Monday, February 19, 2007
What A Difference Forty Years Makes
With all the comparisons being made between Iraq and Vietnam, it's interesting to note one major difference in progressive opposition to the two wars. Unlike with the Vietnam War, opposition to the Iraq War is almost never expressed in pacifist terms. Critics take pains to point out that they're not anti-war, they're just anti-this-war. Then there's the oft-leveled criticism of the diversion of troops and resources from Afghanistan to Iraq, a criticism that implicitly accepts the necessity of the War in Afghanistan.
Of course, it's not surprising. The 1960's anti-war movement was conditioned by the pacifism of the civil rights movement that preceded it. A pacificism that became something of a knee-jerk reaction for the progressive left throughout the two decades that followed.
Already, a number of events during the Nineties would begin to change all that. The Yugoslavian wars, for instance, and in particular the ethnic cleansing that accompanied them, where isolated voices on the left argued in favor of armed intervention. Then there was the horror and shame that came from America's failure to intervene in Rwanda. By the end of the decade, although its instinct was still to consider military intervention a last option, the American left was no longer so monolithically pacifist.
Now, in the aftermath of September 11, pacifists seem like an endangered species. The only difference being, you still read about the spotted owl every now and then.