Proposition N - Military Action in Iraq

Voter Guide
November 1, 2004
This measure appeared on the November 2004 San Francisco ballot.

 

What it does

This measure is a policy statement that reads in its entirety: "It is the Policy of the people of the City and County of San Francisco that: The Federal government should take immediate steps to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq and bring our troops safely home now."

Why it is on the ballot

The Board of Supervisors has already passed a measure opposing the war in Iraq . This measure was placed on the ballot by the signature of four supervisors to add the emphasis of the citizens' official voice to the previous statement. Subsequent to San Francisco placing the measure on the ballot, several other communities have weighed in officially on the situation in Iraq , or considered doing so.

San Francisco voters have weighed in on military affairs in the past as well. In 1970, the voters approved Proposition J, a policy statement declaring that "It is the policy of the people of the City and County of San Francisco that there be an immediate cease-fire and immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Vietnam."

Pros

Those who support Proposition N state:

  • The symbolism of the people voting against the war is vital in building a peace movement and changing a misguided military policy.
  • This is one step in a grassroots movement to build momentum against U.S. involvement in Iraq (and other locations) overseas.
  • Military action impacts the economic health of cities, including San Francisco , through its impacts on the national economy and its reduction of federal resources for local governments. The Iraq war in particular could affect the likelihood of terrorism against US cities. In addition, the war is fundamentally tied to the region's oil supply, and using the military to ensure stable oil prices is essentially a subsidy for an automobile-based way of life.

Cons

Those who oppose Proposition N state:

  • The measure reduces the complexity of the current situation in Iraq down to one clear statement "bring the troops home now" which can be conflicting for some who opposed the war but believe that since we have occupied Iraq it is our responsibility to stay until security and stability are established.
  • These types of purely symbolic measures do not belong on the ballot. The initiative process is a tool for actual self-government, not making statements.
  • The City should focus on vital and demanding local issues, not spend time and money on international affairs.

SPUR's analysis

Proposition N is a classic "statement" measure. It changes no laws, it is non-binding, and has no functional impact beyond its symbolism. It is simply an expression of voters' beliefs on the issue at hand.

The measure is also an attempt to influence public opinion on the war, both in San Francisco and elsewhere. Advocates argue, for example, that the 1970 policy statement on Vietnam led other cities to follow suit and helped change the political climate in the country toward opposition to the war.

The measure goes beyond condemning the war to calling for an immediate pullout of troops. Thus, the measure involves not only the question of whether the war in Iraq was justified in the first place, but whether a continued U.S. presence in the country is necessary given that the occupation has already taken place.

SPUR has no position on Proposition N. While SPUR makes an effort to take a position on every ballot measure, Proposition N seems an exception. As an organization with a primary expertise in local government and urban policy, it seems inappropriate for us to weigh in on a matter of international and military affairs.

In the past, SPUR has opposed some policy statement measures because they are meaningless and do not need to be on the ballot. And indeed it can be frustrating to see the energy of our City government officials spent on issues outside of their control. But while Proposition N is a non-binding policy statement, we believe in some ways it plays a different role than many others that reach the San Francisco ballot. The purpose of the measure is to provide San Franciscans an outlet for formal expression of their beliefs on one of the important issues of our time, which may hold some value for our democratic process.

SPUR takes "No position" on Proposition N.