At the risk of sounding extreme, there is a sense in which a kind of peaceful military coup is underway in the United States. Republicans led by John McCain are back in control of the Senate's militarycommittees. Secretary Hagel, no friend of escalating wars, has been forced from his Pentagon office. Planned cuts in military spending are on hold. The generals are all but demanding a deployment of US ground troops. American combat in Afghanistan is being extended for another year. The CIA still prevents the Senate intelligence committee from releasing its report on theCIA, a case of the dog muzzling the watchdog. It's all within the borders of the constitution, while the new war itself is not.
There is no counterweight so far from Congress, the mainstream media or the informed public, frozen in fear of the Islamic State, trapped on the staircase of escalation if only to avoid defeat.
Talk about reset! It's as if the 2008 and 2012 elections never happened. Curiously, the peace movement, now wallowing in weakness, is being blamed for all this. It is said that we forced Obama into a premature withdrawal from Iraq, that America should never end a war until we win it.
Let's set the record straight. The peace movement generally warned that this Long War could not be won, could not be afforded, and could only end in permanent quagmire, especially if it left Assad in power in Damascus while abandoning the Sunnis of Iraq to their fate under the Shiite regime we installed.
That said, the peace movement has to do everything possible to extricate the president from the worsening mess. How can this be done? By trying to contain the pressures for escalation and preparing American public opinion for cutting our losses. And by continuing to place the blame on the neo-conservatives, the hawks, the Republican diehards, and the contractors, for the "politics of blame" is central to the history of the Cold War and the War on Terror. If Obama just walks away, which he won't, he will be impeached.
The public debate about this crisis may escalate as soon as this week if Congress takes up the question of authorizing the new wars. Though there is a powerful wish on the part of some in Congress to simply blame Obama for everything and begin fund-raising for 2016, there is a counter-pressure from others who wish to either officially green-light the killing or impose restraints on the power of executive war-making. Sen. Rand Paul, for example, wants to shed his former isolationist image and authorize an all-out bloodbath. Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Adam Schiff want to protect the role of Congress, authorize some sort of limited war and require another authorization vote before 2016.
Wars - and reputations - are won or lost from these obscure beginnings, so attention must be paid.
For example, peace activists are better at maximizing their impact when they can besiege a local congressional office with leaflets, petitions and bodies. It's harder to "lobby" against the CIA's secret wars in faraway countries. A bigger reason for paying attention is the fact that presidential campaigns have been known to be launched (Howard Dean, Barack Obama) or crash on the question of authorizations (Hillary Clinton, John Kerry).
The first step is the petition demanding that Congress debate the war as demanded by the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Members of Congress need to be put on the record, their votes recorded before their constituencies, so they cannot slither away. If they do authorize destruction instead of diplomacy, there must be absolute restraints placed on the administration's policy to prevent the slippery slope towards more escalation; the most important conditions being a flat prohibition of American combat troops and a timetable before another authorization vote is required during the 2016 election period.
The peace movement needs to reassemble itself into a long peace movement against the long war.