We're ten years from 9/11 and still in the Long War. Can we open our eyes in time?
The more we know about the Long War doctrine, the more we understand the need for a long peace movement. The pillars of the peace movement, in my experience and reading, are the networks of local progressives in hundreds of communities across the United States. Most of them are voluntary, citizen volunteers, always and immersed in the crises of the moment, nowadays the economic recession and unemployment.
This peace bloc deserves more. It won't happen overnight, but gradually we are wearing down the pillars of the war. It's painfully slow, because the president is threatened by Pentagon officials, private military contractors and an entire Republican Party (except the Ron Paul contingent) who benefit from the politics and economics of the Long War.
But consider the progress, however slow. In February of this year, Rep. Barbara Lee passed a unanimous resolution at the Democratic National Committee calling for a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan and transfer of funds to job creation. The White House approved of the resolution. Then 205 House members, including a majority of Democrats, voted for a resolution that almost passed, calling for the same rapid withdrawal. Even the AFL-CIO executive board, despite a long history of militarism, adopted a policy opposing Afghanistan. The president himself is quoted in Obama's Wars as opposing his military advisors, demanding an exit strategy and musing that he "can't lose the whole Democratic Party." At every step of the way, it must be emphasized, public opinion in Congressional districts was a key factor in changing establishment behavior.
As for Al Qaeda, there is always the threat of another attack, like those attempted by militants aiming at Detroit during Christmas 2009 or Times Square in May 2010. In the event of another such terrorist assault originating from Pakistan, all bets are off: According to Woodward, the U.S. has a "retribution" plan to bomb 150 separate sites in that country alone there, and no apparent plan for The Day After. Assuming that nightmare doesn't happen, today's al Qaeda is not the al Qaeda of a decade ago. Osama bin Laden is dead, its organization is damaged, and its strategy of conspiratorial terrorism has been displaced significantly by the people-power democratic uprisings across the Arab world.
It is clear that shadow wars lie ahead, but not expanding ground wars involving greater numbers of American troops. The emerging argument will be over the question of whether special operations and drone attacks are effective, moral and consistent with the standards of a constitutional democracy. And it is clear that the economic crisis finally is enabling more politicians to question the trillion dollar war spending.
Meanwhile, the 2012 national elections present an historic opportunity to awaken from the blindness inflicted by 9/11.
After more than 50 years of activism, politics and writing, Tom Hayden is a leading voice for ending the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan and reforming politics through a more participatory democracy.