blog, entitled The Great White Hope for Peace, excoriating the peace movement for its ineffectiveness in bringing about an end to the Iraq war. The article also appeared on the Portland Indy Media website. Shusli, a dedicated and fervent activist for peace, expressed her extreme frustration at the lack of success of the peace movement, generally, and in particular of the sincerity and effectiveness of the "conflict resolution" program at Portland State University. She argues that the peace movement has become so tame, so careful to operate within the "acceptable" framework imposed by the larger society, that it is of little consequence.
Shusli's article was met with much outrage and indignant breast-beating from various quarters of the activist community (and also with some messages of support). But, you know, the criticism she received seemed shrill and defensive and, frankly, pathetic to me. I mean, the war is still on, people, and there's no end in sight. What did you expect?
I don't doubt the sincerity of peace protesters. But, 5 years into this war, I have to agree with Shusli that the demonstrations have not been effective in changing US foreign policy. For a while, shortly after the Democrats crushed the GOP in the 2006 election, I hoped that the message had finally gotten through. But what has since become apparent is that the powers-that-be are long on mouthing placations and short on taking tough stands.
(Regarding the criticism of Portland State, my own experience is that certain departments at PSU are (not totally, but largely) staffed by self-important nobodies who lack the competence to take positions at any prestigious schools.)
Peace demonstrations do serve in one important way, though. They afford people who feel isolated and alone an opportunity to see that there are others who feel as they do. That is, they provide a feel-good opportunity for all of us lefties who thought we were losing our minds as the Bush crime family ran rampant.
But, to bring about real change, the peace movement (to that extent that such still exists) is probably going to have to stretch out a little bit. That is, maybe the demonstrations are going to have to really disrupt things. Maybe Monday morning commuters need to be prevented from getting to work because the demonstrators have filled the streets. Or maybe the bridge authorities have to close down river traffic on the Willamette because the demonstrators will not allow them to raise the bridge.
I'm of the opinion that the reason this war has dragged on so long, indeed, the reason it even came into being, is because the general, and generally apathetic American public is not/was not inconvenienced by it. As long as American Idol aired on time and everybody had his microwave popcorn, it didn't much matter what was happening in Iraq.
Well, now, with gas prices climbing toward $4/gallon, American casualties mounting, and our country's fiscal health destroyed, maybe everyone is paying attention. Now might be the time for the peace movement to take the next step.