The Long View 2003-03-21: The Nyarlathotep Left

Perhaps with a better class of antiwar activists in the US, we might be spared further Imperial adventures. It was hard to argue against the Iraq War in the US after 9/11. However, even now, antiwar activism really doesn't have any friends.

The Nyarlathotep Left
Nyarlathotep is the Soul and Messenger of the Other Gods; his prophet is H. P. Lovecraft. Nyarlathotep is also known as the "the Crawling Chaos," because the mark of his presence is glee at the prospect of disorder and despair. Nyarlathotep is imaginary, but that does not prevent him from being the guiding spirit of the current antiwar movement.
The activists are disgusting (the mass barfing in San Francisco) and fatuous (no blood for oil), but we must remember they have the power to do real harm. The hope of tyranny in Iraq, indeed the hope of tyranny in the world, is that fifth columnists will poison the political systems of the few countries still willing to fight for civilization. The images of streets being blocked and stores being looted support that hope. They are reasons for the enemy regime not to negotiate a surrender. They are reasons to use tactics that inflict the maximum casualties, even on the regime's own subjects. There is a perverse resonance here; the activists also need huge casualties, the better to discredit the US Administration.
What chiefly strikes me about the campaign of antiwar demonstrations is their tactical inflexibility. They had a set of slogans and a schedule of actions all prepared before the war began. They are going through with it, despite the fact the war on the ground is not going as they anticipated. They had hoped to appear to be citizens moved to spontaneous outrage by a blizzard of missiles and smart-bombs. They really weren't ready for the possibility that the Coalition might yet settle the matter through negotiation, now that the UN is out of the way. In any case, they have made clear that they are not motivated by what people are seeing on their television screens.
The movement seems to have jumped right to the final phase of the Vietnam era. By that point, the radical element was beyond caring what the public thought. They moved to direct action, even to direct action as a form of therapy. They became so self-referential that they continued blowing things up long after the war ended. If they hoped to garner public sympathy by provoking the police to violent suppression, the attempt failed. The Vietnam antiwar movement is remembered with some fondness only because the Communist regimes it was supporting won. The US public never got a good look at what that victory meant, even in Cambodia.
One encouraging sign is that the antiwar movement shows no sign at all of becoming cool. Particularly compared to the 1960s, there is something deficient about a political movement whose musical signature so far is by the Beastie Boyz
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As for the course of the war, I am as surprised as anyone else by its course so far. Perhaps it is too much to hope that the whole war will prove to be a large mop-up campaign. It also seems unlikely to me that Saddam Hussein could have been killed in that cruise-missile attack on Wednesday night. If he were dead, the wheels would be falling off the regime by now. Maybe they are, and we just have yet to learn of it.
In any case, part of the reason the campaign is going so well is the small number of Coalition partners. In 1990, George Bush Senior put together a magnificent alliance. The effect was to transform one of the most lopsided military victories of modern times into a political draw. Bush Junior refused to make the concessions that would have been necessary for another such coalition. Who was the better diplomat?
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

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