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McCain Could Have Meant Less War

davidswanson's picture

By David Swanson

After two stolen elections by Bush-Cheney, an election of Grandpa John "Bomb Bomb Iran" McCain and his sorority president sidekick -- whether honest or blatantly stolen and tolerated -- would have said something hugely depressing and debilitating about the American people. But arguably it could have saved a great many lives around the world. Here's how.

Premise number 1: Presidents will fight as many and as large wars as they possibly can. Presidents have always loved wars, which they have used to seize greater powers and strip away civil liberties. As the military industrial presidential complex has grown, so has the financial and institutional pressure for wars. President Obama is expanding the U.S. empire of bases, escalating wars, and toying with possible new wars to the extent that he has the weapons, troops, and mercenaries available to do it with. No more, no less. McCain-Palin, left to their own devices, would have done very nearly the same thing. Therefore, any major change in war policy effected by the 2008 presidential election would have had to be indirect.

Premise number 2: The height of congressional opposition to wars between 2000 and 2009 came in the two-year period of 2007-2008 because the Congress was ruled by Democrats and the president was Republican, and that opposition was growing. Granted, it had a long way left to grow, and there's no guarantee it would have reached maturity with McCain in the White House, but the potential was there. All that is needed for Congress to end wars is for the House of Representatives to stop passing bills that fund them. The Senate is not needed. Passing a bill is not needed. Holding hearings or impeaching people is not needed. It just takes 218 representatives choosing not to vote for more money. As soon as Obama moved into the White House, leaders of war opposition in the House began voting for more war money and publicly announcing that they were doing so because the president wanted them to.

Premise number 3: If anything could possibly compel the House of Representatives to stop funding wars, it would be dramatically escalated public pressure, nonviolent disruption, media influence, electoral challenges -- that is to say a vibrant and growing peace movement. But the U.S. peace movement was disbanded, defunded, and demobilized the moment Obama was elected president. This didn't have to happen. We could have elected Obama and invested more heavily in the peace movement, but the current thinking of many Americans (if "thinking" is the right word for it) would not allow that. However, if the Democrats had kept a majority in the House, and McCain-Palin had won the White House, all of our ways of thinking, from the sensible to the perverse, could have remained intact and -- just possibly -- wars have been ended. Partisanship wouldn't have had to be challenged at all. Republicans could have all bowed down before Grandpa Loon and the Prom Queen. Democrats could have all announced their fierce, if phony, opposition to the same. But had trends in public opinion and congressional behavior continued as in 2007-2008, and had a peace movement blossomed rather than being yanked out by the roots, we might have been able to end the wars.

The point is not that next time we should elect McCain. Perhaps doing so would have just encouraged congress members to act like him. Maybe the Democrats would have all immediately committed to spending four years trying to out-McCain McCain. Who knows. The point is that we should think long and hard about the fact that most of us want peace and have taken actions that are at best irrelevant to the cause. The point is to stop at the break of this new year and ask ourselves what the hell we can possibly be thinking.

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Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

I figured a McCain presidency might be less dangerous because there would be resistance to him in Congress, even if that resistance was only for cheap political points.

My greatest fear about Obama was how he would cripple any resistance to him from the left.

Hell, know you have McCain calling for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. Which he probably wouldn't have called for if elected President, but some Democrats might have instead, and it would have had a better chance in passing.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

is part of the right-wing populism package, I think. Perhaps McCain is genuine in his efforts, but regardless, it's yet another instance where Republicans are correctly judging widespread public mood (everyone hates the big bank giveaway) and using it to draw people to their side of the fence. The "progressive" response seems limited to blaming Clinton for Glass-Steagall in the first place or various confused and regurgitated Reaganite talking points about free markets and blah blah blah.

Efforts to revive Glass-Steagall will probably fail for the same reasons outlined here for why Obama took the wind out of the anti-war movement's sails. No party- (tribal-based) opposition exists.

On one point I disagree, though. The growing opposition to the war was partially fueled by increasing peace activism, but that was not the primary impetus. I've always thought "progressives" and others have badly misunderstood much of the opposition to war in Iraq. It's not that the 70% of the country that cheered on the invasion in 2002 and 2003 suddenly woke up one day having adopted an anti-imperialistic political framework for understanding Iraq. Rather, the opposition to the war grew because it was badly managed, went on too long, and was costing more and more money. Americans are not against war per se, but against costly and unwinnable wars. Obama stands to face exactly the same widespread sentiments in Afghanistan as time goes on.

Strategically, the most anti-war traction we're likely to get is based on the economic FAIL at home. Money is being poured overseas to fight a useless, unwinnable war when it could be used for jobs, health care and economic recovery domestically.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

and Palin is not a sorority type so the sexist slur isn't even right.
Other than that, interesting.

Submitted by gob on

It's an interesting and fairly convincing argument. But please rethink your rhetoric. Why is it "McCain-Palin" but not "Obama-Biden"? Why drag in references to sororities, proms, and grandpas? Lose the PDS and you'll be a better writer. Believe it or not, women and old people read your stuff too; do you really want to slap us in the face just to satisfy your patriarchy-compliance quota?

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Also, the sorority comparison is stupid regardless.

I don't like Greek life on campus, I think it enforces heteronormativity, and are festering grounds for the rape culture.

At the same time, I cannot deny the reality of confident, intelligent and successful sorority alumnae. And it's unfair to those women, to imply that they are silly, shallow, or stupid, just because they belonged to a sorority. Just as it's unfair to attempt to judge a woman's intelligence and capabilities, by location of their childhood home(trailer park trash), or the government assistance they may require to get by(welfare queen).

I have really enjoyed the work you've posted here in recent days, but this website of full of eglitarian minded people, and eventually these continuing dips into cheap generalizations and stereotypes will bore many of us, and you will lose your audience.

There are plenty of valid judgements to make against Sarah Palin's policies and actions, but to descend to harmful stereotypes that belittle all women, not just their target, is not the action of an ally.

davidswanson's picture
Submitted by davidswanson on

plenty of 80 year olds and sorority sisters would make much better presidents than mccain or palin or obama or biden

but the idea of a serious analysis of palin's policies strikes me as insane

what policies?

please don't say i have to read her book

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

The policies are laughable, and should be treated as such.

But there is a magnitude of difference between treating her policies as laughable, and treating the woman as laughable.

Attack her for her actions, not just for being a woman, which is what that sorority remark did. It's a similiar attack to the pageant queen attack. It's meant to belittle her her participating in a common activity amongst women, and one of the few routes women have of creating the necessary social networks to have access to power.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

American war crimes....

thanks for this, David. Needs such thoughtful and heartfelt attention.

It is all so surreal ... the peace movement wet blanketing thanks to Obama's victory ... and the gap created by good will and hope his illusionary brand created, and the ongoing militarism and creeping empire and .... hypocrisy about ending the wars... and the secrecy re rendition and torture...

Thanks for info about ending the funding for war.... the House progressives... where are they?

American jingoism. Corporate profiteering.

I am reading two books Nader recommended. Getting Away with Torture and Censored 2010. Excellent books.

I call Obama a head waiter for the plutocracy. I feel contempt for the man AND his policies. Oh that I would not. I was not bothered by your references to McCain and Palin. I will consider the points made above by those who are. I feel so angry at the American leadership in both parties maybe I have lost a more nuanced capacity for empathy and civility. But sometimes the moral crimes deserve rhetorical incivlity to get a point across.