The Antiwar Movement

Jonathan Freedland on the impact of the antiwar movement (Guardian, 3/22/03):

[T]here may be another motive for the initial preference for short-and-sweet over shock-and-awe. The US might have wanted to avoid a wave of worldwide revulsion. A series of tight, well-aimed strikes at the regime would have confounded the global fear of colossal Iraqi civilian casualties. It's as if Washington had heard the peace movement's objection to this war -- that too many innocents would die -- and was attempting to heed it. (Now the US can, at least, say it tried its best, but that it didn't bring instant results). . . .

Critics have railed against Washington for its gunslinging unilateralism, lambasting the US for playing the lone ranger. So the first sentence of George Bush's TV address on Wednesday night referred to "coalition forces". Of course he spoiled the multilateralist feel of the phrase by preceding it with "on my orders" -- suggesting he is in charge even of the British army -- but the thought was there.

And perhaps the clearest proof of the anti-war camp's efforts came from our own prime minister: "I know this course of action has produced deep divisions of opinion in our country," he said, just seconds into his own TV message to the nation. No leader wants to go into a war admitting such a thing. But Blair had no choice. As with much else, the peace movement has changed the landscape for this conflict -- and the men of war are having to deal with it.