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Thursday, March 27, 2003
Alan Murphy of Barcelona, "A Friend of Iberian Notes" has a post on the Typology of Spanish Anti-War Letters (to the editor) up at Europundits. Of course, his post is very amusing and you should go read the whole thing there. This is just a brief summary:
A brief ideological analysis of anti-war letters to the editor across the Spanish press:
1. The "Bleeding Heart-Poor Me" Letter
ESTIMATED PROPORTION OF ANTI-WAR MAIL: 5%
I.e., "war is bad because it keeps me awake at night."
I think we know these next three:
2. The "Yanks are Bad" Letter
ESTIMATED PROPORTION OF ANTI-WAR MAIL: 20%
3. The "Unconditional Pacifist" letter
ESTIMATED PROPORTION OF ANTI-WAR MAIL: 25%
4. The "Think of the Children" Letter
ESTIMATED PROPORTION OF ANTI-WAR MAIL: 15%
For this next one, you must remember that Communism is respectable in Spain. These writers note the disconnect between the government's support for and the people's opposition to the war, which is quite high. Murphy says these people are not quite clear on what a representative democracy means.
5. The "Democracy is revealed as fascism" Letter.
ESTIMATED PROPORTION OF ANTI-WAR MAIL: A worrying 25%
These last, he says, are also confused about democracy. I don't quite understand these people; in the US we might view them as nuts.
6. The "If terrorists can't use violence, how come the state can?" letter
ESTIMATED PROPORTION OF ANTI-WAR MAIL: Fortunately not more than 5%
Murphy invites us to type letters in our home countries. I haven't kept track of how many are which type, so I can't give good percentages, but I can identify them.
In this case, what's keeping the "bleeding hearts" awake at night is fear for The Children, and the few pacifists we get never fail to mention them. They don't necessarily dwell on the The Children, but do they do let us know that in their exquisite agony they care so very very much for the poor poor people, unlike us bloodthirsty warmongers who are eager to upholster our dens with the supple pelts of Iraqi baayybeees. Constitutes a goodly hunk, maybe 20-25%, of anti-war writers.
This is the subtext of by far the vast majority of anti-war letters. It seems any number of people somehow acquired the notion that we were at the End of History, at least as far as conservatives are concerned. Perhaps that's nearly literally true; since humanity had reached the stage where liberal capitalism triumphed, all that was left was waiting for a few holdout regimes to come around. There was, therefore, no need for a large military, or sharp disagreements with other democracies. Ergo no Republicans would ever be elected again. This crowd is even more enraged by the fact that Bush won on a "technicality", and that the election was so close. If I'd just volunteered to register a few more elderly black folks, or screamed louder at my campus rally, they think, we wouldn't be in this mess.
There are several subtypes:
A small number, mostly from very left-wing university students and professors.
The gold standard. Bush is an oil man. Iraq has oil. Ergo, it's all about the oil. Quod erat demonstrandum, ipso facto, res ipsa loquitur, and other authoritative Latin phrases. These people haven't recovered from the '70s oil embargo.
Another huge slice of anti-war letters. These are really the People at the End of History. All that multilateralism and diplomacy and playing well with others was going so well, and now that evil Bush---or that dumb Bush and his evil cadre---have ruined it all. These are the people most likely to tell Europeans that they're ashamed to be Americans. I feel a bit sorry for some of them. A lot of them seem to believe that terrorism can be treated as a crime, and that if we were more multilateral other countries would be eager to help us send in some Terror Cops, and try the offenders in Terror Court, where they would of course receive fair sentences with no capital punishment, and they'd be given very humane treatment and education and vocational training. And this would end terrorism.
I would say at least 50% of all anti-war letters fall into either 2B or 2C.
The next two categories are extremely unlikely to be Republicans, but they don't belong in the Bush Hater's Club because they'd be making the same arguments if Gore were president.
This is a blast from the past. The only reason we have wars is because of armament manufacturers. If I recall, this was a popular stance during (or before) WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and the Cold War. I include it only for historical context; I have heard almost nothing of this argument recently.
We know this drill. Poverty breeds hopelessness, which breeds frustration, which breeds terrorism, which breeds...etc. Cycles of various things are often invoked. This is not an unreasonable stance, if you believe that the world's people are all holding out your hands to you beseechingly, and only you, yes, YOU, Mr. and Mrs. American, can help their plight. In this view, Poor People who oppress their own do not exist. Only white oilmen can be villains. These people, in childhood, got up too early on Sunday mornings, found nothing on television, and were forced to watch badly-produced religious soap operas and Christian Bible stories. Many have forgotten the religion, but they remember the lessons.
These people write only a small percentage of the letters, but they are the primary opposition from the Right. Don't go putting our people in danger. War will only inflame Arab Street. What we should do instead is to cancel all foreign aid (especially Israel's), withdraw our troops from everywhere, and halt immigration. Oh, and build a fence between the US and Mexico.
Conspicuous by their absence have been those arguments which I've held from time to time. I did not always think this war was necessary; not even for months after September 11. Unfortunately, my anti-war arguments involved on-the-one-hand yet on-the-other arguments, conditions, weighing of probabilities, etc. They didn't involve sloppy emotions, sputtering indignation, conspiracy theories, or caustic hyperbole.
Which is probably why those types of letters don't get printed in the paper.