I was asked by our colleagues at the French Peace Movement (Mouvement de la Paix) to write an article a couple of weeks ago for their excellent magazine Planete Paix on the outcome of the presidential election and what it will mean for our work in the next few years. Here it is, and it may appear in longer form somewhere else soon. I’d be interested in your comments!
Relief, rather than elation, was the emotion most U.S. peace activists felt November 6 when President Obama won re-election. While President Obama has been very disappointing on most peace issues (and right now most peace activists are furious at him for drone strikes killing civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and maybe other countries), Mitt Romney would have been awful as president. So what now to expect from a second Obama term?
Most likely, more of the same policies of the first term. Anyone expecting Obama to be decidedly more pro-peace than in his first term is likely to be sorely dispirited. However, there is a diverse, growing peoples’ movement in the U.S. linking human and environmental needs with a demand to end our wars and liberate the vast resources they consume. This, combined with difficult budgetary pressures (which should dictate at least modest cuts in the gargantuan Pentagon budget) could lead to serious restraints on possible militaristic policies such as an attack on Iran, “modernization” of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise at a cost of over $200 billion, a permanent U.S. force of 25,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 and an absurd military “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific aimed at isolating Russia and especially China.
We in the peace movement need to be able to think, and act, with both a short- and long-term perspective. In the near term, swiftly ending the war in Afghanistan and ensuring no long-term U.S./NATO troop presence, ending drone strikes, preventing a war with Iran and building support for a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East, pushing for serious cuts to the Pentagon and advocating progress toward nuclear disarmament (including building new boycott/divestment campaigns utilizing the excellent International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report) will consume most of our energies. Also, peace activists will build alliances with and lend solidarity to efforts to those working to save social programs and address climate chaos.
In the longer term (and looking through a broader lens), the U.S. is hopefully heading toward, in the analysis of Johann Galtung, “The Decline of the U.S. Empire and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.” We need to understand and hasten that process as much as we can. We have an opportunity in opposing the outrageous “Asia-Pacific Pivot” (which the military-industrial complex has concocted, without asking the American people if we support or want to pay for it, as an obvious attempt the justify its continuing rasion d’etre), building solidarity with the peoples of Okinawa, Jeju Island, Guam, Hawaii and other nations in the region opposing the spread of U.S. militarism there and advocating peaceful relations with China and all in the region. Surely that is a better idea than trying to isolate China militarily, politically, economically and geo-strategically.
Contrary to the hopes many around the world invested in him (which he didn’t deserve and frankly he never asked for), it’s never been about Obama. It’s about the entrenched power of the U.S. war machine, and about how we the peoples of this country and around the world can work together to demand and create more peaceful and just policies.