The anti-war movement in 2005 and 1968

Where is the anti-war movement? Can you locate it, other than Democrats’ (and some Republicans’) in Congress cheap rhetoric that they refuse to stand behind and only serves to demoralize our troops? There are no mass demonstrations anywhere, no threats to cut off funding; there’s outrage, but it is about Bush much more than the war. It’s like a hot air balloon without the balloon. We can’t locate a substantive, serious movement to get out of Iraq now. The last time Congress voted, just the other day, the House vote was nearly unanimous against withdrawal now. The Senate is no braver in leading the charge to cut and run. Camp Cindy (photo via AP, Powerline) is an idea whose time never was, despite the MSM’s efforts and a big and top-notch public relations effort: a dozen people managed to get themselves arrested the other day in Crawford — yawn. Moreover, the biggest unreported story is that, of those dissatisfied with the war, huge numbers have wanted the US to use more force, not tuck its tail between its legs.

We want to suggest the following: the anti-war movement is in important part a staged event by the MSM, featuring some committed anti-American Leftists, rag-tag 60’s die-hards and Democratic legislators without the courage to take the position they fund-raise on. The current MSM “anti-war movement” is a cheap re-make of the Vietnam phenomenon. However, other than the name, there are few similarities between the two.

The Vietnam context

Vietnam was a decade long war in which over 2.5 million Americans served, many by conscription, and 58,000 Americans died; by comparison to that scale, Iraq barely registers as a war (as we have noted, annual military deaths now are around the average of the 1980’s, when the US was not at war). Zero Americans have been drafted for Iraq; Vietnam era draftees numbered 1.7 million (and they accounted for 30% of deaths in Vietnam).

From the early days of the Vietnam War, there was a real, if small, anti-war movement. It included people sincerely troubled by the war, but as David Horowitz said, was led by “Marxists and radicals who supported a communist victory.”

Until 1967, the Vietnam anti-war movement was something of a sideshow — in that year it began to grow significantly in numbers and organization. The growth of the Vietnam anti-war movement was in large measure grounded in self-interest. It became intense only after conscription expanded substantially in the young adult population (first to 29,000 a month and then to 42,000 a month by spring 1968), and after the passage of the Selective Service Act of 1967. That Act made it more difficult to get a draft deferment, and in fact created the violent and intense war protests at elite institutions, since it cancelled graduate school deferments, beginning with the fall 1968 student year. As contemporaneous reporting in the Harvard Crimson demonstrates, the end of the deferments threw elite university students and professors into the frenzy of sit-ins, takeovers, and demostrations that began in 1968.

We don’t much care for the MSM or its role in Vietnam, particularly the Cronkite moment below, but they arguably had the wind at their backs by early 1968. In January the 10,000th US airplane was lost in Vietnam, the USS Pueblo was captured, and the Tet Offensive began. LBJ looked beleaguered as he prepared to give the State of the Union address. On February 27, 1968 Walter Cronkite gave his famous verdict on Vietnam because of the Tet Offensive, which as we now know, was something of a North Vietnamese Battle of the Bulge and an American victory:

To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

President Johnson said in response: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” Ronald Reagan said that Cronkite or CBS should have been indicted for what he said. But at least Cronkite offered it openly as only an opinion: “an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective.” Today the MSM often no longer separate their editorials from reporting, offering their opinions in the form of facts: they call them polling results.

Finally, from an electoral standpoint, the anti-war movement was usually a loser. Despite the negativity of the MSM, LBJ bested Gene McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary in March, which many forget. Richard Nixon won in 1968 and trounced his anti-war opponent in 1972. It was only Watergate and its aftermath, the Congress elected in1974, that finally consigned the citizens of south Vietnam to unspeakable horrors.


It is impossible to know what would have happened in Vietnam without the complicity of the MSM, the radicalization of anti-war cadres deprived of their student deferments, or Watergate. Today’s situation is far better: the MSM have the New Media as a foil; however Leftist students and faculties are, they are on the sidelines; and Scootergate, whatever its merits, is not Watergate.

We wish the President had a different communications strategy. Perhaps he could give the speech of James Q. Wilson in the WSJ the other day. But that is still too mild for our tastes. We wish he would take some advice from David Horowitz, and help the MSM awaken from its dream of an American defeat:

If I have one regret from my radical years, it is that this country was too tolerant toward the treason of its enemies within. If patriotic Americans had been more vigilant in the defense of their country, if they had called things by their right names, if they had confronted us with the seriousness of our attacks, they might have caught the attention of those of us who were well-meaning but utterly misguided. And they might have stopped us in our tracks. I appeal to those of you who are attacking your country, full of self-righteousness, who, like me, may live to regret what you have done.

One Response to “The anti-war movement in 2005 and 1968”

  1. Chris Says:

    More food for thought. Despite the relentless attempts by Islamicist killers, the violent death rate in Iraq is only 2/3 of the murder rate of New Orleans in pre-Katrina days. Using the inaccurate and inflated numbers available on the Web site “” gives a death rate of civilians in Iraq, from 1 Jan 2003 to now, of 40 per 100,000 population. In 2002 & 2003, New Orleans had a reported murder rate of 59 per 100,000 population. Keeping a sense of proportion helps.

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