The Antiwar Schism


Here we are in the third day of precisely the sort of military intervention the Left used to describe as a crime against the Constitution, the American people, international order, or humanity itself.  The people who rewrote George Bush’s months of painstaking buildup to the invasion of Iraq as a “rush to war” just watched the most liberal President in modern history go from zero to “weapons free” in a matter of days.  The American people were not consulted, or even addressed.  The President was living it up in Brazil when the operation began, and has made a point of avoiding questions from the media.

Of course there will be collateral damage, strategically exaggerated by the enemy.  American forces are in harm’s way, and there may be casualties.  No clear objectives have been stated by our political leadership – the only straight talk we’re getting is from the military brass, which the Left has long denounced as liars, or even traitors, when they answered to a Republican Commander-In-Chief.  We’re enter the early stages of an expensive commitment that could last for years, as “no fly zones” usually do.  If Operation Odyssey Dawn transitions to a full-on offensive aimed at regime change, after all the robust assurances it will not do so, President Obama will have “lied us into war.”

How’s the anti-war movement taking all this?  So far, we’ve heard only a few meaningless chirps from hardcore types like Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader, who have called for the impeachment of President Obama, much as they wanted to impeach President Bush.  Kucinich has a printout of Obama’s 2007 declaration that “the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation” clutched in a white-knuckled grip.  As Captain Kirk once observed of the villainous Khan, at least they’re consistent. 

The rest of the Left is dealing with extreme cognitive dissonance by using their favorite coping mechanism: displacement.  Michael Moore spent the weekend Tweeting insults at George W. Bush.  A dejected Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic has taken to blaming Hillary Clinton and John McCain.  There were a few anti-war rallies over the weekend, but attendance was sparse, and media coverage virtually nonexistent.

Many liberals understand their vicious opposition to Bush’s Iraq policy was an empty, hypocritical tactic, deployed as a weapon in a larger political struggle.  They’ll feel no need to remain intellectually consistent.  Not all of them can pivot on a dime, however, and some on the Left were already unhappy with Obama.  As Operation Odyssey Dawn continues, it will be too much for them to endure in silence.

That will move Obama’s political fate into the hands of the media, which will have to decide if it wants to cover for him by taking down the antiwar movement.  In addition to minimal coverage, the press can also refuse to do its part in constructing a mythology of antiwar protests as an idealistic, grassroots movement, something they worked very hard to do during the Bush years.

This kind of treatment will probably make the committed antiwar types very angry, and they have some time to vent before the 2012 presidential campaign begins in earnest.  They’ve got a lot of influence on the liberal blogs reporters study to shape their news coverage, and between Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and now Libya, they have plenty to complain about.

Obama supporters have a highly developed sense of selective amnesia about their man’s past statements and promises.  Operation Odyssey Dawn will tax it to the limit.  Too much of the Left’s identity during the second Bush term was tied into the antiwar movement, which provided angry liberalism with much of its energy.  It’s hard to perform a cold shutdown on that kind of reactor.