The anti-American sentiment was overwhelmingly feverish, especially in nations that have close economic and political ties with the United States. In Toulouse, 10,000 Frenchmen joined against the U.S. chanting, “They bomb, they exploit, they pollute, enough of this barbarity.” The anti-war movement as seen this past weekend is really characterized by two things: its sheer size, and its complete lack of cohesion. Americans, Europeans and Iraqis themselves marched for markedly different reasons, and we need to examine why.
Everyone who demonstrated believes that the U.S. should not lead an Allied force to disarm Iraq. But does that mean that there should never be a multilateral force to disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein? Are the demonstrations about extending inspections, or are they opposed to any U.N. or U.S. presence in the Gulf at all? What are we to do if it becomes clear (as I believe it has already) that inspectors cannot effectively do their job and ensure the world community that Saddam is not, in fact, producing weapons of mass destruction?
France is against war because it dealt with the Iraqis behind the back of the U.N. for over a decade. German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder rode a wave of anti-American sentiment into office and continues to work against the interests of the U.S. in order to further his political career. Iraqis have the most complicated position on whether or not the U.S. should invade. The Shia in the south and the Kurds in the north of Iraq certainly want Saddam out of power, but the general Iraqi population is still embittered by Desert Storm and has been convinced by the state controlled media of Iraq that the U.S. is interested in imperialism, not democracy.
I can understand the anti-war movement to an extent, but it has become a movement without direction that’s sole purpose appears to be criticizing the U.S. and hobbling its war on terrorism. To make the statement that force cannot be used against Iraq is preposterous. To suggest that the U.S. is itself a criminal state bent on world imperialism and oil grabbing is offensive. I am willing to listen to those who oppose war, but I will not accept the accusation that all those in favor of action are morally corrupt. It is easy to take an idealistic high ground on this issue. It is much more difficult to articulate the anti-war position in such a way as to convince, rather than condemn, those who favor military action.
It troubles me that the left, both at home and abroad, chooses to portray the Iraqi question as one of good versus evil. On the evil side, we have those who favor war. In the eyes of a majority of the demonstrators, this is equated with being in favor of the deaths of Iraqi women and children, increased terrorist reprisals and possible regional catastrophe, all in the name of oil and a personal vendetta held by the Bush family. On the good side, of course, are those who spout the rhetoric of peace and equality. Given these two positions, it would seem obvious that the doves are good, humanitarian people and the so-called “hawks” are incapable of moral judgment because they are so concerned with lining their pockets and controlling the world. Do the demonstrators really believe that all the citizens of western democracies that support a second war in Iraq have no moral compass? It is far too easy, and unfortunately, far too prevalent a reality that the peace movement demonizes their opposition as unfeeling, uncaring and self-interested. Thus the U.S. is being compared to the fascist states that it defeated in the 20th century, and Saddam is portrayed as a victim of U.S. global ambitions. This way of thought is not only unfounded but it is also dangerous to informed discussion and political discourse.
The anti-war protesters around the world have ideologically allied themselves with Chirac and Schroeder, with the men and women of the rallies around the globe that call for peace and freedom. The problem is that these people are unwilling to do anything to protect that peace and freedom. The anti-war demonstrators of Paris, London, New York and Berlin have forgotten that peace requires vigilance and freedom requires sacrifice. They have opted for the appealing appeasement of Schroeder and Chirac, succumbing to Saddam’s delay tactics and excuse-making. I ask all of these international protesters, and I beg my fellow Americans who protest a second Iraqi war to not allow self-righteousness overtake reason. One more massive attack on the U.S., or any western democracy for that matter, and free, open societies will live only in the pages of history. The time is at hand when we will have to make war to ensure greater peace.