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10 Strategies for the Antiwar Movement To Maximize Impact This Summer

The antiwar movement now stands at a crossroads this summer, poised to become a transformative force for peace in a world wracked by violent conflict.

Police with riot shields and protesters stand across from one another on the grounds of the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia on May 4.,CAL CARY/DAILY PROGRESS/AP)

Student activism demanding divestment from companies profiting from the Israel’s genocide in Gaza flared across major universities in April 2024. The movement, which began at Columbia University on April 17th saw tents erected on campuses in solidarity with Palestinians. What unfolded since has been riveting, spectacular, and harrowing all at once. The antiwar movement now stands at a crossroads this summer, poised to become a transformative force for peace in a world wracked by violent conflict. To realize this potential, we must build our political power and wield it strategically.

Many left-leaning organizations are already putting these strategies into practice and achieving significant victories for the antiwar movement.

Code Pink, for example, has maximized grassroots engagement through creative protest tactics, like unfurling massive Palestine flags at government buildings. For instance, Code Pink protesters unfolded a massive Palestine flag outside the Senate building in January 2024. These public-facing actions build momentum and generate social media content. Code Pink has also amplified the peace message by organizing antiwar concerts with celebrities and influencers. When Code Pink activist Medea Benjamin interrupted President Barack Obama’s major counterterrorism speech, she garnered global media attention for her call to close Guantanamo and end drone strikes. She has continued to provide leadership in the current antiwar movement with daily, nonstop actions.

Win Without War has united a broad coalition around a Progressive Foreign Policy agenda. By combining savvy inside-the-Beltway advocacy with outside grassroots pressure, they have notched key wins since 2002. In 2013, their “Diplomacy Works” campaign helped secure the historic Iran nuclear deal. They built left-right opposition to arms sales fueling the Yemen war, forcing Trump to use vetoes to push them through. Win Without War worked with groups like Amnesty International and Avaaz to hold a Ceasefire Now vigil outside the White House.

Win Without War also handed out Ceasefire pins for the State of the Union address.

Peace Action has mobilized constituents in all 50 states to move the needle on policy and has been working for over 65 years to end U.S. complicity in foreign wars. After Peace Action NH bird-dogged 16 presidential candidate events, they got 15 candidates on the record agreeing to redirect funds from the military budget to urgent domestic needs. Peace Action also organized Ceasefire Now Grassroots Advocacy Days in coordination with over 50 grassroots organizations to lobby lawmakers in DC with virtual and in person meetings.

Friends Committee on National Legislation has empowered faith-rooted activists to become effective lobbyists for peace. Advocacy Teams across the country meet repeatedly with their representatives, armed with FCNL’s trainings on strategic persuasion. In 2019, these constituent lobbyists helped secure the historic bipartisan vote to end US participation in the Yemen war—the first time Congress has invoked the War Powers Act to end an unauthorized war.

“We’re clearly being outspent, but I think the saving grace is that our ideas are just more popular,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, the Friends Committee’s Middle East legislative director.

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About Face (formerly Iraq Veterans Against the War) has harnessed the moral authority of antiwar veterans to expose the human costs of war. Their “Right to Heal” campaign gathered powerful testimonies on the health impacts of burn pits and toxic exposures on service members and Iraqis. About Face partnered with environmental justice groups to contest the military’s role as the world's biggest polluter.

These examples show the antiwar movement already leveraging grassroots people-power, diverse coalitions, moral framing and savvy tactics to notch wins against a long-entrenched war machine. But to achieve a truly transformative shift toward a just peace, we must massively scale up these efforts.

The antiwar movement must grow into an unstoppable political force. We need more people educated and activated. We need greater organizational capacity and tighter transpartisan coordination. We need a clearer, solutions-oriented policy agenda. We need to contest the prowar narrative on a much bigger stage. We need elected officials at all levels feeling constant pressure from antiwar constituents. Most of all, we need to keep asserting, without apology, the fundamental immorality of a system that squanders precious resources on destructive militarism instead of serving human needs.

The good news is that the tide of public opinion is turning. After decades of disastrous interventions, Americans are increasingly ready for a new global engagement based on diplomacy, cooperation and restraint. By following the roadmap below with renewed dedication, the antiwar movement can translate this shift into a new political reality. We can build the power to finally turn America's foreign policy away from the futility of endless war, and toward the promise of a just, sustainable peace. Here are ten actions the movement can take to strengthen our influence and hasten a future beyond war.

  1. Maximize Grassroots Engagement. The lifeblood of our movement is passionate, informed citizen participation. We must organize at the grassroots from campus clubs to community peace groups. Regular educational events, protest rallies, and public forums can engage more people in the cause. Volunteer recruitment drives and community outreach can help grow a broad base of local antiwar activists across the nation.
  2. Encourage Antiwar Champions to Seek Office. We need elected officials at all levels who will be principled voices for peace and diplomacy. The antiwar movement should actively encourage and support veterans, activists, and everyday citizens who share our values to run for office. We can offer training on campaign skills and public communication, connect them to donors and volunteers, and help elect a new generation of antiwar leaders.
  3. Strengthen Organizational Capacity and Coalitions. A more effective antiwar movement requires robust peace organizations and savvy coalition-building. We must invest in the long-term health of nonprofits and grassroots groups dedicated to this work, including their professional staff, data systems, and strategic planning. At the same time, we must forge durable coalitions between peace groups, faith leaders, veterans, labor, issue advocates and others, uniting around a cohesive antiwar agenda.
  4. Prioritize Youth Outreach. Young people have historically been at the vanguard of social change. We must empower youth as leaders of the antiwar movement through school clubs, mentoring, leadership development, and opportunities for meaningful participation in campaigns and events. By supporting young voices for peace, we ensure the movement will endure and evolve.
  5. Offer Political Education and Training. To be effective advocates, antiwar activists need political savvy. The movement should offer accessible education on the workings of government, skills like lobbying and media relations, and analysis of the political landscape. Workshops, guides and trainings can help members maximize their impact. Developing a program to train new generations of peace campaign managers and nonprofit leaders can build lasting infrastructure.
  6. Unite Around a Clear Policy Agenda . The antiwar movement needs clear, specific demands. We must arrive at a focused policy platform, from repealing outdated war authorizations to blocking arms sales to cutting weapons budgets to invest in human needs. Putting forward viable alternatives—diplomacy, economic development, international cooperation—is also key. A proactive, solutions-oriented agenda can guide our efforts.
  7. Build Left-Right Coalitions. A transformative antiwar movement must bridge partisan divides. We need to actively cultivate relationships with groups and leaders on both the right and left who share skepticism of war and militarism. Finding common cause, from fiscal conservatives to civil libertarians, can multiply our numbers and power. An antiwar effort that rises above polarization to build transpartisan appeal is the path to real policy change.
  8. Harness People-Powered Media and Narratives. To shift public opinion, we must contest the prowar narratives that still dominate media and political discourse. Antiwar voices need to be much more visible through both traditional media - op-eds, interviews, ads - and nimble use of social media, memes and viral content. We must flood the conversation with compelling stories, moral arguments and hard facts about the futility of war. Reclaiming the narrative is essential.
  9. Defend Dissent and Civil Liberties. A robust antiwar movement depends on the ability to dissent and organize freely. In partnership with civil liberties advocates, we must be vigilant against any efforts to suppress antiwar speech or activity. Whether it's bogus "material support" laws or surveillance of activists, we need to expose and resist such threats. Defending the right to protest war is fundamental.
  10. Center Morality and Justice. Ultimately, our greatest power comes not from clever tactics but from the unshakable moral force of our cause. In all our efforts, we must frame opposition to war in terms of the deepest human values: the sanctity of life, the imperative of compassion, the dream of a better future for all. When we speak from conscience with reason and conviction, we have the potential to reach every human heart. This is the source of real, lasting political power.

By pursuing these ten strategies with courage and perseverance, the antiwar movement can achieve unprecedented political clout in the years ahead. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our wounded world to build the power necessary to turn the tide toward peace. The time has come to act boldly on this moral obligation. Together, we can shape a new political reality—a future where war is obsolete, and the human family can at last devote our shared resources to our shared flourishing. 

This change won't happen overnight, and the obstacles are immense. But the stakes for humanity could not be higher. As advocates of peace, we must embrace the slow, patient work of movement-building as the only path to a transformed future. In a world still wracked by violent conflict and suffering, we really have no other choice. The time has come to act boldly on our deepest convictions. I invite you to join us.

Nadia Ahmad is a law professor based in Orlando, Florida, and Fellow at the Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights, and PhD Candidate at Yale University in Environmental Studies. She is the co-founder of Ceasefire 2024.