The War Activists

Having evaded accountability for the Iraq War and other bloody disasters, star neocons William Kristol and Robert Kagan have refashioned their pro-war arguments, dressing them up in humanitarian garb, with glamorous accessories of national greatness, as David Swanson explains.

By David Swanson

War activists, like peace activists, push for an agenda.  We don’t think of war activists as “activists” because they rotate in and out of government positions, receive huge amounts of funding, have access to big media, and get meetings with top officials just by asking — without having to generate a protest first.

They also display great contempt for the public and openly discuss ways to manipulate people through fear and nationalism — further shifting their image away from that of popular organizers. But war activists are not journalists, not researchers, not academics. They don’t inform or educate. They advocate. They just advocate for something that most of the time, and increasingly, nobody wants.

Neoconservative pundit William Kristol. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Neoconservative pundit William Kristol. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

William Kristol and Robert Kagan and their organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative, stand out as exemplary war activists. They’ve modified their tone slightly since the days of the Project for the New American Century, an earlier war activist organization. They talk less about oil and more about human rights. But they insist on U.S. domination of the world. They find any success by anyone else in the world a threat to the United States.

And they demand an ever larger and more frequently used military, even if world domination can be achieved without it. War, for these war activists, is an end in itself. As was much more common in the 19th century, these agitators believe war brings strength and glory, builds character, and makes a nation a Super Power.

Kristol recently lamented U.S. public opposition to war. He does have cause for concern. The U.S. public is sick of wars, outraged by those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and insistent that new ones not be begun. In September, missile strikes into Syria were successfully opposed by public resistance. In February, a new bill to impose sanctions on Iran and commit the United States to joining in any Israeli-Iranian war was blocked by public pressure. The country and the world are turning against the drone wars.

The next logical step after ending wars and preventing wars would be to begin dismantling the infrastructure that generates pressure for wars. This hasn’t happened yet. During every NCAA basketball game the announcers thank U.S. troops for watching from 175 nations. Weapons sales are soaring. New nukes are being developed. NATO has expanded to the edge of Russia. But the possibility of change is in the air. A new peace activist group at has begun pushing for war’s abolition.

Here’s Kristol panicking:

“A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that’s needed is the rallying. And the turnaround can be fast. Only 5 years after the end of the Vietnam war, and 15 years after our involvement there began in a big way, Ronald Reagan ran against both Democratic dovishness and Republican détente. He proposed confronting the Soviet Union and rebuilding our military. It was said that the country was too war-weary, that it was too soon after Vietnam, for Reagan’s stern and challenging message. Yet Reagan won the election in 1980. And by 1990 an awakened America had won the Cold War.”

Here’s Kagan, who has worked for Hillary Clinton and whose wife Victoria Nuland has just been stirring up trouble in Ukraine as Assistant Secretary of State. This is from an article by Kagan much admired by President Barack Obama:

“As Yan Xuetong recently noted, ‘military strength underpins hegemony.’ Here the United States remains unmatched. It is far and away the most powerful nation the world has ever known, and there has been no decline in America’s relative military capacity — at least not yet.”

This pair is something of a good-cop/bad-cop team. Kristol bashes Obama for being a wimp and not fighting enough wars. Kagan reassures Obama that he can be master of the universe if he’ll only build up the military a bit more and maybe fight a couple more wars here and there.

The response from some Obama supporters has been to point out that their hero has been fighting lots of wars and killing lots of people, thank you very much. The response from some peace activists is to play to people’s selfishness with cries to bring the war dollars home. But humanitarian warriors are right to care about the world, even if they’re only pretending or badly misguided about how to help.

It’s OK to oppose wars both because they kill huge numbers of poor people far from our shores and because we could have used the money for schools and trains. But it’s important to add that for a small fraction of U.S. military spending we could ensure that the whole world had food and clean water and medicine. We could be the most beloved nation. I know that’s not the status the war activists are after. In fact, when people begin to grasp that possibility, war activism will be finished for good.

David Swanson is a peace pundit, antiwar author and talk radio host. He is syndicated by PeaceVoice. His books include War No More. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

9 comments for “The War Activists

  1. histamai
    March 23, 2014 at 10:11

    The Greek poet Homer had it right twenty-eight centuries ago, perhaps, when he put these words into the mouth of his hero Odysseus in Book Seventeen of the Odyssey:

    But a man can’t hide the belly’s accursed craving,
    which causes so many evils and makes us sail ships
    across the vast sea to bring war upon distant people.

  2. March 23, 2014 at 09:46

    Sent: Sunday, March 23, 2014 3:41 PM
    To: ‘Timothy Truthseeker’
    Subject: WorldBeyondWar: Legal Invitation: MILINT Earth Day submission to Swiss Federal Council

    TO: Board of Directors and Members
    Sent via on 23 March 2014 at 15:39 hrs (GMT+2)
    CC: Timothy McVeigh (Copy Per Email)


    The text of the MILINT Earth Day submission to Swiss Federal Council was authorized for publication by GMC 4643 applicants: among others including: US Navy Judge Advocate General: Vice Admiral Nanette Derenzi; Assistant Secretary of the Navy: Energy, Installations and Environment: Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn; ussia President Vladimir Putin; General David Petraeus (Ret); General Ray ODierno; General Stan McChrystal (Ret), General John Mulholland, Timothy McVeigh and Erik Prince. Full list of supporters and documentation available at

    If you seriously and honourably support the submission to the Swiss Federal Council — to implement MILINT Earth Day due process solutions to honourably de-industrialize and humanely reduce planetary population and consumption to ecological carrying capacity limits including the adoption of an international law social contract requiring all the worlds religious, racial and cultural tribes to restrict their members consumption and procreation to ecological carrying capacity limits — please respond with a ‘Read: I Agree’.

    Your ‘Read: I Agree’ response of support shall then be included as attached ‘supporters’ for the submission to the Swiss Federal Council; once Presidents Obama and Putin, the Pentagon, CIA, FSB, NATO et al officials; have concluded there is sufficient support for the submission not to be emasculated, of its fundamental MILINT Earth Day principles.
    ‘Not Read / I disagree’ responses shall be interpreted as follows:

    You did not read the invitation; or you disagree: Notice of Legal Argument objection.

    Terms of Service: Re: ‘Not Read’ = Notice of Legal Argument Objection:

    If your ‘not read’ response is a result of your objection to the Military Necessity CommonSism arguments to implement international legislation to limit the ‘right to breed’ and ‘right to consume’ to carrying capacity limits; to orderly address ecological overshoot and climate collapse; to be submitted to the Swiss Federal Council.

    You are invited to submit a brief with your legal argument, and evidence for your legal argument; within two weeks of your ‘not read’ response ‘notice to object’. Send your objection brief electronically in word.doc or pdf format; to [email protected]. CC: Timothy McVeigh ([email protected]); US Navy JAG ([email protected]); RU: President Putin co Kremlin Press Office ([email protected]). Subject: Legal Brief Objection to MILINT Earth Day submission to Swiss Federal Council.

    Your ‘objection brief’ (and if relevant Applicants response to your objections) shall be submitted to the Swiss Federal Council, along with the Applicants submission, including submission’s list of supporters; for the due consideration of the signatories representatives, as provided for by the articles of the GENEVA CONVENTION RELATIVE TO THE TREATMENT OF PRISONERS OF WAR.

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    Lara Johnstone, Clerk
    Radical Honoursty culture

  3. F. G. Sanford
    March 22, 2014 at 11:35

    Dear “Jay”,

    Obviously, it’s easier to ask a bunch of rhetorical questions than face the facts. Look up Finland’s Air Force history, and you’ll see Moraine-Saulnier aircraft built in Vichy France sporting swastikas as their identification markings. They were allied with the Nazis. And yes, Nazism and Trotskyism have definitely both contributed to Neocon ideology, as schizophrenic as that sounds. The character Snowball from “Animal Farm” and Emmanuel Goldstein from ” Nineteen Eighty-Four” are both based on Trotsky, who was born Lev Bronshtein in UKRAINE.

    Anarchy, destabilization, and endless war are the hallmarks of Trotsky’s theory of “Permanent Revolution”. The Dies Commission, precursor to the House Un-American Affairs Committee under McCarthy, considered interviewing him, but declined. Critics claimed he was in the employ of oil magnates, among whom we may suspect some ancestors of the Koch family.

    Carl Schmitt was a Nazi, and his philosophical position on sovereignty, “He who makes the friend -enemy distinction without contradiction is the sovereign”, is the framework used by the Bush White House lawyers to justify suspension of Habeas Corpus, The Geneva Conventions and Constitutional protections.

    The “ethical duality” which seems impossible to comprehend rests on the notion that Neocons would never knowingly align themselves with Nazis. But, that’s exactly what they’ve done in Ukraine, Trotsky’s birthplace. Hegemony and economic exploitation are more important in their moral hierarchy than mere political labels.

    You might also want to read “Why America Needs War” by Dr. Jaques R. Pauwels, 30 April, 2003. Trotsky’s “Permanent Revolution” can be regarded as the ideological foundation for a “Permanent War Economy” which enriches only a select minority.

    But, things that can’t last forever…usually don’t. As Chris Hedges points out, the collapse “will be horrifying”.

  4. Coleen Rowley
    March 22, 2014 at 09:09

    It’s quite amazing the amount of insidious conniving and clever stage management that goes into these neocons’ manipulation of the media and of the American public. Check out this latest expose of who’s behind Liz Wahl’s stunt to “take down RT”: Why it’s Kristol and Kagan et al, the very same PNAC neocons!

    But I think David is actually too kind to the “humanitarian warriors” who cloak their support for war by pretending to be more altruistic and care more for the well-being of other people in far away lands than the war-weary American public. It all turns out to consist of the worst lies and hypocrisy! We have even discovered quite a few “peace” groups who have been influenced and duped into, for example, support of bombing of Syria. The “Friends for a Non-violent World” group now subscribes to and follows the teaching of war activists such as Postel-Hashemi under the rubric of (Madeleine Albright et al’s) democracy creation-human rights promotion –“right to protect.” In fact David discovered that Postel-Hashemi’s Institute was and is actually funded by a War Contractor who got wealthy off the Iraq War: and .

    And the “Nonviolent Peace Force’s” new CEO is Doris Mariani who, although her bio on NPV leaves it out, was hired directly from her CEO job as an AFRICOM militarist: Talk about a revolving door between war and peace, from Military Industrial Complex to “peace” NGO!

    The National Endowment for Democracy has lots of help now from these phony peace NGOs in instigating its regime changes and R2P wars.

  5. Elwood Anderson
    March 22, 2014 at 02:35

    The neocons agenda is totally in sync with the demands of AIPAC and the Israeli Likudniks. As long as the US is the world hegemon and the neocons continue to have a major influence on both parties and the press, Netanyahu will continue to get standing ovations in the congress and Israel will have a free hand in the Middle East. That’s their hidden agenda that you’ll never hear them defend.

  6. paul
    March 21, 2014 at 22:23

    There seems to be an obsession with blaming the neocons.

    • Anonymous
      March 22, 2014 at 01:00

      Sure is Paul sweetheart. Seems that’s cause their the ones always pushing for trouble that we the 99% have to pay for while the neocons get rich!
      Why are so many Americans so bloody ignorant like his guy and repeat year after year the same obvious statements out of total ignorance?

  7. F. G. Sanford
    March 21, 2014 at 21:57

    So, you really wanna understand the Neocons? Well, it’s hard to believe, but the history and facts support this nutshell explanation. You have to start with Terrorists. Not the ones we talk about now, but those in Czarist Russia around the beginning of the 20th Century. There is an unbroken ideological thread from those anarchists to Trotskyite Communists to Professor Leo Strauss to the Kagans to William Kristol and his pals, Frum, Perle, Wolfowitz, Ledeen, Wurmser and that whole gang. Along the way, they picked up a little Nihilism from Nietzsche and some Nazi jurisprudence and political philosophy from Carl Schmitt -the “State of Exception” is his contribution to the Patriot Act and NDAA. He was a “card carrying Nazi”, and if you look him up on Wikipedia, you’ll find Leo Strauss’s name listed as one of his admirers.

    Of course, the Neocons love to claim that Putin, as a clone of Stalin, is only interested in expansionism and the spread of totalitarian ideology. Actually, Stalin had no interest in expanding Soviet Communism. But Trotsky, the chief of the Red Army, did. Stalin fired him and he moved to Mexico where he developed a following of American sympathizers…among them, Strauss. If Joe McCarthy in his wildest dreams had any idea what he was doing, perhaps we wouldn’t have Neocons running our country today. Too bad he was an incompetent loon…or rather, a typical Republican.

    Strauss, with his advocacy of expanding hegemony, control of the uninformed masses, war for the sake of war and Nietzschian destabilization as the philosophical basis for REGIME CHANGE, is the “godfather” of modern Neocons.

    Neocons are NOT conservatives. They are more properly understood as a CULT. There is NOTHING about America they want to “conserve”. But don’t take my word for it: listen to these experts:

    Anne Norton Defines Neocons
    Neoconservatists – Who They Are and Their Powers in the Government

    • Jay
      March 22, 2014 at 09:27

      Setting aside the claim that Trotsky wanted to expand Soviet communism:

      What’s with the claim that Stalin didn’t seek such an expansion?

      Why remain in East Germany after world war two then?

      Why start an invasion of Finland?

      Why remain in North Korea after world war two.

      Why rig the Czech elections in the later 1940s?

      Why invade Poland in 1939?

      Neocons can’t be both derived from Nazis and Russian anarchists of 1900; there’s a huge difference between those parties.

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