|By Mona Charen
The demonstrators thronged the streets of Europe’s major cities. Mothers pushed toddlers in strollers, teenagers dressed up in death masks, men carried huge placards reading “Better Neutral than Dead” and “You Can’t Hug Your Kids with Nuclear Arms.”
In the United States, similar demonstrations brought thousands to the streets of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Arlo Guthrie sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” and celebrities Martin Sheen, Jesse Jackson, Phil Donahue, Colleen Dewhurst, Jules Feiffer, Meryl Streep, Kris Kristofferson, Muhammad Ali, Jane Fonda, Ed Asner and Robert Blake leant their names and prestige to the movement.
That was then — the early 1980s — and it is so very like now. What brought the demonstrators to the streets then was President Reagan’s determination to counter a Soviet move. The Soviets had placed intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe. Together with our European allies, Reagan proposed placing U.S. Pershing II missiles in Europe to right the balance.
In my just-published book, Useful Idiots, I pointed out that the original Soviet move — an aggressive, bullying and destabilizing provocation — had been met with complete silence by the left. There were no anti-Soviet demonstrations, no death masks and no moms with strollers. All of the anti-nuclear and antiwar agitation at the time was aimed at the United States, not the Soviet Union.
The same kind of wishful thinking about the enemy we see regarding Iraq was on display during the Cold War regarding the USSR. Just as the Nobel Committee has honored former President Jimmy Carter for his denunciations of President Bush, the Committee was similarly well disposed toward former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, whose policies smiled upon the Soviet Union. That Nobel Peace Prize winner participated in the anti-Pershing rallies of the 1980s and displayed the kind of credulity toward the Soviets that was so typical of the left. “Why haven’t we taken the Soviets at their word in Geneva?” he asked.
The demonstrators of the 1980s told themselves that they were for “peace” and against aggression. Yet the inescapable consequence of their one-sided agitation was to bolster the Soviets — the world’s chief aggressor — and damage the United States. Certainly the Soviets understood this and devoted considerable resources to the “peace movement.” Today, Saddam watches the marches in Western capitals with satisfaction. Newsweek reports that he told an Egyptian newspaper: “Time is working for us. We have to buy some more time, and the American-British coalition will disintegrate because of internal reasons and because of the pressure of public opinion in the American and British street.”
One might have thought that the Cold War’s conclusion would have convinced the left that appeasement of dictators is not profitable. After all, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, we’ve heard from the lips of former communists themselves that Reagan’s toughness helped cripple the communist enterprise.
But instead, from London, Paris, Barcelona, Bonn and Melbourne, along with dozens of other cities around the globe, we see demonstrators once again taking to the streets to denounce not Saddam’s thuggery, but the United States for standing up to it. A demonstration in Washington, D.C., drew hundreds of thousands, though the event’s sponsor — a group called ANSWER — is explicitly communist.
Now they carry signs saying “No Blood for Oil” and “Make Tea not War.” Jesse Jackson is there, and the celebrity list now also includes Susan Sarandon and Jeanine Garafalo. But the blindness and moral obtuseness remains exactly what it always was. It does not seem to matter whether the United States is thwarting the “evil empire” or the Islamofascists and their enablers — the left’s default mode is always to protest against us.
It isn’t that these demonstrators love peace more than the majorities of people in the free world who support George Bush and the war on terror. It’s that they value freedom and democracy less. Their jaundiced view is that the United States has given the world only pollution, low-skilled jobs and crass commercialism. If their policies had prevailed during the Cold War, the Soviet Union would be in business today. And if their policies prevail in this latest war, we must all prepare to don burkas and grow beards.
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