Kosovo and the Democratic Party
Peter Beinart has a pretty smart column in the new issue of the new (and much improved) TIME magazine about the future of Democratic Party foreign policy. (I offer this praise despite the unfortunate Prince reference that closes the piece). Beinart dials back the clock to 1999 and the non-UN sanctioned fight a US-UK NATO-led coalition waged against Slobodan Milosevic. It was around the success of this venture that Tony Blair articulated what he deemed his “doctrine of international community” – and what others termed “The Blair Doctrine.” Beinart describes it thus:
In a globalized world, bad things that happen in other countries spread more quickly to our shores. Genocides spawn refugees, who destabilize their neighbors. Corruption sparks financial meltdowns, which rock the world economy. Pandemics hopscotch across the globe. Blair’s answer was for Britain and the U.S., working through international institutions, to intervene more aggressively in the domestic affairs of other nations: to strengthen their financial and public-health systems, to push them toward capitalism and democracy, and in cases of extreme neglect and abuse, to take over the nation-building process by force.
Much of the Democratic Party foreign-policy elite (Holbrooke, Albright, Lake, etc.) more or less subscribe to this premise. The problem: a large part of the base of the Democratic Party does not. Beinart cites some compelling German Marshall Fund polling to prove his point that Democrats are turning inward. The heroes of the grassroots left are people like Virginia Senator James Webb who believes the U.S. should “send American forces into harm’s way only if the nation is directly threatened.”(It should be noted that others sketched some of the contours of this trend a year or so ago.)
Beinart basically punts when it comes to prescription. But his body of work suggests that he is pulling for the Blairite vision to prevail. All of this underscores the fundamental tension that sits at the heart of the Democratic Party: Will the radical excesses of the Bush era be confronted by the radical excesses of a left all too hasty to abandon anything that might be (inaccurately, most often) tarred as neoconservative? Or will it be met with a measured response that begins the work of resuscitating the legitimacy of the very liberal principles that have been soegregiously abused and debased by this president?