If you believe some of the handful of third party candidates for president, a big dividing line between them and President Obama is the issue of drone warfare. That may be, but the self-assuredness these third party candidates have that they are on the right side of the drone warfare issue has never been persuasive to me the way it apparently is to some.
Of course, nothing but outright pacifism-that-actually-promotes-war will be sufficient for some. Television star Roseanne Barr and her running mate “peace mom” Cindy Sheehan are a good example of that. Even Ralph Nader, for whom I voted for President in the past (!), seems transfixed by the idea that all Al-Qaeda operatives really want is a world where everyone respects national sovereignty. That’s an idea I think came from a colouring book, rather than anything approaching foreign policy analysis, but this doesn’t seem to stop both left wingers and libertarians from embracing the idea.
The approach the above individuals take seems to be that hating war enough will make it go away…or better put, if we stop fighting, so will they. In reality, even if we accept the good will of those holding this view, it would involve years and years of being subjected to brutal attacks and not responding in kind, to show our commitment to purist pacifism.
I know, I know, it’s unfair for me to slag Barr, Sheehan, Nader and company for taking such a brave stand, on behalf of themselves and, well, the rest of us, who are much more likely to be killed by Al-Qaeda operatives if we follow their plan. But I still kind of wish they would just take it for themselves and allow the rest of us to protect ourselves from bigots with guns.
I don’t take the approach these political figures adopt, but the way they organise reality, this must mean that I am an uncritical supporter of death-from-the-skies being ordered by an out-of-control military, so it often seems like I have no choice. It’s either backing “endless wars”, or pouring the jihadis a nice cool glass of lemonade when they arrive in our living rooms, because, after all, it is the sociable thing to do.
But there is another approach to be taken. The sad thing is, the person who took it was shown the door in the midterm elections of 2010. Former Sen. Russ Feingold once provided the oversight, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that things like the drone war need on a regular basis. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is that purist lefties allowed Feingold to lose a close election two years ago, because he seemed to be, then and now, the only person in America capable of talking sense about the country’s foreign policy challenges.
Feingold was critical of the U.S.’s continuing involvement in Afghanistan, and took issue with the President’s slower withdrawal arrangements (I almost said slower withdrawal plan, but let’s face it, there’s nothing that suggests Obama has gone as far as to have a plan – he’s just dragging his feet). As a member of the Intelligence Committee before leaving Congress in 2011, Feingold was in a position to know if there were reasons for the slowness of the withdrawal. His conclusion was that there were not. I respect him greatly for being a loyal Democrat generally, but for holding the President firmly to his promises to pull American troops from Afghanistan, where they have laboured for over a decade, with no victory in sight. American troops are not achieving anything in the region, and mostly just providing jihadis a convenient punching bag. It is, and it has been for a while, time to bring the troops home.
But Russ Feingold also supports drone warfare.
He is certainly aware, taking this position, that it is not popular with people who think disagreements with armed theocrats are all our fault and just amount to a darned big cultural misunderstanding. Even now, when he is not even in federal politics any longer and can certainly say what he likes without any retribution from the White House, Feingold dares to defend a reasonable position. When people join an organised military force that aims at attacking Americans, the American military has a right to defend the country against that person – even if that person is himself an American citizen.
It seems like Russ Feingold is the only real pacifist politician out there today…someone who doesn’t merely oppose war, but asks himself, when evaluating every foreign policy position the nation takes “Will this really stop violent people from starting wars in the first place?” When a policy really does lead to “endless war”, he is vocal in opposing it. When a policy moves towards stopping foreign warriors from attacking Americans, though, he _supports_ it. He does this because he is _really_ against war. He’s not in this to conveniently cast others as warmongers while he poses in the robes of a left-wing saint.
They say the definition of a fanatic is someone who redoubles effort after forgetting the aim of that effort. If peace is the aim, I think Barr, Sheehan and Nader are pretty obviously approaching fanaticism. (It’s the hardest for me to say this about Nader, who I still think did not present himself as a fanatic in the elections he contested, but rather someone disappointed with the performance of Democrats in office. Still, on this issue, he has clearly sided with the fanatics.)
I support the _real_ peace movement – the pragmatic movement that aims at taking constructive steps to really achieve cessation of armed conflict in the world. In my opinion, the leader of that movement is Russ Feingold.
P.S. A quick addendum…another person who seems increasingly to side with phony-peace fanatics is Jimmy Carter, who has weighed in not only regarding the drones, but also regarding Gaza. In both cases, he has made it clear he doesn’t know with whom he is dealing – whether it be Al-Qaeda or Hamas for the specific case.