When I lived in Jerusalem and worked with the Israeli peace movement, we described our spineless Labor Party and some of the allegedly pro-peace intellectuals as "shooting and crying"-first they'd support military action, then they'd lament how terrible it felt to be "forced to stoop to the level of violence" (allegedly by "the enemy"). Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues are now "funding and crying"-first they fund the war, then they say that they are not implicated because having abandoned their promises to not allow the Bush Administration to go ahead with another year or more of war, they now say they'll "personally vote against the bill" that they've approved as a caucus.
No options? They could have mastered a majority of the caucus to agree to not call up the bill, demanded party loyalty on the issue, until the Bush Administration agreed to set a time table (remember, they were asking not for an immediate end of the war, but for an end a year from now!). And they could have mobilized their friends and allies around the country to engage in a media campaign in all districts where they worried about support-focused on why it was keeping troops in Iraq that is "abandoning the troops," while bringing home was the only sane way to protect them.
Too many critics of the Dems will reply: "They just don't have any backbone." But why don't they? The answer is not that Dems are less decent human beings or less principled than their Republican colleagues who, even in the minority, keep disciplined focus on their own principles (in this case, militarism until Iraq is safe for our oil companies and other corporate bandits).
It's rather that the Dems lack a coherent vision and ideology from which they could derive strength of purpose that would provide the foundation on which they could easily develop a moral backbone to fight for what they believe in. Thus, for example in relationship to the war in Iraq, they talk about the inability to win, rather than about the moral failure of the paradigm of trying to bring about safety and security by military or political domination of other countries.
While Republicans proudly cling to their own ideology, Dems have allowed the term "liberal" to become a political curse, not because they ever lost an intelligent argument about liberalism, but because they have been unwilling to fight for it. They are liberal about their liberalism. So why should anyone trust the country's defense to people who won't fight for themselves or their own views?
As it happens, we in the now-reviving Religious Left want to encourage Dems to embrace a somewhat different, but coherent, worldview, appropriate for the 21st century in which it is increasingly clear in economic, political and environmental arenas that our own well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet. We understand that the only way the human race is going to survive the next hundred years is if we overcome nationalist chauvinism and embrace our common humanity. And the first step to do that is to reject the 5,000 year old, and frequently disproven, "strategy of domination" with its misguided assumption that Homeland Security is best achieved by military, political or economic domination over others (hard version: wars like that in Iraq; soft version: diplomacy backed by military threats and economic boycotts).
Instead, we need to embrace a new paradigm: Homeland Security can best be achieved by Generosity and winning the hearts and minds of the people of the earth to the view that the US really wants the wellbeing of everyone, not just of our own corporate and political elites.
Last week The Network of Spiritual Progressives, an interfaith alliance of both religious and non-religious but spiritually atuned secularists, bought a full page ad to apply this strategy to Iraq (read it at www.tikkun.org/iraqpeace). Recognizing that many Americans want to know what would happen after the US troops were withdrawn, the ad implored the peace movement Dems to explicitly call for an international force to replace American troops and to conduct an election in which the people of Iraq could determine their own future without being under the rule of an occupying power. It also called for a Global Marshall Plan, not only to rebuild Iraq once it was safe to do so, but to dedicate 1-2% of the GDP of the US each year for the next 20 to eliminating domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate healthcare and inadequate education and to repair the global environment.
The Religious Left is putting forward here a vision that could answer the misgivings that many Dems hear from their constituents about what will happen next. The NSP plans to back their ideas with a national moratorium against the war plus a "Iraq Summer-2008" in which it will seek volunteers to go door-to-door in "red" (pro-war) Congressional districts to present its alternative. For Dems to advocate for this vision, they have to be prepared for the inevitable cynicism that the media and the Bush allies dole out to anyone with an ounce of idealism. Yet without the willingness to provide an alternative worldview of this sort, the Dems will continue to fund wars, and then cry.
Michael Lerner is the Editor of Tikkun Magazine www.tikkun.org and author of, The Left Hand of God: Healing America's Political and Spiritual Crisis (HARPER SF, 2007)