The coalition questioning President Bush's Persian Gulf policy is an alliance between left and right the likes of which has not been seen since the eve of World War II, and one made possible only by the end of the Cold War and the waning of Soviet power.
The critics of Bush's strategy include socialists and liberals, free-market libertarians and ardent conservatives, religious groups and now some members of Congress who fear that the White House is overstepping congressional prerogatives.
The collection of dissidents is so disparate that some of them doubt they could even sit on the same platform with each other. In addition, the groups are not entirely in accord on which aspects of Bush's policy they oppose or on their reasons for opposing it -- which could make common political action difficult. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Vice President Quayle referred to the odd alliances being formed when he spoke of "the McGovern-Buchanan axis."
"We may be working toward the same goal, but we're working opposite sides of the street," said Pat Buchanan, the syndicated columnist and former Reagan White House official who has been an outspoken Bush critic. "Despite the words of the vice president, I don't think of George McGovern as my axis partner."
Still, Buchanan acknowledged in an interview that his anti-war posture was unusual. "I've supported every military action my country has undertaken in my lifetime," Buchanan said.
What has changed is the decline in Soviet power, which has led some conservatives to a broad reassessment of their foreign policy positions. "They said they believed you needed a huge military to fight the Soviet threat and that when you didn't have a Soviet threat, you didn't need a huge military machine," said David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian and anti-interventionist Cato Institute. "It turns out that some of them really meant what they said."
Other conservatives who have questioned Bush's policy include Tom Bethell, the Washington editor of The American Spectator, columnists Robert Novak and Rowland Evans, former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and defense analyst Edward N. Luttwak.
But some of these have been more critical of Bush than others -- Kirkpatrick has been especially cautious -- and conservatives in Congress have been reluctant to pick up the cry. Last summer, two Republican representatives quoted as raising questions about Bush's policy -- Reps. Robert K. Dornan of California and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma -- immediately issued clarifying statements supporting the president.
It has been a long time since elements of the left and the right have united in opposition to intervention. The most notable historical case of such an alliance was the 1930s coalition opposing intervention in World War II, which included such conservative and right-wing figures as Charles Lindbergh and Herbert Hoover and such religious socialists and pacifists as Norman Thomas.
"Like 1939 to 1941, it's an incongruous bunch," said Leo P. Ribuffo, a historian at George Washington University who has written widely on the pre-World War II right. "But unlike 1939 to 1941, there's no basic organization that's an umbrella for anti-interventionist sentiment -- yet."
Bringing together the critics of war against Iraq will not be easy, since the bases for their criticisms are so disparate.
In Congress, many Democrats who fear bloodshed and are frustrated with what they see as Bush's lack of consultation are nonetheless reluctant to say anything that might encourage Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by easing his worries about the United States's war intentions.
Moreover, many of Bush's critics, inside and outside Congress, favored sending U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia as a defensive measure and still strongly support the economic sanctions against Iraq. But the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, a professor of ethics and international politics at Georgetown University, said that Bush galvanized critics of war by his recent decision to send more troops to the gulf. "This shifted the issue from defense and deterrence to offensive action," he said.
Some of the critics of Bush's policy are neither far to the right nor far to the left. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian and former Kennedy administration official, said that he has always identified himself with the "realist" school of foreign policy that poses the basic question: "Are the national interests of the United States sufficiently at stake to justify our going to war?"
On this basis, Schlesinger said, he favored both U.S. intervention in World War II and the military buildup during the Cold War. But he opposed the Vietnam War and now opposes going to war in the gulf.
Other opponents of such a course are leftists who questioned both the Cold War and Vietnam. Many in this group were slow to come to their current opposition, said Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley, because they initially appreciated Bush's decision to get United Nations support for his policy.
"What slowed people like me from coming out against this was seeing the need for collective security," he said. "A lot of us felt caught between the collective security paradigm of World War II and the Vietnam paradigm. Not only do all generals fight the last war, but anti-war people fight the last war, too."
Gitlin, who served as president of Students for a Democratic Society in the early 1960s, said he and many of his old comrades in the anti-war movement had now moved toward opposition to the president because of unease over the Bush administration's apparent unwillingness to "play diplomatic cards." He added: "This is redolent of a very bad old script."
Especially quick in moving toward criticism of the administration were the liberal and left-of-center religious organizations. They since have been joined in raising questions about Bush's policy by America's Roman Catholic bishops.
Jim Wallis, a longtime Christian peace activist and an editor of Sojourners magazine, said the church groups moved far more quickly now than during the Vietnam War because they had already "found their voice" on other issues, such as opposition to the Reagan administration's Central America policy and to apartheid in South Africa.
Wallis said that his wing of the peace movement has "not had any dialogue with the Buchanan wing of the coalition -- we're not on the same platform yet."
He said that while he agreed with "a lot of the things Buchanan has been saying," he had fundamental disagreements with him over what America's role in the post-Cold War world should be and the priority that should be placed on the needs of Third World countries. "We're calling for a new world order in which superpowers do not predominate," he said.
Buchanan said the right and left wings of the anti-war movement should go their own ways. He added that he did not expect to be found on the same platform with such veteran anti-warriors as Ramsey Clark or David Dellinger. "I'm a man of the right," Buchanan said. "I have a different concept of America. I'm pro-military."