Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 16, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATIONS....All mockery and sarcasm and horn-tooting from both camps aside, yesterday's anti-war demonstrations were really impressive. Jeanne d'Arc has a great roundup of the crowd count around the world, but the count from the big cities alone gives you a taste for just how big this was:

  • London: 1 million

  • Rome: 2 million

  • New York: 500,000

  • Barcelona: 1.3 million

  • Berlin: 500,000

I think what's most impressive about this is that these people are protesting a war against Iraq. Vietnam-era protests were driven at least partly by the draft and partly by sympathy for the communist cause represented by North Vietnam, but neither of these dynamics is at work this time: there's no draft this time around and no one has a kind word for Saddam Hussein. Yet still they came.

Nick Denton has a smart comment about why things have come to this:

It's conventional wisdom that ordinary Americans respond well to the folksy language and moral clarity of George Bush, even if he revolts the coastal and foreign sophisticates. But that misses the point. Bush appeals to people who typically support the government, and military action. He's wasting his breath. There is, however, a huge middle swathe of opinion, not reflexively militarist, but entirely persuadable. They tend to respond better to the liberal argument for war: reform of the Middle East, eradication of tyranny, the strategic imperative of economic progress around the world. Bush makes no effort to speak their language. And so they're out on the streets today, with all the wackos.

I'd go further: not only does Bush make no effort to persuade the folks on the fence, he actually goes out of his way whether deliberately or not I don't know to alienate them. A lot of protesters, both in the U.S. and abroad, are reacting more to Bush himself than they are to deposing Saddam Hussein.

I don't think any of this will cause America's security alliances to suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke, but there are surely going to be some long term consequences. And despite what the neocon hawks surrounding Bush think, this isn't a good thing for the United States. Or the world.

UPDATE: Madrid apparently had a huge turnout too. See above.

Kevin Drum 10:19 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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