Such a turn of events will present us with an even more powerful George Bush, while threatening to suck all the air from those who oppose him. I can already hear William Kristol, Richard Perle and Christopher Hitchens gloating that all those millions of demonstrators have been marching on the wrong side of history. In fact, easy military victory in Iraq would prove no such thing. Quite the contrary. Which is why we must remember three key reasons why the movement actually needs to grow even bigger, stronger and more far-reaching in its vision.
1. War in Iraq is a metaphor for American domination. Although the peace movement rightly worries about the human suffering caused by even a "successful" war in Iraq, nobody has been marching in support of Saddam's indefensible regime. In fact, it's unfortunate that the protests have fixated on the complicated question of this despotic state, for the underlying issue is far more crucial: We now live in a world in which an imperial America, by virtue of its military power and inviolate sense of virtue, feels entitled to make enormous global decisions that affect everyone — like remaking the Middle East — no matter what the rest of the planet may think.
2. Military victory is only the beginning. Even if the Bush administration wins the war, it's not to be trusted with the peace. The U.S. has already begun welshing on its pledges to Afghanistan (Hamid Karzai was just in D.C. begging for money). Those who took to the streets against the war need to be equally insistent that the U.S. government doesn't fall into its time-honored bad habits in Iraq — backing a strongman who favors American interests, selling out the Kurds (yet again) to cement ties with Turkey, turning this conquered country into a game preserve for American corporations. Although there may be lots of triumphalist talk in the coming months, we won't know the true outcome of this Iraqi adventure for decades. Back in the 1970s Richard Nixon asked Zhou Enlai his verdict on the French Revolution. The Chinese premier replied, "Too early to tell." Words to remember each time the Bush administration boasts of its success.
3. Bush remains a menace.While people the world over despise our president for his bullying foreign policy, his domestic policy is even scarier. Whether he's rolling back constitutional rights, skewing taxes to help the very rich, gutting environmental protections, letting energy companies shape energy policy, seeking unprecedented exemptions on testing for the Star Wars missile defense, knocking down barriers between church and state, stacking the courts with anti-choice judges, or trying to destroy the Medicaid entitlement with bribes to the states, Bush heads the most repressive and reactionary administration of any of our lifetimes. Whatever ultimately happens in Iraq, the peace movement must broaden its agenda to become a social justice movement that will resist his dire vision for this country.
Naturally, the struggle against Bushism would be much easier if the Iraq war were to become a quagmire or cataclysm; yet only a moral cretin could hope for the president to get his comeuppance over stacks of dead bodies. Lenin famously said that history is tricky, and the galling irony of the present moment bears him out. Once the bombs start raining down on Iraq, those of us who oppose the invasion will find ourselves in the unhappy position of having to pray that George Bush's divinely inspired arrogance will somehow prove to be justified.