Is today's Anti-War Movement the America First Committee of the 21st Century?

The The America First Committee (AFC) was established in September 1940. The America First National Committee included Robert E. Wood, John T. Flynn and Charles A. Lindbergh. Supporters of the organization included Burton K. Wheeler, Hugh Johnson, Robert LaFollette Jr., Hamilton Fish and Gerald Nye.

The AFC soon became the most powerful isolationist group in the United States. The AFC had four main principles:
(1) The United States must build an impregnable defense for America;
(2) No foreign power, nor group of powers, can successfully attack a prepared America;
(3) American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the European War;
(4) “Aid short of war” weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad.

The key was #3, which amounted to: Do not make war against the fascists.

The group leaned right-wing and anti-semitic. It disbanded after Pearl Harbor. However, it was later reconstituted as the America First Party by Gerald L. K. Smith, a notorious anti-semite. The America First Party still exists as a right-wing fringe group. Of course, they opposes war with Iraq.

Today’s anti-war movement principles are all too similar to the first three principles of the America First Committee:
(1) The United States must build an impregnable Homeland Security defense for America;
(2) No foreign power, nor group of powers, such as Iraq, Iran or North Korea, can successfully attack a prepared America;
(3) American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of war with Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and other dangerous countries.

Only #4 has no parallel in the current peace movement. However, there is also a parallel in that today’s anti-war movement leans anti-Israel and anti-semitic.

History regards the America Firsters as apologists for fascism. The topic for debate is whether history will regard the current anti-war movement in the same light. I already do.

Anti-Semitic =/= Anti-Israel

In otherwords just because I believe that Israel’s settlements must be disbanded doesn’t mean I think that jews should be gassed. In fact a good number of my friends, including some of my best friends, and my ex-wife are jewish. My ex-wife being Israeli, and she knows I think the settlements should be disbanded.

Sorry, but your attempt to villify the peace movement is pretty shallow.

And yes, I believe isolationism is key. Obviously we are too entangled to be completely isolationist, but the more isolationist we are, the better.

This statement shows that it really doesn’t matter what the peace activists are for, because you’ve made up your mind regardless of the facts. And unfortunately there are many people like you willing to put their fingers in their ears so that they can make the issue much simpler so that thinking about it won’t require too much effort.

The truth is, as hard as it may be to understand, that there aren’t villains on either side, there are just people who believe a different way than others. You believe what’s best for America is one thing, and I believe what’s best for America is another, and until you try to paint me with a broad brush, I respect your difference of opinion. When you try to paint me as something I’m not, which is anti-semitic, or a terrorist sympathizer, then I can’t help but lose respect.

As for the America Firsters, just because history has regarded them through the colored glasses of the end of the war doesn’t make it justified, and it doesn’t justify you doing it to us.

There is a HUGE difference between the anti-semitism that killed 6 million jews in the Holocaust and anti-zionism that believes in a Palestinian state and the dismantling of Israeli settlements in Internationally recognized Palestinian territory.

I don’t know what your knowledge of history is, but prior to the holocaust a very large percentage of jews viewed zionism and the idea of a jewish homeland as abominable. They thought that jews should be people of the world, and that politicizing their religion would be bad for the religion as a whole.

I’m sorry to report, but the world has shades of grey.



America’s allies: Hey, help us out, guys.
America: Fuck off.


America’s allies: WTF are you doing?
America: Fuck off.

I can see both similarities and important differences.

Ouch, december, that’s a little harsh, isn’t it? (Especially at this hour – btw, good morning!)

I don’t believe the anti-war movements in any way are acting as “apologists for fascism.” I think they are trying to push for a peaceful resolution of this dangerous conflict. Isn’t that what we’d all like? And like many people/countries around the world, they are hoping for more time for the inspectors to do their work. (But that’s another debate – which is taking place somewhere around here…)

As for your points:

  1. We obviously cannot build “an impregnable” defense. But we sure can make it better than it currently is. I don’t see this as solely part of the anti-war message; in fact, I hear lots of folks who are strongly in favor of war (Bill O’Reilly, for example) also advocating a stronger homeland defense. Hell, everybody wants a safer nation.

  2. I think after 9-11 no one believes we are completely safe. And I haven’t heard anyone say otherwise. I have, however, heard people say say that going to war with Iraq might further fuel anti-American sentiment around the world and thus increase threats to our national security. I think this is a legitimate concern, though the question of whether this resolve would ultimately save more lives than removing Saddam is yet another debate.

  3. If you’re suggesting anti-war folks have a purely isolationist view, then again I feel you’re somewhat misinformed. It’s just that they believe that diplomat efforts would better serve our purpose, and further the view of America as a peaceful, virtuous nation.

I’m anti-war, Jewish, and pro-Palestinian for the most part (although not pro-terrorist). I was freezing my butt off protesting here in Chicago yesterday.

I don’t believe the U.S. will ever build a completely impregnable defense system, although we can certainly do a much better job than we have so far. I believe that many of the ways we have attempted to do so lately (profiling of airline passengers, INS Special Registration, and the like) will have the opposite of their intended effect. As to your #3 above, I believe the actions we are taking to *avoid *war are what is weakening American democracy.

Most importantly, I am about as far from being an isolationist as a person can be. I want America to be MORE involved around the world; I want schoolkids to be able to identify Iraq and Afghanistan on a map, I want evevry American to know what languages are spoken there and how people around the world live their lives.

Most importantly, I want Americans to know enough about world history and current affairs to understand why various other countries around the world have the opinions of us that they do. I sure as hell do want the U.S. to be involved in Iraq; I just haven’t seen the evidence yet to believe that we should be involved with bombers and tanks, and I resent the condescending attitude of the current administration that I should trust their judgement to “do what’s best for America.” I doubt that until he ran for President, George W. Bush could name a single ethnic group in Afghanistan. Why should I trust the judgement of someone who knows less than I do?

So sorry if I don’t fit into your neat little box.

Recent anti-war protesters have been overwhelmingly clear that they are not apologists for Saddam.

The analogy proposed in the OP is, um, puerile, and it’s surprising to me that anyone who has read all of the arguments for averting/delaying war which you presumably have read Iif you read the threads that you yourself start) would even bother making it. That is, you ought to be able to anticipate al of the arguments for yourself.

Even though you may still passionately disagree with anything short of lockstep with the Bush administration, you ought to be able to figure out for yourself why such dissent doesn’t therefore constitute a neat parallel with the worst case of anti-war resistance you happen to know of.

The power to analyze from multiple points of view, to integrate new information in so doing, is the core of a functioning mind. It’s what is meant by “intelligence,” and it’s why it’s so difficult if not impossible to create the artificial kind. Don’t you have any stake is showing us you have some of this ability?

I think this thread can be locked. Godwin’s Law decreed that december lost this debate.


The modern KKK, at every protest, makes it clear that they just want equal rights for decent white Americans. Sorry, KKK, if I see something else. Similarly, excuse me if I see a lot of apologists for Saddam, Castro, and Kim Jong Il in the ranks of the peace movement. I guess, to be fair, I’m an Amerikan military industrial complex apologist. Just want everyone to acknowledge the nuts they keep company with and apologize for.

Firstly, to equate the AFC with the current anti-war "movement’ is foolish: it was comprised of well-known non-interventionists, and was primarily a non-intervention group; their anti-war stance was in the belief that we should not involve ourselves in what was seen as a “fratricidal” European war.

The current anti-war push did not start out as a rally for isolationism or non-interventionism: it was brought on by the administration’s push for the invasion of a sovereign nation, without evidence of a direct threat to us or its neighbors, and without the blessings of the UN, if necessary. Though many who are against war are also for some kind of “homeland defense”, not all support the administration’s proposals; most do not seem to be pushing for isolationism on the part of the US, but do want to see a focus on the current domestic situation. Equating “fix the economy before war with Iraq” as isolationist is silly; although I know there won’t be any, can I kindly ask for some kind of proof or cite that the majority of those that don’t want war are isolationist, and not simply concerned about the validity of the administration’s argument? The anti-war protesters are not asking for abstention from intervention, either: most seem to think that the UN-mandated inspection regime is doing its job, and it should be left in place as long as there are results. I don’t think Mr. Lindbergh would have had much in common with the current group of anti-war protesters…

In addition, the AFC was a US phenomenon; the current anti-war movement is not. The demonstrations of 15 Feb alone prove that: there is no way of linking a global outpouring such as occurred to isolationism in the US.

Eva: I agree wholeheartedly. It’s sad to see a bunch of “Cold War” relics such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice (though she is substantially younger than the others, her focus has always been the Soviets/Russians and East Europe) try to pick their way through such a complex problem as the Middle East. They ignored the Palestinian/Israeli conflict for as long as they could; none of them have demonstrated knowledge of the region, and it doesn’t seem to have gotten any better. The only experience any of the main decision makers have gotten to the ME are via the petrochemical industry or war; so how can we possibly simply “trust” them to do what they think is right? I guess I misplaced my blinders when I voted in the last election…

And december, just where does the anti-war “movement” show itself as being anti-semitic or as being “apologists for fascism”? Once again: as you have shown in other threads, you tend to throw out rhetoric pretty handily, with little proof; when proof is actually thrown your way, you usually disappear (only to start another thread with more supposition and rhetoric). Being against the heavy-handed policies of Sharon is not being anti-semitic; being critical of the way in which Israel uses US aid is not anti-semitic, either. Yet you seem to want to paint all of those that don’t agree with you in the same light; however, you obviously haven’t bothered to look at the diversity of the people that are against this desire of the administration.

For example: I am against the war, but not a pacifist - I am currently stationed in the ME, on the airbase that will be the key player when this all takes off; I did my part in a few campaigns in the past, and will do what is necessary when the time comes. I am not an isolationist: on the contrary, I think the only way America can sustain itself as the only remaining superpower is to work with the UN and the global community. I am not anti-semitic, although I do not agree with current Israeli or US policies regarding the Palestinian crisis. I have lived and studied the ME for 12 years; I believe that the administration is being extremely short-sighted in its outlook, and that every action has a reaction. I don’t think the current administration has enough data to know what that reaction will be, and that they have not made much of an effort to find out. Much like most of those who support the war, no one has really thought this thing out much past the “take out Saddam” part; those that have made the attempt do so without studying the history nor the dynamics at work in the region. And I am an interventionist, in that I think the US and the UN can intervene without resorting to war.

So, is there going to be some backing up of the OP’s assertions, or are you going to run and start yet another unsubstantiated thread?


This is a new low december. No link to some right-wing idealogue suggesting this connection? You know, to pull some of the heat off you for such a BS assertion.

I’d like to get something clear for all the WW2 analogists. Do you think if we had enforced massive no fly zones and an almost complete embargo on Germany for 12 years we would be having this same debate? How about if western companies didn’t actively help Germany re-arm? I hope you can see the clear difference between the two forms of “appeasement”. There are of course many other glaring differences but to me these seem poignant.

Sorry Beagle, see my other post in your thread for some comments on how it’s inevitable to have some fringe voices appear in mass public protests: the same way you get them when you have free opera in the park, for that matter. The Times article I posted there made clear that speakers were very careful to distinguish their protest against war from support or apology for Saddam. I won’t say another word in this thread which I very strongly feel doesn’t merit Great Debates and, although I myself haven’t practiced what I’m about to preach, I’ve often felt that when december sinks this low he should just be ignored.

Well, this self-destructs on your first claim. It is the violently pro-war faction (as opposed to those who may thoughtfuly consider that war is necessary) who claims that we need to build an “impregnable” America, including sacrificing much of the Bill of Rights to achieve that purported goal.

You seem to be making Number 2 up as you go along. Who in the (fractious and only loosely organized anti-war movement) has claimed that we are immune from attack?*

I have no idea who you think is making the third claim. I am sure that there are some people who hold those views and that they would probably join the anti-war movement, but they are hardly the core constituency of that group.

The current anti-war-against-Iraq movement is not some monolithic organization with clear goals. It includes people who felt that the assault on Afghanistan was clearly indicated and supported that action, but who think that the Iraq sideshow is simply Bush flexing his muscle for his own personal reasons. It includes people who are simply opposed to any military actions, ever. It includes people who believe that a war on Iraq may be necessary, but that the current rush to invade will cause more harm than good. In fact, from my reading of the speeches of the protestors, the majority of them seem to realize that we do need to confront Hussein. They simply believe that Bush’s current plan is hasty and ill-considered. There are America-bashers in the crowds–just as there are racist, unthinking haters of Arabs, Muslims, and all “others” among the pro-war voices. Do the anti-war protestors get to label every pro-war proponent a racist, mindless hater? Are you willing to accept that label?

So you seem to have misstated the relative positions that some people have taken and created strawmen for everyone else.

  • For example, I think that a case can easily be made that any of those countries could harm the U.S., but that the political realities and personalities involved in Iraq argue strongly against them choosing to commit suicide by assault, while Bush seems to be ignoring the situation in Korea which includes someone who has demonstrated a willingness to cause himself irreparable harm with no thought to the consequences. And putting Iran in that group is silly.

That’s fair. I don’t think everyone sent Kim Jong Il a sympathy card. My conclusion, always, is that if there is insufficient support for war it is politically untenable to fight it. One sure sign: politicians and pundits on the right are not united in support of the war. So, by Machiavellian default, I’m a peacenik until further notice.

At least december did not post "Peace Movement: “We love Nazis!” Although, I posted something a wee bit too close for comfort - albeit without any quotation abuse - better shut up now. But, I had cites.

Peace Movement = Isolationism?

I don’t think this is always true. But, it is a paradoxical trap that the US will be criticized for action, inaction, or both. Action: Vietnam, Grenada, Afghanistan. Inaction: Somalia, Rwanda Both: former Yugoslavia, etc. Sometimes, to me, the peace movement seems to consist of a mostly unfocused hatred of everything US. YMMV.

Excellent analogy december.

The* Brave New World of Love and Peace* message that protestors of the world’s free countries feel can be marched into exsitence, would be better served if they bravely marched their message of love down the heartbreaking prison streets of Baghdad and Pyongyang.

Wait a minute! Just who is it that is pushing a strategic missile defense program for an “impregnable homeland security defense?”

Did you pick those three countries based on something you know about them combining against us? Or was it in slavish lock-step you GW’s “Axis of Evil?”

And, do you regard those three powers alone or in combination as being capable of attacking the US by frontal attack, successfuly or otherwise? Of course, sneak terrorist actions are another matter but that seems to have been forgotten, except for recommendations to buy duct tape, in the hulabaloo over Iraq.

With the current gang in power and cowardly opposition party leadership(?) in Washington, I’m worried about the preservation of “American democracy” anyway.

Why do you say that “History regards the [America Firsters] as apologists for fascism.”? I don’t remember that they were so regarded at the time and, although I haven’t kept up current historians’ opinions of it, I doubt that anyone but you so regards the America Firsters that way now.

If I weren’t 80 years old with a stiff leg and erratic ticker, I’d probably be out there with the protestors. I simply haven’t seen the justification for a preemptive war that will cause more turmoil in the Mid East, which doesn’t need it, alienate much of the rest of the world and commit the US and its resources, tying our hands with regard to a lot of domestic problems, for years to come.

I would like to point out that the original AFC was largely created in the context of WWI, after which people though that the next “European War” would cost millions upon millions of lives in brutal trench warfare. As it happened, only the first part was true.

There is a huge problem with labeling a common “treatise” of ideals for a group as diverse and far-reaching as the current Anti-War movement is. Within this group there are people who range in opinion from being rabidly anti-American to members of the American military. There are certainly isolationists in the group, and there are certainly pro-active “diplomats for peace” who believe in strengthening internationalism. There are people who believe in a strong national defense, and there are people who believe that there should be no nation. There are pacifists and there are apologists. There are pro-Palestinian groups and there are pro-Israeli groups. There are also a large number of normal, everyday, middle-of-the-road citizens who feel, for one reason or another, opposed to pre-emptive war with Iraq. In short, there are more differences within the group on what exactly “American foreign policy” should be than on most of the so-called “forum” shows on the bland and unimaginitive news organizations.

Therefore, december, I think it is unreasonable for you to post generalized principles as though they will apply to every person who took to the streets this weekend. The Anti-War movement is a rather large umbrella whose general principles are hard to get down OTHER than the fact that the people are opposed to a US-led pre-emptive war with Iraq at this time.

december, could you please provide a cite supporting that claim? In particular, do you consider the people who demonstrated yesterday in Tel Aviv to be anti-Israel and anti-semitic?

I am reasonably sure that december has confused the America First Committee with the German-American Bund organization. This would account for his claim that the America Firsters were pro-Nazi and anti-semitic. I don’t see how there is any rational way to connect the whole of the world-wide, anti-Bush (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Powell, et al) war to anti-semitism.

Yes, its overly harsh. I was in Manhattan last night so the demonstration was very much on my mind, so much so that I had trouble sleeping. Good morning to you, leander

Fair point. The America Firsters didn’t care if WWII was peacefully resolved; they just didn’t care which side won.

Good point. And, come to think of it, lots of anti-war folks are also opposed to some Homeland Security measures, particularly those that infringe on civil liberties and those that stigmatize Arabs or Muslims.

True, but it’s common for anti-war people to pooh-pooh the notion that Saddam might provide WMDs to al Qaeda. And, nobody even discusses the possibility that Saddam might use his WMDs directly on the US.

Anti-war people are not isolationist, but some of their statements are moving in that direction. When they argue that Saddam is not a imminent threat to the US, they are effectively saying that they don’t care about other countries that Saddam is an imminent threat to. Furthermore the demonstrators don’t care about the Iraqi people. they were unconcerned when Saddam was muirdering and torturing thousands. And, they are unconcerned that Iraqis, by and large, want to be liberated from Saddam Hussein. From today’s New York Times

Still feeling harsh, I will add: Iraqi people are enslaved by the Ba’ath Party regime. Opposing a US-led overthrow of Saddam because war would be hard on the Iraqi people is like opposing Lincoln’s overthrow of the Confederacy because a civil war would be hard on the slaves. :rolleyes:

David Simmons, I was not conflating the America Firsters with the Bund. The America First Committee was led by respectable people, but some of them were indeed anti-semites. The later America First Party was more overtly anti-semitic.

Although the America First Committee was not pro-Nazi, as the Bund was, the actions of the America First Committee nevertheless were in effect pro-Nazi. Similarly, the actions of today’s anti-war protestors is not designed to be pro-Saddam, but their actions do have that effect. E.g., Iraq Gloats Over Wave of Peace Protests