Premise number 1: Presidents will fight as many and as large wars as they possibly can. Presidents have always loved wars, which they have used to seize greater powers and strip away civil liberties. As the military industrial presidential complex has grown, so has the financial and institutional pressure for wars. President Obama is expanding the U.S. empire of bases, escalating wars, and toying with possible new wars to the extent that he has the weapons, troops, and mercenaries available to do it with. No more, no less. McCain-Palin, left to their own devices, would have done very nearly the same thing. Therefore, any major change in war policy effected by the 2008 presidential election would have had to be indirect.
Premise number 2: The height of congressional opposition to wars between 2000 and 2009 came in the two-year period of 2007-2008 because the Congress was ruled by Democrats and the president was Republican, and that opposition was growing. Granted, it had a long way left to grow, and there's no guarantee it would have reached maturity with McCain in the White House, but the potential was there. All that is needed for Congress to end wars is for the House of Representatives to stop passing bills that fund them. The Senate is not needed. Passing a bill is not needed. Holding hearings or impeaching people is not needed. It just takes <a href="http://defundwar.org">218 representatives choosing not to vote for more money</a>. As soon as Obama moved into the White House, leaders of war opposition in the House began voting for more war money and publicly announcing that they were doing so because the president wanted them to.
Premise number 3: If anything could possibly compel the House of Representatives to stop funding wars, it would be dramatically escalated public pressure, nonviolent disruption, media influence, electoral challenges -- that is to say a vibrant and growing peace movement. But the U.S. peace movement was disbanded, defunded, and demobilized the moment Obama was elected president. This didn't have to happen. We could have elected Obama and invested more heavily in the peace movement, but the current thinking of many Americans (if "thinking" is the right word for it) would not allow that. However, if the Democrats had kept a majority in the House, and McCain-Palin had won the White House, all of our ways of thinking, from the sensible to the perverse, could have remained intact and -- just possibly -- wars have been ended. Partisanship wouldn't have had to be challenged at all. Republicans could have all bowed down before Grandpa Loon and the Prom Queen. Democrats could have all announced their fierce, if phony, opposition to the same. But had trends in public opinion and congressional behavior continued as in 2007-2008, and had a peace movement blossomed rather than being yanked out by the roots, we might have been able to end the wars.
The point is not that next time we should elect McCain. Perhaps doing so would have just encouraged congress members to act like him. Maybe the Democrats would have all immediately committed to spending four years trying to out-McCain McCain. Who knows. The point is that we should think long and hard about the fact that most of us want peace and have taken actions that are at best irrelevant to the cause. The point is to stop at the break of this new year and ask ourselves what the hell we can possibly be thinking.