Are progressives anti-war?

Last night on Twitter, I was following the discussion about Syria’s possible (likely?) use of chemical weapons, when a tweet by Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake caught my eye:


And it got me wondering. Why is it un-progressive to beat the drums of war for Syria?

So I tweeted him back:


That got a rather large debate going on Twitter about war and progressive values.  Now, just to reiterate, I was not asking whether it was wise to bomb Syria. I was asking whether it’s true that per se progressives should be opposed to bombing Syria, because we’re progressives?  Is there something about progressive ideology that per se should make us anti-war?

Here’s a hodge-podge of the more interesting responses. I’ll respond to a few in kind:

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 2.13.10 PM

That’s an interesting point. I suspect most conservatives don’t care about UN sanction, while many liberals probably do. (Though you can easily get bogged down by the finer points of what constitutes self-defense under the UN charter.) Also, regardless of UN authorization, that discussion has nothing to do with “beating the drums of war” and whether progressives should per se be against war, even with UN sanction.  Can a progressive be for war, so long as it’s UN sanctioned?

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 2.13.26 PM

I think progressives do see themselves in favor of human rights, though I also think many of us are pro-war because we see ourselves in favor of human rights.  As this person notes:


Which begs the larger question – does “progressive” per se equal “pacifist”?


I’m not a pacifist.  I’m sure some progressives are.  And that per se would color our response to any international crisis.  Should progressives be pacifists?  What is the progressive perspective on war?


I got several answers like this, that struck me as reasonable, but not necessarily related to the issue of whether “progressives,” as compared to those who embrace other political, should embrace war as an option:


This response was interesting:


I’m not convinced they have to be mutually exclusive – war, or heal the sick.  In America, far too often they are  mutually exclusive, simply because we’re far too easily led into costly wars without giving any though to the monetary cost, thus leaving less money for everything else.  And I’m also not convinced that wars can’t be waged to help the poor and the sick.  Kosovo wasn’t exactly a white-collar war.  Not to mention, healing the sick in America should take precedence over stopping a foreign genocide?  Really?

This was, I thought, an interesting response.



Though, more generally, this presupposes that it’s wrong for a country to consider its national interest in deciding its foreign policy.  If we’re going to intervene internationally, should our number one reason for intervention be humanitarian, regardless of how it affects our strategic interests?

It’s an interesting argument, but fraught with some peril.  First, you can’t intervene everywhere, there’s not enough money or manpower. So how do you choose where to intervene, and where not to?  Do you base it on the most humanitarian need, regardless of how it impacts your own national interest?  What government is going to survive long doing that?

But if you do, then why not apply the same rule to domestic policy?  Why fight to keep jobs in America if America’s poor are doing far better than the poor in, say, Africa?  Why not let our jobs move to where they’re most needed?  Wouldn’t the greater good demand that we move jobs to developing countries, and not developed countries?  And are we not hurting the poor in countries x, y, and z every time we work out a trade deal that gets more foreign investment in America when it could be going to a country more in need?  Shouldn’t we be concerned about those most in need, whatever their nationality, and keep our own self-interest out of the picture?


Maybe, but that doesn’t really address my question of why progressives shouldn’t be beating the drums of war against Syria.  You can still beat the drum of war AND go to the UN and Congress for approval.


That’s an interesting question.  As Americans, we’ve long been in the position of not only being able to intervene around the world at will – because we can – but also, and much less discussed by our critics, is the fact that we’re one of the few who can intervene, who have enough power to intervene, so we’re often forced to do so on behalf of everyone else, whether they like it or not.  Doing nothing is not itself without consequences.

But more generally, what right do I have to be a gay activist?

Syrian Syria

Syria via Shutterestock

I can fight for myself, but when I fight for the rights of Russian gay and trans people, what right do I have to pressure any company or the IOC?

And especially when I write about women’s issues, or race, what right do I have to influence the argument when I’m neither a woman nor black?

At some point, the “what right” argument strikes me as appeasement, and an excuse for good people doing nothing. It may not be intended that way.  But it carries that risk.  A lot of progressive good would never have happened had activists listened to those who lectured them about their lack of a right to make waves.

So is being anti-war a progressive value?

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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70 Responses to “Are progressives anti-war?”

  1. KB says:

    “It is difficult to see how the rebels could have got hold of them”
    They obviously got hold of them somehow last May, rendering any difficulty in knowing exactly how it was done enitrely acedemic. To date only one party to the war has been implicated in the use of chemical weapons–the rebels.
    Which raises another question–if chemical weapons are the red line, why wasn’t the U.S. morally obligated to start bombing the rebels three months ago?

  2. howdydostu says:

    I don’t know about you. I consider myself to be a humanitarian who cares about the plight of others. But I’m done with the middle east. We have spent trillions. And so many American lives. Ask yourself. Have we helped? Are things better FIFTY YEARS LATER?! No. I’m through with them and their religious wars. Sorry. I feel bad writing this. But I, for one, am through. Keep out. Keep away. They’re crazy.

  3. slavdude says:

    The other possibility (which was covered on NPR this morning) is that the rebels were the ones who launched the attack to provoke a Western response. If that’s true, we’re being played.

  4. mikeyDe says:

    And what do we hope to accomplish by intervening?

  5. mikeyDe says:

    To my limited knowledge, no one who counts has said exactly what king of intervention we will make in Syria. Until you know what that intervention is, how can you say you are for or against it? Apparently, those who are pro-intervention are for any kind of intervention; those against are against any kind of intervention. Given this current state of ignorance, I must put myself in the latter group.

  6. Progressives are anti-military-industrial complex, the
    grotesque amalgamation of for profit private and publicly owned
    corporations in the business of supplying weapons to our vaunted
    military machine that has proved to be every bit as dangerous
    to the future of this nation as President Eisenhower warned it would be
    when he first used the term he coined.

    For those who cannot see the inherent evil, let me make it real simple.

    order for the military/industrial corporate machine to stay in business
    and make money for its investors we must make war.

    we fail to do that as a nation, corporations and industries our leaders
    in DC feel are critical to the interests of our nation (because they
    are key providers to our military machine) quickly start going downhill
    with the predictable reactions and results.

    First they lay off workers providing instant angry constituent feedback to DC representatives.

    If that fails, they threaten to go out of business and deprive our military machine of their critical supplies, services.

    Of course it’s not all bluff.

    Without war keeping many of them profitable, they will go out of business.

    Luckily for those businesses they have CEOs who have a vested interest in making sure that doesn’t happen.

    So they open their coffers to finance one of the largest lobbying efforts in DC.

    what do they lobby for, well ultimately they lobby for the USA to
    engage in every and any military conflict we can. They don’t literally
    say that. They are not idiots. They know how to say what they mean
    without literally saying to our representatives in DC that they need a
    good war to stay in business.

    From that reality grows the natural progressive scepticism regarding all wars post-Vietnam.

    some see as a knee jerk anti-war philosophy in the progressive belief
    system, is a healthy and justified scepticism regarding the outsized and
    wrong role the corporate war profiteers and their surrogates in the
    media (neocons, military personnel retiring to a job with them Etc.) in
    deciding when we should go to war and why.

    also a result of the fact that many progressives are far more
    aware than most of the wholesale propaganda effort that plays the entire
    nation when we are faced with situations like the one in

    Only an idiot would believe any nation goes to war to do the right thing.

    Nations go to war strictly to serve their own interests.

    in the modern day “our interests” now include the need to keep the
    corporations that supply our military machine profitable and growing to
    keep their investors happy.

    It is
    ludicrous, and purposefully naive to believe any war in the last 30
    years has been about national interests, helping the downtrodden,
    oppressed Etc.,

    To NOT see this in the case of Syria is to admit to a particularly serious case of bias in favor war.
    In Syria there are NO good guys.

    Syria is in a 4 sided civil war, and NO side is pro-American.

    have the gubment Assad, his history is well-known vs a vs the “rebels”
    that all too many are making the huge mistake deciding to support
    intervention simply based on his ruthless regime’s

    People think he is so evil (and he is evil BUT) that they dismiss the need to examine the opposition.

    If they did they’d realize there is NO ONE OTHER SIDE.

    “other side” fighting against Assad really consists of at least two
    competing factions who are fighting their own mini war while
    simultaneously fighting against Assad sometimes together but usually

    Together however they have developed into
    basically an ALL-Sunni militia that has recast this conflict as a
    religious war as much as it is a rebellion against an autocratic leader.

    Luckily for us a lot of Americans know
    about this stuff at least somewhat, and that is why not only
    progressives but over 70% of the nation oppose getting involved in

    Unfortunately, the MI complex has turned on its propaganda
    machine and has spent the last couple of months painting the FSA Free
    Syrian Army as our guys, as the good guys.

    We are constantly lied to in the media that they are in charge, but in reality they are NOT in charge.

    consist of a disparate collection of secular SUNNI fighting groups who
    do their best to present themselves as a cohesive fighting force
    against Assad, and because the war mongers on our side need this to be
    true to push for us to get involved we are presented this lie as the

    Not mentioned is a key part of the FSA, the Kurds are
    refusing to fight with the FSA, and currently are engaged in heavy
    fighting with the Islamists in Syria (the strong leg of the triad that
    makes up the umbrella group called the FSA)

    The truth of the FSA is truly an abomination.

    best fighting forces in the FSA are Al Nusra Front and Al Qaeda Levant,
    both fundamentalist Islamic forces that want to turn Syria into a
    fundamentalist Islamic state ruled by strict Koranic law.

    Of the total victories on the rebel side, the vast majority have been won by them.

    hate the USA and everything we stand for as much as they hate Assad as
    much as they hate the heretical Alawites and Shia minorities in Syria
    along with the Druze and 10% or so of Syrians who are Christians.

    are being told that the rebels must win for justice to prevail in
    Syria, but how that will be the result of a rebel victory we aren’t
    told, because it’s a lie.

    Should the rebels defeat
    Assad, Al Nusra and Al Qaeda Levant will destroy their much weaker
    allies in the FSA to eliminate the last of the secular forces in Syria.

    About the ONLY WAY such a result from a rebel victory can be prevented is if we the USA have troops on the ground.

    And a lot of progressives know that is the real agenda.

    Thus the seeming nearly automatic rejection of getting involved in Syria.

    has nothing to do with helping the oppressed win their freedom, because
    that will not be the outcome of a rebel victory unless we are directly
    involved with about 100,000 troops long term.

    By having troops in Syria we feed the military/industrial complex what it needs to make money for its investors.

    Everything we are being told is just a means to make that ends reality.

  7. MyrddinWilt says:

    What is currently inexplicable is why Assad used the chemical weapons. It seems certain that chemical weapons were used, it is difficult to see how the rebels could have got hold of them. The military advantage of using chemical weapons is slight, the attacks had little or no military value to Assad.

    One possibility is that Assad is having difficulty keeping his political coalition together. The civil war is a blood feud and it is hard to see how it can be brought to an end without another hundred thousand deaths unless Assad is removed from power. So one possibility is a faction inside the Assad regime trying to bait foreign intervention in the hope of ending the civil war on favorable terms. The US is the best guarantee they have to keep Al Qaeda and like minded fanatics out of the government which would be a sufficient guarantee for many to abandon Assad.

    I don’t find that a persuasive theory though. It seems more likely that Assad is still in control and ordered the attack in the hope that the US would retaliate with air strikes. If the Assad regime can demonstrate that it can withstand the US then it can defeat the rebels – or at least that might be the theory.

    Another possibility is that Assad’s next move would be to ‘retaliate’ on Israel in the hopes of provoking a wider regional war against Israel in the same way that Hussein did in the first US-Iraq war.

    Note that even if Assad wants to be attacked, it may be necessary for the US to oblige him. What all the plausible scenarios have in common is that Assad is much weaker than is generally claimed.

    Russia has already taken that view it seems as they have said they are not going to start WWIII for the sake of the Assad regime. Russia has no strategic interest in Syria itself, the real fear is that should Syria fall, the next dominoes in line would be the ultra-unstable states round the Black sea and Caspian sea.

    Comparisons to Iraq are irrelevant as Obama clearly does not want to go into Syria to settle some infantile score with his father, or for any other reason other than the fact that the Syrian civil war itself is causing major loss of life. Even if there was an occupation the dynamics would be totally different. The Alawite community would be fearing reprisals from the majority for Assad’s atrocities in the civil war, any occupation forces would be there to protect them. Getting international support for a UN force would be much easier than in Iraq after Dufus had insulted all the countries he later called on for support.

  8. Thomas Watson says:

    Are anti-wars pacifists?


    Anything war can do, peace can do better.

  9. ezpz says:

    No chit, Cherlock, lol.
    My edited comment was more of a rhetorical question to “Drew2u” as an attempt to decipher his comment as well as my own reply.
    If you understand all that, could you please splain it to me? Thanks.

  10. karmanot says:

    Obama is not a progressive.

  11. aunty ism says:

    It smells like 1914 all right. With a whiff of American hubris vintage 1946. I don’t know what liberals are trying to liberate or what conservatives are trying to conserve, but I thought that progressives stood for propelling humankind forward. Defining forward is where we have the discussion about what we should do. Dropping bombs on Syria does not propel humankind forward. Surely there are other ways to encourage people their to resolve their own conflicts, or not. The point is that we do vigorous trade with nasty regimes all over the world in order to secure their natural resources, with public liability (pollution, infrastructure, debt) for the profit of some few elite puppet masters. I don’t think it is progress to send our sons and daughters into the sandbox to fight for bullies who lounge on the sidelines and get the goodies when the dust settles. Beans, Bullets and Bandages…the profiteers always sell to both sides and make sure that peace doesn’t break out. Read the Report from Iron Mountain, a spoof from a “rand” like think tan which outlined the (shudder) consequences of lack of war.

  12. Lloyd Elliott says:

    Question: has Syria violated any treaty with the US? Answer: No. Has Syria violated any treaty with the UN? Probably. Therefore, let the UN handle Syria; we are not the world’s police. That is supposedly the purpose of the UN. if we have so much money to spend blowing up people, then let’s take that money and prop up Social Security, provide health care for every US citizen, and pay for college for all high school graduates. Syria, the middle east, Iraq, etc. is not our concern! Our military’s only purpose is to protect the US from any possible attack; not intervene in foreign domestic affairs. Remember George Washington’s admonition to stay out of foreign entanglements (or is that only applicable when a Republican is in the WH?).

  13. Ford Prefect says:

    Indeed. Instead of retaining the role of Superpower, the US has relegated itself to be proxy for Israel and the Saudis. There is no compelling national or other valid interest in creating a regional war. Only for Israel and the Saudis.

    Let them do it themselves.

  14. angryspittle says:

    Any sentient, thinking being should be against war. There is no good to be derived from mass murder by the state. It is always counterproductive to the well being of the species. Always. Except, of course, for the bank accounts of that subspecies we call bankers and war profiteers.

  15. worfington says:

    Statement from the Stop the War Coalition (UK):
    The Stop the War Coalition strongly opposes any military attack on Syria. While we oppose all use of chemical weapons, the latest alleged such attack in Damascus should not be used as a pretext for further exacerbating an already bloody civil war.

    It seems that the Western governments have already made up their minds about this attack before it has even been reported on by UN weapons inspectors. They are demanding that ‘something must be done’ even though their record of ‘doing something’ has been nothing short of catastrophic.

    There have been numerous western interventions in the Middle East and South Asia over the past 12 years. While the attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were all argued for on humanitarian grounds, they have all increased the levels of killing and misery for the ordinary people of those countries. They were in reality all about regime change. This is also what Syria is about.

    The same people who brought us those wars have learnt nothing from their mistakes. Now the US, Britain, France and their allies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia are pushing for air strikes. The misnamed envoy for peace in the Middle East, Tony Blair, is once again urging an attack.

    Such an attack will have no basis in international law, nor will it have any moral force, despite claims by US Secretary of State John Kerry, from governments who in the past supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons and who have used depleted uranium and white phosphorus in Iraq.

    The truth is that this latest plan is about intervening to reshape the Middle East in the strategic interests of the West. Military intervention will make a solution to this complex civil war even more difficult and will be a direct violation of the agreements made at the recent G8 meeting to attempt to resolve this war by an International Conference.

    We will be protesting and campaigning against any attack and demand that the British government listen to public opinion, as expressed in recent polls, and play no part in any such attack.

  16. tsuki says:

    Do you really equate drone killing and firing Cruise missiles on a country with gay activism?

  17. Bill_Perdue says:

    I wasn’t chastising anyone or defending anyone, I was condemning the mass murder of civilians which the Nazis also committed and Japanese Empire also did. The mass murder of civilians is a war crime, not matter who does it.

    To say that Husseins murders using chemical weapons justifies Clintons murder of half a million children and babies or Bush’s invasions and occupations is monstrous.

    When I referred to terrorism in Syria I was referring Assad. Do try to keep up.

    The first Gulf war was also a war of aggression by the United States.

  18. perljammer says:

    You think so? Exxon has a 60% stake in an Iraqi field with reserves over three times as big as Syria’s total reserves, and is trying desperately to get out of the deal. What makes you believe they’d want to get tangled up in Syria for much smaller stakes?

  19. perljammer says:

    Granted that most folks don’t have ready access to the information required to become truly informed. Even if they had access, maybe most of them wouldn’t take the trouble to avail themselves of it and become informed. Personally, I think that wrapping our arms around yet another Middle East tar baby is a very bad idea regardless of the reasons and intentions.

  20. kwd says:

    In my opinion war is sometimes a necessary evil to be used as a last resort.
    Whatever happens in Syria is none of our concern.

  21. Naja pallida says:

    That flaming pinko, again?

  22. Naja pallida says:

    Whether public sentiment is for or against involvement in Syria, the vast majority of the public doesn’t understand the situation enough to have their opinion worth beagle snot… and our government does nothing to help that situation by lying to us over and over about their intentions and reasonings.

  23. lynchie says:

    Who made the U.S. God? Why are we always right in choosing sides? When two groups decide to do battle one side will lose. War is ugly, gruesome and wrong but once on the road the side with the most guns, bombs, planes usually wins. So we decide that nerve gas is wrong (though we provided it to Saddam) but what of our use of Phosphorous bombs in Fallujah? Who is to say the rebels didn’t gas their own people. In the end the civilians in Syria are caught in the middle of two warring factions and have little or no choice in what is happening. Now along comes the U.S and we decide to drop some drones, or surgical strikes and we kill a whole shit load of civilians in the surrounding area. Well collateral damage done for the greater good don’t you know.

    My answer is let them fight it out, the side with the biggest cock wins. we need to make the European countries take this little task on if they want it. Bring all our troops home from Germany, UK, France, etc., etc. Pull out of Japan, the middle east etc. We have forced the elderly and poor to pick up the tab for these horrific wars. Wars that make the rich richer and the poor closer to the grave all in the name of wrapping our flag around shoulders and declaring we are the world’s sheriff.

    I will leave you with this great clip by George Carlin.

  24. Thom Allen says:

    Most of the governments in the Middle East seem to be strongly anti-Assad. They are aware of the fighting and murders going on within Syria. They’re aware of atrocities committed there. Yet, I don’t see any Saudi aircraft enforcing a no-fly zone. I don’t see Yemeni special forces standing by to invade. No Jordanian paratroopers, no Turkish forces massing on the border, no Iraqis pushing toward Damascus, no UAE ships off of the Syrian coast enforcing a blockade, no Lebanese militia members carrying out stealth attacks in Aleppo. Yet all of those countries and others in the area are waiting for the US to intervene.

    Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia and other countries have denounced Syrian actions, expelled Syria’s ambassadors, warned Syria of repercussions yet none of them has done anything more forceful in the region.

    The UN has condemned Syria for human rights abuses, investigated chemical weapons use by Assad’s forces, condemned the regime, yet no UN troops are moving to stop the fighting there or actively attack the Syrian government’s forces.

    Maybe we should let someone else fight for what they are purported to believe in, have them take action to support human rights and to prevent atrocities.

  25. Ford Prefect says:

    It is starting to feel like August 1914, isn’t it? Maybe a century is as long as we can go without having a genuinely stupid war that kills tens of millions. In the US, the neo-con/neo-lib agenda continues unabated. Policy-makers understand that eventually puts us in conflict with Russia/China and probably more countries than that. At some point, proxy wars become direct conflicts. The only question now is “When and Where?”

  26. lynchie says:

    Not big but $250 billion. Not small and the whiff of that much gives Exxon and Haliburton collective erections

  27. Houndentenor says:

    I can’t speak for anyone else but here’s my view. War is the last resort. If nothing else works and there are no other options, then war is sometimes necessary. I’m certainly not for just standing around while people are trying to kill me. But I’m also not in favor of the all-too-frequent American approach of going in guns-a-blazin’.

  28. Indigo says:

    At some point in all this international saber-rattling, someone’s going to assassinate the 21st century’s metaphorical Archduke and then all heck will break loose with no objective correlate to moral issues involved. Who’s got the copper mines? Who’s got the oil fields? Who’s got the deep water ports? Who’s landlocked terrain is perfect for an oil sludge pipeline? Those are the issues. We don’t yet know where the fault line is but I’m confident we’ll live to feel the tremor. Then the culture we think we’re living will flip over without prelude just like a pearl-clutching moment on Downton Abbey.

  29. Indigo says:

    Guilty as implied. I used to characterize myself as an old-time Commie-Pinko-Fag member of the professoriate but I’m retired now and, frankly, far too many folks don’t know or don’t remember what-the-frack that meant.

  30. Indigo says:

    Not only that, he opened the United States to trade with (gasp!) Communist China.

  31. Naja pallida says:

    He was more progressive than the current Democratic party… but that isn’t saying much.

  32. Naja pallida says:

    Just as an aside, Somalia not specifically considered, oil companies have rights to drill in quite literally thousands of places they haven’t yet started the work at. They have even drilled hundreds of wells in the Gulf of Mexico that are just sitting there, capped, waiting for a rig to show up to start to pump out the oil. Some of those sites have sat unexplored and/or untapped for decades. And that’s just in US territory. There are thousands of more sites around the world. They, quite literally, have more places to get oil from than they are capable of setting up an operation in… which is another reason why it is such a joke when Republicans start crying about how oil companies need more leeway to “drill here, drill now”. A five year delay is really not that long of a time, especially when you consider that they would have also had to create an entire infrastructure network just to get started, because Somalia had (has) nothing but the oil, and an on-land operation is a little more complex than just bringing in a drilling rig.

  33. Naja pallida says:

    Every war the US has been involved in since the end of World War 2 has been a war of choice, loaded down with lies to the American people, that had the primary purpose of enriching war profiteers, instead of setting clear goals, accomplishing them, and getting out. I’m not anti-war, sometimes a country has to fight and defend itself and its ideals… but it isn’t something we should be as loose with as we have been, and we’ve flushed our ideals down the toilet long ago.

    Congress has abdicated its responsibility under the Constitution, which says it is the branch of government that gets to decide if we go to war or not. Bit by bit they handed over the power to wage war to the executive branch, because they’re a crowd of cowards afraid to accept any of the blame. And that is not how it should be. If Congress can’t come to an agreement on going to war, then we shouldn’t be going to war. Let’s make no mistake, any military action in another country without that country’s explicit permission is an act of war, by any international measure. It doesn’t matter if you do it from remote control or not. On top of that, the US is not the policeman of the world. It isn’t our responsibility alone to enforce international treaties or UN conventions. If the UN cannot come to a resolution to act, then again, we shouldn’t be the ones to not only foot the bill, but act unilaterally (or worse, force our allies into going along with us).

    Lastly, we have ZERO, NONE, NIL, ZILCH, ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NO, credibility when it comes to intelligence matters on what is supposedly going on in other countries that necessitates our involvement. We’ve completely and utterly crapped on every teeny tiny shred of integrity we have as a nation because of our saber rattling and war profiteering. The American people and the world have been lied to time and time and time and time again.

    To sum up my personal opinion on the matter, we have no business in Syria. Our word that chemical weapons are being used isn’t worth rat shit. John Kerry can get upset all he wants, without independent, non-aligned, third-party confirmation I don’t really care what he has to say on the matter, because it’s guaranteed to be 90% lies, 9% misinformation, and a tiny 1% grain of truth. Plus, we’re already involved in way too many wars in that region of the world, and our volunteer military has been stretched to the breaking point because of it. How about we start withdrawing troops from all these sovereign nations that should be handling their own problems? Do you suppose we could withdraw from Germany yet? Is Hitler beaten? Maybe we could leave Okinawa and Japan, or do you suppose a zombie Hirohito poses a threat? Maybe we could give Cuba back its territory that we have held illegally since the fricken Spanish-American War. Why is our ‘national’ guard serving overseas? I could go on…

    You want to know why we spend so damn much on the military? Because we’ve turned being the world’s belligerent into our primary export.

  34. ezpz says:

    By those standards, Nixon was a progressive. He formed the EPA among other liberal ‘big govt’ entities.

  35. perljammer says:

    Maybe so. Public sentiment in the US is overwhelmingly against military involvement in Syria; hopefully that will carry some weight.

  36. Ford Prefect says:

    This is old, but still quite relevant. The agenda hasn’t changed just because the resident in the WH did.

  37. JozefAL says:

    Dude. You’ve obviously got some beef with Big Oil but you don’t know jacksquat about Somalia when “we got involved.” Somalia had NO effective government beginning in 1990. And, according to the conspiracy theorists, “Big Oil” had made these agreements several years earlier. But, why then didn’t any of these oil companies START their work before Barre (Somalia’s dictator) was kicked out? They had up to 5 years to start setting up operations under STABLE conditions. But they sat around and did nothing. Now, if YOU were a Big Oil exec who’d just gotten rights to drill in a country that was supposedly sitting on top of vast reserves, would you just sit around a few years before getting rigs set up or would you get to work at once?

    Somalia has largely been abandoned by the humanitarian effort supporters because it’s just too much of a fucking mess and, apparently, the power-hungry in Somalia don’t want to share, much less give up, any of the power they currently have.

  38. Whitewitch says:

    Didn’t mean to imply it was the “big prize” – certainly though it is a first step through a door I hope we do not enter.

  39. JozefAL says:

    Your chastising about Japan and Germany does seem to overlook a couple of key points. First, neither Japan nor Germany were able to cross those vast bodies of water separating them from the US and both countries were therefore unable to attack US citizens in the same way the Japanese and German militaries did the people of places like China or the UK. Secondly, you ARE ignoring the ATROCITIES perpetrated by both Japan and Germany on CIVILIANS in occupied territories (and, one could argue, by Germany against civilians on its own territory); you might also want to read up a bit on how Japan treated its prisoners of war.

    You can argue all you want about the horrors of Dresden but, if you ignore the horrors of the London Blitz, you lose your moral argument. You can argue all you want about Hiroshima but, ignore Nanking or Unit 731 and, again, you lose your moral argument.

    Also, regarding the “terrorism in Syria,” I’m sorry. I haven’t heard ANYONE making that argument. Well, except for Assad and the Syrian government’s assertions that the rebels are little more than terrorists. What I’ve heard from the US and others is that there *have* been reports of al-Qaeda operatives trying to move in and help the rebels but the major rebel commanders have denied any ties to al-Qaeda or any other “terrorist” group.

    And I find your attack on Clinton to be rather silly, considering the fact that Saddam Hussein had–in the late 1980s–massacred whole cities with chemical weapons and he wasn’t above using conventional weapons against his own people. Read a little bit about the “Marsh Arabs.” Saddam Hussein didn’t give two shits about anyone other than himself and his immediate family. (It’s also interesting how you DON’T call out the first Bush war against Iraq–that little war to “liberate” Kuwait–and how Americans were lied to, especially on the topic of the Iraqi Army going into newborn wards and killing infants, a tale that just happened to be recounted by a young Kuwaiti woman who was living in the US when Kuwait was invaded.)

    Take your faux-outrage somewhere else.

  40. perljammer says:

    Syria’s oil reserves are estimated at 2.5 billion barrels, less than a tenth of proven reserves in the US.. Iraq’s oil reserves are estimated at 150 billion barrels; same for Iran. Saudi oil reserves are estimated at 267 billion barrels. Oil is not the big prize in Syria.

  41. Max_1 says:

    Factor of Party Loyalists…
    … America isn’t about to stop warring now!

  42. Whitewitch says:

    OH…yeah use the Prime Directive as a deciding factor.

    Change alien to foreign to a civilization to country and follow it……….

    The Prime Directive dictates that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations.

  43. Lantor says:

    See Roosevelt, Theodore

  44. Whitewitch says:

    No war…no no no no. Progressives are not as you say “per se anti-war” they are however smart enough to know there is always something in the game for the wealthy and right and that NO WAR (since WWII) has ever solved anything where politics where the issue. Sadly, it is the people of Syria that must solve their problem, just as we here in the US must solve our. Stay out of a war that politically motivate by the Military War Complex. We don’t even really know the truth of anything over there – except that they have some oil – right?

  45. Ford Prefect says:

    Actually, we’re supposed to be waging a “war on terror” against most of the groups we now support in Syria. Al Nusra, the biggest group, is directly controlled by Al Qaeda, so everyone who supports this intervention is now objectively “Pro-terrorist fer freedumb” or something. Or maybe they’re just confused. In any case, it might help explain why only 9% of Americans support this insane intervention and the rest will be accused of being “anti-American” starting in 5, 4, 3, 2…..

  46. Hue-Man says:

    Agree both are willing participants in the MIC. When you have trillions to spend, it’s wise to spread it around as many Congressional districts as possible. I picked on the TP/GOP because their candidate for president campaigned on this before the election:”Romney wants to increase defense spending by $2 trillion.”

  47. worfington says:

    Above is the most robust, progressive call against war with Syria I have seen. It clearly states the folly of military intervention in Syria, and enumerates progressive courses of action other than war.
    In answer to the main question, as far as I’m concerned, the progressive position must always be anti war.

  48. Ford Prefect says:

    Historically, progressives have been both pro-war and anti-war, so there’s no inherent position. Also, being anti-war is not inherently “pacifist” either. I’m not a pacifist (neither was Gandhi) but I’m against this intervention because I’m opposed to the agenda behind it: turning the Syrian Civil War into a regional conflagration that no one in the WH has bothered to consider the consequences for. Or maybe they have and they’re just evil people. That’s possible too.

    But mass murder is antithetical to human rights more generally, so waging war as “humanitarian intervention” is fraught with moral problems. It would be best if people were simply honest about the agenda, rather than trying to polish the turd of mass murder as somehow “helping people by killing them.” Claiming war as “humanitarian” is probably one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever seen, but in Washington, that kind of stupidity is de rigeur these days. No wonder the nation is collapsing from within!

    Lastly, traditionally, one is supposed to consider the nation’s interests in whether or not to wage war. Whether or not that is paramount ought to be publicly debated (not that that’s going to happen). Show me how destroying Syria and turning it into three bantustan states ruled by chaos and genocide is somehow in the US National Interest. Please show us how being in bed with Al Qaeda and transferring weapons, training and vast sums of money to jihadi fanatics is somehow in the US National Interest. Also, pretty please explain how American “liberals” are going to excuse themselves of responsibility for setting off the ethnic cleansing and even genocide that will follow if the jihadis we’re backing come to power. Syria’s christians, druids, astrozorians, shias and Alawites will be slaughtered. How does that fit into a human rights regime consistent with American values and interests? How is that even remotely “progressive” or “liberal?”

    At this point, it seems safe to say that words like “liberal” or “progressive” have been denuded to the point of uselessness by Democratic loyalists who will support anything Dear Leader does without question or even a hint of introspection. So it’s probably silly to speak in terms of “progressive” anything. Morality is simply not a concern for our ruling elites, no matter the human costs for their imperial project. The law can simply be ignored. Economic concerns no longer matter. There literally is no such thing as National Interest anymore, as it’s been privatized. It’s all about profits now.

  49. Naja pallida says:

    And a couple decades before that a progressive was a Republican who believed in things like breathable air, drinkable water, building good roads, schools and other public works. As well as having having public accountability for corporations and the wealthy.

  50. zorbear says:

    A mythical being once also called a beatnik, hippie, commie, pinko-fink, etc. that hasn’t been seen in American politics for decades…

  51. jomicur says:

    I would add that a truly progressive war waged for humanitarian reasons should end quickly, once those humanitarian ends have been met. Not all possible ends, just strictly the immediate humanitarian ends that justified invasion. Prolonging it, as we have done in Iraq, where our purported aim was to topple Hussein, serves no purpose other than enriching defense contractors. That is certainly all we’re accomplishing in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc., etc. I would even go so far as to argue that if a war really is purportedly being waged for humanitarian reasons, then everyone including defense corporations should be forbidden to profit from it in any way. If Raytheon and Halliburton refuse to sacrifice and make enormous $$$ off a humanitarian war, how humanitarian is it, really?

  52. Bill_Perdue says:

    The threat is the result of the lap dogs of the military industrial complex in both parties. One is not worse than the other.

  53. Hue-Man says:

    You’ve inadvertently identiied the reason the U.S. gets dragged into international conflicts that rarely have anything to do with its security or national interests – the disproportionate size of the U.S. War Department! “Why would I spend $600 BILLION per year on something and not use it?” Sorry, after the Obamacare battles, everything has to be multiplied by 10 in order to make it even scarier; that should be $6 TRILLION (BTW, over 10 years)! And the warmongers in the TeaParty/GOP – should we call them “regressives” here? – want to take even more money away from poor people to waste it on unwanted tanks, submarines, and fighters that can’t get off the ground.

    Even without the U.S. War Dept., there’s enough firepower on the planet to tackle any conflict the world community agrees to take on. In the case of Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States which are spending trillions of petrodollars on luxury, should be on the front lines – not the USA and the West.

    Obama has painted himself into a corner on Syria and will have to back up his rhetoric – it won’t go well. Being progressive has nothing to do with that decision and neither, unfortunately, does American national interest. (Meanwhile, Africa is rife with murderous wars, genocide, human rights abuses, and domestic and multinational conflicts; China is quietly buying up the continent’s resources and exporting thousands of Chinese workers while the West dithers in Syria…)

    Good read from earlier this month: “The biggest threat to America? The size of its own military budget”

  54. Bill_Perdue says:

    NATO troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina did little to stop the Serbian-Croatian genocide of muslims. About 100,000 were murdered. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

    “15 Jun 2007 – UN, Dutch troops face Srebrenica suit – The relatives of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre broaden their campaign for justice, suing the UN and Dutch government for failing to prevent genocide in a case to be heard by The Hague. Relatives of the nearly 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys who were massacred in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995, have filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government and the UN, seeking compensation for failing to prevent the genocide.”

  55. Joan says:

    I don’t have an answer, but a few well placed missiles against the Assad regime is preferable to arming the nebulous rebel groups, who then will fight with other nebulous rebel groups regardless of what the Assad regime does.

  56. dula says:

    Are progressives the part of the Democratic Party that is left of center and are liberals actually neoliberals who consider themselves the “realistic” center right part in order to justify their support of corporatist, war-mongering Obama? Then amongst progressives, there are some complete pacifists and some who think war is sometimes a necessary last resort.

  57. Badgerite says:

    Colonialism and foreign investment are not quite the same thing. Similar in effect sometimes, though not always. But not the same thing. Pre the Boxer Rebellion and subsequent upheavals in China, there was actual colonialism. Do you really equate the ‘spheres of influence’ that existed in China then with Apple manufacturing there? A Canadian company has opened a mine in my home state. Is that colonialism?

  58. Reasor says:

    I think our intervention in Serbia had a little more to do with the fact that Milosevic was sitting on some of the biggest copper mines in Europe than it had to do with concern for the welfare of the people of Kosovo.

    Sure, the plight of those poor skinny Albanians was used to sell the war to us! Images of starving African children were used to sell Somalia to us, too, when the real reason we went there was that the Somali government had sold drilling rights to a bunch of American oil companies before collapsing, and someone had to be put in charge who would respect the deal that Amoco, Sunoco, Shell, et cetera, had struck with the outgoing government.

    How about opposing colonialism, always? Can we agree that opposing colonial exploitation is a progressive value? Because if this administration is speaking in serious tones about actually attacking Syria, you can be damn sure that we’ve finally found a stooge among the rebel leaders who we think can be trusted to run the country the way the CIA wants it run.

    Why aren’t we invading Myanmar? Because the people committing genocide there and the people having genocide committed upon them aren’t standing on top of anything valuable to the Military Industrial Complex, here in the States.

  59. ezpz says:

    What a concept. If only it were true!

  60. cole3244 says:

    progressive, language of the cowardly because they have been beaten into the fear of the word liberal which is my choice of describing the left and myself.

  61. Bill_Perdue says:

    Democrats are pro-war because they voted for Obama, a mad dog warmonger. The same is true of Republicans who voted for Romney or McCain. Those who leave the Democrat or Republican parties to form left, anti war parties can be progressives.

    Those who pretend that the US is responding to terrorism in Syria forget the genocidal US fire bomb raids and nuclear attacks on defenseless civilians in Japan and Germany.

    They forget the LBJ-Nixon genocide in Vietnam which produced over a million civilian casualties, many from the use of the use of Agent Orange and napalm.

    They forget Bill Clintons murder of half a million Iraqi babies with his embargo of food, medical and sanitary supplies.

    They forget Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and his attempted occupation of Iraq and Obama’s escalation in Iraq, which have claimed well over a million civilian lives and the lives of thousands of GIs.

    The US government is the principal enemy of working people in the world. People cannot be called progressive if they support the warmongering of the Democrats or Republicans.

  62. Drew2u says:

    A progressive war isn’t one that’s swept under the rug and makes private defense contractors filthy-wealthy; its one where we all sacrifice so the cost is known, every day. It’s war-as-last-resort, not first-strike.

  63. JayRandal says:

    Overwhelming majority of Americans do not want US military involvement in Syria. Therefore mute to say progressives are for or against war on Syria. Unfortunately many so-called anti-war progressives
    in Congress are not against President Obama waging whatever conflict he desires. Hypocrisy because if Bush Junior was in presidency now threatening to attack Syria those same progressives would scream like banshees against it. Bashar Assad the dictator of Syria deserves to be deposed but US should not be leading the charge to do it. Giving weaponry to Syrian rebels to do it themselves the better option. By the way Obama seems to not care about military dictatorship in Egypt now.

  64. judybrowni says:

    No, you may not start another war, until you’ve finished up the two wars you’ve already started.

  65. Indigo says:

    Possibly. He carried Wisconsin in 1924.

  66. Monoceros Forth says:

    Someone who voted for Bob LaFollette?

  67. Mike_H says:

    I think, many times, the issue for a progressive is to make sure that everything else that can be done is being done. That war is the last resort when all other options have failed.

    I also think that a progressive should also be working “the long game”. During times of peace, building and supporting institutions and policies that will help make war less likely the next time around.

    But always with the recognition that a rigid anti-war dogma may still cause more harm than good, and that maybe there are times when, faced with other options having failed, that war is the only way to resolve a bad situation — to not allow a greater wrong to happen because we refuse to go to war.

  68. Indigo says:

    I really don’t know. What’s a “progressive”?

  69. A_nonymoose says:


  70. Kevin Johnston says:

    It’s too early in the morning for me to really consider all this, but still, a good post.

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