As we move into the 2020 election cycle, and as the conflict between progressives and the Democratic establishment intensifies, war and foreign policy are major parts of the grievances that the left has with mainstream liberals. Since this wasn’t so much the case during the 2016 Bernie vs Hillary conflict, something good may come from Democratic elites’ recent endorsement of continuing America’s war in Syria.
The main problem with Trump’s withdrawing troops from Syria is that it doesn’t go far enough. As Congressman Ted Lieu has said in response to it: “If you believe in the rule of law [and the] constitution, you should support the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. There was no congressional approval to send U.S. troops into harms way for Kurds or humanitarian reasons or to oppose Russia or Iran or Turkey.” And even if America’s involvement were legal, it wouldn’t be beneficial. An active military presence does the opposite of stabilizing a region, and America’s “War on Terror” has overall createdmore terror throughout the world. To solve the crisis in Syria and elsewhere, we need to let the region manage its own affairs.
Yet despite these facts, and despite the overall small nature of Trump’s military pullout, the political and media class have reacted to this news with hysteria. The fact that Senate neocons, cable news pundits, and pro-war Democrats like Hillary Clinton all oppose the withdrawal should immediately make people cautious of going along with their narrative. But since the issue is tied in with opposing Trump, many regular liberals have also lately been arguing for continued war.
But this hostility towards peace from establishment Democrats isn’t just about partisanship. It’s about protecting power. Hillary Clinton, Adam Schiff, and the other longtime Democratic politicians denouncing Trump’s decision are the same ones who voted for the Iraq War. They’re the same ones who either ignored or participated in the unprecedented drone wars and seven-country-wide bombing campaign that happened under Obama. They’re the same ones who’ve recently supported Trump’s illegal strikes against Syria, despite the continued lack of evidence that Assad has committed any chemical attacks. And they’re the ones who have been advocating for increased escalations with Russia throughout the last two years under the rationale of the still unsubstantiated “Russiagate” scandal.
These Democratic politicians and pundits have helped advance war because in America’s Orwellian oligarchy, advancing war is the way to be accepted by the people in power. For these public figures, supporting war is a necessary part of the goal to gain power and prominence. And for the people who believe the narratives of these figures, supporting war is a necessary part of fitting into their political tribe.
The same is of course true for Republican Party. But the hypocrisy of the Democrats’ support for war is that Democrats position themselves as the defenders of peace and compassion. While mainstream liberals claim to be allies for people of color, they enable the imperialism and neo-colonialism that perpetuates white supremacy around the world. And while Democrats claim to be the party of the poor, they support the wars and neoliberal policies that keep America’s plutocracy in place.
The Democratic Party’s support for these systems is ultimately about protecting class privilege and white supremacy, which rich white politicians like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer very much benefit from. As Jason Johnson of The Root assesses in his article from this June I Finally See It: Democrats Don’t Hate Trump As Much as They Love White Supremacy:
The Trump administration has literally and symbolically taken more kids against their will than R. Kelly with a fleet of minivans, and what have Democrats done in response to his latest violations? Did they shut down the government? Refuse to vote on any legislation? Grind D.C. to a halt? Nope.
For two weeks they went on CNN and waved their fingers and sent a magic school bus of congresspeople to the border camps until Trump’s own team came up with an executive order that’s still terrible. Why the lack of aggressive resistance? Too many Democratic leaders live with the privilege of white supremacist thinking — that fundamentally, since they’re white and Trump is white, everything will eventually be all right. That white power, even when abused, is still the natural order of things. For them.
2020 will no doubt be yet another rollout of Democratic candidates who posture against systemic injustice while working to prop it up. Democrats like Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke, who solidly support pro-war and pro-corporate policies, will be elevated by the corporate media. And candidates like Bernie Sanders, who are largely better, will be undermined by the Democratic establishment like was the case in 2016. Meanwhile, the Trump government will continue its reactionary attacks against poor people and people of color, with Democrats continuing to enable these attacks while attacking Trump when he carries out a policy like the Syria pullout.
The world’s vulnerable people can’t wait for America’s political system to fix itself. We need to overthrow corporate capitalism and dismantle the white supremacist power structure. And to do this, we’ll need to recognize conventional liberalism as an obstacle to the cause for justice.
As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.