Published on Monday, November 30, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
The Hollow Politics of Escalation
An underlying conceit of the new spin about benchmarks and timetables for
But "eventually" is a long way off. In the meantime, the result of
The next days and weeks will bring an avalanche of hype about insisting on measurable progress and shifting burdens onto the Afghan army -- while the
That's the kind of talk that
Now, President Obama's decision to massively escalate the
Among those inclined to be antiwar, it doesn't much matter whether they "support" the escalation. What matters is whether they openly oppose it -- and, if so, how vocally and emphatically.
There's a clear and well-trod pathway for ineffectual dissent from members of Congress who end up passively assisting the escalation by a fellow Democrat in the Oval Office. Avid support for the war effort is helpful but not necessary. Scarcity of determined opposition will suffice to keep the war politically viable in
At the core of the enabling politics is inner space that's hollow enough to reliably cave under pressure. Typically, Democrats with antiwar inclinations weaken and collapse at push-comes-to-shove moments on Capitol Hill. The habitual pattern involves loyalty toward -- and fear of -- "the leadership."
Early on, during President Johnson's Vietnam War escalation, Senators Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening and then Frank Church were prophetic antiwar pariahs. As years went by, the war's horrors and growing domestic opposition led some others in Congress to find a solid inner core that withstood pro-war pressures. Eventually.
We're now in an early stage of such a progression. Due to careful silences in
The essence of a core becomes evident under pressure. It's one thing to voice opposition to sending more troops into
Among Democrats in powerful positions, some misgivings about the war are evident -- but willingness to withhold spending for the war is not.
The tragic limits of those misgivings were evident last week when ABC News interviewed Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who called for a war surtax.
"On the merits, I think it's a mistake to deepen our involvement," Obey said. "But if we are going to do that, then at least we ought to pay for it. Because if we don't, if we don't pay for it, then the cost of the Afghan war will wipe out every other initiative that we have to try to rebuild our own economy."
Then came a direct question from the network correspondent: "The White House comes and asks you again to get through this Congress money for an increased commitment in Afghanistan -- are you going to be there fighting to get that passed?"
The congressman replied: "I'm going to be there fighting to get whatever they do, paid for."
But Congress can't stop the war while paying for it.
Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and progressive activist. His book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death " has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. His most recent book is "Made Love, Got War. " He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare  campaign. In
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs