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Foreign policy and international conflict are in the news these days
as President Clinton wraps up his tours of south Asia, the Russians hold
their presidential elections and the New York Times and Washington Post
run stories about how the Iraqis may be purchasing SCUD missile
technology from the North Koreans via Sudan.

These “hotspots” draw the headlines, but there was a very
significant, if underreported, foreign policy gathering this past
weekend in California sponsored by Antiwar.com and the Center for
Libertarian Studies to develop a populist movement against war and
imperialism.

Entitled “Beyond Left and Right: the New Face of the Antiwar
Movement,” the three day event drew speakers and participants from
across the political spectrum, including Reform Party presidential
candidate Pat Buchanan, Congressman Ron Paul, Libertarian Party
presidential candidate Harry Browne, journalist Alexander Cockburn,
conference convener Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com, Tom Fleming of the
Rockford Institute and Burton Blummert of the Center for Libertarian
studies — an impressive and multi-ideological group of historians,
activists and me.

My presentation, “Beyond Left and Right: How the Vietnam War Turned
the Antiwar Left into Pro-War Democrats,” was a chronicle of the left’s
capitulation on anti-imperialism and anti-interventionism to the
Democratic Party during the 1960s and 1970s. (For the full text of my
talk go to my website.) I underscored the
point that you cannot be antiwar without being an independent.

During and since the Vietnam War, the American left could not come to
terms with the fact that war and imperialism are the logical extensions
of the policies of political parties that cater to and are strategically
controlled by globalist financial interests and multinational
corporations. Capital must expand to survive, and when expansion
requires military intervention — either to protect its investment or to
stabilize an environment for future economic intervention — the two
parties oblige. The left — either naively or stupidly — believed it
could check the drive for U.S. globalist hegemony through a party that
thrives off of it. Ultimately, the left decided that supporting military
interventionism was the price it would pay for sufficient political
entrée to be able to influence domestic policy in progressive ways, a
choice that forfeits any claim to morality or progressivism. I urged the
conference to learn from the left’s errors and build off of the pivotal
connection between anti-interventionism and political independence.

Buchanan offered a series of critiques of current U.S. foreign policy
– our sanctions on Iraq, our troop presence in the Balkans and other
parts of Europe, our provocations of Islamic nations and movements that
breed anti-U.S. terrorism, and bipartisan support for the New World
Order. (You can access the text of Pat’s talk on
www.gopatgo2000.com). He urged the
conference to consider the opportunity that exists:

    “We are entering a fertile and exciting time in our politics. Our
    ossified two-party system, that has managed to stifle serious foreign
    policy debate for a decade, is cracking up. Pressure is growing from
    dissidents within, and this year, there will be a mighty challenge from
    without. As Joe Namath said, I guarantee it.

    “Our Reform Party will be on the ballot in 50 states, and, if I have
    anything to say about it — and I expect to — it will become a
    non-interventionist party, a peace party, that will reach out to
    Americans of Right and Left who reject the Third Way imperialism being
    forced upon us by the elites of both Beltway parties.”

Libertarian Harry Browne explained how war was simply one more
government program. And Congressman Paul told the conference about his
plans to call for a congressional reconsideration of U.S. membership in
the World Trade Organization. The conference was one of the most
interesting and energized political gatherings I’ve been to for quite
awhile. It enabled people who don’t normally talk to each other to
converse about foreign policy, history, the left and the right, and the
importance of creating new independent institutions that involve
Americans in the political process. As Justin Raimondo said in his
commentary on the conference, “The conference was an attempt to bridge
the gap between left and right to bring the fight against war and
globalizing to a higher level — and to begin to organize the first real
opposition to the War Party since the 1960s.”

This left/right antiwar coalition is controversial, among other
places, on the left. I am constantly asked, for example, how I, as a
progressive, could be sympathetic to Buchanan’s framework of America
First.

Here’s how. When I look at the Democratic and Republican push for
“free” trade, “liberal imperialism” and “global imperial hegemony” –
policies that might be called “America Only” — I can’t help but feel
that if the choices are America First vs. America Only, America First is
pretty preferable.

That Buchanan is identifiable as an antiwar candidate in the
presidential race puzzles many in the journalistic establishment. The
San Francisco Examiner, in its coverage of Buchanan’s talk at the
Antiwar.com conference asked — tongue in cheek — whether Buchanan will
be the George McGovern of the 2000 presidential campaign. He won’t be.
First, I don’t think Buchanan will carry Massachusetts. And second, the
McGovern candidacy in 1972 was the signal that the antiwar left was
capitulating to the pro-war Democratic Party. In contrast, the Buchanan
campaign is a tool for the antiwar left and the antiwar right to break
with both war parties and go independent.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the Antiwar.com conference. Check out
their website for summaries of the proceedings. And once you’ve read my
speech, let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

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