I'm Ronald Reagan and I Approved This Propaganda

I love making fun of Rudy. A jab at Obama is a fringe benefit.

Eriposte, Richard Perlstein, Paul Krugman and Taylor Marsh all reacted negatively to Obama's Reagan slobberfest. I found these remarks about the '60s anti-war movement from the same interview, well, weird:

"Even when you discuss war, the frame of reference is always Viet Nam. That's not my frame of reference. My frame of reference is 'what works.' Even when I first opposed the war in Iraq, my first line was 'I don't oppose all wars, I just oppose dumb wars' specifically to make clear that this is not just some anti-military '70's love in approach."

Is he saying Viet Nam wasn't a dumb war? Is he saying peace activists resisted the Viet Nam War as some knee-jerk anti-military reflex? Is he saying the Nam-era Anti-War Movement doesn't meet the "What Works" test? He implies all of this, but he couldn't possibly mean such factually indefensible things. His gratuitous swipe at the hippies may reflect an irrational bias against them--the kind of ugly bias Nixon exploited in his 'Silent Majority' speech ('dirty hippie freaks').

You might say he's admitting he's not a serious anti-war activist, that he's a 'latte activist'--'all talk' on Iraq as the Clintons suggest. I say that because a serious anti-Iraq War activist would look to the successful Nam Anti-War Movement precisely to learn what works! (Just as Gay Rights activists studied the Civil Rights Movement to see what works, and AIDS activists learned from lesbian feminists what works.) But most likely, Obama the bogus Uniter/Race-Baiter just felt like a gratuitous generational swipe at those silly hippies in the middle of his necrophiliac love-in with Reaganomics.

What doesn't work is 'latte activism.' From Nixon's viewpoint, it would have been a grave mistake to withdraw too quickly from Viet Nam, sending a 'sign of weakness' to lunatic aggressors in the Communist bloc -- a viewpoint vindicated by Osama Bin Laden's deranged misreading of the American backbone. But it wasn't the job of anti-war activists to see Nixon's viewpoint, or the Pentagon's viewpoint, any more than it's a boxer's job to empathize with his opponent. It was their job to fight the fucking war.

In 2004, when we were trying to stop George Bush in New York, I met many young anti-war activists--kids in their twenties in Queer Fist and Indymedia. They talked just like Nam-era activists! At one action meeting, a young woman excitedly announced a rumor that The Weathermen were resurfacing to stop Bush. She didn't have to tell any of her post-boomer peers who the Weather Underground were. To them, the Nam-era Peace Movement isn't an embarrassment, a cliche or a generational relic. It was all about 'what works.'

It worked even better than is credited. How many anti-war protestors know they helped Nixon make peace with Communist China? Under pressure from the 'Movement', in '69 Tricky Dick announced the Nixon Doctrine--basically no more Viet Nams: "That Asian nations should not depend on the US for their security but should strengthen their own defense capabilities." This construed a passive-aggressive threat to China if Japan re-armed to offset America's reduced military presence in Asia. With Soviet hostility on one border and the specter of a re-armed Japan potentially encircling China with enemies, Mao could not afford a third enemy in the U.S. -- Mao was compelled to meet with Nixon, while Nixon was compelled by the Movement to project less American power into China's space. Furthermore, Nixon was compelled to make peace with China (1972) before withdrawing from Nam under Movement pressure (1973) -- to mitigate the 'sign of weakness' he feared would encourage future aggression. The Viet Nam Peace Movement also contributed to peace with China. Peace through Peace -- it works!

So Obama should show those silly old hippies a little more respect. To do that, he'd have to examine his bias against 'hippies' -- you know, the kind of biases Nixon tweaked in his 'Silent Majority' frame. Or Obama might just cook up his own "Silent Majority' speech as he hedges on 'the surge is working.'


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