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July 05, 2009

"A Plan to End the Wars" by David Swanson

David Swanson:

There are a million and one things that people can do to try to end the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and to prevent new ones in Iran and elsewhere, as well as to close U.S. military bases in dozens of other nations around the world. Certain people are skilled at or interested in particular approaches, and nobody should be discouraged from contributing to the effort in their preferred ways. Far too often proposals to work for peace are needlessly framed as attacks on all strategies except one. But where new energy can be created or existing resources redirected, it is important that they go where most likely to succeed.

In my analysis, we should be focusing on three things, which for purposes of brevity and alliteration I will call: Communications, Congress, and Counter recruitment / resistance. Communications encompasses all public discussion of the wars and impacts all other approaches, including targets I consider far less likely to be influenced by us than Congress, such as the president, generals, the heads of weapons companies, the heads of media companies, the people of Afghanistan, your racist neighbor, etc. If our communications strategy can change the behavior of any of these targets, terrific! We should be prepared to take advantage of such opportunities should they arise. But the first place we are likely to be able to leverage successful communications will be the House of Representatives. Counter-recruitment / resistance is another area that overlaps with communications but involves much else as well, and it is a strategy that we continue to underestimate.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 5, 2009 02:54 PM

Yer war problem IS yer wallet. Run right out and BUY a new kind of tank or an F-22 and THEN wonder why the neighbors are refugees from a bomb crater.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 5, 2009 03:58 PM

Counter recruitment / resistance.

In my activist youth, we smugly called that "Counter-hegemony." Thought we knew what we were talking about, too...

Posted by: Woody at July 5, 2009 06:31 PM

ThirdCoast at AutomaticEarth put up this somewhat relevant Megadeth vid (25 years old, sheesh!):

Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

What do you mean, "I don't believe in God"?
I talk to him every day.
What do you mean, "I don't support your system"?
I go to court when I have to.
What do you mean, "I can't get to work on time"?
I got nothing better to do
And, what do you mean, "I don't pay my bills"?
Why do you think I'm broke? Huh?

If there's a new way,
I'll be the first in line.
But, it better work this time.

What do you mean, "I hurt your feelings"?
I didn't know you had any feelings.
What do you mean, "I ain't kind"?
I'm just not your kind.
What do you mean, "I couldn't be president, of the United States of America"?
Tell me something, it's still "We the people", right?


Can you put a price on peace?
Peace sells...,
Peace sells...,
Peace sells...,but who's buying?

Posted by: oarwell at July 5, 2009 06:54 PM

"We stopped Bush-Cheney from invading Iran. They intended to do so, and we prevented it -- largely by exposing the grounds for invading Iraq to be lies."

I'm not so sure about this, inasmuch as 'we' refers to the antiwar movement.

Posted by: Cloud at July 5, 2009 08:17 PM

The no-go on an (overt) invasion of Iran was squarely the decision of the Sane Billionaires, methinks.

Posted by: Cloud at July 5, 2009 08:26 PM


I agree with your suspicion. I remember Brzezinski went on the Daily Show a couple of years ago and said invading Iran would bog the US down in a war in Asia for a few decades and end America's run as the world's only superpower. Zbig did that, and got to do that, because someone with real influence didn't want Iran to get attacked. And by real influence I mean at least ten zeros on the balance of that account before the decimal point. Have you ever seen a pacifist on the Daily Show?

The peace movement is great, God Bless Dave Swanson, and I hope more people open their eyes to what drives our foreign policy, but I think the "peace movement" didn't really prevent anything from happening to Iran. To the extent the public's eyes were opened to what happened in Iraq, the "influential" people who wanted to stop Cheney et al from going further contributed to exposing that, I would say for reasons of basic self interest. They wanted to cut the political legs out from under Cheney before he did things they didn't like in Central Asia, because his "plan" or "approach" hasn't really worked out. I wish the peace movement could have done it by bringing the truth to light, but i don't think that's possible right now.

Who stopped Team Cheney? Well, I'd say our currently Secretary of Defense Mr. Gates, Brzezinski, others currently and formerly in the National Security Bureaucracy, and ultimately the oil companies and Wall Street megabanks they work for. That last bunch is the real influence I was referring to.

What was the problem with attacking Iran in the eyes of oil and the banks? I'd guess that a change in strategy was considered necessary, and I think Pepe Escobar is barking up the right tree in this recent article:

Posted by: N E at July 5, 2009 09:48 PM

we compelled President Bush to agree to withdrawal from Iraqi localities by the end of last month, complete withdrawal from the nation by the end of 2011, and a treaty that the Iraqi people have the right to reject by the end of this month in a vote that would move the complete withdrawal date to one year from now.

Would it be too much to ask for a word or two about the efforts of Iraqis which actually made this happen? In the end, it will be Iraqi resistance that forces the US from Iraq, and just once, I'd like to see someone from the US peace movement acknowledge that fact.

And while I certainly appreciate this:

Counter-recruitment / resistance is another area that overlaps with communications but involves much else as well, and it is a strategy that we continue to underestimate.

It's sad to see Swanson's main emphasis is still on "pressure Congress to cut off the money." How many times does this "strategy" have to fail before we realize it's a dead end? One you base your "plan to end the wars" on Congressional action, you've placed the fate of the peace movement in the hands of a building full of septuagenarian millionaires - how exactly do you expect that to turn out?

I'm not claiming to have the magic bullet myself. The only viable "plan to end the wars" that I can see is to wait for Afghan opposition and resistance to grow enough in strength that it can succeed in forcing the US out of Afghanistan, just as the Iraqis are succeeding in forcing the US out of Iraq. In the meantime, there's plenty of work to do in public education and building an alternative economy so that young people have some place to go to other than the military. Unfortunately, Swanson's article is just another indication that the peace movement is always going to be stuck in "pressure Congress" mode, and always "just a few votes shy" of cutting off the funding. Been there, done that.

Posted by: SteveB at July 6, 2009 12:57 AM

A plan to end the wars, eh?

Here's a 3 prong plan -

1 have hundreds of photographs like this one from David Swanson's site grace the walls of every official building in America:

2 have two numbers in lights thirty storeys high face off against each other across Times Square for a month; one is the amount of American taxpayer's money the government has funnelled to the bankers who pull their strings in the last two years in order to fix a crisis of their own making, the other is the amount spent on Iraq and Aghanistan so far

3 produce some instructive and salutary antiwar artistic achievements to rank alongside Goya and Guernica, or even Apocalypse Now... though, a fat lot of good any of them did. Better perhaps to steal a line from the Michael Palin post below:

'I'm not sure you can accomplish much with jokes alone. But they have to be a large part of the arsenal... once people start laughing, you do get—it is a brilliant form of subversion. And it's something I think modern revolutionaries should remember. If you can make fun of somebody, it's often very much better and far more effective than shooting them or making a martyr of them.'

Or pressuring them to 'cut off the money'.

Posted by: Glenn Condell at July 6, 2009 01:23 AM

IF U hand Congress UR money, they will buy U a war. I agree with SteveB, the Iraqis are showing us the door, not Congress or ANY anti-war movement. If Bush&Cheney had been impeached and prosecuted, then one could say, "someone in AMERICA ended the war." Its the DEADENDER and the insurgent, the bodies in the streets, that end wars. THE ROOT PROBLEM is defending American INTERESTS (corporate oil) instead of defending AMERICA that has put US in these irreconcillable positions.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 6, 2009 10:57 AM


Posted by: Marcus at July 6, 2009 11:20 AM

Hey, NE, you may want to read this:

Posted by: Jenny at July 7, 2009 02:15 AM

Swanson doesn't include the only "C" that matters.

The federal government has only one concern from which all other concerns spring: commerce.

If and when an anti-war movement emerges, its adherents, if they are to have any success at all, will have to develop strategies for disrupting the flow of commerce. Until that starts to happen, assuming it ever does, war will remain a national obsession.

Anti-war activists have a magical belief in awareness, but unless awareness translates into actions which cost the federal, state and local governments real money, they will not prevail.

Posted by: Arvin at July 8, 2009 04:52 PM

Arvin: I contend that VERY thing is happening as WE watch. The wars, themselves, are causing the loss of commerse, as ALL poorly conducted wars do.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 8, 2009 06:30 PM
Arvin: I contend that VERY thing is happening as WE watch. The wars, themselves, are causing the loss of commerse, as ALL poorly conducted wars do.

Mike, as long as a handful of people are getting rich - and a handful of people are getting rich - the war wheel will grind on. That the rest of us are bankrupted in the process is of no concern to those who pocket the profits and/or secure their place in the oligarchy. They set the policy. They profit.

You're right that it can't go on forever. But forever is a very long time.

Anti-war activists can protest all they want, but if those protests don't culminate in a negative economic impact, they will have served little purpose (if any) beyond making the activists feel just swell about themselves as the war machine keeps humming right along.

With the nation in a recession, this would be an opportune time for activists to flex their muscle. Unfortunately, there is no anti-war movement, and of the few activists who exist, I have seen no evidence that any of them understand the principle of costing their government money in order to achieve their goals.

Posted by: Arvin at July 8, 2009 10:54 PM

Arvin 10:54pm: AGREED!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 9, 2009 05:33 PM