Sadly, the antiwar and anti-national security state inclinations of American liberals and progressives have weakened since the days of President George W. Bush. Partisan incentives during Barack Obama’s presidency combined with the FBI-CIA-Democratic Party-media plot to falsely accuse President Trump of high treason with the Russians, or at least terribly insufficient patriotism, for the last 3 years have done much to confuse liberals about where they should stand. There’s no question that many great leftist writers and readers out there have stayed great, but overall the numbers tell a sad story. One might wonder though if liberal voters’ hearts are really in it outside of current circumstances. It seems the general presumption still stands that, while Democratic politicians and appointees love war, their voters do not.
But that’s okay either way. We currently have a Republican president. Attacking America’s interventionist foreign policy from the left would not be likely to do much good anyway. It’s the rank and file right that is still seen as supporting a “muscular” foreign policy. But what if they don’t?
The convenient thing about being libertarian is that we’re better than the left and the right on the things they’re actually good on (e.g. drugs, gays and cops; gold, guns and taxes). This gives us the opportunity to meet our interlocutors halfway while simply asking for a little consistency. Attack the left from the left and the right from the right. Let them be right, just now even more right than before. The Tenth Amendment Center’s Michael Boldin calls this “the Horton rule” (not to be confused with Horton’s Law, which is about how none of this ever works).
If we have the slightest hope of building on the recent U.S. withdrawal from northeastern Syria, we must attack the right from the right. As I argued in a speech I gave a year ago for the Committee For a Responsible Foreign Policy in Washington, the most important thing we can do is give Trump the right impression so that when he imagines the great mass of Americans out there past his oval office window, he knows his base supports him in seeking peace with the “rogue states” such as North Korea and removing U.S. forces from the Middle East, where he correctly says we “never should have been.”
Trump doesn’t believe in peace, it’s just that he doesn’t really believe in the mythology of America’s “global mission” either. He needs to know that his supporters feel the same way about it.
But how can regular people be heard on this issue? We have the answer.
In this recent news piece about how the Syrian Kurds didn’t need the U.S. to protect them anymore anyway, Matt Lee of the AP writes:
“[Trump] has told aides that the chants of ‘Bring them home!’ from his rally crowds, including one in Minnesota earlier this month, are evidence that the decision is popular with his base – a key demographic as he heads into the 2020 election.” [Emphasis added.]
There you have it. This is the most important thing antiwar libertarians, conservatives, Republicans and especially 21st century Middle East war veterans can do for this next year. Show up. Make sure “Bring them home!” gets shouted out and chanted at every event. Not just Trump rallies, but Republican campaign events of every kind.
No more nation-building.
No more policing the world.
No more on no-win counterinsurgency wars that don’t protect the security of the American people.
No more wasting trillions of dollars which causes economic damage that increases popular support for socialism.
No more betraying the troops by allowing the establishment to continue to waste their lives this way.
No more undermining the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights in the name of the emergency.
Bring them home!
….IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY! We went to war under a false & now disproven premise, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. There were NONE! Now we are slowly & carefully bringing our great soldiers & military home. Our focus is on the BIG PICTURE! THE USA IS GREATER THAN EVER BEFORE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2019
A new right-leaning group, BringOurTroopsHome.us, led by Afghan war combat vet Dan McKnight, is already spreading around the country at a wildfire’s pace, including the launching of new chapters in more than 20 new red states outside of its founder’s Idaho within their first 10 months. They join the antiwar veterans movement alongside Concerned Veterans of America, Veterans For Peace, About Face: Veterans Against the War, VoteVets, and Iraq Veterans Against the War. And they have the incumbent President’s own words to invoke and support when stating their case that 18 years of this is enough. Their movement has the potential to serve as the greatest antiwar force in our society.
In Wyoming, State majority whip, representative and navy veteran Tyler Lindholm is leading their efforts against Rep. Liz Cheney with WYBringOurTroopsHome.com. Cheney is trying to decide whether she wants to be speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives or a senator. They’d like to see her get a real job instead. McKnight says that their opposition to Cheney has been “incredibly well received in the ultra conservative state of Wyoming.” A defeat for Cheney, proud heir to every one of her father’s most despicable crimes and would-be instigator of further international crises in the future, would be a terrible setback for the war party and a major victory for those who have had enough of her ilk making things so much worse.
He also says that other states are about to formally launch BringOurTroopsHome chapters: Ohio, Oregon, California, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Montana and Colorado. And they’re just getting started. The official launch of their new chapters is being planned around an event they’re hosting in Washington, D.C., November 12-13. (Details will soon be posted at the Antiwar.com blog.)
Groups like this are helping to make the reality impossible to avoid: there’s just not enough support among the people to keep the disastrous Middle East wars going any longer.
America has so many wars going now, Trump could order withdrawals from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Niger, Chad and the rest of the Middle East and Africa; another one every couple of months until election day. He’d be Trump the Great, sure to win reelection. According to our Constitution, ending wars is one area where the president certainly has absolute authority. And what a great way to judo-jam the Democrats in 2020: by making them embrace and defend George W. Bush’s continuing wars in the face of a Republican Party seeking to end them. Let them explain that to their progressive base in an election year: “Withdrawal is dangerous! Precipitous! Eighteen years is just too soon! But just a couple more might do the trick!”
How will the liberal media channels play it when “Bring them home” becomes a regular chant at Trump and other GOP rallies? Of course they’ll decry it as irresponsible “isolationism,” but the reality that those Trump crowds are full of war veterans and that the NPR, MSNBC and CNN studios are most decidedly not, will be inescapable. (CIA officers don’t count.)
Andrew McCarthy at the National Review warns Trump that the Senate could turn on him in the impeachment scandal if he keeps up the bad behavior, such as pulling out of northeastern Syria. This goes to show where the establishment’s priorities are, but in reality, they wouldn’t dare — as long as the GOP base made it clear that they supported him in doing the right thing.
This is not a call for naïve hope or loyalty to any politician, but for the smartest politics we can play with the hand we’ve been dealt. We don’t have the power. But the war party must maintain some important narratives to keep their gravy train rolling on. After all, if the GOP base is the last major bastion of popular American support for intervention outside of Washington, D.C., and that is taken from them, who do they have left? No one outside of the special interests and halls of the powerful politicians themselves. (Think of the tragedy if our narrative instead does not catch on, and “let’s go be tough and macho and kick Muslim butt” is perceived as the Trumpian base’s consensus instead.)
For liberals and progressives, if Republican voters and even some Republican politicians are striking an antiwar note, that obviously does not really mean you should have to support intervention just to spite them. When 2020 Democratic candidates start calling withdrawal irresponsible at their events you should start chanting “Bring them home!” too. What are they going to do, shout you down with “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”? Even if so, wouldn’t it be worth it to force them to expose their true priorities in such an obvious way? By all means, throw down the gauntlet. Draw a line in the sand. Make them take a stand. The antiwar right could be very useful to you in this as well. Instead of rallying around a Clintonian foreign policy (a sure loser), use non-interventionist Republicans as a cudgel against Democratic candidates to put or keep them on the right path. Tell them they better get to the left of Rand Paul and Donald Trump on war right now or they’re through. How can they argue with that?
What if the left- and right-wing bases of both parties chanted “Bring them home!” at every major rally this campaign season, supporting the candidates when they swear to end the wars and demanding that they had better get it right when they don’t?
We could force the media and the parties to deal with that reality for the next year, straight. The consensus has changed. The people want the wars over now. It’s as simple as that. We just have to explain it to them in the only language they can understand: electoral politics.
Enough of this terrible waste and destruction already.
Let’s put in the work. We can make a difference if we have our priorities straight.
Scott Horton is director of the Libertarian Institute, editorial director of Antiwar.com, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of the 2019 book The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003.