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Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat: How the Democrats can Keep from being Arrested

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Message Kuzminski
Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat,
of How the Democrats can Keep from Being Arrested

The Democratic leadership been pushed into opposing the Iraq War by public opinion and the recent elections, but they are terrified of being made the scapegoat for losing it. This is because they continue to accept the fundamental policies which underlie the war. This means economic globalization with the dollar as the world reserve currency, all backed by US military superiority intended to guarantee preferential access by Western interests to resources, especially oil.

Defeat in Iraq will reveal the limits of American power. America will likely lose its superpower status. The dollar will lose much of its value overseas, raising the costs of imports, which seem to include most everything these days. The vaulted American consumer will finally retrench, slowing the economy significantly; unemployment, bankruptcies, and defaults will rise. The US won't be able to afford its global military (over 700 bases in over 130 countries), and most of the troops will finally come home. Other power centers, particularly the EU, perhaps China, will achieve superpower status, and pursue their own (and not our) interests.

Call it the downsizing of America. When you throw in peak oil and global warming, it seems inevitable. Conventional wisdom has it that Americans do not want to hear that tough times are coming, and that somebody inevitable will be scapegoated for the loss of empire and easy motoring -- the most likely scapegoats being those identified as liberals and lefties, including the Democrats, whether they like it or not. The ground has been prepared by a generation of demonization of liberals. Hence their terror.

The conventional wisdom is wrong. Most Americans are way ahead of the media pundits in their appreciation of the coming downsizing and decentralization, just as they were way ahead of them about the war. Americans know that it's time to withdraw from the world stage, where the part we've lately played has been foolish, ugly, and immoral, and look to get our own house in order. Americans know that we're living beyond our means ecologically and financially, that big business and big government are almost hopelessly corrupt, that we've screwed up our cities and polluted our lands, and that the American dreamm is mostly the American treadmill.

The conservatives and neocons are happy enough to escalate the worldwide War on Terror; they relish refighting the Vietnam War in Iraq and elsewhere with the prospect of winning rather than losing, deluded as they may be. They'll override the Democratic Congress and public opinion and proclaim that we have no choice but to win, even if winning remains a kind of ever receeding mirage. We see it in Bush's 'surge' in Iraq. In the meantime, they will continue to usurp power and concentrate it in the president, to the point where a kind of coup may well occur, with civil liberties suspended, opposition leaders (Democrats) arrested, and so on.

If the only way out for the Republican leadership is to escalate the war, the only way out for the Democratic leadership is to turn defeat in the war into victory. The Democrats must acknowledge defeat but draw constructive lessons from it. Our troops have not died in vain. They have died to illustrate the truth that no nation or people can arbitrarily enforce its will upon another, not without endless recrimination and bitterness and blowback. They have died to show that the nations of the earth must respect one another's integrity. They have died to show that torture and the suspension of civil liberties are wrong.

Democrats have to turn the debacle of Bush's global war on terror into a reason for reforming international relations, and the UN, insisting upon a world body democratically accountable to the peoples of the world, perhaps a global Peoples' Assembly, as well as a body capable of enforcing international justice and the rule of law.

The Democrats have to turn the end of American empire into the opportunity to rebuild America at home. One virtue of the Iraq defeat is that, like nothing else, it will finally free Americans from their addiction to foreign oil. The challenge to Americans will be to restructure their energy economy, to rebuild the railroads, to revive local agriculture, to make government and corporations politically accountable, to recreate vibrant local sustainable communities.

If the Democratic leadership doesn't embrace a vision something like this one, they will likely find themselves in the end fed into the Bush meatgrinder. It may be that we will have to endure some kind of fascist regime in this country. The Democrats for all their faults could prevent that. Will they rise to the occasion?

 

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Adrian Kuzminski is a local activist in upstate New York, and Research Scholar in Philosophy at Hartwick College. He is the author of FIXING THE SYSTEM: A HISTORY OF POPULISM, ANCIENT & MODERN (Continuum Books).
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