Toward a Liberal Foreign Policy

Jeff Alworth

It is the doldrums of August, the no-news cycle just before election '08 and the return of Congress.  Awaiting our return from the Labor Day break: an imminent scuffle with the White House about Iraq, and an election season where foreign policy will play a central role in almost every race in the country.  For many Democrats, this is a rare moment when they hold a slight upper hand in the foreign policy debate, but that's only because the incompetence of Iraq has given them the default "get us out of Iraq" hand to play.  However, in a little over a year, when they take the White House, they'll actually have to govern and the foreign policy landscape will extend well beyond Baghdad.  If they take command of the issue, they will be in a strong position to build on their majority; if they immediately start looking inward, it could be a short run.

The Importance of Foreign Policy
While Democrats typically don't relate to foreign policy nearly as much as they do to domestic issues, foreign policies extended like an umbrella over the domestic policies of every successful Democratic administration in the past 100 years.  Wilson wanted to get into WWI long before he built popular support to actually do so; a generation later, FDR did the same in WWII.  (Both men were elected on the promise that they wouldn't go to Europe.  In earlier times, the Democrats were the interventionists.)  Harry Truman inherited an administration built on war, and he carried it forward.  Eight years later, Kennedy was elected as a transformative social figure, but his foreign policy held center stage.  He bequeathed his veep, like FDR, another war. 

From Wilson through LBJ, what marked the cause of liberalism were the radical changes Democrats brought to race relations and economic mobility.  But it is a mistake to regard the 20th Century Dems as focused on domestic issues.  Rather, domestic issues were addressed in the context of an actively-engaged foreign policy. 

Americans are by nature wary and isolationist.  This was more true 50 years ago, but it is still the dominant inclination.  The US dominates a continent on which we have no rivals; we travel abroad rarely and are unfamiliar with the languages and cultures of the world's countries.  The recent immigration scuffle revealed this isolationist tendency in reverse--not only do we not want to visit other cultures, we'd just as soon they didn't visit us.  And so, for most Americans, foreign policy boils down to safety. We want to carry on about our business in our vast country without having to worry about threats from abroad.

Of course, that "all changed" on 9/11, when our insular little country learned that its sense of invulnerability was a fiction.  What resulted was, I think, a historical anomaly, but one which will define the politics of foreign policy for decades.  Democrats were swamped by their utter lack of sophistication in dealing with foreign policy threats.  The fall of the Soviets and the rise of globalization had led to absurd notions about "the end of nations."  Technocratic Dems were unprepared and sent reeling.

Into the vacuum lept the neocons, whose tune-up invasion on Afghanistan was really just a preface to the story they had long been telling themselves about grand democratic transformation of the Middle East.  Of course, prior to 9/11, isolationist Americans would have had no stomach for an invasion of Iraq.  But, much as Wilson and FDR tied American safety to entering the World Wars, Bush argued our safety following 9/11 could only come by defeating Saddam Hussein. 

The GOP has made a serious miscalculation, however.  They have enjoyed absolute credibility in foreign policy matters for so long that they think whatever they do is what the people want.  They conflate the support they received on Iraq in the '04 election with their interventionist agenda.  According to this narrative, the implementation was what caused the backlash, not the endeavor itself. Republicans consequently believe Americans have come over to the interventionist side.  They mistake the quirk of timing that allowed them to invade Iraq as a transformative event in the minds of Americans.  Americans are as isolationist as ever, and now their suspicions have been confirmed by the debacle in Iraq (again, following the Vietnamese experiment)--wars do not provide safety.  They just kill a lot of young soldiers.  The next time a president tells a story about invading another country to bring safety, Americans won't be there to support him (or her).

Globalization and Future Security
So what's next?  Dems cannot withdraw from the foreign policy arena like they did following Vietnam and hope antiwar sentiment will continue.  Americans want security, perhaps now more than ever. No matter how attractive long-neglected domestic issues may be to the Democrats, they absolutely cannot hope to make progress without a coherent, integrated foreign policy that delivers that safety.  But that doesn't mean following the prescriptions of 30 years of Republican foreign policy which favored either massive Pentagon strategies like Star Wars or ever-increasing military engagement. 

In a changing, globalized world where non-state players are threats to our national security and new powers in South America and Asia will weaken US hegemony, we need strategies that utilize a lot more than tanks and soldiers.  Fortunately, new solutions are already plentiful (since this post is running long, perhaps they should be delayed for another post).  The point I wanted to make here is that I hope to see Democrats beginning to find interest in the issues of foreign policy, seeing it as an opportunity for transformation no less important in affecting lives than reforming health care or raising wages.  There's nothing illiberal about foreign policy; it is a big-D Democratic value and more than ever, it's time for Dems to be the adults and take the wheel.

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    While Democrats typically don't relate to foreign policy nearly as much as they do to domestic issues,

    I know that there are people who believe it, but I can't think of any proof for the charge any more than I can think of any proof that Republicans will keep you safer from terraists.

  • Terry Raists (unverified)

    "Terraists"? HaHahaha...

    Why work? Vote Democrat.

    Anyway, See Fidel Castro has come out in favor of Hillary Clinton - the leading Dem for President. I suppose the soviets will have no trouble putting missles on cuba under her Admin. Hahahaha...

  • Dylan (unverified)

    Hopefully a discussion about trade can be included in a future posting because I think the lack of even the word (trade) in a foreign policy discussion was noticeable.

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    It's funny, I don't remember a Democratic drawing away from foreign policy in the '70s and '80s. I remember a lot of really, really bad foreign policy that both parties supported (propping up the Shah and Marcos), some good foreign policy on both sides of the aisle (strategic arms limitation treaties), some administration policies that were opposed by Congress (funding the contras). There's lots of stuff missing from that list (trade agreements, foreign aid, Carter's brokering of the Camp David meetings between Sadat and Rabin). Who had time for drawing away from the world?

  • Jamais Vu (unverified)

    "Darrelplant" is right. Neither major party has withdrawn from foreign affairs or engagements since WWII. The parties each have their own internationalist and isolationist wings, and sometimes the same people belong to both depending on the specific issue, but neither party can claim a greater or lesser history of international political involvement.

    But in recent years it's been the American right, not the left, pushing to withdraw from organizations like the U.N. or balking at following the Geneva Conventions and other international commitments. Al Gore's platform in 2000 for fighting global warming was, well, global. G.W.B. was the one running on the isolationist platform opposed to "nation building" and other international entanglements.

    I think the success of American foreign policy is largely determined by the outlook, experience, and competence of whoever sits in the White House, not the party he (or she) represents.

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    Posted by: Terry Raists | Aug 31, 2007 12:15:10 PM "Terraists"? HaHahaha... Why work? Vote Democrat. Anyway, See Fidel Castro has come out in favor of Hillary Clinton - the leading Dem for President. I suppose the soviets will have no trouble putting missles on cuba under her Admin. Hahahaha...

    Ahhhh... the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore. Remember Bush stared into the former KGB boss Putin's soul and he is a.o.k.?

    You need to get this centuries talking points. But please rail about how Democrats aren't serious about foreign policy by hyperventilating in 2007 about placing "soviet missiles" in Cuba. Its amusing if nothgin else.

    So is this why Bush wants to go to Mars, because of Sputnik?

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    Well, I was trying to keep this all short. Foreign policy began to go down twin lines starting in the late 70s; Carter went with more engagement, and Reagan followed it up with saber-rattling. But I'm not just talking about the presidents in this post--I actually do think Congressional Dems on down began to lose interest in foreign policy following Vietnam. The caucus got split between the Kennedy interventionists and the McGovernite antiwar folks and the two groups never came together.

    Then, as the Dems began to lose power, the focused ever more on their "strengths" in domestic policy. By the time Kosovo came along, the Dems were as divided as the GOP (for good reason, I think). My suspicion is that the right will revert to long-honored isolationism of the Pat Buchanan stripe. This gives Dems a little breathing room, but they can't approach things from a position of default foreign policy--they have some heavy intellectual lifting to do.

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    Jeff, you never come out and say who you think the people uninterested in foreign policy were. Did the interventionists lose interest in foreign policy? Are you making the Petey Beinart claim that people who put diplomacy ahead of "might makes right" are isolationists? I provided some examples of how Congress supported and opposed administration foreign policy. That wasn't from a lack of interest.

    Anyone remember the fights over the Panama Canal in the Carter admin? The whole Japanese trade fixation of the 1980s? I know that the labor unions and the politicians they backed weren't ignoring foreign policy at that point in time.

    The conventional wisdom is that Democrats don't do foreign policy, and that was the claim people made about McGovern, too, but he was actually someone who formulated his own foreign policy and left the domestic stuff to staffers. Head of Kennedy's Food for Peace program, caught malaria on one of the trips he made during that time, made his first Senate speech on Cuba, proposed opening relations to China years before Nixon did it. And, of course, thought that the Vietnamese War was a big mistake.

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    Darrel, of course there were legislative battles and of course there have been legislators interested in foreign policy. But in the main, rank-and-file Dems abandoned the issue and left it to people with presidential or cabinet aspirations. It was a trend in the party, and I do think it came as a result of the split following Vietnam. In this case, I think conventional wisdom is right.

    There are at least four continuums you could describe within foreign policy debates--idealists versus realpolitik folks; interventionist versus isolationists; pro-diplomacy versus pro-strength; multilateralists versus bilateralists. Both parties feature fans of both sides of these continuums. (Though clearly the diplomacy and strength sides shake out closer to party-affiliated than the others.)

    In any debate, therefore, you could ask some pointed questions to elicit responses on these axes, like 1) What is your tolerance for dictators that bring security to a region? 2) How willing are you to work collectively with other international partners on disputes (including the UN)? 3) In what circumstances are invasions necessary and justified? 4) Are you willing to work directly in diplomacy with rogue countries like North Korea and Iran? 5) Should the US military be essentially a defensive mechanism, or a way to project US interests abroad?

    And so on.

  • Dave Porter (unverified)

    Jeff, I agree with your comments so far.

    The most significant issue facing the next generation will be how to deal with Asia, especially China. China will be much more important in their lives. The potential solutions to all global problems (global warming, energy, terrorism, etc.) involve China. We do not get a choice about this. China is rising and will probably continue to rise. We do get a choice about how Oregon, and the US, respond. I generally favor coopting their rise to serve our strategic purposes (a peaceful and orderly world), which means engaging them in a broad variety of ways. But to be able to do this we need to give our next generations a different set of skills and knowledge than they get in schools today. Many more need to know Mandarin and have spent time studying abroad in China.

    As I wrote on my website here: "The most significant and substantial action the Oregon 74th Legislative Assembly could take for world peace is to fund dramatic increases in Mandarin language and study abroad in China programs for Oregon students. It should be on every progressive’s legislative agenda." As we now know, the current Democrats governing Oregon did nothing of substance to increase Mandarin or study abroad in China programs during the recent session.

    They will get another chance in February. But let us not pretend that foreign policy is made only in Washington. We can do much right here in Oregon.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    Unless and until the Chinese or Europe build a couple of aircraft carrier battle-groups, they and everybody else who whines about US domination of the world will be pissing into the wind. As of today, anybody in the world who insults Bush II can be vaporized in an hour. It will be the same under Clinton II.

  • Jimmy Swenson (unverified)

    Hillary obviously has Castro's ear. I just hope she can learn the secrets of Cuban HealthCare. The US could use the lessons of free healthcare for all and free healthcare for the needy under the communist plan.

  • M.W. (unverified)

    Anyone have any idea as to how much it cost annually to keep those 270,000 troops we have stationed around the world in some 120 foreign countries, or how much we have spent over the years since 1950? Can anyone explain to the American worker why they have to pay taxes to defend their economic competitors?


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    Agan, no concrete examples, Jeff. "Some Democrats" just doesn't cut it. There were Democrats of a variety of political persuasions keenly interested in foreign affairs in Asia, Central America, the Middle East, the Soviet Union, etc. throughout the post-Vietnam era.

    1) What is your tolerance for dictators that bring security to a region?

    Sort of a false question isn't it? Saddam. The Shah. Marcos. Noriega. Duvalier. Somoza. What kind of security did they bring with their dictatorships?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Trade - or access to resources and markets - has been the prime mover of US foreign policy ever since the westward territorial expansion ran out of territory to expand into. Our actions have been explained in terms of security, stability, and promotion of democracy, but it's almost always been about money, in particular, the money of wealthy business interests that bankroll presidential and congressional candidates. Major General Smedley D. Butler, USMC explained it plainly and simply: "War is a racket. It always has been." Things have not changed very much whether Democrats or Republicans have occupied the White House. Democrats have tended to rely more on international cooperation and free trade, while Republicans have tended to be more isolationist [think John Birch Society and John Bolton] and protectionist [influenced by the US textile industry and others], but this varies - Shrub is just as big on free trade agreements as was Clinton. The Shrubbery has taken unilateralism and exceptionalism to unchartered extremes in service of the neocon dream of US empire. Reversing that trend with its heinous doctrine of preemptive war and rampant treaty abrogation must be high priority for the next administration.

    The progressive approach to foreign policy is well represented in the platform of presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich who supports peaceful conflict resolution, international cooperation, trade agreements that emphasize labor and environmental rights, and the recognition of human rights around the world [as opposed to the bogus promotion of democracy that neocons use as a smokescreen for violence driven by economic interests]. Kucinich's refusal to embrace imperial foreign policy is a prime reason he is ridiculed by corporate media, who, of course, safeguard the corporate interests.

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    Darrel, I don't even know what we're arguing about any more. And since we are in the midst of a war with a displaced dictator, no, I don't think it's a false question in the least.

    Tom, I think you've hit on a key fact Dems could use to shift some of the debate. We have long used our power in foreign countries as a way of cracking economies open for our companies to exploit. As we have seen in some regions, there are consequences for creating economic vassal states that bear strongly on American security.

    Global warming is another area where we'll see increasing foreign policy implications as weather, famine, and drought destabilize large areas of the planet.

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    While Democrats typically don't relate to foreign policy nearly as much as they do to domestic issues

    You say you believe the conventional wisdom on that, but you can't back it up with any evidence. You think the average Republican is more interested in foreign affairs than "rank-and-file Dems "? Or are you defining foreign affairs simply in military terms?

    How about some specifics? In what ways did Democrats "withdraw from the foreign policy arena like they did following Vietnam"? Can you make a case for that claim? Is it just your gut feeling that Democrats are weaker on foreign policy than Republicans?

    There's a lot of official Democratic foreign policy I don't agree with over the past forty years, but if you look at the range of Democratic stands on a variety of fronts from support for Israel to protests against Central American policies to the Gulf War, I'm at a loss as to how you can claim that Democrats were less interested in foreign policy than Republicans.

    And since we are in the midst of a war with a displaced dictator

    How do you have a war with a displaced dictator? How do you have a war with a displaced, dead dictator? That just doesn't make any sense.

    I mentioned Saddam as an example of one of the people that fit into your supposition of "dictators that bring security to a region" question. The US supported Saddam in the '80s because he supposedly provided a bulwark in the Middle East against Iran, where a dicatator we installed (over a democratic government) then supported in the '50s, '60s and '70s as a bulwark against Communism had been deposed.

    Did those dictators that we supported actually bring security to the region? Because the way I remember it, the Shah's opression led to an Islamic theocracy in Iran, and Saddam went from being someone for whom we'd overlook the use of poison gas against the Iranians and Kurds to a guy who had to be driven out of Kuwait in just a couple of years.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    That is the only sane and moral approach to foreign policy, but it's a tough road to hoe. As I mentioned, the media supports the corporate desire to use the military and foreign policy to aid business. You are certainly correct that there have been consequences to our meddling in other countries. As some historians have noted, the citizens of empire seldom gain as much as they lose from their nation's hegemony. High taxes, loss of civil liberties, death and dismemberment, and insecurity for the general population are traded for profit opportunities for the well-connected few. So, as a democracy, it should be possible to change course. Sophisticated propaganda the exploits, nationalism, jingoism, machismo, fear, and ignorance of the rest of the world have been quite effective in preventing this. This is the main reason that that Democrats who have espoused peaceful and humanitarian foreign policy have been seen as weak and ineffective. It may be possible that the developing progressive media, including web-based outlets like this one, can support a party-wide embrace of a progressive foreign policy.

    Wouldn't that be a wonder to behold?

  • BOHICA (unverified)

    There is one Democrat who has been consistent and "liberal" on foreign policy, Wes Clark.

    I’ve heard a lot of people say they want to drain the swamp, and by that they usually mean where we’re going after Afghanistan. Is it Somalia, is it Iraq, is it Libya, is it Syria, is it Iran? How many? How soon? How often? But I think it’s more than that because that swamp is out there as a result of -- partly as a result of us. We're five percent of the world’s population. We’re taking 25 percent of the consumable resources. And that’s an unsustainable condition in the long term. And so, part of winning modern war is winning the information campaign, and a big part of that is what we’re trying to do now, which is project a different image of America. But you can’t project an image that doesn’t reflect reality. And so, it means we’re going to have to tend to the reality that’s out there. Even beyond the Islamic world the conditions of poverty, disease, despair and hopelessness in Africa and elsewhere will affect us. We can’t have the benefits of globalism without helping build the safety net that lets us have those benefits. Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis. Nov. 14 2001
    The coups that we fomented, the politicians we attempted to pay off, the efforts that we made in covert action, our occasional support of expediency over principles - most of them came to a bad end. They don't justify the realist critique. They help condemn it. And in the light of history, they stand out not just as aberrations, but as mistakes. They're just of a lesser magnitude than the kind of mistake we made with the invasion of Iraq. General Wesley Clark - Legitimacy: First Task for American Security Hosted by: Center for Politics and Foreign Relations, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University May 16, 2007
    "I think General Eisenhower was exactly right. I think we should be concerned about the military industrial complex. I think if you look at where the country is today, you've consolidated all these defense firms into a few large firms, like Halliburton, with contacts and contracts at the highest level of government. You've got most of the retired Generals, are one way or another, associated with the defense firms. That's the reason that you'll find very few of them speaking out in any public way. I'm not. When I got out I determined I wasn't going to sell arms, I was going to do as little as possible with the Defense Department, because I just figured it was time to make a new start. But I think that the military industrial complex does wield a lot of influence. I'd like to see us create a different complex, and I'm going to be talking about foreign policy in a major speech tomorrow, but we need to create an agency that is not about waging war, but about creating the conditions for Peace around the world. We need some people who will be advocates for Peace, advocates for economic development not just advocates for better weapons systems. So we need to create countervailing power to the military industrial complex..." Radio Interview with Laura Knoy
    "You will determine whether rage or reason guides the United States in the struggle to come. You will choose whether we are known for revenge or compassion. You will choose whether we, too, will kill in the name of God, or whether in His name, we can find a higher civilization and a better means of settling our differences"-- General Wesley Clark, Seton Hall address
    Congress must demand George W. Bush present a real strategy and policy in the region and defend it. If George W. Bush refuses, then Congress must explore legislative measures, including funding cutoffs to force President Bush to change the course in Iraq. -From his message re: "Will you take a stand on Iraq?". (The lightly attended Moveon vigil this last Tuesday, what a joke.)

    There is no other Democrat out there who has the foreign policy credentials that Clark has. Yet the "leadership" listens to him and then does their best to not take his advice.

    His website

  • Sharon (unverified)

    How do we reshape the public perception that Democrats are weak on foreign policy as we are weak on crime? Perhaps by being stronger? The two issues are similar and always demogoued by the other side. On crime we are forever looking to opposes or weaken mandatory sentencing and on foreign policy we seem to advocate that we seek UN approval to the point of risking our own security. Is being tough not a good thing?

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    Is being tough not a good thing?

    There's a big difference between looking strong and being strong.

    The "look strong" people were the ones who -- like Tom Friedman said we should do on Charlie Rose -- wanted to go into Iraq to kick some Arab butt and show that America was the baddest guy on the block.

    What's that gotten us? It's shown the world that while the US can really mess up a country, it still -- just like Vietnam -- can't control it. We can kill a lot of people and cause untold misery, but we're impotent to prevent chaos.

    It's shown people that we're so stupidly intent on showing off how tough we are that we're willing to overextend ourselves in a unilateral occupation that was not only unjustified but pointless.

    It's shown that when disaster strikes in the US, we're so incompetent that agencies directly tasked with providig disaster relief can't get food and water to people even when they have days of advance knowledge.

    Maybe that's someone's idea of "tough" but it's not mine.

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    I agree that most Americans have little inclination or experience traveling abroad and experiencing different cultures. Both my mom and I have lived overseas for extended periods of time (She was in Sweden for two and a half years and I was in Korea for three and a half years).

    Some of what frustrates me about foreign policy is the shear propaganda that our own government puts out about certain countries. Having been in South Korea for awhile, I was pretty oblivious to anything about North Korea (which is my area of interest in foreign policy). While I certainly don't support Kim Jong Ill's regime, I think there is much more to the story about what is going on. If the country were to collapse, it would cause chaos in both South Korea and China not to mention a huge economic burden the likes of which will make Germany's reunification look like a walk in the park.

    Looking back at history, the US (and Russia) bear a good deal of responsiblity for the problems in Korea both pre-WWII and post-WWII. While it's easy for our government to say nasty things about them, it is our failed policies that helped get them there in the first place.

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    Darrel, why the anger? My guess is that we agree in the main on the intention of my post, and yet I'm get a lot of heat and derision from you. It doesn't particularly interest me to engage in discussions that are so overheated. Either we can agree to disagree or have a more civil discussion. Your call.

    Sorry about the typo on the Saddam thing. You quote me asking the question: "What is your tolerance for dictators that bring security to a region?" This is a standard question foreign policy. Either you are a foe of all dictators and bring a Wilsonian/neocon morality to foreign policy, or you regard it coolly, with dispassionate realpolitik remove (or more likely, you try to find a midpoint).

    To which you accuse me of posing a false question:

    Sort of a false question isn't it? Saddam. The Shah. Marcos. Noriega. Duvalier. Somoza. What kind of security did they bring with their dictatorships?

    And to which I responded with the Iraq example, which is the most potent case-in-point. He certainly contained the sects in Iraq, which was why the US had supported him for decades. Then, with the new neocon corps in the WH, a new (if mostly undiscussed) mission was added--taking Saddam down for moral reasons. (Obviously, Wolfowitz and Co's interest in this was only one factor in the overall rationale--but it has been an influential factor in Washington for going on two decades.) So it's not an unreasonable question to pose: keep a dictator in power who is obviously corrupt and violent, but who offers stability, or launch a "moral" war to unseat him so as to offer something better.

    My bias is probably evident: injecting morality into the equation with the rank naivete the Bushies brought to it is irresponsible and ultimately an act of violent ignorance. The "moral" war neocons waged was not one the Iraqis requested, nor one their "benefactors" are beholden to see through to the end. We live in a complex world and are, not unfortunately, not omnipotent. We cannot right all the world's wrongs. So that's the intention of that question.

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    My gut tells me that Jeff is right, and rank and file Democrats have been less interested in foreign policy than Republicans.

    If you go here , you can do some polling breakdowns yourself.

    The available items aren't great, but on this question (VCF0823):

    This country would be better off if we just stayed home and did not concern ourselves with problems in other parts of the world.

    a larger percentage of Democratic respondents agreed than did Republicans, in every year that it was asked (1956-2004) except in 1998, when the percentages were essentially equal.

    This should not be too surprising, given the demographic profile of the typical Democratic voter through the years. Rank and file Democrats are more interested in the economy, health care, education, and other "bread and butter" issues that impinge on their daily lives.

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    He certainly contained the sects in Iraq, which was why the US had supported him for decades.

    During the 1970s Iraq was aligned with the Soviet Union. It wasn't until the end of the Shah's reign next door that US support became a majopr factor. Saddam himself didn't assume the top position in Iraq until 1979 although he was a major figure in the Ba'ath party. The reason the US supported him wasn't because he kept the region under control. It was because he was a thorn in the side of Ayotollah Khomeini. Saddam started the multi-year Iran-Iraq war that killed more than a million people. That wasn't exactly a model of regional stability. The US supported him through the twelve years (not decades) between his ascension to president of Iraq and his invasion of Kuwait not despite the massacres and gassings and slaughter but because of them.

    I'm sorry if you view criticism as anger. It's not. But get your facts straight.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    I suspect that support by Dems for the statement...

    "this country would be better off if we just stayed home and did not concern ourselves with problems in other parts of the world"

    ...derives in large part from the correct perception that the US has wasted a lot of money on military adventures that do the people little good. I don't think it means that Dems are not concerned with foreign policy, but that they didn't see a foreign policy they could support.

  • Dave Porter (unverified)

    Relecting upon the general public's interest in foreign policy issues beyond Iraq, and whether there are differences between democrats and republican, I can offer a few observations after a year of campaigning for more Mandarin in Oregon's public schools. Not only does the general public have little interest, but Oregon's political, civic, opinion (media) and business leaders have not had enough interest to wrestle seriously with the issue of what a rising China means for Oregon. No editorials have appeared in the Oregonian. The Oregon Business Plan still has the issue (more Mandarin) under consideration because of other prior priorities. The Governor has done nothing. The recent legislative session (Democrats in control) left "Oregon students unprepared to engage a rising China," as the leaflet I distribute regularly states. And, Nike, with 3000 retail destinations in 300 cities in China (see Loaded Orygun diary entries "Liu Xiang, Olympics, China, Nike" and "Nike's retail business in China and Mandarin in Oregon'), did not support a modest $350,000 to promote Mandarin around Oregon. I have noted no differences in interest between republicans and democrats on this issue.

    So, it may be the issue of China (or Mandarin) that does not engage either leaders or public (in which case it is some form of denial - China is rising). Or that our leaders just reflect our public which is not engaged in foreign policy issue, other than the war in Iraq. Or yet some other reason. But, I believe it is a problem and encourage BlueOregon to do more foreign policy posts.

    Paul, your "here" id not work for me.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    We don't have a foreign policy, if by policy you mean a publicly visible, coherent, logical thought process. Our biggest allies say this as well. Today the British army chief attacked US policy as 'intellectually bankrupt' over Iraq. Not wrong, missing or opaque. Rule of thumb: If your news source doesn't mention this, it isn't a news source. This is a newsource.

    The AG affair is the administration's test case for their surface policy, that they need disclose not one iota of logic behind their foreign or domestic policy. It's secret. When forced to give congressional updates, just make things up. When confronted with the UN, just make things up. This whole administration, from Shrub to Gonzales, has been about letting people think you're incompetent and stupid rather than reveal anything about the process. That's the way President Dick likes it and all the "boy Shrub is dumb" types put him there. He's doing everything/exactly what he wants in life. Are you? Who's dumb? Want to make a difference? If you don't figuratively (required verbiage for my SS handler) wipe that stupid smirk off Shrub's face, just who has won?

    This thread and the responses indicate the policy is largely working. They seem to have decided that invading Iran can be done without much more blow-back than they are currently dealing with. The choice is to run against Hillary, allowing someone like McCain to come in and continue the exact same policy for 4 years since they believe her to be patently unelectable. Scooter and Al have proven that you can insulate the culprits with patsies and just keep changing them out. For all we know, Dick Cheney decided to invade Iraq, lie to the UN, discredit the CIA to cause a re-org, rewrote significant pieces of domestic law enforcement policy and ordered the AG to implement it, and has told Pervez, on the side, not to capture bin Laden. We have no idea about the process. We're doin' what he wants, going on and on about what a liar his patsy is.

    I guess you're still a patsy when they make a deal that you'll never do time and then you still get to plead "not guilty" and lie. Pretty hard to fall far when you're already in the gutter. Good thing Scooter didn't offend middle-class rat-mongering sensibilities by tapping his foot in a rest room or having a joint on him. Before the last mid-terms, Nancy Polosi said that the two things you could count on with the Dems was that they would not use the same procedural methods in the Senate and that the White House would not get its way at every turn with Iraq. She has flagrantly violated both promises. In 6 months, the US will be in Iran, and Hillary will be the nominee. Not only is the administration not suffering for its past indiscretions, they're not even slowing the pace. Just what about the administration's pubic dumb-down isn't working, given their criteria for success? This whole discussion sounds like a psychologist telling someone they have to change some obviously unacceptable behavior without first addressing that it works for them.

    Liberal policy? You have to sell the primitive hominid on the fact that thought has some virtue over just grabbing what you see impulsively before you can refine that thought. How about, "Lets Make a Place for Rational Thought in Government"? Of course, we're supposed to be a representative democracy and that wouldn't be very representative, would it?

    Were your ancestors stupid for emigrating? Sometimes you have to decide that what inspires you is not going to happen in the land in which you reside, and move. I think this is where progressive energy needs to be focused. Where would you be today if your ancestors hadn't taken the chance? Why deny future generation the same hope? Poland, the Czech Republic, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Mexico, South Africa and Australia are promising, though rationality plays as much of a role in the life of the people of the last three as it doesn't here.

  • Nigel Nicholson (unverified)

    Not towards a liberal US policy, but how about a progressive Canadian policy?

    They've sheltered US dissidenten in the past, and now they've got a bloody-minded territorial dispute with Denmark and Russia over the Arctic.

    So...get Canada to give political asylum in exchange for homesteading the Arctic!

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    Possibly, but the historical record doesn't supports your hypothesis. These Democratic / Republican comparisons have remained solid all the way back to 1956. You might be right by 1970, but how do you explain the first 14 years?

    And there are other data supporting the same point. Dems are less likely to rank foreign policy as a "most important problem." Dems are less likely to be concerned about terrorism or national security threats (these questions have been asked only for the past decade or so).

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    There are several issues rolled into "foreign policy", and based on many decades of listening to people, I don't think a simple scale of interest in foreign policy tells us very much.

    I believe it is true the Republicans are more worried about threats to their safety from foreigners. That follows from the xenophobic mindset. It also follows from the believe that life is war.

    Democrats are more supportive of international organizations like the UN and World Court. They are more concerned with international environmental and labor issues.

    I do believe this difference was less - or nonexistent - before 1970, when the Cold War mindset was endemic. Kennedy ran on the "missile gap" and Johnson was no dove.

    So, poll numbers may show show some longterm continuity, but much of substance has changed in the attitudes of Ds and Rs post-WWII. Lakoff's models are useful here. Democrats see the world as a village requiring cooperation to flourish. Republicans see the US as a nuclear [pun intended] family beset with enemies from all sides. Fear and aggression certainly create interest, and that interest might be more likely to register in polls than concerns about international cooperation.

  • Dave Porter (unverified)

    Jeff, I am trying out the polling option on Load Orygun diaries as a way to stimulate thinking on foreign policy. Check out my diary post "China Questions for Obama." I know I am fixated on China, but perhaps others could use the polling option for more focused foreign policy discussion on other specific topics.

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