With the US now prosecuting three wars abroad, NPR asks why more people aren’t on the streets. In the article, Linton Weeks and the folks he interviews offer several possible reasons, including the lack of a draft, which helped mobilize the peace movement against the war in Vietnam, greater control over coverage of war in the mainstream media, and the fact that the “defense” industry is now such a large part of our economy.
Executive vice president of the CATO Institute David Boaz argues that the movement was deflated and has never recovered from the election of Barack Obama:
To buttress his assertions, Boaz cites a recently published study of anti-war protesters. The research was conducted by Michael Heaney of the University of Michigan and Fabio Rojas of Indiana University. It concludes that the anti-war movement in America evaporated because Democrats — inspired to protest by their anti-Republican feelings — stopped protesting once the Democratic Party achieved success in Congress in 2006 and then in the White House in 2008.
One other factor that has made organizing against war more difficult, but isn’t mentioned in the article, is the dramatic decline in US casualties in war since Vietnam. In Vietnam, more than 58,000 Americans were killed. Thanks to the growing use of robotics, the privatization of war and improvements in medicine, among other reasons, in Iraq and Afghanistan just over 6,000 US soldiers have died – essentially one-tenth the US casualties in Vietnam.
These are the challenges that the antiwar movement faces. Given these changed circumstances, how can those opposed to the ongoing wars still motivate people to take action? In what ways can the peace movement make the true costs of war real to more Americans, who seem to be worried about everything but war?
And perhaps those aren’t even the right questions to be asking. Maybe it’s more a question of creating a new type of activism that is more appealing to folks who have never gotten involved before.