War is over, if you want it. War is over now.
Five years ago the bombs began to explode in Baghdad, the beginning of a violent tragedy that continues to this day. But five years and one month ago, in what was the largest coordinated act of protest, millions of people around the world and country marched in the streets in an attempt to stop the war before it started. It didn’t work.
Today, several groups are sponsoring protests and acts of civil disobedience around the capital to call for an end to the war and occupation in Iraq. I don’t think anyone who’s participating in the blockade of the IRS or dance party on K street thinks these actions will end the war. At best, they attract media attention and help focus the national conversation on the fact that we are still killing and dying in Iraq. They also serve as necessary expressions of moral disgust and despair.
But if protests of the scope of those five years ago couldn’t prevent the war, protests that are orders of magnitude smaller won’t, likely, end it. So what will? I attended a panel on just this topic at Take Back America, and the short answer is that no one really knows.
People sometimes ask what has become of the anti-war movement in the US and the answer is that much of it has been channeled into electoral politics — attempting to elect anti-war Democrats and support them once in office. But despite the successes on this front in 2006, and the broad anti-war mandate of the Democratic congress, it has failed not only to end the war, but even prevent its escalation. Likewise Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, formed and funded by major progressive players, is considered by many progressives here in DC to have been a failure. (Tom Hayden has covering anti-war strategy for the magazine. You can read some of his work here.)
So what now? One smart strategy, introduced by Darcy Burner and a number of other Democratic congressional candidates at TBA is the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq”. The idea is to unify candidates and elected officials around the same plan for withdrawal, so that the mandate produced in 2008 is crystal clear. Elected officials can then be held accountable to actual, specific architecture of withdrawal. The other prong, of course, of the electoral strategy for groups like MoveOn is to elect a president who does not plan on being in Iraq for a hundred years.
But underlying the war are two deep dysfunctions that even the best, most mobilized anti-war movement continues to have a hard time over-riding. One, is the broad institutional failure among elites to recognize the war for what it was and is (a 21st century imperial project), the second is the breakdown of the basic, most fundamental mechanism of democracy that transmits majority will into government action.