The year is 2013, Obama has been in office for more than 100 days, and the sequester has been in effect for several weeks now. In the midst of it all, the polarization between the GOP and the Democratic Party seems to be unceasing. Debates over the specifics of the federal budget seem to go nowhere and pushes for bi-partisanship are anathema… to some.
On April 17th, 2013, libertarian Ron Paul (R) launched the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity in order to advocate for anti-interventionism within US foreign policy. Some of the board-members fit the usual libertarian mold. For example, Judge Andrew Napolitano is quite well known within right-wing circles for his activism. Llewellyn Rockwell Jr. is well-known for being the one of the founders of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, which approaches economics from the perspective of the Austrian School.
There are notable exceptions though. Most notable of which is former representative Dennis Kucinich from Ohio who sits on the institute’s advisory board. Well known for his anti-war views and civil liberties advocacy, Kucinich made headlines for being the only democratic presidential candidate in 2008 that voted against the Iraq War and for his efforts to impeach President George Bush.
This intersection of the American political Left and Right around the single issue of anti-interventionism is a breath of fresh air but this isn’t the first time a bi-partisan coalition was formed to resist militarism within the United States. The largest anti-war organization in US history was the America First Committee which attempted to resist US entry into World War II. Though it quickly lost support after the events at Pearl Harbor, its membership consisted of people from across the political spectrum.
Many figures from the America First Committee went on and continued to be politically active in US politics after World War Two:
- Sargent Shriver went on to be the first director of the Peace Corp.
- Potter Stewart later served as a Supreme Court Justice and played a key role in several court cases related to the Civil Rights Movement. Cases like Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., Runyon v. McCrary, and Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham were landmarks in the struggle for equal-rights for African-Americans.
- Norman Thomas, the 6th presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America
- Future president Gerald Ford was part of the America First Committee but left and joined the Navy as a reaction to Pearl Harbor.
- R. Douglas Stuart, Jr., the heir to the Quaker Oats fortune, later served as the US Ambassador to Norway.
This makes one wonder what would have happened if the America First Committee was successful in keeping the US out of World War II and what is the potential of creating an anti-war coalition against US interventionism today? We may never know the former, but the latter is entirely up to us!