“The argument is, ‘Well, we’ll get into conflict with Russia,’” former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said on CBS last week, referring to what critics say about the no-fly zone idea. “Well, maybe Russia shouldn’t want to be in conflict with us. I mean, this is a place where American leadership is desperately needed.”Larison expressed the hope that candidates who expressed these dangerous views would be rejected by the voters. One of his commenters countered:
Don’t count on it. If you aren’t belligerent you are weak. America’s bout of pacifism before the two world wars is long gone, and advocating caution and patience is blasted for failing to lead. I think you are spot on with respect to your views on Syria, but there are precious few people in power who espouse it.I really don’t think so, but first of all this person is misusing the word “pacifism.” It’s a word that gets thrown around in contexts where “pussy” and “faggot” wouldn’t be appropriate, and it means anyone who opposes, for any reason, a war that the speaker wants to fight — or rather, wants to send other people’s sons and daughters to fight. Quite a few military men opposed Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and I don’t think any of them were pacifists, but they were vilified by the chickenhawks anyway.
So, let’s lay to rest the idea that Americans had a pacifist period between the World Wars. As Larison has said several times, and so have I, it is not pacifism or (another favorite epithet) isolationism to lack enthusiasm for a war where your country’s interests are not at stake. Contrary to the chickenhawks’ claims, the burden of argument lies on the proponents of any war, not the opponents. And it took pretty hefty propaganda campaigns to fossick Americans up into support for both World Wars.
Were Americans un-pacifist after World War II? There’s reason to doubt that idea. Almost immediately after the Japanese surrender in 1945, US rulers wanted to get us involved in Southeast Asia, and there was a public outcry, in Congress and elsewhere, against using US forces and equipment to support the re-imposition of French rule on Vietnam. The War in Korea wasn’t popular either, and the ruling elites knew it. During that period, into the 1950s, there was also a tendency in popular culture to look askance at men of veterans’ age who had had enough of bloodshed and just wanted to live quietly with their families for a while — see the lousy movie Shane which glorifies the professional killer at the expense of the solid father and family man, and centers on the loathsome little boy who wants to see a gunfight.
And surely we've all heard of the Vietnam Syndrome, much lamented in the corporate media and in elite government planning circles, which meant they had to find ways to get around the public’s disinclination to send their children off to be chewed up in the military meat grinder. Most Americans, like most people, aren’t really very interested in war, but there are always a few who never heard of a war they didn’t like, as long as someone else had to fight it -- and such people end up in decision-making positions far too often. Again, the burden of argument lies on someone who wants us to get into a shooting war with Russia in Syria, and as Larison keeps showing, they have no good arguments, and are frustrated that anyone should demand any.