Barack Obama had and in many ways still has one of the slickest PR machines of any US President.
With the mainstream media in the US and Europe fully behind him, he was able to campaign as a peace president, the man of ‘change’, whilst simultaneously being at war in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine (through proxies), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan.
Oh and let’s not forget supporting regime change in Egypt that for a while led to a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation proscribed throughout the secular Arab world and now once again proscribed in Egypt.
When it came to Obama, the liberals cared not for the content of his actions and policies but only for his image. He wasn’t as stupid sounding as Bush, he was smooth talking, had airs of pomposity which liberals lap up with no sense of irony, and to be fair, being the first black President of the US was a unique, yet ultimately squandered moment in American history.
Obama remains a kind of sainted figure among liberals in North America, the wider English speaking world and much of Europe. Hillary Clinton never had such an inspirational image. The same could be said of Senator Charles Schumer.
This has had the effect of making those who gravitate towards the liberal left becoming increasingly pro-war, both by design and by default.
In the United States, from the followers of Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s who wanted a ‘kinder, gentler cold war’, to the anti-war protests of the Vietnam era, to the leftists who opposed Reagan’s militarism in the 1980s, and to the anti-war protests in 2003 when Bush and Blair invaded Iraq, many on the left have a generally good record of protesting illegal, immoral and costly wars.
It must be said this applies more to the grassroots left, and often not Democratic politicians. It was after all the Democrats under Harry Truman who nuked Japan and went into Korea, it was Lyndon Johnson who escalated the Vietnam War, it was Jimmy Carter who shaped anti-secular/pro-Mujahideen US policy in Afghanistan, and it was Bill Clinton who committed a war crime in Yugoslavia and bombed Iraq as well in 1998.
Today however the grass roots liberals look more like Lyndon Johnson on steroids than they do to Eugene McCarthy or Robert Kennedy, two honest anti-war Democrats.
During the Obama years liberal Democrats hardly marched at all and now under Trump they are marching for sectarian causes rather than protesting for peace.
Obama’s paradoxical combination of hawkish policies combined with a peaceful appearance killed the anti-war movement among traditional Democrats.
Interestingly, a new anti-war movement has re-surfaced among American conservatives. For years, it was difficult to be a Republican and to be anti-war. The days of Robert Taft opposing American participation in the Second World War and the Korean War were ridiculed as old fashioned. Dr. Ron Paul was constantly slandered by the mainstream neo-con elite of the Republican party.
But under Trump, and because of the increased prevalence of anti-war conservative alternative media, the anti-war movement on the right – both in the form of Robert Taft style traditional conservatism and Ron Paul style libertarianism is experiencing a renaissance at just the point in time when the left has not only abandoned its anti-war credentials but is even excoriating Donald Trump for the mere fact that he wants better relations with the other nuclear superpower, the Russian Federation.
Increasingly, conservatives realise that Obama style wars are costly, detrimental to global peace and stability, not in America’s interest, and are motivated by a kind of neo-Trotskyite brand of ultra-liberalism that has nothing to do with putting America first or with libertarianism either.
This is why I welcome Ron Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul for sticking up for President Trump in an honest and mature way.
Senator Paul’s criticisms of John McCain are in line with a tradition of conservatism that sees people like McCain as dangerous renegades putting the interests of foreign actors ahead of those of the United States.
America still needs a strong anti-war movement, even though such movements have had little success since the 1960s, when the anti-Vietnam war movement did help to turn the tide of public opinion against the war in Vietnam.
This time though, it is to be hoped that the anti-war activists of 2017 will be more convincing than the activists of 1967. Today’s anti-war leaders are not in San Francisco with flowers in their hair. They look and talk like Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan and Donald Trump.