National Commentary

‘We the People’ Stop a War

nfbentonpicFor the first time since Vietnam, and for only the second time in U.S. history, “We the People” have forced the termination of a national march to war, at least for now.

The current pause in the intended U.S. military action against the Assad regime in Syria is due to the overwhelming lack of popular support for such a move in the U.S. population.

In the first phase, the unpopularity of the action caused Obama to hand over the job of swaying public opinion to the U.S. Congress. But that only made matter worse. Congress encountered a much deeper, passionate and resolute popular opposition. The more they talked, the more they held hearings, the more the American public opposed the idea.

So, realizing he had no chance of changing and significant percentage of hearts and minds in his nationally-televised speech Tuesday night, Obama punted, seeking to buy more time to convince an amazingly skeptical and angry American electorate of the “need” to get involved in another Mideast conflict.

What is being advertised as a Russian initiative to negotiate the handover of Syrian chemical weapons to international supervision – the pretext for Obama’s delay in his military offensive – in fact did not originate with the Russians, but with Secretary of State John Kerry in remarks in London last week, as former Kremlin adviser Alexander Nekrassov stated on BBC yesterday.

Kerry advanced the idea, and the Russians and Syrians accepted it. That is far different that the notion the Russians and Syrians cooked up the initiative as a stalling tactic of their own. But the U.S. will continue to carp at the “stalling” and “feet dragging” of the Russians and Syrians in hopes that such “bad behavior” will turn the tide of public opinion in the U.S. in favor of going back to war.

But given the testy mood of the American public, it is unlikely there will be any change of heart. In the final analysis, Obama will be forced under pressure from the nation’s military-industrial complex to strike in spite of overwhelmingly negative public opinion, or he will point to that public opinion and tell his military-industrial complex overlords to bug off.

In her insightful book, “Drift: the Unmooring of American Military Power” (2012), MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow documented how the establishment reacted to the anti-war movement’s ability to force an end to the Vietnam war by eliminating the universal draft, and engaging in increasingly secretive uses of U.S. military power, including Grenada and the Iran-Contra operation, as even the Congress was kept in the dark.

But when the pro-war neo-conservatives took power under George W. Bush, they exploited popular support for war in the wake of 9-11 to invade Iraq and deepen the U.S. commitment to the quagmire of Afghanistan.

Taking office on anti-war promises, Obama did not anticipate the power of the military-industrial complex, nor the significance of its doctrine of “persistent conflict.” It is the aim of these types to keep America at war perpetually.

The doctrine calls for the U.S. to encourage perpetual chaos in the Middle East, with the chaos now in Iraq as the model. As in the cases of Iraq and Libya, when the “rebels” need a boost from the U.S. to unseat a strongman who has maintained regional stability, the U.S. steps in militarily.

With the forces of destabilization faring poorly in Syria, it came as no surprise that the U.S. declared “lines were crossed” suddenly, despite the tens of thousands of civilian deaths in the last two years, justifying a U.S. military intervention.

But the important new factor in all this is an aroused American public.

President Obama would be wise to follow the example of Republican President Eisenhower, who despite being the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe in World War II, rigorously sought peace as president, as in his famous “Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron” speech delivered only two months after taking office in 1953, and his equally famous warning about the influence of the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address eight years later.