Sunday, September 18, 2011

Not Your Father's Antiwar Movement

I have very clear memories of the '60s and '70s, when the antiwar movement was driven by fear of the draft.

Today we live in a different world. Without the draft, the people have "checked out." It is like Rome ... the legions do the work of empire and the people are kept happy with bread and circus. (Or Starbucks and "Dancing With the Stars," if you prefer.)

You can't get good help these days . . . .

Of course, our government now has to go to the trouble of recruiting volunteers, but our leaders have figured out that they can get most of the work done by a class that supplies its sons (and some daughters) as soldiers, and doesn't really figure out what's happening until those kids' deployments are over or kids themselves become casualties. (See the great new film "Where Soldiers Come From" for a brutal depiction of this reality.)

And we are moving away from even that inconvenience, by figuring out ways to get more and more of our killing done by robots. The fundamental problem of drones is that their pervasive use cuts the people's last ties to their feelings of responsibility for the most serious acts of their government.

The challenge of the antiwar movement is to stop fighting the battles of the past -- addressing a populace that is afraid of the draft -- and to start dealing with this new reality: a populace that has been reduced to being one rung above being robots themselves.

Related posts

In my opinion, the reason to focus on drones is this: when we focus on drones, the general public is able to "get," to an unusual extent, the degree to which popular consent has been banished from the process of carrying out state violence. (Sure, it was banished long ago, but the absence of a human in the cockpit of a drone suddenly makes a light bulb go off in people's heads.) It takes some prodding, but people can sense that drone use somehow crosses a line. And that opens up the discussion about how our consent has been eliminated from the vast range of US militarism.

(See "Why focus on drone attacks?")

Leveling Up is the creative work that demonstrates just how thoroughly America's new ways of warfare have become intertwined with the other dominant strands in our culture.

(See Level Up, Step Up, Grow Up, Man Up . . . Wake Up)

If the public will join us in asking the question "Who decides?" about drone executions, I believe they will rapidly come to realize that they are utterly dissatisfied with what the government is saying.

(See Who Decides? (When Drones are Judge, Jury, and Executioner) )