Archive for the ‘Internationalists’ category

Kosovo and the Democratic Party

April 13, 2007

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?


Global Neglect

March 10, 2007


About That Curious Line

March 6, 2007

Over the course of its short, too often dormant existence, small-d has not been shy about criticizing the editorial position of The Nation. (Caveat: more accurately, I have not been shy about lambasting the editorial position of The Nation – while always taking care to note the very significant exceptions. As a professional courtesy, I leave my PITC out of this). As I have probably stipulated previously, The Nation’s front section suffers from being maddeningly predictable, while the back of the book offers consistently terrific literary criticism as well as consistently wrong-headed foreign policy prescriptions.

So it is only proper that I acknowledge my very pleasant surprise to see that Adam LeBor has a review essay in the current number of the magazine. (LeBor is the author of a searing new indictment of the United Nation’s complicity in acts of genocide during the tenure of Kofi Annan.) The essay is worth a read in its entirety, but one passage in particular warrants special citation.

Wrongly viewing Darfur through the prism of the Iraq War, much of the left, both in the United States and Europe, seems paralyzed by the fear of being seen to support another overseas adventure. For all its complications–pre-existing conflicts over water and agricultural land, desertification and arbitrary international borders–the crisis in Darfur is also simple. The Sudanese government is waging a sustained campaign of murder, ethnic cleansing and displacement against the people of Darfur, a campaign extensively documented by the UN, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others. The slaughter could be curtailed or even brought to a close without Western military intervention. Such steps might include: deploying UN troops inside Sudan; deploying peacekeepers in Chad to prevent cross-border raids; targeted sanctions on Sudan’s oil industry; targeted sanctions on Sudanese government ministers, army and intelligence officers; using US trade as a weapon to pressure China, Sudan’s main sponsor, to stop the carnage; and even threats to boycott the Beijing Olympics. [Emphasis my own]

LeBor offers many compelling prescriptions in here. None terribly novel, but each warranting considerably more attention than they have been receiving in the trans-Atlantic halls of power as of late. That said, I question the notion that “the slaughter could be curtailed or even brought to a close without Western military intervention.” This questioning is not to say that such an intervention would be prudent. LeBor may very well think it not. He would be in good company. My questioning is to say that I am very curious about how this line found its way into this paragraph. Mere speculation, but having read some of LeBor’s work, it strikes me as curious and perhaps a bit out of character.

This non-consequential (and tediously minor) compunction notwithstanding, the essay covers a great deal of new literature in the field of genocide studies.

Neo-Realism on the Left

February 6, 2007

I do not think most of us grasp just how dramatically the Iraq War has upended the traditional schools of thought when it comes to formulating American foreign policy. Occasionally I come across little bits of information – a poll, a quote, a conversation – that makes my jaw drop and my mind reel. I had one such moment yesterday while reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest Washington dispatch for The New Yorker.

In the piece, which focuses on the lonesome world of Joe Lieberman, Chris Dodd is quoted as saying:

“I’m in the Brent Scowcroft school, the world as it is.” Once, this would have been a surprising statement, particularly to Brent Scowcroft, who might be called a Republican fatalist. But Dodd said that the last four years had been “sobering” for him. “I’d love to see a democratic Middle East,” he said. “But you’ve got to be a coherent society before you can be a democracy.” In the absence of weapons of mass destruction, “If you came to the country and said, ‘This guy’s a bad guy, we want to invade his country,’ I could not justify the loss of three thousand Americans for this, as much as I disliked Saddam.”

Let us not gloss over the significance of this. Chris Dodd, liberal democrat and (admittedly quixotic) candidate for the Democratic  presidential nomination in 2008, is positioning himself as being in the “Brent Scowcroft school.” Jim Hoagland put it best a few months back in The Washington Post when it comes to analyzing the resurgence of realist thinking in Washington:

Only the incompetence and discord of the past three years could cause reasonable people to welcome back with applause policymakers who failed to anticipate and then opposed the breakup of the Soviet Union; who were not realistic enough to see, much less prevent, the Balkans from plunging into flames; and who ‘coddled dictators from Beijing to Baghdad,’ as the Democrats once accurately described the handiwork of Brent Scowcroft, Bob Gates and Jim Baker under Bush 41.

This upcoming election will be fascinating on a variety of levels (and we will have a lot of time to revel in our fascination) but I am most interested in seeing how far Democratic candidates have to retreat from an internationalist, pro-democratization foreign policy to win the support of the party base.

The Stain of Iraq

November 16, 2006

My partner in thought-crime brushed up against a very important thought a few days ago. While the debacle that is Iraq is a daily reminder of the grievous cost of intervention we must consider this cost in light of the alternative of non-intervention. Congo is a perfect case in point. It may seem an obvious idea that there is also a cost to not intervening, but the tenor of the debate around Iraq suggests that it is not as obvious as one might think at first blush. Indeed, I think the meta-question surrounding American foreign policy is this: How far has the liberal internationalist agenda been set back by the botched effort in Iraq? How chastened will America – and the larger Western community – be in the face of grievous human rights violations going forward?

The editorial that graces the forthcoming issue of The New Republic demonstrates the difficulty of advocating the importance of a moral foreign policy – if not rooted then very deferential to the idea of a “Responsibility to Protect” – in the shadow of Iraq.

Postscript: “Idealism — sometimes naive but usually inspiring — has always guided American foreign policy,” writes Gerard Baker in the Times of London. “Whatever the truth behind the fierce little human drama being played out now inside the Bush family, it would be an awful shame if it were to be abandoned.”

Human Rights

October 13, 2006

There was an important editorial in The Washington Post yesterday about the new Human Rights Council at the United Nations, which was established in a spasm of much-needed reform in March. Now it has completed its second formal session and The Post weighs-in with its verdict: “The council…has turned out to be far worse than its predecessor — not just a “shadow” but a travesty that the United Nations can ill afford.”

The problem, as anyone with the faintest knowledge of the UN will be unsurprised to hear, rests with the new Council’s fixation on one country: Israel. There were six official reports on that subject in the last session alone. In a moment when Darfur is on flames, Burma is Burma, Uzbekistan is Uzbekistan, we get endless reports on Israeli “crimes” in Lebanon.

It hardly feels worth mentioning, but small-d does not think Israel should be exempt from scrutiny (internally Israeli human rights activists are a robust constituency). But we cannot take seriously a body that obsessively accords attention to the Jewish state to the exclusion of other, much more egregious, violators. As Christopher Hitchens might say, it is “unmistakably smelly.”

UPDATE: Norm Geras has more on the issue.