Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Rise of the U.S. Anti-war Movement

In my previous post, I asked why Hollywood has not made a patriotic war movie since 9/11, and I compared the War on Terror with World War II (WW2), when Hollywood made patriotic war movies. This comparison raises the question of what changed.

In WW2, the country was almost entirely patriotic, and Hollywood reflected that patriotism. The U.S. did not have a significant anti-war movement in WW2. The Korean War began to change that. The stalemate that developed in Korea tested the patience and steadfastness of the American people, and support for the war declined, causing Pres. Truman's popularity to plummet. As the war dragged on, Americans questioned the value of resisting communist North Korea's naked and unprovoked invasion of the South. Why was the U.S. sacrificing blood and money in a faraway land when North Korea was not likely to attack the U.S.?

Like Korea, the Vietnam War initially was widely popular. Again, the war dragged on, and support waned. As before, Americans asked themselves what was gained by resisting an aggressor that had no apparent aim to attack the U.S. itself. Unlike Korea, the opposition became very open, virulent, anti-military, and anti-American. The anti-war movement became a liberal cause. Some in the ant-war movement openly wished for an American defeat.

When the Vietnam War ended, those in the anti-war movement increasingly opposed American efforts in the Cold War. In the 1980s, Pres. Reagan decided to put missiles in Europe to deter Soviet aggression in Europe. The decision and its implementation was vigorously protested by the anti-war movement, which held one of the largest marches in U.S. history in New York City. Pres. Reagan also pressed successfully for research on a missile defense shield, the so-called Star Wars program, which the anti-war movement reflexively opposed as well. As we now know, Pres. Reagan's defense build-up contributed greatly to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet communist empire.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the U.S. led the effort to remove Iraq from Kuwait. In the U.S. Senate, few Democrats were willing to support the resolution to authorize the war. The U.S.'s easy victory in the Gulf War gave Democrats and the anti-war folks a black eye but did not change the attitude of the anti-war movement.

After 9/11, some in the anti-war movement opposed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The relatively quick victory in Afghanistan prevented widespread opposition to the war there.

Of course, Pres. Bush's decision to invade Iraq united the anti-war movement. With the 2002 elections approaching and the recent-enough memory of the negative fallout from their miscalculation about the Gulf War, however, only 10 or so Democrat senators were willing to vote against the Authorization to Use Military Force. As the terrorist insurgency in Iraq took root and gained strength, the U.S. anti-war movement regained its Vietnam-era confidence, and the American public again showed its lack of patience and resolve. Some in the anti-war movement have voiced a desire for an American defeat in Iraq.

In summary, since WW2, the American public has not had the will, the patience, and the resolve to support a long-term effort in any conflict. The anti-war movement has played to this weakness. The motives of the anti-war movement have been the traditional pacifist opposition to all war, an unpatriotic desire to humble, or at least to weaken, the U.S. and its military, and a further desire to reduce U.S. influence in the world.

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