As many conservatives voice concern about and outright opposition to a proposed U.S. military strike against Syria, some on the left wonder where was this anti-war sentiment when President Bush was making the case to invade Iraq?
A more apt question, however, is this: Where is the anti-war left now? A few principled folks have stepped up to defy their movement’s leader, the Nobel Peace Laureate President Barack Obama. But from many others there is silence or…incoherent mumbling.
Buzzfeed did a great job of lampooning all the Hollywood stars who are now missing from this possible war action, when they were quite eager to publicly display their contempt for the previous president’s military initiatives.
Actor Ed Asner has now famously explained that a lot of folks in Hollywood fear being labeled “anti-black” if they oppose the president on this. Bravo to him for his frankness. Many on the left have regularly tried to wrap the president’s opponents in the Confederate flag. At least Asner has the honesty to admit to the unintended consequences of such rhetoric.
Then there’s the Vermont delegation, made up of Democratic Congressman Peter Welch, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Independent (but progressive/socialist) Sen. Bernie Sanders. A recent Vermont Digger article had them waffling on the topic when confronted by constituent opposition. Said Sen. Sanders, a usually reliable anti-war vote, to an anti-Syrian-strike protester:
I don’t know when the vote is going to be. I don’t know what the resolution will be. My job is to keep an open mind …
An open mind, however, is what the anti-war crowd helped create in many Americans. Many of us who supported President Bush’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan came to weary of the long slog, the many deaths, the murky results. The constant drumbeat of the anti-war left might have seemed irksome and more anti-Bush than anti-war, but it probably planted some seeds in American hearts and minds, making folks think twice about getting more involved in the Middle East.
In fact, although I voted for John McCain for president in 2008, I consoled myself with the thought that anti-war Barrack Obama wouldn’t have the hair-trigger McCain seems to have when he sees intervention possibilities around the world.
There has to be a strong case for the use of our blood and treasure abroad. The anti-war left scoffed at the case made by the Bush administration. Yet Hollywood activists, Sen. Sanders and colleagues are quite willing to mute their skepticism for an administration making the case of intervention in Syria–the same administration, by the way, that first told us the intelligence indicated that the Benghazi attack on September 11 was due to spontaneous protests over a YouTube video.
Former Obama adviser David Axelrod cynically tweeted after the president made the decision to go to Congress for approval of a military strike on Syria:
Big move by POTUS. Consistent with his principles. Congress is now the dog that caught the car. Should be a fascinating week!
He has it wrong. Congress isn’t the dog that caught the car. The anti-war left is. They caught the sentiment of the public. Now they don’t seem to want it.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.