Sunday, April 23, 2006

The war to end all wars: winning the war for peace

Scott Ritter wrote an article posted at The most important part:
In short, the anti-war movement has come face to face with the reality that in the ongoing war of ideologies that is being waged in America today, their cause is not just losing, but is in fact on the verge of complete collapse. Many in the anti-war movement would take exception to such a characterization of the situation, given the fact that there seems to be a growing change in the mood among Americans against the ongoing war in Iraq. But one only has to scratch at the surface of this public discontent to realize how shallow and superficial it is. Americans aren't against the war in Iraq because it is wrong; they are against it because we are losing.

It is high time for the anti-war movement to take a collective look in the mirror, and be honest about what they see. A poorly organized, chaotic, and indeed often anarchic conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism that barely constitutes a "movement," let alone a winning cause. I have yet to observe an anti-war demonstration that has a focus on anti-war. It often seemed that every left-wing cause took advantage of the event to promote its own particular agenda, so that "No War in Iraq" shared the stage with the environment, ecology, animal rights, pro-choice, and numerous other causes which not only diluted the anti-war message which was supposed to be sent, but also guaranteed that the demonstration itself would be seen as something hijacked by the left, inclusive of only progressive ideologues, [emphasis mine] and exclusive of the vast majority of moderate (and even conservative) Americans who might have wanted to share the stage with their fellow Americans from the left when it comes to opposing war with Iraq (or even Iran), but do not want to be associated with any other theme.

The anti-war movement, first and foremost, needs to develop a laser-like focus on being nothing more or less than anti-war.
[emphasis in original]

The anti-war movement lacks any notion of strategic thinking, operational planning, or sense of sound tactics. So much energy is wasted because of this failure to centrally plan and organize. As a result, when the anti-war movement does get it right (and on occasion it does), the success is frittered away by a failure to have planned effective follow-up efforts, failure to have implemented any supporting operations, an inability to recognize opportunities as they emerge and a lack of resources to exploit such opportunities if in fact they were recognized to begin with. In short, the anti-war movement is little more than a walk-on squad of high school football players drawing plays in the sand, taking on the National Football League Super Bowl Champions.

In order to even have a chance of prevailing with the American people, the anti-war movement is going to need much more than just good ideals and values. It needs to start thinking like a warrior would, in full recognition that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue.
To which Cindy Sheehan rebuts in part with:
The anti-war movement is not on the "verge of collapse" because we are not organized, or because we don't take a "warriors" view of attacking the neocons and the war machine using the tactics of Napoleon, or Sun Tzu—but because the two-thirds of Americans who philosophically agree that the war is wrong, BushCo lied, and the troops should come home, will not get off of their collective, complacent, and comfortable behinds to demonstrate their dissent with our government.
Apparently Cindy Sheehan missed Ritter's point that those now opposing the war are NOT in fact against it for philosophical reasons. They are against it because we are losing. As the saying goes, "victory has many fathers, defeat is an orphan."

Sheehan's entire response is emblematic of Ritter's critique about the left being poorly organized and chaotic. What she failed to understand most of all is that waging peace also requires strategic thinking, operational planning, and a sense of sound tactics in order to win against those who wage war.

Like most people I didn't know the real story behind Rosa Parks and her arrest for not giving up her seat. The Anti-Defamation League sets the record straight.
The portrayal of Rosa Parks as a poor, tired and frail woman who “snapped” is not only false; it disregards the years of strategic planning by Civil Rights Movement activists and misrepresents the way in which meaningful social change actually occurs.

Though Rosa Parks became the focal point of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the idea for a boycott was conceived at least six years before her arrest. In 1949, Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, an English professor and head of the Women’s Political Council (WPC), was ejected from a bus for refusing to move seats and resolved to do something about bus segregation. During the ensuing years, the WPC prepared to stage a bus boycott “when the time was ripe and the people were ready.” In the months prior to Parks’ arrest, at least three other African American people had been arrested for refusing to give up their bus seats to white people. When Rosa Parks was arrested, movement leaders made a strategic decision to launch the boycott because they felt Mrs. Parks had the respect and support of her community as well as the fortitude to withstand the racism and publicity that the boycott would generate.
In fact, in Rosa Parks and the lessons of the civil rights movement (<--be warned, this is the World Socialist Web Site):
Rosa Parks’s struggle did not begin in 1955, or even in 1943. She and her husband became active in the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in the 1930s. Among her activities during this period was raising funds for the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, the nine black teenagers framed for rape in 1931, whose persecution sparked an international defense campaign.
And from The Challenge of Rosa Parks at Peace and Environment News:
Rosa Parks' act of defiance was neither staged nor spontaneous, but rather something in between. Activists had been working on the issue of bus segregation for years and the matter had gone to the courts in various times and places. Those who would emerge as the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were in many cases already veterans of the civil rights struggle in 1955. Parks herself had been acting as an advisor to Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her bus seat earlier that same year.

From time to time many people of colour had refused to cooperate, and of course many of the organizers were themselves black and could challenge the segregation any time. The organizers were already trying to use an act of defiance to challenge segregation, but they were strategic about it. It was not enough to challenge the injustice—they were determined to win.

So it was within this context that Rosa Parks took her stand. It was not planned, but it did fit within a broader plan. She knew that it would not be an isolated and lone act, but she also knew that it might be just another act of no particular significance beyond itself. That didn't matter. She had had enough, and resistance itself filled it with significance. As Xanana Gusmao said, "To resist is to win." The resistance by Rosa Parks caught the public imagination, and the rest is history.

Except that popular history skips the fact that the only reason we know about it at all is that it occurred within the context of an active and organized resistance movement. Not only was there a core of people already active on the issue, they had planned out their strategy and response once the appropriate event occurred. No, they did not "stage" the trigger event—that would have been politically suicidal. Rather they were strategic in their thinking, planning and organizing.
So, while Sheehan says "we will use the tactics of our heroes: Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.," she seems to think all they did was take to the streets with no plan, no strategy, no focus, no discipline, no training in non-violent civil disobedience, and no understanding of how to gain actual power and then use it to change the way things are. I could be wrong, these things could be happening in the anti-war movement. But if Sheehan's rebuttal to Ritter is how the anti-war protesters intend to follow in the footsteps of Gandhi and MLK Jr. then Ritter's assessment of the "movement" is right on the mark.

And while Cindy Sheehan has no interest in understanding what Sun-tsu said, she may find it interesting that the first thing he lists to know before ever going to war is the Moral Law. This is what gave Gandhi, MLK Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement the ability to win against white supremicist aggressors, along with having a unified and coherent organization, a strategy, tactical planning, and singular message.

Scott Ritter's criticism of the anti-war "movement" is the same as my own criticism of the lefty/liberal groups generally, and of the Democratic Party in particular. Cindy Sheehan's response indicates to me that the left wing extremists are as much a danger to America as are the right wing extremists. They have both been so well classically conditioned to respond to certain words and phrases that anything and everything else is completely lost on them. Her reaction to the term warrior and a poo-pooing of learning military strategy merely because they relate to war--and she is "anti-war," means that these things are to be avoided at all costs. I call this cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

The anti-war folks and all the other groups need to get a deep understanding that every cause they fight for has a single root in the inalienable right of all people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This isn't just about women's rights or gay rights or labor rights or even civil rights. It's about human rights. If all the groups could get on board and fight for that, then their own rights will win too. But this requires rolling up and subsuming all the splintered groups into a single force like a snowball rolling downhill, not just to protest in the streets or write letters, but to actually wrest power from those who would dare push the button to use nuclear bombs and risk all of humanity for eons to come.

What does it matter if women keep their right of choice or gays win the right to marry if those in power succeed in releasing the holocaust of nuclear war. Where will all their rights be then? Even the right to life will be questionable. So what's it going to be? Are the anti-war and other liberal groups going to put their particular agenda aside to join together and learn to do what it takes to actually make change happen or will they continue to plead for mercy from those who just don't care.