Peace Movement in the Age of Trump

Throughout those conversations, there was consensus that the contemporary peace movement was not nearly powerful enough to mount a serious challenge to the forces of American empire and militarism. As the challenges facing that movement came into focus for me, so did their scale. It is hard to imagine a more difficult target, from an organizing perspective, than military policy. The US empire today leaves a great deal of ruin in its wake, but its cost is only vaguely felt by most Americans, while its gargantuan profits are pocketed by a few and its most recognized organization—the military itself—is widely celebrated as the most trusted public institution.

In the wake of the election, as the need for a constituency to challenge American militarism grows in urgency, how might such challenges be met? Doing so will require reimagining the constituency, strategy, and purpose of the movement itself. It is not at all clear that a “peace movement” or even an “antiwar movement,” as those have generally been conceived, will suffice. Rather, we need a movement that can speak to the anger that so many Americans feel toward the corporate powers that dominate our politics. Such a movement would expose how militarism is not immune to that influence but is particularly beholden to it. Can such a movement be organized? …

The transformations that our military policy has undergone present enormous challenges to organizing, but also opportunities. These changes have produced a startling consolidation of power and wealth—a ripe target for a political era defined by rage at crony capitalism and anger at a politics that serves only the wealthiest among us.

It is unlikely that President Dwight Eisenhower, who coined the term “military-industrial complex,” could have imagined what has emerged in the past 25 years. Raytheon, the fourth-largest military contractor in the United States and the world’s leading producer of guided missiles, received 90 percent of its revenues in 2015 from the federal government. In that year, Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy took home $20.4 million in total compensation. Among the large military contractors, this is the norm. In 2014, the CEO of Lockheed Martin—which received 78 percent of its revenues from the government that year—was paid a total of $33.7 million. In 2015, the CEO of Boeing, the second-largest government contractor, earned $29 million—and paid no federal income tax in 2013.

When most of us think of an antiwar movement, we imagine efforts to limit the horror that this lethal network unleashes and to slow its growth. And under President Trump, we will indeed need to challenge the expansion of the Pentagon and prepare ourselves to stop the next war. But in an era of flying robots, classified special-forces operations launched from bases dotting the globe, police departments overflowing with military-grade equipment, and Saudi pilots dropping US-made bombs on Yemeni villages, we need organizing that challenges the very nature of the beast—not just campaigns that arise sporadically to oppose its most egregious actions. …

Among the many alarming lessons of this election was that strong criticism of a globalized military—traditionally the ground of the left—can be manipulated by a shrewd right-wing demagogue. If progressives do not seize such ground, they will cede it to the isolationist right. …

Nothing is promised in politics. Movements rise and fall, truth-tellers often lose, xenophobic nationalists sometimes gain power, cowards frequently prevail. There is no determined arc to our history; no guaranteed results have been foretold. But at no moment over the past half-century has there been such an opportunity to ask whether our empire serves our democracy or undermines it. The question is whether those committed to a less brutal, less violent, more just, more equal country can muster the imagination, anger, courage, and energy to seize it.

How to Revive the Peace Movement in the Trump Era
https://www.thenation.com/article/how-to-revive-the-peace-movement-in-the-trump-era/