The demonstrators thronged the streets of Europe's major cities.
Mothers pushed toddlers in strollers, teen-agers 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. Woody
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
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.