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October 31, 2002

NoWar Blog- Left-Right Against War

I've joined the mass group blog No War Blog put together by my friend Max Sawicky. The basic unity statement begins:

The members of Stand Down hold a wide variety of different and, indeed, conflicting political positions, but all are in agreement on a single proposition: that the use of military force to effect "regime change" in Iraq is ill advised and unjustified. We do not deny that the current Iraqi regime is monstrous, but we hold, following John Adams, that the United States need not go "abroad in search of monsters to destroy" unless they pose a clear and direct threat to American national security.
More here.

I am actually intensely uncomfortable with this right-left kind of alliance on war or trade, since the motives of rightwing opponents draws too much from the old "America First" attitude of not giving a damn about brown people, whether Iraqi oppressors or Kurdish victims. I oppose war because too many innocent Iraqis would die to get rid of Hussein, but I actually have great sympathy for folks like Hitchens who see a pro-war perspective from the eyes of dissidents within Iraq. If I thought that the Bush administration really believed its rhetoric about democracy and human rights in the Middle East, I might not be antiwar -- I supported intervention in Kosovo despite the horror of some of my lefty compatriots. But Bush's continued blind eye to Saudi, Egyptian and Kuwaiti authoritarianism shows how empty his democracy rhetoric is.

I am an interventionist in the world. I just think that this war would be the wrong kind of needed intervention with the wrong purposes. But short-term tactical agreement on staying out of this war is still only half the issue. The other is the more explosive debate on what the real role of the US should be in this time of its omnipresent global power. As I often say, by enforcing its patent laws through economic threats in the third world, the US kills far more people through the deinial of needed drugs than it ever would kill in this war.

So a question to the antiwar movement. With millions dying of AIDS when cheap drugs and minimal investment in a medical infrastructure could save many of them, why can't we get 100,000 people to rally on their behalf? Why are rallies so easy to mobilize for "no war" but not for "yes to saving life"?

Posted by Nathan at October 31, 2002 08:52 AM

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Nathan makes a very compelling argument, IMHO. Of course, that may be because I agree with it. {-;

But I especially agree with his line about our inability to get 100,000 people into the streets around the AIDS issues, while millions die in Africa and Asia. One is not surprised that there is no outcry from the right about this issue, but why so damn little from the left? Could it be that since the hard [or far, or fundamentalist, or whatever term you prefer] left of the Chomskys and the Cockburns has, post Vietnam, adopted what is, in essence, an isolationist politics which had previously been the sole province of the old Republican right [ie, Taft during WW II, and even Buchanan today], it mirrors their lack of concern for human misery throughout the globe, unless it can be laid at the foot of American intervention.

Nathan is entirely correct that we need a renewed left internationalism, and an end to this left isolationism.

Posted by: Leo Casey at October 31, 2002 12:47 PM

I assume, then, you support with equal vigor the repealing of the misguided ban of DDT that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of more deaths in the thirld world from malaria then have ever died of AIDS?

For what it's worth, your points are interesting ones, and worth debating. Whether they have anything to do with the impending conflict with Iraq, I'm less convinced.

Posted by: Mike Krempasky at October 31, 2002 04:55 PM

I could be easily convinced on the DDT point-- I'd have to look into the evidence, but there is no question that the safety tradeoffs used in the US do not necessarily apply to the developing world.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at October 31, 2002 09:12 PM

I agreed completely with Nathan's point about the need to get people interested in spending money to save lives in the Third World. Leo's point about the Chomskyite left says more about his kneejerk Chomsky hatred than about anything Chomsky has said--Chomsky and his allies at ZNET have written about the millions of people who die every year from neglect and they blame it on the market ideology which holds that market forces will solve all problems for the poor, while quietly lobbying for corporate welfare for the rich. If you think about it, it's ridiculous to imagine Chomskyites taking any other position, but that hasn't stopped Leo from trying.

If one wants to be serious about blame, I think we could start with the centrist Democrats. Al Gore initially sided with the pharmaceutical companies on the issue of AIDS drugs in Africa. And in real life, many ordinary Americans are hostile to "foreign aid" and imagine that we are already wasting vast amounts of money overseas supposedly helping the poor. I don't think that's Chomsky's fault. Perhaps it is Leo's. Sounds as likely as his theory.

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