Anti-Washington versus Anti-Empire…
On Alternet, some members of Code Pink report on their recent attempt to survey members of a recent TEA Party demonstration to see if there is some common ground between the tax resistors movement and the peace movement.
On Tax Day, my CODEPINK colleagues and I conducted 50 interviews with Tea Party members about the cost of war and empire. With military spending eating up 20 percent of the federal budget and half of all discretionary spending, we figured that any serious effort to shrink government would have to deal with this bull in the china shop.
While a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed the Tea Partiers to be relatively homogenous group of older, white, mostly males, we found that this group certainly doesn’t speak with the same tongue when it comes to the U.S. role in the world. On one side are the neocon interventionists who think the United States is God’s gift to the world. On the other side are non-interventionists who want to slay the warfare state. The extreme fissure is bound to upset the tea cart as more Tea Party leaders are forced to articulate their foreign policy positions.
Not surprising, they encountered a great deal of hostility to the cause of demilitarization – even to the point of being spat upon by at least one person – and about 70 percent support for present US military policy:
In our very small, unscientific sample, the hawks — many of whom were retired military or have close family in the military — outweighed the doves. Take the first question about the 800-plus bases the U.S. military maintains at a cost of over $100 billion a year. Thirty-five of the 50 respondents wanted to keep the bases. “We need those bases to maintain stability in the world. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if we weren’t there, the Islamists or the Chinese would jump in,” said Bruce Welker, a retired law enforcement officer from Pittsburgh. “I’d hate to see what would happen to the world without our military presence.”
The 15 people who wanted to dismantle the web of foreign military bases included Josh Little, a college student from Alexandria, Virginia. Josh said that his grandfather helped overthrow Hitler, but that was 60 years ago and it was high time for us to leave Germany. “I’d say the same for Japan, Korea and all of Europe. They can take care of themselves.”
The Code Pink activists found support for the idea of an alliance between left and right among those who did not support present US military policy. The common effort of Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul has some resonance within the group. Of the latter, the Code Pink activists note that Ron Paul’s “anti-empire message may be catching on” among these conservatives:
Cong. Ron Paul’s message of cutting the welfare/warfare state has attracted an enthusiastic following within the Tea Party. While progressives are turned off by his call for ending all kinds of domestic social programs, his anti-war and anti-empire message and consistent votes against war funding is a refreshing turn from liberal Democrats who decry war but always vote to fund it.
At the Tea Party Tax Day gathering, Cong. Ron Paul was one of the last to take the stage at the evening rally. He began by chastising liberals for their social spending, and then took on the conservatives for wanting to be the policemen of the world. “We’re stretched too far with all this government spending overseas,” he said to fans who had waited all day to hear him. “We should just mind our own business.”
Even Glen Beck was forced to give some lip service to this tendency in the TEA Party movement. The writer senses a great deal of tension within the TEA Party movement over the issue of Empire:
Tea Party leaders have been trying to keep this huge division between supporters of republic and empire under wraps. Aside from Ron Paul, you’ll rarely here them mention the raging wars or bulging military coffers. Their new Tea Party Contract from America, which talks about a limited government and an end to budget deficits, doesn’t mention military spending.
But you can’t have small government with a humongous military traipsing all over the world. Sooner or later, Tea Party leaders and manifestos will have to articulate their foreign policy positions.
Perhaps, what disappointed us after reading this very interesting report, was the writer’s apparent ignorance of the intellectual contradiction that also exists within the thinking of progressives: can you have big government without an equally “humongous military traipsing all over the world”? As one particularly astute young TEA Partier stated, “The hawks represent the old guard — so do both the Republican and the Democratic parties. With a few exceptions, they all love war and empire. But a small-government movement worth its salt can’t just be anti-Washington, it has to be anti-empire. If not, I’m outta here.”
The writer misses an important opportunity to ask: If you can’t be anti-Washington without also being anti-Empire, is it possible to be anti-Empire, without also being anti-Washington? Is the European Social compact worth the cost of an American Empire? Or, does the cost of the Empire make the compact not a prize but a burden, since the compact relies not on export surpluses, as in Germany, but on the ability to draw in massive surpluses produced abroad, i.e., since the American social safety net relies on the Empire?
Clearly, the division between the TEA Party and Libertarians on the one hand, and, progressives and Socialists on the other comes down to this!