So the early reactions from peace activists to the mid-term elections seems to range from “catastrophic” to “really, really bad” to “coulda been even worse.” I’d love to hear your thoughts, please feel free to comment on this blog, and also any thoughts on the topics below — how the elections may impact our work ahead, and our recent accomplishments.
1. New START ratification – this looks tough, but it still could be approved by the Senate in the upcoming “lame duck” session, something we will vigorously advocate. Some Republicans are arguing to postpone a vote until the new Senate convenes next year, so new senators have time to assess the treaty, but their motive is almost assuredly to block ratification, as there will be fewer reliable Democratic votes for the treaty in the new Senate. Either way, we will need a new strategy on nuclear disarmament moving forward, one that will likely emphasize pressing the Obama Administration to take executive action to reduce nuclear weapons dangers, rather than the painstakingly difficult treaty negotiation and ratification processes. (More on this soon!)
2. Afghanistan – some Dems may feel more empowered to oppose the war, but Republicans and even some in the military will press the president to ditch his plan to begin withdrawing US troops next July. Our strategy will likely be focused on the cost of the war and its devastating effect on the economy, and, strategically, on Obama’s re-election prospects. It’s hard to see how his base will support him in 2012 if we are not well on our way out of Afghanistan. These issues can be linked for the president and his administration – end the war, re-invest resources in jobs and the economy, win re-election.
3. Iraq – like Afghanistan, there will be pressure on the administration to postpone the December 31, 2011 deadline for all troops, contractors and bases to be out of Iraq. We will need to be vigilant to make sure there is no backsliding on this deadline, nor on our country’s commitment to helping the Iraqi people rebuild their devastated society.
4.Iran – there is cause for real concern here, as the Republicans (and many Dems) will push harder to ratchet up economic sanctions and military threats against Iran. New House International Relations Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is probably already booking a room for regime change in iran hearings in January (I’m not really exaggerating here! Or at least not much). Our message will be simple – start a third war? What are they smoking? Diplomacy with Iran is the only way to address concerns over its nuclear program, and the best solution would be the establishment of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, which we support and will campaign for along with peace movement and governmental allies in the Middle East and Europe.
5. Cutting the gargantuan US military budget – this is a long-term campaign, but with a possible short-term opportunity around the president’s deficit reduction commission, which will likely put military spending cuts on the table (more on this soon, too!). And some Republicans, even Tea Partiers, are raising the idea that the military budget needs to be cut. While this will not be easy, my sense is we now have the best opportunity in nearly twenty years for progress on this issue.
A general note – we shouldn’t write off everybody in the Tea Party movement as hopeless dupes or racists, though some of the “we want our country back” rhetoric does have some very troubling racist undertones to it. That said, many voters and activists are understandably motivated by fear and economic insecurity, and understanding that could be important to building new alliances. Our chapter in the Stamford/Greenwich are of Connecticut was able to find some common ground over concern about excessive military spending with local Tea Party supporters, so this isn’t just theoretical.
As we look to the challenges and opportunities ahead, it is also good to acknowledge important 2009 and 2010 accomplishments like the following:
-Helping turn the tide of public, media and even Congressional opinion against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (of course we are not nearly done, but the end is perhaps finally in sight, especially in Iraq);
-Playing a lead role in organizing a highly successful mobilization at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations last May, including a 15,000 person string rally and march, and a conference of over 1000 people from nearly 20 countries at historic Riverside Church. At the gathering, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told us that we, the grassroots peace activists of the world, hold the key to abolishing nuclear weapons;
-Building new alliances at the local, national and international levels calling for dramatic cuts in spending for war and militarism in order to reinvest in human and environmental needs and a more sustainable, just economy;
-Expanding Peace Action’s national grassroots affiliate network to new states including Idaho, Illinois and Utah, with promising prospects for growth into several more states in 2011.
Please take a moment to share your thoughts on the topics above by commenting on this blog.