The Anti-War element of the Democrats’ strategy, based on an incorrect reading of history, has fizzled


Every time John Kerry says calls Iraq “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time” (Reuters) he is making a terrible mistake. His better path is to sound strong on Iraq. His anti-war supporters will know he doesn’t mean it.

Iraq is not that big an issue principally because there is no draft, and secondarily because casualties are historically miniscule for a conflict of its scope (and below the normal accident rate in the military), and as well because the Bush administration wisely transferred sovereignty to Iraqis in mid-2004. Yet the Democrat’s strategy assumed it would be a larger matter for voters. The Democratic strategists did not take into consideration how much of the 1960’s anti-war movement arose out of self-interest, not idealism.

Students discovered their deep anti-war feelings when deferments were cancelled

It remains virtually unreported in various articles on the 60’s antiwar movement, such as this, this, and this, that the large sit-ins and takeovers at elite universities like Harvard and Columbia did not start until the Johnson administration’s 1967 cancellation of graduate school deferments, starting with the fall of 1968. Thereafter, things popped, and popped fast. Check out these Crimson articles from 1968:

22 Per Cent Vow Draft Resistance In Senior Survey (1/15/68)
Seniors and (Evading) the Draft (1/15/68) — parenthetical commentary mine
War Referenda Begin In Graduate Schools (2/12/68)
The Sit-ins Work (5/7/68)
442 Harvard Students Pledge ‘We Won’t Go’ (5/15/68)

There were quite a few fellows getting PhD’s after graduating from elite universities in the 1960’s for the sole purpose of evading the draft. Today they are tenured professors. As noted regarding “In Pursuit of the PhD:”

It is striking to see that the decline in PhD production in the early 70s and after began not with the great job crisis of c. 1971 but with the end of the draft deferment for graduate work in 1967. Had Lyndon Johnson not taken away that artificial stimulus to pursue wisdom beyond the BA, there might have been thousands more PhD’s driving cabs by now.

Today, these fellows are teaching your kids, or are the opinion leaders of the left. They talk to one another in the big media and education centers, and have perhaps convinced themselves that they represent an electoral majority. They do not.

I am not arguing, by the way, that being anti-war in the case of Vietnam was illegitimate. For one thing, in my opinion, Lyndon Johnson waged the war immorally, in that he did not fight to win through maximum power, and to minimize US casualties. As David Horowitz has said, there were plenty of reasons to have been against that war.


From an election strategy standpoint, thinking an anti-Iraq position wins a large portion of the electorate is nothing but wishful thinking, based on a serious misreading of history. The internals of both the Gallup poll and the Pew poll demonstrate this.

Why did the strategists make this error? Perhaps they didn’t. Perhaps the candidate can’t help himself.

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