field, a grumpy old Marine, who has grown infuriated with and appalled by both the conservative embrace of disaster and the enormity of the smallness of what passes for the anti-war movement today."
posted by Ty Webb (15 comments total)



A strong argument against war in Iraq from a self-proclaimed conservative's point of view. I don't know whether to disagree with him because he's conservative or agree with him because he's right.

Thanks for the link, Ty.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:38 PM on September 12, 2002

You agree with him because he's right, and you don't think twice about it.

This puts me in mind of a comment from, of all people, Jon Stewart, when he was interviewing Ann Coulter. She was ranting in her customary fashion about evil liberals and good conservatives and such, and Stewart said (I'm paraphrasing a bit): Isn't that debate ancient history? Isn't the big debate now between moderates and extremists of any stripe?

Who cares if this guy is a self-proclaimed conservative and "old Marine"? The thing is, he recognizes - as the Bush admin does not - that theNew World Order that Daddy Bush used to ramble about is actually now upon us, and it's time to rethink *everything.*

Great link, Ty.
posted by gompa at 12:51 PM on September 12, 2002

Yeah, great link, and I hope people listen to him.
posted by languagehat at 12:52 PM on September 12, 2002

Potent stuff; my biggest complaint with this piece is that it's over too soon.
posted by tingley at 1:28 PM on September 12, 2002

"The interesting thing is that the ones that are saying we should go after Saddam are not the ones who would have to get shot at. They're not the ones that are going to be killed and they're not the ones that are going to be leaving behind their families."
-- Retired Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

"It might be interesting to wonder why all the generals see it the same way and all those that never fired a shot in anger are really hell bent to go to war see it a different way. That's usually the way it is with history."
-- Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, former commander of all US forces in the Middle East (more on Zinni)
posted by mediareport at 1:38 PM on September 12, 2002

Who cares if this guy is a self-proclaimed conservative and "old Marine"?

Sorry, gompa, I forgot to close the /kidding tag.

I couldn't agree with you (and John Stewart) more.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:23 PM on September 12, 2002

Is anyone else finding the silence of the usually quick and vocal conservative MeFi contingent rather deafening in this thread?
posted by mediareport at 2:33 PM on September 12, 2002

Um... don't know if I would fall under that umbrella, but it was a great piece.

I just hope someone making decisions will listen.
posted by silusGROK at 2:56 PM on September 12, 2002

I'm a bit unclear on what his point is. On the one hand, he says that "No amount of nation-building can hold together nations that never should have been nations in the first place and shouldn't be now," then he goes on to say that the war is about "what policy wonks call destabilization."

Either destabilization is bad and we should try to avoid it, or it's inevitable and the best we can do is try to make it happen in a way least harmful to us. He says we have no effective strategy for coping with weapons of mass destruction, while the Bush administration is articulating a strategy ("Stop acquiring WMD or we'll thump ya") that while crude, has a better chance of being effective than asking nicely for the nth time.

And the "chickenhawk" argument is patently ridiculous: the Constitution is very clear that the civilians tell the military what to do, not vice versa.
posted by jaek at 3:33 PM on September 12, 2002

I read this just this morning and thought Gold hit the nail on the head. I wonder just how many dead American solidiers (and there will be some) the Administration thinks the public is willing to accept? After all, the hawks won't be sending their children into harms way.
posted by black8 at 3:46 PM on September 12, 2002

What anti-war movement? When you look at what passes for "resistance" nowadays, you cringe in embarrassment that this is what's left of the left. Pompous. Arrogant. Self-righteous. Self-referent. Impotence chic at its finest.

"Impotence chic" would be a good name for a rock band.

Could someone clue me in? Googling this phrase turns up links selling a 1974 issue of Playboy containing an article with this title.
posted by Wet Spot at 5:40 PM on September 12, 2002

I completely agree with most everything he's saying, however I don't think isolationism works. He says it himself:

Today, depending on how you count, there are between 60 and 100 international, transnational, civil, and regional armed conflicts under way. The world is at war.

That ongoing war has been brought to our shores. Even if we were isolationist, our enemies aren't. Re-read Bush's comments about nation-building from the 2000 debates. Bush has been forced to accept that America is not alone in the world, and that our safety and actions affect ourselves as much as others. It seems Philip Gold still believes in isolationism, and is unsure of his status now that he's disagrees with the President.

He's right when he says the key to everything going on right now is destabilization, primarily of OPEC. Before the Persian Gulf War the biggest three OPEC producers were Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. UN Sanctions have reduced Iraq's output, but they're still fourth, behind Venezuela. (Yes, this should bring up Venezuela's botched coup last April.) There is a great deal of unrest and support for America in Iran. Saudi Arabia is a simmering mess, with a combination of Wahabi unrest and religious conflicts dating back to Ibne Saud's repression of the Sufi and Shia faiths since the 1920s. And then of course, there's Saddam. Throwing OPEC off balance by re-routing oil via democratic revolution in Iran or puppet regime in Iraq would render Saudi Arabia impotent.

Misery trickles up. Ignoring the rest of the world and letting it fall into chaos would directly affect us. I'm glad Bush finally realized this, now I just wish they'd do something to earn our confidence. Right now it feels like trying to kill ants by beating the lawn with a broom.
posted by joemaller at 6:01 PM on September 12, 2002

I don't think isolationism works

joemaller: I don't think he's arguing for isolationism. It's definitely not mentioned explicitly, and I didn't even find it implied in his argument. I think his points is more as you described it at the end there (and with one of the best analogies I've yet heard): ants + lawn + big ole broom = an even bigger problem. The lawn's ruined, the broom's busted, and the ants have run off all over the damn place.

His point seems to me to be that all the old arguments about going to war - hawk v. dove, conservative v. liberal, etc. - have either not yet caught up with the reality of this new era of conflict or else have chosen to ignore reality in favour of the simpler days of good/bad, Commie/Democracy geopolitics.

He's not arguing for isolationism instead of nation-building. He's saying that those aren't even the poles of the debate anymore. And if anything is implied in his argument, it's that going to war with that mindset is pretty much guaranteed to be a disaster.
posted by gompa at 7:01 PM on September 12, 2002

His central argument seems to be that the administration has failed to articulate its reasons for going to war and its strategy for both the war and the post-war period, which is a pretty fair criticism. There's a very valid look at the breakdown of sovereignty and the way that the nationalism of the 1850-1950 century has metastasized into factionalism, with every splinter group believing its own self-determination is a necessity. He's right, since this is going to be as big a challenge this century as virulent nationalism was in the last. (Part of the problem with the UN in this era is that it is admirably equipped for the former status quo.) Where I break with him is the value of destablization and who benefits from it. The question isn't whether destabilization is an end to seek -- it's happening all around us, as he says -- but whether protecting stability is, as Dr. Phil might say, "workin' for ya". The entire Middle East, nearly, is stultifyingly retrograde regimes who all benefit from stability at the expense of their people -- in freedom, and in economic vitality, to use just two simple measures; and this is the only region of the world where both measures are so consistently low. Contrary to what one might think, this static situation is the lifeblood of the jihadis. He's making a devil-you-know argument, certainly, but the idea that we risk the region becoming fucked up is fairly weak, considering that in many ways it's the most fucked-up region on the planet.
posted by dhartung at 11:29 PM on September 12, 2002

The Discovery Institute is normally famous for being a stronghold of creationism. Odd to see sense coming out of it.

But surely the point about WMD and terrorists is that the world has lived with WMD for nearly a century now, if you count the WW1 use of poison gas as the starte; and more more than half a century if you count from Hiroshima. In all that time, the only defence that anyone came up with was deterrence.

Deterrence worked, because the only people who could afford to develop WMD were States with much to lose. The really frightening thing about a war against suicide bombers is that deterrence, by definition, doesn't work any more against people who dont care if they die. I suppose you can shoot all their relatives, as the Nazis did, but even that stops working after a while.

But suicide bombers don't do much harm in a military sense. Their weapons have up till now been conventional. So the aim of policy has to be to confine the spread of WMD to countries and people on whom deterrence works.

It has undoubtedly worked on Saddam Hussein up till now. I think that the question the hawks have to answer is whether attacking him will limit the spread of WMD to undeterrable enemies more than leaving him in confinement would. At the very least, one consequence of this war will be to commit the US to perpetual guardianship of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, without ever being able to admit this; and to perpetual support of whichever Pakistani dictator promises maximum stability.
posted by alloneword at 11:40 PM on September 12, 2002

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