I have to stop before I start screaming.
This is my last post on support for/dissent from the Iraq war—not because there’s nothing left to say, but because I could bang on and on about this, digging out every last awful pro-war piece by allegedly thoughtful conservatives and liberals (to say nothing about the bilge which burbled out of the pits of (neo-)conservatism).
No, I have to let it go because otherwise I will never let it go.
Two last things. One, presidents matter. Two, protests don’t matter.
On the first point: It was a bit of a toss-off point I made the other night, that if the president decides to go to war, then nothing will stop him, but upon reflection, I think that I nailed it.
Are there any cases in which a president wanted publicly to wage war and was prevented from doing so by the Congress or the citizenry?
It’s possible that there were instances in which a president privately mulled war with his advisers but pulled up before going public, and it is possible that in those instances it was the prospect of public push-back which [were among the variables which] stalled him. But has a president ever decided publicly to commit troops to battle and not gotten his way?
I can’t think of any.
Which leads to the second point: Once the decision has been made to go public with the case for war, it’s too late for protests.
This doesn’t make protest any less necessary, but (we) dissenters have to be aware that we are protesting to save our own minds, to make ourselves visible to one another and to reassure one another that, in fact, we haven’t lost our minds.
As regards the path to war, however, we are as ants to a tank.
If we want to matter, then, the best we may be able to do is to mitigate the worst effects of the war, to aid veterans, to send money to civic and humanitarian organizations working in-country. To make public one’s own dissent, if only to remind one’s fellow citizens that it is possible to dissent.
Maybe it will matter, next time, behind the closed doors, as the president and his (or her) advisers ponder breaking into another country. Maybe.
Is there anything more than maybe? Probably not.
What, then, is to be done? If we want to stop war and protests won’t stop war, what is to be done?
This brings me back to the first point: Don’t elect presidents who want war, who hire advisers who want war, who can’t be bothered to think about the agonies of war.
It’s not much; it’s all we’ve got.
h/t & general fuck-yeahs to Conor Friedersdorf; Scott Lemieux at LGM, Matt Yglesias, Charlie Pierce, James Fallows (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), and everyone else who’s sunk her teeth into the backsides of the warmongers and won’t let go