Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:11:17 AM EST
For those of us non-Americans who, like me, have been following the evolution of US politics and the Progressives' fight against the Bush/Cheney administration, the 2006 mid-term elections landslide has been a great relief. It will be an even greater one when, as it seems likely (I cross my fingers), Democrats will win the 2008 presidential election and get rid of the worst administration ever.
So, everything seems going all right. Well, not exactly. The hubris of the Bush/Cheney administration has brought such a maelstrom of failures, corruption and crimes, it has lead the world so close to a global disaster (it could still happen...) that, in comparison, any other administration will look like angels come on earth to save us. But I don't believe in angels.
While I reasonably (optimistically?) trust the Democrats for restoring democracy and civil liberties, implementing (slightly) more responsible socio-economic policies and promoting environmental awareness within the United States, I still wonder if they will bring any change to the United States foreign policy doctrine. So far, I have little hope.
From the diaries with a slight edit - afew
My doubts have been nurtured by Tony Smith's editorial in the March 11 issue of the Washington Post (thanks to BooMan)
Democrats don't have an agreed position on what America's role in the world should be. They want to change the Bush administration's policy in Iraq without discussing the underlying ideas that produced it. And although they now cast themselves as alternatives to President Bush, the fact is that prevailing Democratic doctrine is not that different from the Bush-Cheney doctrine.
Many Democrats, including senators who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, embraced the idea of muscular foreign policy based on American global supremacy and the presumed right to intervene to promote democracy or to defend key U.S. interests long before 9/11, and they have not changed course since. (snip)
...if the Democrats do win in 2008, they could remain staked to a vision of a Pax Americana strikingly reminiscent of Bush's.
This idea of the legitimacy of the United States global supremacy, the vision of the U.S. as the indispensable nation entitled to intervene wherever and whenever it suits its interests, regardless of international law, its use of America's overwhelming military pre-eminence to promote the global expansion of "free market democracy" through "regime change" is extremely dangerous. It is, in my view, one of the main obstacles on the way towards a better world order.
This doctrine has been pushed to its limits by the Bush/Cheney administration, but it existed before and it still exists among the Democrats:
Democratic adherents to what might be called the "neoliberal" position are well organized and well positioned. Their credo was enunciated just nine years ago by Madeleine Albright, then President Bill Clinton's secretary of state: "If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further into the future." (snip)
Since 1992, the ascendant Democratic faction in foreign policy debates has been the thinkers associated with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and its think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). (snip)
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, published a book last year, "The Plan: Big Ideas for America," co-authored by Bruce Reed, editor of the PPI's magazine Blueprint and president of the DLC.
Not a word in their book appears hostile to the idea of invading Iraq. Instead, the authors fault Bush for allowing a "troop gap" to develop (they favor increasing the Army by 100,000 and expanding the Marines and Special Forces) and for failing to "enlist our allies in a common mission." The message once again is that Democrats could do it better.
In fact, these neoliberals are nearly indistinguishable from the better-known neoconservatives. The neocons' think tank, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), often salutes individuals within the PPI, and PPI members such as Marshall signed PNAC petitions endorsing the Iraq invasion.
For the rest of the world, a key issue of the next presidential election lies in the ability of the Democrats to propose and promote an alternative doctrine.
It is obvious the United States must have a prominent role to play in the shaping of the future world order as a leading country, but this role must be fulfilled in coordination with other countries, particularly Europe and in agreement with (renewed) international institutions.
It is also obvious that this role will, alas for still a long period, require the military capacity to intervene in different parts of the world, but this must be done within the framework of international law and institutions.
This means a radical change in the US doctrine, from the oxymoronic "progressive imperialism" to a role of "first among equals". Furthermore, this change of doctrine is a precondition for the badly needed reform of international institutions in which the United States should play a key role.
So, what are the main candidates' positions?
The early positions of the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates illustrate their party's problem. The front-runner, Hillary Clinton, has not moved from her traditional support of the DLC's basic position -- she criticizes the conduct of the war, but not the idea of the war. Former senator John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama are more outspoken; both call the war a serious mistake, but neither has articulated a vision for a more modest U.S. role in the world generally.
Given the powerful special interests groups that have been supporting this aggressive foreign policy (and will try to maintain it), changing the doctrine is certainly not an easy task for the Democrats. It is nevertheless vital for the future of our world that they make the first steps in this direction.
So, in 2008, while raising my glass to celebrate the end of the Bush/Cheney administration, is there any chance I will also be able to celebrate the opening of an era where the United States will join Europe in building a new multilateral world order?