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04/29/2007

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John David Galt

There's a much simpler explanation: the protests of the Vietnam era were deliberately staged and funded by the Soviet propaganda machine. But our enemies in the middle east have neither the skill at manipulating Western media nor the friends within it that the Soviet Union did; if they did, they would not find it necessary to engage in terror attacks in order to get media coverage.

It seems to me we should consider restoring the wartime censorship laws we had in both world wars, and should extend those laws to prohibit media from airing the motivations/grievances/demands of terrorists. If our battle losses had been shown every evening on TV news or even in newsreels during WW2, there is no way we would have stayed in the war long enough to beat the Nazis. It appears to be simply impossible for a democratic country to prosecute a war to completion, no matter how necessary, when the media display our daily losses -- so not censoring our news is tantamount to surrendering the world into the hands of dictators who are willing to censor theirs.

Tom Rekdal

Mr Hatfield--

With all due respect, I think you are allowing your views of the merits of the 1968 protesters to color your views as to who was "causing" the violence. Do you really think that protesters who taunt the police and thereby provoke a violent response "cause" that violence in the same way that a matador "causes" the bull to attack by waving a red flag in front of him? If so, let me offer an "easier" case--"easier" because the cause of the protest is now less controversial.

In 1963, TV viewers of the nightly news were horrified by scenes of Bull Connor and the Birmingham police unleashing guard dogs and firehoses on men, women, and children who were merely asserting rights most white people took for granted. What was the impact of this? Did we all join hands and sing "We Shall Overcome" until the walls of segregation came tumbling down?
Hardly.

The first major consequence of these demonstrations was to cause businessmen in Birmingham and elsewhere in the South to lose money. Not surprisingly, even people who were indifferent to segregation did not enjoy vacationing in Dixie while local thugs were beating up demonstrators. So the business community became an unwitting, and perhaps unwilling, agent of change. They began to pressure for changes to the conditions that were producing these scenes of violence.

Did the civil rights leaders anticipate this result? Did they intend it? Almost certainly. Does that mean that in occasioning the violence, and even inviting it, they were "causing" it? Not in any morally meaningful sense that I can think of, because police officers are not like bulls responding to instinct. They are moral agents who can choose both the institutions they defend and how they defend them. In the end, it was they institution of segregation that was "causing" the violence.

My point is that one cannot easily separate the good, First Amendment-protected "message" aspect of protest and discard the bad, unprotected, "coercive" aspects of protest. They go together in complicated ways.

Fabio Rojas

I've started a thread about this on my personal blog, which is about sociology & economics. Here is the URL for interested folks: http://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2007/05/01/violence-and-the-anti-war-movement/

N.E.Hatfield

Tom, At least the boys in Birmingham didn't move in Federal Troops and clear the streets with musket fire and bayonet as they did in the streets of New York during the Draft riots in the 1860's, but then they were only Irish and German malcontents. I won't even mention Kent State in the 1970's or when the anti-war movement burned down the ROTC building on the OSU campus (it was crummy old building anyway and needed to be replaced).

As for "Jim Crow", there were laws in effect about sizes, locations and times of public gatherings meant to control riots. The Law is the Law and those charged with maintaining good public order can do nothing else, except enforce it. As I mentioned earlier, the event is meant to polarize, emotionally, psychologically, and physically. It still does, years after the fact. Always the sign of a good theatrical/rhetorical event.

Andrew

Responses to the five factors:

1. I agree. The political winds seem to have shifted against the war (see, 2006 midterms), so protesting the Iraq War now is like shooting a corpse. Of course, there are those who still think it was a good idea and that we should still "stay the course" (yet none of them--with the possible, but doubtful, exception of General Petreus--have any coherant plan as to how the U.S. Army is supposed to mend the centuries-old Sunni/Shia rift). This group seems to think that optimistic thinking and statements of determination are substitutes for being able to articulate an actual plan. If they can't be convinced by the realities of Iraq in 2007, it would be foolish to think they could be convinced by a picket sign.

2. I think there is some truth to this, but I do not think this is as much of a factor as the draft. As a twenty-seven year old law student, I do not know what the opportunity costs of being a protestor were in the 60's, but I know that college and law students today have a lot of time to devote to activities like drinking, playing video games, and blogging (except me of course, err...wait a minute). I also doubt that protesting would hurt people's job prospects unless they did something totally ludicrous.

3. I agree. In fact, I am going to blow off some steam "protest steam" at the end of my post.

4. Also agree, radical, violent protests tend to harm causes more than support them.

5. Agree. We saw socialism fail around the world and are seeing anarchy fail right now in Iraq. So right now, no one seems to have any ideas of a system to use if we threw out the current one.


Now, my "protest steam":
I just finished watching George Tenet's 60 minutes interview on CBS news' website. Who the hell thought that this guy should be in charge of the CIA? (Both administrations are to blame here.) I wouldn't buy a used car from that man. His position on the "slam dunk" comment is that he wasn't saying that he meant that Saddam actually had WMD, just that making the case to the American people (translation: making up a false story to justify the war) would be a slam dunk. This is supposed to abdicate him from responsibility? He also says that he knew the Iraq/Al Qaeda link stories were false and implies that he had the foresight to know that Iraq would be a disaster. If this is true, which I think it is, that means he knowingly didn't speak up and sat silently as we were led into this disaster. I know members of the administration are supposed to tow the party line, but with hundreds of thousands of lives at stake, that is not an excuse.

Jake

Much as I respect Judge Posner, I've read his post several times and, as someone who was around in the late 60s and early 70s, and cognizant of the Vietnam War, the only conclusion that comes to mind is that Posner's remarks on why there are no violent street protests over the Iraq conflict are not even irresponsible; quite the contrary, they are simple bullshit.

Wes

I can't comment on whether the Vietnam protests were violent. That was before my time. With respect to the lack of violence associated with the Iraq war protests, I would suggest two reasons - the first idealistic and the second profoundly cynical.The first idealistic (and, I like to think, primary) reason is that Iraq war protesters come from all age groups and are united by their belief in non-violent solution to conflict. As a result, the leaders of the Iraq war protest movement tend to be mature adults with a deep belief in the value of non-violent resolution of conflict. This makes it very difficult for those advocating violence to recruit the necessary support.That is, to the extent that protesters are motivated by a desire to make the world a better place, they honestly believe that non-violent solution is most likely to be effective.The second profoundly cynical reason is that, to the extent that the protesters believe that the Iraq war has harmed them personally and merely desire revenge, then ending the occupation of Iraq is counter-productive. At the time of invasion, the majority of Americans were in favor of invading Iraq and the members of the US military were, at least in a limited sense, volunteers. With this in mind, it is the American people and the members of the US military who are responsible for the war in Iraq and against whom revenge should ultimately be directed. The thing is, the best way to hurt the American people and members of the US military is for the USA to stay mired in Iraq. Why assume the great personal risk of engaging in acts of violence to end the Iraq occupation if ending the Iraq occupation would ultimately help the people who deserve (and seem to want) to be punished?Essentially, "Do not alleviate the suffering that they have brought upon themselves but instead show them the error of their ways for only when they have recognized the error of their ways (and acknowledged that they themselves are responsible for their suffering) will they be worthy to have their suffering alleviated".

Patrick R. Sullivan

'There's a much simpler explanation: the protests of the Vietnam era were deliberately staged and funded by the Soviet propaganda machine.'

Exactly. That machine had a long and storied history, going back to Stalin's man Otto Katz infiltrating Hollywood in the 1930s. Al Qaeda has nothing like it.

Remember than Nixon had the country behind him as he pursued his Vietnam strategy. He won a huge victory in 1972 over McGovern. Bush doesn't have anything like the support Nixon had, yet the protests today are minuscule in comparison.

michael

I think additionally prior history to each war makes a big difference. The fifties were the time of the blacklist when communist authors could not find new work nor their works expression. This provided a bulwark of conservative opinion but rather like an individual who had not been exposed to childhood viruses it also provided a very vulnerable population so that as the idea that the war was (some) wrong and a leftist idea(s) was possibly correct there was a revolutionary turn to leftist ardor. This ardor has persisted in the intellectual community. 9/11 provoked a suspension of active disbelief in the relative evils of the society but the peaks of cultural influence have so far mounted a successful counterattack, in the lack of easy success in Iraq, against any massive reflection in the populace on contrary ideas. The ardor of the left is however not fresh and their response is emotionally, 'been there done that,' cf. VN war protests.

Ole Ullern

"...the protests of the Vietnam era were deliberately staged and funded by the Soviet propaganda machine.'

Exactly. That machine had a long and storied history, going back to Stalin's man Otto Katz infiltrating Hollywood in the 1930s." ( - Patrick R. Sullivan, May 2, 2007)

*

Oh, sure - Katz, executed by Stalin in 1952, was behind the Vietnam-era protests on behalf of Stalin. No protest against the war in Vietnam had any other source but “the Soviet propaganda machine”. And George W Bush is really a reptile from outer space (or is it his opponents who are - or are they still Stalin-minions?). That "fact" Sullivan forgot to mention.

That there's anything wrong with US policies and unprovoked attacks on foreign states like Vietnam and Iraq, is of course unthinkable to some. (The "Tonkin bay incident" 1964 which served as pretext for grand escalation of US attacks on Vietnam has been thoroughly debunked - by NSA in 2005, no less - as having had nothing to do with North Vietnam).

Looking for any "casus belli" is not in the style of the always honorable US military, which always simply defends poor little US citizens and their reasonable interests - even if the defence must happen on the opposite side of the planet, killing millions of people for hay-wire political theories (like the “Domino-theory” or the WMD-theory, both demonstratively wrong) ...

Makes me reflect on what "propaganda machine" is behind these notions.

Re Nixon's win in 1972: behind it was an illegal rigging, revealed in a small smear-campaign and vote-influencing incident later known as "Watergate". The revelation of the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972 to plant listening devices pushed Nixon to resign from office August 9th 1974, exactly because he was revealed as a knowing accomplice - in the break-in, the smear-campaign, and the dirty tricks to throw the election his way in 1972.

Some people can’t get real no matter how much reality is thrown in their face.

Back to the issue of “Why No Violent Protests Against the Iraq War?”.
1. Early days yet.
2. No violent protests? Then what’s all the IED-attacks and fighting with Iraqies in Iraq - non-violent?
3. What’s not violent about herding people into “free-speech zones” cordoned off military-style – that that violence is pre-emptive?

Deluded US conservatives, bleating cheers at their own slaughter, like the good sheep they are.

michael

I think additionally prior history to each war makes a big difference. The fifties were the time of the blacklist when communist authors could not find new work nor their works expression, iconic works like 'Death of a Salesman' excepted. This provided a bulwark of anti-communsit opinion but rather like an individual who had not been exposed to childhood viruses it also provided a very vulnerable population so that as the idea that the war was (some) wrong and a leftist idea(s) was possibly correct there was a revolutionary turn to leftist ardor. This ardor has persisted in the intellectual community. 9/11 provoked a suspension of active disbelief in the relative evils of the society but the peaks of cultural influence have so far mounted a successful counterattack, in the lack of easy success in Iraq, against any massive reflection in the populace on contrary ideas. The ardor of the left is however not fresh and their response is emotionally, 'been there done that,' cf. VN war protests.

Uri

Judge Posner- I agree with all of your reasons but one. I wasn't there, but I really don't think that the opportunity costs of time and career focus have changed over the years. At least, not enough to prevent people from protesting. This reason could apply to the immigrant marches, but not to war protests. Do you really think that people have better things to do with their time than protest numerous deaths and human rights violations that are direct results of American actions in Iraq? In my opinion, there is a deeper underlying reason, which is that people have become disillisioned with the power of protests and politics in general. The support for this can be found in the drastic decrease in voting. People don't vote and they don't protest because they lost confidence in politics.

Akio Katano

"As someone who is politically on the far left, it seems to me that street protests have become essentially ineffective. The last time in United States history that street protests were effective was probably in the Civil Rights era, and their effectiveness was primarily due to media coverage."

I agree with Dan here. As a left-wing youth, there is an overwhelming sense of the fundamental failure of Vietnam-era mass-protest tactics, coupled with a general sense of disillusionment with that era as a whole: The liberal, anti-establishment, activist character of the time gave way to an intensely conservative, cautious, established nature as our parents aged.

The success of the Civil Rights movement's mass protest was ultimately a result of shared interests with political leaders; that is to say, the Civil Rights movement could have successes because there were politicians who found it in accordance with their ideology and best interest to accomodate the calls for equal rights. Marches against Vietnam, however, did little to change circumstances, and pretty generally turned the conservative establishment against the (damn dirty hippie) marchers; change didn't come until the nation as a whole became fed up with war.

In this case, like in the case of Vietnam, our political leaders have a specific interest in pursuing the war, and, accordingly, protests are immaterial - the largest protest in history was a "focus group," according to Bush. Unlike the hippies, however, my generation seems to have realized that protest is not an effective tool for social change when the protested topic is a vested interest of the power to which the protest would be appealing.

Jose Santiago

All posts are interesting banter but I think Judge Posner misses an important factor. In fact, I believe all the respondents have missed an important factor.

Most academics, legal scholars and upper middle class and above citizens simply have no reference point with the military. They simply don't know many or any soldiers, sailors or marines. They typically just don't serve or if they do it is not in a combat arm(i.e., infantry, armor, etc).They simply don't enlist and because of the all-volunteer military-they simply don't see military service as attractive. What I find so disingenuous is this broad based belief that all this cannon fodder actually joined the service for altruism. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most enlisted soldiers are products of small towns with limited economic opportunity. Most of the killed in action and grievously wounded in action are products a lower class or lower middle class environment. The reason the Judge and the other high minded posters observe that there's less protests is primarily fueled by the lack of any real direct, reasonably contemporaneous interface with any of the kids that bear the real wounds of the war.

We've outsourced our combat arms(both Army and Marines) to lower middle class kids who are desperate to survive. They sign up because of education benefits and the ability to give their children a stable middle class life.

I spent time in the US Army as an infantry platoon leader and I was shocked not to see ANY kids from advantaged backgrounds. No Birmingham or Grosse Pointe kids(I was raised in Detroit and now live in Birmingham). As a society we should be ashamed that the real heavy lifting of American foreign policy is done almost exclusively by those who owe society the least.

So the "6th factor" is what I'd call "visceral" distance. When you don't know anyone or you haven't been indirectly or directly impacted in any substantive way-you really can't formulate the outrage to protest.

I just wonder though. Assuming no draft-would a pure humanitarian mission to a Darfur mobilize the historical non-joiners to join. Are we really a country where the grads of the Kennedy School at Harvard or Georgetown(without any military, Peace Corps or other "real" public service) are going to economically bribe lower middle class and immigrant kids to join the military to send them to the far reaches of the earth for dubious objectives. Bottomline: If bodybags came home to Cambridge, Berkeley, Hillsdale and Bob Jones University-I think we'd have an entirely different military commitment policy.

N.E.Hatfield

Jose, Your right, but then, that has always been the case when nations develop "professional" volunteer militaries. The burden has always fallen disproportionately on the less advantage members of society. Which is what we have discovered by using volunteerism and the elimination of a true citizen military.

Now the problem is a lack of manpower and the stretching of the reserves to almost the breaking point. If the U.S. is to continue to expand its influence around the globe, the Congress is going to have to do something like reinstituing the Draft. Or as I would prefer, the reinstitution of "well regulated militias" of all able bodied citizens as articulated in the Constitution. At least then a true citizen military would result and eliminate a professional military composed primarily of the less advantaged.

Patrick R. Sullivan

'If the U.S. is to continue to expand its influence around the globe, the Congress is going to have to do something like reinstituing the Draft.'

That is simply ridiculous. Think about the numbers for a minute. There are roughly 50 million Americans in the prime soldiering ages 18-30. We don't need even 5% of them in the military.

Bush inherited 1.4 million men and women in uniform. Ronald Reagan--also an all-volunteer army--had 2.4 million to confront the Soviet Union. So, if we need more military manpower, it should be a simple matter to expand it.

All it takes is more money.

N.E.Hatfield

Patrick, You weren't one of Rumsfeld's office boys were you? The Nation's got problems, big problems, and it's time "to think a-new and act a-new". The first step, is to recreate what will guarantee and maintain a free government. "Cost" be damned.

Wes

Jose Santiago:Assuming no draft-would a pure humanitarian mission to a Darfur mobilize the historical non-joiners to join.I would suggest that the reason the upper class does not join the military is related to your idea but not not about humanitarian missions, per se.The thing is, money is power and the upper class, by definition, have money. What this means is that the upper class is accustomed to having control of their lives. If an upper class person wants a new couch for their living room, they go out and buy a new couch. If an upper class person wants to go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant then that person goes out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. If an upper class person wants a clean house but doesn't want to clean their own house then the upper class person hires someone to clean their house.The problem is that the military is not about letting people have control of their lives. A lower class person doesn't' really have control of their life anyway so it doesn't matter. For an upper class person, this loss of control is a huge sacrifice.It's not clear to me that the military really needs to be so coercive and to prevent its member from having control of their lives. If the military made each mission optional (e.g. a soldier could choose to fight in Afghanistan but not Iraq) then I suspect there would be a lot more members of the upper class enlisting.

john

The absence of a draft reduces the common burden that the citizenry felt in Vietnam.

But, to characterize today's armed forces as "all volunteer" is to fall prey to current group speak.

The troops are paid what the market says they are worth. They are volunteers in the same sense that my garbage man is a volunteer.

Putting a thin veneer of patriotism probably lowers the government's costs somewhat. But let's be honest, by and large we have a poverty draft in this country. Just like the Civil War.

Steve

Maybe being a stinky, dirty hippie just isn't as broadly fashionable and hip as it was in the Vietnam era. However I do see a fair number of Che t-shirts, so I might be wrong.

n.e.hat

Wes, Ever been in the middle of a fire fight, where the platoon has frozen in position because of stark fear? There is a reason for the coercive nature of discipline. "Pickup your rifle and move against the enemy! NOW! Otherwise, I will have the SGT. shoot you where you lie. GET MOVING!"

As an officer he is well within his rights to have you shot on the spot for cowardice in the face of the enemy.

Hang Li

In my opinion, formal education can also be a kind of consumption. In my college, there are quite a few students who are pure "party animals". They are always happy. From what I saw, they never worry about grades, they seek new friends on Facebook and chat online in all classes, and they have at least 4 parties every week... To them, college education is just pure enjoinment, four years of party, and the best thing is that their parents will pay for them.

Chengkai Zhao

Violent Protests Against the Iraq War? Is that really work?
In my opinion, to be a violent protest, cost is too high, and nobody can say is there are "Violent Protests Against the Iraq War" the war will stop or shorter. U.S. government have benefit to break out this war, they consider the national safety compare with violent against. That is the opportunity cost, the "national safety" is more important to the government, so I don's think it will be useful. also the cost of be a violent protest is os high , no body want "pay for it."

Bruce M.

The answer is so blatant I'm amazed the question was even posed. It's entirely cultural. Let me give you a clue. Think of the popular bands/music at the time of the late 60s early 70s. Now think of Brittney Spears (popular in our time), who says we should trust the president and do whatever he says. Conformity is what these times are all about. The people who 40 years ago would be protesting the war are, today, rebelling by trying the new Dulce de Leche Frappuccino at Starbucks rather than their usual Venti White half-calf Mocha. Nobody is going to protest anything meaningful, and they're certainly not going to be violent. They might show up for an anti-meat ralley for half an hour to pick up the chicks who are there so they can say they do something 'meaningful' (as opposed to crying and pilates).

Mark Hankins

In addition to the KGB's disinformation campaign, one might also look to the pervasive operations of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Undoubtedly there were agents provacateur planted among organizations to which protestors belonged, in an effort to damage their legitimacy. Hoover would have seen this as an important priority, as he would have believed such organizations to be shot through with leftists belonging to various Soviet front organizations, or with fellow travelers at the very least.

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