Scott Ritter

"Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement "

(Reviewed by Guy Savage NOV 25, 2007)

“The reality is, had our military prevailed in this struggle, the American people, for the most part would not even blink at the moral and legal arguments against this war. This underlying reality is reflected in the fact that despite our ongoing disaster in Iraq, America is propelled down a course of action that leads us toward conflict with Iran….America is preprogrammed for war, and unless the antiwar movement dramatically changes the manner in which it conducts its struggle, America will become a nation of war, for war, and defined by war, and as such a nation that will ultimately be consumed by war.”

Waging Peace by Scott Ritter

Former marine, veteran of the first Iraq war and weapons inspector for the U.N., author Scott Ritter brings a great deal of varied experience to the book Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement.  Clearly frustrated and unable to identify with the antiwar movement currently underway in America, Ritter suggests revamping the antiwar movement using his knowledge of warfare and military tactics. Ritter argues that the movement, as it currently stands, is losing and is rife with a “growing despondency” as America moves into its “fourth year of illegal war in an illegitimate occupation of Iraq.” Given that he had no moral problem with the first Iraq War, but states that it came to an “unsatisfactory end,” it’s certainly intriguing to consider Ritter’s arguments. And also there’s the argument, of course, that the antiwar movement doesn’t need revamping at all.

Ritter states that his book grew from the article “The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement” published April 2006, on Alternet. For explanation purposes, the article is included in its entirety along with some of the responses it provoked. In the article, Ritter blasts the antiwar movement, and while he expresses the opinion that the “vast majority” of those involved are sincere, he argues that the movement is plagued with problems including a lack of overall strategy and that “there is an increasing awareness that the cause of the antiwar movement, no matter how noble and worthy, is in fact a losing cause as currently executed.”

Ritter notes that while there’s a “growing change in the mood among Americans against the ongoing war in Iraq….scratch[ing] at the surface of this public discontent” reveals just how “shallow and superficial it is.” Ritter argues that for the majority of Americans being fed up with the war isn’t a matter of moral disgust, “they are against it because we are losing.” One of the many responses to Ritter’s article came from Cindy Sheehan who rejected Ritter’s suggestions for the antiwar movement’s reform and argued that the reason the war continues is not due to the anemic antiwar movement, but rather the blame can be lodged at Americans who “will not get off their collective, complacent and comfortable behinds to demonstrate their dissent with our government.”

Ritter applies his knowledge of warfare and, complete with diagrams, proposes strategies for the anti war movement. He makes some accurate summations--including acknowledging the concise message of the “religious right” (“Gods, Guns, Gays”) as opposed to the “shopping list” of goals held by the Progressive Democrats. He also quite correctly identifies Cindy Sheehan’s campout at Crawford as a moment that drew the attention of the entire nation. But he also argues that this moment fizzled because it was a tactic that went nowhere and was not part of an overall strategy to win support.

One of the criticisms Ritter has of the antiwar movement is its overall lack of hierarchy, and its horizontal structure. Insisting on calling those who will operate within horizontal structures, flat-liners, Ritter rather misses the point that there are those who will not operate in a hierarchy. Ritter obviously is quite comfortable with hierarchal structures, and that’s no surprise given his Marine/military background. But there are many who consider that hierarchal power structures are problematic. A hierarchal power structure in any given organization guarantees neither efficiency nor lack of chaos, and its structure--which depends on a select few—may even be considered more vulnerable under certain conditions. The hierarchal, feudalistic structure of the U.S. military, for example, is cumbersome and bogged down in its massive bureaucracy. And if you want to argue with that, just look at the Walter Reed scandal.

Horizontal structures, on the other hand, demand a different organizing paradigm, and while they are leaderless, they act upon consensus, and are not necessarily chaotic, as Ritter charges. Furthermore, Horizontalism is a particularly effective structure for subversive operations in this age of technologically advanced communication systems.

Ritter argues the struggle for “waging peace” is a “numbers game,” and that the “mainstream media treats the antiwar movement as a joke because many times that is exactly what the antiwar movement, through its lack of preparation and grasp of the facts, allows itself to become.” I have no argument against the notion that the antiwar movement wages a numbers game, but at the same time, if we accept that principle, then we must also accept the fact that the antiwar movement is severely under-gunned. Danny Schechter’s film “Weapons of Mass Deception” illustrates that the so-called “left-wing” media ignored the antiwar movement prior to the invasion of Iraq. Just look at the fact that many activists tried to buy airtime prior to the invasion with the goal of promoting an alternate message, but the time was simply not for sale. Massive antiwar protests took place in San Francisco prior to the invasion, but they were given scant attention by mainstream media. And while we’re on the subject of fighting a “numbers game,” let’s think of the fact that in 1983, 50 corporations controlled the majority of news media in the U.S. This has now shrunk to six. Go talk to the Center for Media and Democracy (, and they will be happy to explain to you just how biased mainstream media is, and then you’ll understand how and why the mainstream media presented a uniform and adamant pro-war message prior to the invasion. And mainstream media continues to bear a responsibility in the “numbers game.” Ritter, to his credit, gives a nod to the fact that the mainstream media ignores many voices, but this fact is not then weaved into his overall argument.

Ritter’s book raises many excellent points, and I particularly enjoyed his anecdote of the firefighters who refused to hose protestors during demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, 1999. Ritter uses this instance of an example of why the antiwar movement should slim down its message to a defense of the constitution. He argues that if more Americans could identify with this message, then warmongering would be out, and a return to core American beliefs would be back in vogue.

While Ritter is correct on many of the points made in the book, I seriously doubt Americans would be woken from their moral slumber, even if Ritter were at the helm of an aggressive, highly-organized, strategically planned antiwar movement. We live in a Society of the Spectacle, narcotized by consumerism, focused on the antics of out-of-control actresses and Harry Potter spoilers. Most Americans remain unaffected by the war, and until this changes, they are very unlikely to take to the streets en masse to protest. As Ritter correctly points out, most Americans have no moral problem with the occupation of Iraq; it’s just the fact that America is not winning that ushers in the idea of a troop withdrawal. Is it rational or reasonable, then, to expect millions of Americans to experience a sea change in their moral thinking?

As America struggles to achieve a long-term sustainable occupation of Iraq (a truth that is not discussed by all parties involved), one wonders exactly what it will take to enrage Americans enough to abandon their slothful disinterest in the Iraq War and take to the streets to protest. A draft?  The economy going belly-up? Oil at $100 a barrel? Or it is simply going to be a massive number of soldiers refusing to fight? And why do we continue to ignore the fact that somewhere between 8,000-20,000 military personnel have fled to Canada? But in the meantime, is the antiwar movement losing as Ritter seems to believe it is? Can we even argue that the fact the war continues is evidence of the antiwar movement’s failure? I think not. But then neither is the antiwar movement winning. They simply have a presence, and occasionally they rankle the warmongers enough to provoke a response. And meanwhile the war continues with its perpetually delayed hour of accountability, and the carnage continues--exposing human nature at its very worst.  There’s a reality check in our future, and it’s not going to be pretty.

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About the Author:

Scott RitterScott Ritter was born in 1961 into a military family. He graduated from Frankling and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with a B.A. in the history of the Soviet Union. In 1980 he served in the U.S. Army as a Private. Then in May of 1984 he was commissioned a as a marine intelligence officer, and served this capacity for 12 years. Initially he was the lead analyst for the Marine Corps Rapid Deployment Force concernin gthe Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq War. During Desert Storm, he served as a ballistic missile advisor to General Norma Schwarzkopf. He later served as a security and military consultant for the Fox News network.

He served as a chief weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. In January of 1998, his inspection team in Iraq was blocked from some weapons sites by Iraqi officials making claims that information obtained from these sites would be used for future planning of attacks. UN Inspectors were then ordered out of Iraq by the United States Government, shortly before Operation Desert Fox attacks began in December 1998, using information which had been gathered for the purpose of disarmament to identify targets which would reduce Iraq's ability to wage both conventional and possibly unconventional warfare. This action undermined the position of the UN Weapons Inspectors, who were thereafter denied access to Iraq.

He resigned later that year and testified before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services and US Senate on Foreign Relations. Following his resignation from UNSCOM, Ritter continued to be an outspoken commentator on US policy toward Iraq, particularly with respect to the WMD issue. He became a popular anti-war figure and talk show commentator.

He lives in New York State. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014