Where are the antiwar protesters now that we really need them?

Anti-war protests in all 50 states and in front of the hated King Bush II”s Texas ranch were a fixture in American life and newspapers from 2003 through mid-2008. The protests seem to have disappeared yet the ills of war remain. Let’s look at what is bad about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • Americans are being killed
  • American taxpayers are being improverished
  • limited American resources are diverted to unproductive activities (bombing an opium factory in Afghanistan is not likely to lead to long-term growth the way that building a factory in North Carolina would)

All three of these things were bad in 2004 when the U.S. was rich and getting richer. They are even worse now. We have had a decline in birth rate and population growth due to the economic collapse. This makes the death of an American soldier if anything more costly becuase there are fewer children growing up to replace him or her. We have less money now, so whatever it is that we’re spending on our adventures amongst the Jihadis is less affordable (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0933935.html shows that spending is higher than ever and continuing to grow).

Given that the cost of the wars in American life and taxpayer funds is less bearable now than before, how come the antiwar protesters seem to have melted away?

[Update: Tim Hsia, in the New York Times, writes about the same issue.]

11 thoughts on “Where are the antiwar protesters now that we really need them?

  1. You surely know. Why won’t you say? They are not anti-war. They were anti-Bush. What purpose would protest server at this point?

  2. Brian: I don’t know, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked! I think there are more possible explanations than yours. For example, the collapse of the economy could have attracted so much attention that nobody has enough energy for antiwar protest. It could be that people are still protesting but the media aren’t covering it. It could be that somehow there was a turning point in the war(s) and people now think we are winning (i.e., the former protesters weren’t antiwar they were simply anti-losing). There are probably others.

  3. Despite some calls for immediate U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq from some representatives and at least one presidential candidate (http://www.bostonherald.com/news/national/politics/2008/bios/view.bg?articleid=1063101), the plan seems to be for us to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. I think when there’s a relatively close “hard” date for withdrawal, even if you don’t like the date, it’s difficult to get people out to protest. Having someone suggest that we might be there for 100 years (http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/14/mccain.king/) helps protest organizers to mobilize people.

    As for Afghanistan, I think people supported that “adventure” more than Iraq, since it at least seemed to offer the chance of catching Osama Bin Laden before his supposedly failing kidneys get him. I think as long as it “feels” like we’re getting out of Iraq soon, people take for granted that we’ll get out of Afghanistan shortly thereafter.

  4. I agree that there are many possible reasons that could motivate people to protest, and that different protesters are motivated by different reasons. I think a simpler explanation is that people are not motivated so much by specific issues as they are by the politics and personalities driving those issues. There was a lot of Bush dislike which, at least in part, drove the anti-war protests. Likewise there is now increasing Obama dislike which to some extent is driving health care protests. My impression is that opposing a person who symbolizes such-and-such is much more a factor in motivating people to protest than the issue itself and that opposition groups get a better response when they focus on a person rather than an abstract (and complex) issue. Call me cynical but the political parties need something to motivate their grassroots and drive support for the next election (or TV numbers or books sales, etc. in the case of TV networks and pundits). A president is an easy and convenient target.

  5. I don’t think there ever has been much opposition of the war in Afghanistan. Even the ever mocked French have 3,300 troops there.

    As far as Iraq after the announced withdrawal by the end of 2011 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S.-Iraq_Status_of_Forces_Agreement) there isn’t much to protest against. Sure some people would like to that be happen faster but nobody really knows what is a reasonable timeframe.

  6. A good part of it probably has to do with the media.
    The media was as anti-Bush as any protester. They’d take any chance they could get to show the American people how much Bush was disliked.

    The media is pro-Obama, it practically elected him. It’s having a dandy time following Obama around on Martha’s Vineyard, Yellowstone, etc. Then it will come back and report on how much money Obama’s health care plan is going to save.

  7. Bush was unapologetically in favor of continued intervention.

    Obama is, at least in speech, against it.

    Protesters, giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, have not felt an overwhelming need to make the arguments against staying.

    As the disconnect between the speeches and the facts on the ground continue to grow, this will change.

  8. Wow! Looked at that Infoplease.com article.

    Was there a “hidden stimulus” through the war funding for Iraq, for all those companies – or how did the 5X spending increase happen in Iraq in ’08 happen?

    One last hoorah for the king’s family friends?

  9. i know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but i still see antiwar protesters regularly at the same major intersection they have gathered since i moved to this area. i’m in central jersey. they wave signs and american flags, and there is a large wall there that they hang signs on with the names of soldiers killed at war, sort of like a homemade vietnam war memorial.

  10. I would consider the killing & maiming of Iraqi & Afgani civilians to also count among the atrocities of war, but I digress…

    I think one difference is that Obama is a glib smooth-talker who promises that we will withdraw, eventually, at least partially, maybe, at least in Iraq…. whereas Bush was a clumsy, crude and inarticulate jerk – but also, as a result – much more clear in stating his intentions.

    (As a side note, this accidental honesty on the part of Bush to me was one of the few things I liked about him. He clearly showed the world the true face of Americas foreign policy, and got hated for it. Did the CIA torture prisoners before Bush? Of course they did. But I digress again.)

    Another difference is that Obama is a Democrat, presumably the party of choice for anti-war protestors. A study some years ago showed that people were much more willing to overlook wrong/unethical behavior when it comes from someone on your “team”.

  11. They told me if I voted for McCain, the wars would never end. Well, I voted for McCain, and the wars go on!

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