Peaceniks, Vietnam and the fading of nationalism
The idea that Leftists favour peace is of course absurd. The hate, anger and envy that drive Leftists make them inherently aggressive and bloodthirsty -- as we see whenever they gain absolute power -- from the French revolutionaries onward through Trotsky, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot -- not to mention more minor revolutionaries. And the great violence that often characterized "peace" demonstrations of the Vietnam era (see e.g. here) gave the lie to any claim that these Leftists were any different from their predecessors
By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)
History can be both suprising and puzzling. There are probably few people alive today who remember that Leftists were once the most nationalistic side of politics (for the evidence that they were, see here). How could the people who now regard patriotism and nationalism as puerile once have been red-hot for conquest and national glory? Similarly, how can the sort of people who, from Robespierre to Pol Pot, have murdered people in droves, also be the ones who go out on the streets and demonstrate for "peace"?
Both those phenonena are part of the larger truth that Leftism is consistent only at the psychological level. It will always be driven by hate, anger and envy but the way in which such feelings are given a hopefully plausible outlet will vary with the times. Leftists may often resort to talk of high principles but they will abandon those principles in a moment if that seems convenient. The way the far-Left of American politics were pro-Hitler during the Hitler/Stalin alliance and then immediately proceeded to march in the opposite direction when Hitler invaded Russia is a notorious example of such "flexibility" but there are many such examples in modern times.
Perhaps the most amusing example of that in the 21st century so far is the way in which Leftist intellectuals dug up the principles of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 to justify their opposition to the American overthrow of Saddam Hussein (e.g. here). Something as antique and "establishment" as the Peace of Westphalia would once have been responded to by Leftists with at best a raised eyebrow.
The Vietnam era (the 1960s and 1970s) marked one of the big changes in Leftist thinking. America's involvement in Vietnam was initiated by an old-fashioned patriot, J.F. Kennedy, perhaps best known today for his quote from Pericles: "Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country". And patriotism remains strong among the American people generally to this day -- which is why mainstream Democrat politicians always have to huff and puff about people "questioning their patriotism" -- questions which are normally well justified.
Among Leftist thinkers, however, Kennedy was a holdover from the pre-1945 world in which Leftists were the great asserters of American supremacy, authority, glory etc. One only has to remember the founder of the "Progressive" party, Theodore Roosevelt, to know what American Leftists were like from the late 19th century onwards. TR was a great critic of business and arguably the most successful Greenie of all times (America's national parks are mostly his doing) but he also put his trust in battleships and managed to get America to undertake two successful wars of conquest in Cuba and the Philippines. He even took part in the first of those personally and was a great propagandist for war as an ennobling enterprise that cleansed the national spirit -- a theme later taken up enthusiastically by a certain German leader.
The antics of that German leader did however greatly discredit aggressive nationalism in the eyes of the world so Leftists could not continue with it. They would have looked like dinosaurs if they had -- and very dangerous dinosaurs at that. So a reversal was needed. But such a far-reaching reversal could not be achived overnight and the American Left remained at least patriotic for some time -- with Kennedy being just about the last significant holdover.
In general, however, the memory of past beliefs and attitudes had faded by the 1960s -- particularly among the young -- and the new anti-nationalist stance that seemed more in tune with the postwar era could reach full flower. So we had the "peace" movement of that era, which was much more a rejection of American assertiveness and wisdom than it was about peace.
The idea that Leftists favour peace is of course absurd. The hate, anger and envy that drive Leftists make them inherently aggressive and bloodthirsty -- as we see whenever they gain absolute power -- from the French revolutionaries onward through Trotsky, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot -- not to mention more minor revolutionaries. And the great violence that often characterized "peace" demonstrations of the Vietnam era (see e.g. here) gave the lie to any claim that these Leftists were any different from their predecessors.
When Leftists of the post-1945 period have advocated peace, it has had one purpose only -- to curb the strength, options and influence of their own country. It is an anti-nationalist and anti-patriotic stratagem. It is intended to show them as the wise and benevolent ones who know better than the national leadership.
And the long buildup to the invasion of Iraq by Anglo-Saxon forces in 2003 saw a great upsurge in Leftists taking to the streets to demonstrate for "peace". In this respect the new Left is very similar to the old Left of the cold-war era. Throughout the Cold War era, a great cry of Leftist demonstators and their supporters was "Peace" -- which essentially meant: "Do not attack our friends, the Communists -- or even prepare to defend yourself against them".
But in typically hypocritical fashion, few Leftists were straightfoward in admitting their motivations. The peaceniks of the Vietnam era usually justified their opposition to that war by promoting the fantasy that they were the only ones who could see the evils of war and accused anyone who supported any military action of being a "warmonger".
But in fact one of the most revealing evidences of the dishonesty and hidden agendas of the Left is the way that "antiwar" demonstrations to this day commonly erupt into violence. Below is an excerpt about one of the fairly routine events of the Iraq war era:
Two reports of the March 20 2007 "peace" protests in Milwaukee near the University of Wisconsin campus
Police reported arresting at least four people and questioning about 20 more after protesters damaged an Army recruiting office on Milwaukee's east side Monday night. Milwaukee police Sgt. Eric Pfeiffer said officers were called to the area when Iraq War protesters wearing black clothing and ski masks were reported to be carrying torches, setting off smoke bombs and throwing paint while approaching the recruitment center. Pfeiffer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel someone threw an object through a window at the recruitment center and spread what appeared to be feces inside before running away.
Peace Action Wisconsin does not condone violence, said the group's project organizer Julie Enslow, but some anti-war protesters might feel the need to be violent to get their point across. "We do not use those tactics ourselves, but the movement is very broad, and as this war continues, the anti-war movement is going to take many forms - not all of which everyone feels comfortable with," Enslow said.
An anti-war rally at O'Donnell Park on Saturday drew a large crowd that listened to several speakers, including U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee), before marching to the Reuss Federal Plaza, Enslow said. The peaceful gathering contrasted sharply with the arrests Monday night at the Army recruiting center near the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus, where protesters broke a window and threw smoke bombs, paint and human excrement, police said. There were no injuries reported.
I have given the links to the original stories above but such stories do not stay online for long of course. Gateway Pundit has more details - plus some pictures.
Leftists are clearly such violent people that they cannot restrain themselves even when it makes a mockery of what they claim to stand for. They truly are Stalin's heirs.
I have my own personal recollection of this. In the Vietnam war era I was a student at the University of Queensland and one of the very few students who outspokenly supported Australia's involvement in the war. As in Iraq so in Vietnam Australians fought alongside Americans. The Australian conservative government came up for re-election in the midst of the affair and the peaceniks made a huge effort to have it defeated at the polls. There were huge anti-government demonstrations of all sorts. When Prime Minister Harold Holt came to Brisbane I was one of his party members and so was invited to attend his Brisbane campaign launch. Various university Leftists known to me, however, forged entry tickets to get into the hall in which the rally was held and created such a din that the meeting was severely disrupted.
We few pro-war students decided to take our revenge for this. Next week the leader of the Australian Labour Party (A.L.P.) came to Brisbane for HIS campaign launch and, as it was a public meeting, we were there in the hall. As the party leader (Arthur Calwell) stepped up to the microphone and before he could open his mouth I shouted out in a very loud voice "All at sea with the A.L.P." Pandemonium erupted. The Special Branch of the Police had been tipped off that there would be disruption and were there to protect us from harm but otherwise we would have been murdered. Half the hall jumped up and tried to get at us -- thus thoroughly disrupting their own meeting. Whenever they settled down we would just shout something again and restart them at enraged shouting back at us. The meeting became a shambles. The police pointed out to them that they had disrupted our meeting the week before but the Leftists saw no justice in that of course.
Anyway, after the meeting, the police escorted us across the road to the police station for our own safety while a mob of Leftists gathered outside waiting to get us as soon as we emerged. I don't know how long they waited, though, as the police let us out after a while through a back entrance that the Leftists obviously did not know about.
When the Leftists disrupted the government meeting they did so in no fear for their own safety and thought that they had a perfect right to do so but woe betide anyone who tried to do the same to them! In good Stalinist fashion their resort to violence when faced with opposition was immediate. Can anyone doubt that it is hate and not compassion that is their real motivation?
Incidentally, in the subsequent election, the conservatives were returned with a landslide majority.
The Leftists also always totally ignore the fact that there is another large grouping in the community who are also most emphatic about the undesirability of war -- i.e. war-veterans (or "ex-Diggers" in Australian parlance). And war-veterans are also both overwhelmingly conservative and in favour of military strength and preparedness.
Pejman, in his Wednesday October 9th., 2002 post, similarly pointed out that "warbloggers" and members of the military today are not "pro-war". Excerpt:
Check out this post--which is a remarkable testament to the honor and decency that one finds so regularly in members of the military. I hope that for once in their lives, the idiots at Warbloggerwatch, and all of their fellow travelers will actually read the post carefully, and come to understand that no one likes war. No one wants to be faced with the option of war, especially not when it appears to be the only feasible solution to a burgeoning problem. Unfortunately, in the present day and age, our enemies offer us no alternative but to wage war against them. Only a fool would fail to understand that we are currently in a mortal battle, and that our survival as a great power and a civilization are at stake........ So while we despise war, we understand that it is the only way to deal with enemies bent on killing as many of us as possible. No more September 11th's. No more needless deaths. No more confusing the principles of a just war with a sense of bloodlust. We understand the difference between the two.
Supporting pre-emptive action against modern-day Hitlers such as Saddam does not mean that you like war at all. You can hate war and still see it as necessary. I myself became a very minor member of the Australian Army Psychology Corps in the Vietnam war era and all the members of the military that I have met have at most expressed an interest in adventure but never any bloodthirstiness. Conservatives are as keen on peace as anyone else. It is just that they are more realistic about what is needed to attain and preserve it.
As an oldie who actually volunteered for service in Vietnam in the 60s (but missed out on getting a slot owing to the many others in the Australian Army who wanted to go), I do get a bit peeved about the nonsense that is spoken about Vietnam. The event that broke the will of President Johnson to win in Vietnam was the "Tet" offensive by combined North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. But that event was in fact a huge military victory for the US. Even when caught by surprise, the US and Australian forces massacred their attackers with only light casualties of their own by comparison. As Paul Sheehan summarizes the war. "The US military campaign in Vietnam defeated the Vietcong and decimated the North Vietnamese army but lost the propaganda war... many conscripts from North Vietnam were chewed up by the conflict - more than 1 million communist soldiers were killed"
What lost the war was the peacenik element in the US who made virtually ANY US casualties unacceptable. So the US threw in the towel after Tet and moved out. The US military effort was defeated not by Left-wing Vietnamese but by Left-wing Americans -- and so the South Vietnamese were left to the tender mercies of the Communists.
And why was there such big support for the Leftist antiwar movement on the home front in the Vietnam era? Because of conscription. Both the USA and Australia had military conscription in those days. And all those 60s college and university students did not want to get shot at so joined up with the extreme Left to protect their own skin. As soon as both Australia and the USA abolished conscription, attendance at radical rallies and demonstrations dropped to a fraction of what it had been. The only demonstrators that remained were the usual "rent-a-crowd" exhibitionists who demonstrate about anything and everything in the hope that it might get their picture in the paper. And putting up with those loons is just one of the everyday prices of democracy.
Interestingly, what US armed intervention did not achieve, US culture did. The Vietnamese Communists may have resisted US bombs etc but they could not resist Coca Cola. And the "Doi moi" reforms long ago put the whole of Vietnam onto the capitalist path. So America did win in the end.
Another interesting footnote is that young people as a whole were not as squeamish about the Vietnam war as were the Leftist students. As Jim Miller noted in his post of 30th October, 2002:
Young People and the Vietnam War: Andrew Sullivan makes a common error in his post on the Bali bombing, when he argues that young people were more likely to oppose the Vietnam war than older people. In fact, polls at the time showed that young people were "more supportive of the war than older people" [John E. Mueller, "War, Presidents and Public Opinion", p. 137]. Even more surprising to some, the more educated a person, the more likely they were to support the Vietnam war. There were similar patterns of support in World War II and the Korean War. The current tendency of young people to be more inclined to support a war with Iraq is consistent with the patterns in past wars.
The true proponents of peace are of course conservatives. Conservatives vary rarely go to war and even then they normally do so only after being attacked -- as the USA did after being attacked on 9/11/2001. In fact, just as Leftists are normally eager for war, conflict, "revolution" and violence, much of conservative policy is directed towards deterring war and restraining or rechannelling aggressive and violent impulses in people.
The role of the "progressive" TR in initiating wars of conquest has already been noted and one must also note that America was dragged into both World Wars by do-gooding Democrat Presidents. FDR's cutting off of Japan's oil supplies was of course the spark that ignited the desperate Japanese gamble at Pearl Harbour. Oil is the lifeblood of the modern world so does tend to have a huge influence on national policy.
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