February 28, 2003
The Sound of Silence

The so-called "pro-war" crowd likes to think of itself as better educated, more enlightened, than the so-called "anti-war" crowd. Certainly people carrying signs equating Bush to Hitler and celebrities being quoted as being anti-war because it's "hip" doesn't help. Yet for pro-war folks to call anti-war protestors "un-American" is to express an equal, perhaps greater, ignorance. There's almost literally nothing more American than protesting war.

The open questioning of military leaders is a Western tradition that goes back to the ancient Greeks. The entire Bill of Rights can be seen as an elaborate legal mechanism to preserve the right to poke our government in the eye. Anti-war dissent in particular has been with us since at least the Civil War, starting with the draft riots of 1865.

Foreign wars have been especially fond targets of our dislike for armed conflict. Without exception each expedition into the heartland of someone else's country has triggered at times massive civil disobedience and protests. Especially when conscription meant compelling young men to risk their lives whether they wanted to or not, protesting against war has been as natural for an American as watching baseball or eating apple pie.

The funny thing about today's anti-war protestors is that for many their motivation comes from a place normally thought to be the heartland of conservatives and Republicans-- a deep distrust of federal power. Conservatives worry what the federal government might do with their money. Liberals worry what the federal government might do with their kids. Both seem incapable of understanding the common ground they share: that government should not, must not, be unquestioningly trusted with things we hold dear.

"Fools" said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows."

Anyone who says anti-war protests have never brought anything but misery to this country needs to go back and read their history books more carefully. Anti-war protests stopped the Civil War practice of "commutation", the ability for the rich to use their money to either buy their way out of the draft or pay someone to die for them. They also ensured that diplomacy got more than its fair chance during both world wars.

Korea and Vietnam are the only two large-scale conflicts in our history that weren't preceded by some form of anti-war protest, and neither of them could be considered stellar victories. Vietnam in particular stands as a shining example of what can happen when politicians are trusted without question with our armed forces. The liberal elite's near fanatic and, far more important, unquestioning support of Bill Clinton resulted in eight years of inconclusive and ongoing conflicts precisely because, as the traditional heart and soul of the modern anti-war movement, they remained silent.

It may be true that going to war without France is like going camping without an accordion (in both cases one is only leaving noisy and useless baggage behind), but, for America at least, going to war without questioning our motives is like trying to make steel without carbon... the result is often brittle, inflexible, and prone to failure. We need this kind of debate, if for no other reason than to make the politicians answer tough questions and make proper plans to ensure a war is prosecuted quickly and decisively.

It's perfectly OK to say the current anti-war movement is elitist and poorly thought out. I do. It's fine to disassemble their arguments like the badly constructed tinker toys they are. I do that too. It's even OK to point out that the leaders of the movements may have agendas at odds with those of their members. I've done it before.

It's not OK to call them un-American. It's not OK to call them traitors. It's not OK to refuse to listen to them, or to attempt to silence them. Anyone who does these things, anyone, is simply an ignorant thug who's out to attack people just because they disagree with them. It means you have become exactly what they accuse you of... someone who should be clever but has instead gotten mean.

Really, for the most part it's not particularly difficult to drop their arguments to the mat and pin them for the three count. Sometimes, though, it won't be that easy. Sometimes you'll run into someone who's every bit as skilled at argument as you, every bit as prepared for each point you make. They may not convince you. You may not convince them. But you'll both have a better appreciation for each side when it's over, and your own beliefs will be stronger for the examining.

And that, my friend, is the miracle of America.

Posted by scott at February 28, 2003 09:12 AM

eMail this entry!

brilliant! You've raised the standard on your essays so high that if you write a bad one, you're going to get smoked for it (I assure you!!)

You're points are almost unarguable... protests and anti-war speak are great things, IF they are valid. Telling someone "no blood for oil" is a ridiculous anti-war protest and it shows. In the current protest, the arguements are weak and the causes "hip" enough to attract attention and fairly easy to refute. However, as you said, without them the leaders would have FAR too free of a reign.

here's a couple things you might want to consider:

I think it was George Carlin who said Never trust the government, it's thier job to lie to you. In that vein, never trust the media, since they are (usually) just an unpaid propaganda machine for the government.

As my comments template says: "Silence is the virtue of fools" - Francis Bacon

To use your theory of refutation, I'm not sure you saw my pitiful attempt at an essay yesterday. It pales beside your essays, but I think I made my point.

Posted by: Jim S on February 28, 2003 09:39 AM

Media has nothing to do with the government. Media exists to deliver an advertising message to target audiences. They publish certain things about the government because that's what their audience wants to read.If everyone decided they wanted to read about the intricacies of knitting, that's what they'd publish.

Posted by: Pam on February 28, 2003 09:45 AM

March in the street, have rallies, give anti- war speeches but when the time comes and our young men go into Iraq back them. Don't let another generation come home to what the Vietnam Vets faced.It is the old men who plan wars but our young men who die fighting them. The time to protest, march and give speeches is before the troops go in, while they are fighting I do think it is giving comfort to the enemy to continue.

Posted by: Pat Johnson on February 28, 2003 10:05 AM

Oh I forgot, I agree with Jim S. don't tell him though. This is a top rate essay and say things I think but don't know how to say.

Posted by: Pat on February 28, 2003 10:07 AM

Indeed, protest has always been a forum for questioning leaders in America. But sometimes, the questions are completely ludicrous, as is the case with the anti-war protestors. Me, I still remember the attacks upon Vietnam vets. Technically those were "protests," but they proved that not all forms of protest are legit.

I would consider the "peace in our time" protests skirting the edge. They can protest all they want, but when they begin rioting, we should be able to bust their heads without being accused of "oppression."

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on February 28, 2003 01:37 PM

"Open questioning of a Western Leader" implies an open mind... One subject to the rule of fact and reason. The anti-war crowd has demonstrated their relentless animosity to this. They have managed to ignore both fact and reason, regardless of its presentation. As one man put it, "If facts were bullets, these clowns could dodge them like something out of 'The Matrix.'"

Furthermore the only single coherent thought holding all these disparate lunatics togethor is virulent hatred of both President Bush, and of America itself--- not for any real crime either has committed (though they have countless provably false accusations they level) but for the simple fact of their existence and the values they espouse. This is not anti-war dissent, it is *anti-American hatemongering.*

They falsely accuse our leader and our country as a whole of nonexistent crimes, they give aid and comfort to our enemy, and they proudly and openly declare their enmity with our values.

And you don't have the temerity to call them traitors?

Very well. Since you have decreed, in your profound and infinite wisdom, that we are not allowed to call people screaming for the annihilation of our country and marching in support of a tyrant sworn to destroy us "traitors," I'd just like to know-- are we still permitted to call them slanderers, libelists and


Or does that "stifle dissent" too much for your cosmopolitan tastes?

Posted by: RHJunior on February 28, 2003 11:56 PM

America is going to war without questioning our motives? What? Hello!!! Have you been frozen for the past 2 and a half years? We've got more motive than we know what to do with. We KNOW Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and we KNOW that he has threatened us directly with them. If he doesn't have weapons, then why won't he let the UN weapon inspectors check up on him? After all, he is the one who decided to sign the pact that allowed them to come in for routine inspections. It sounds as if he's hiding something to me. Plus, not to mention he's killing his innocent people in the process of trying to become a powerful leader. And I hope you're not one of those people who say we don't have the right to be over there. We are America. We are the superpower. It is our job as the biggest and most generous country to help anyone in need. The Iraqi people need our help and that's what we are doing. No one is "Pro War" per ce. No one WANTS war. Not even the generals over there want war. But this is a just war. We have a reason to be over there. You can't compare this war to something like Vietnam, which was utterly and completely pointless and political. Being "pro war" is supporting our troops who are over there risking their lives so YOU ANTI-WAR PROTESTORS can have the right to protest in the first place. The most you can do is be grateful. If they weren't doing anything, our country would probably be bombed by every terrorist organization in the world right now. The only good things about your essay was the fact that you realize that the anti-war protestors are poorly organized, and the celebrities are stupid for supporting the war because they think it's the "hip" thing to do. And the other good point was that you said France was pretty much useless, which was cool! In conclusion, I'm not saying that anti-war protestors should be discriminated against, but you shouldn't be protesting in the first place, or you don't know the meaning of "pro war"! Supporting our troops and our country goes along with being pro war in this war against Saddam Hussein. We can't just let these terrorists sit back and push America around. America is the protector. That is our job and forever will be. LONG LIVE AMERICA AND GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS

Posted by: Cat on April 14, 2003 08:25 AM
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