December 06, 2004

Democratic foreign policy

To paraphrase Edward Abbey, when I hear the words "new liberalism," I reach for my .357. The kind of liberalism we need is the old one, the one that the Democrats have all but forgotten.

Howard Dean has announced that he'll be giving a major speech on Wednesday about the future of the Democratic party. I suspect, and hope, that Dean's recommendations will help to crystallize a foreign policy platform that's quite different from the "new liberal" approach embraced by Peter Beinart.

Beinart says:

On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.
Beinart gets it exactly wrong on both foreign and domestic policy. Domestically, the liberals have done their best to sideline the few of them who have advanced a positive vision with passion. As for the struggle against al Qaeda, the liberals (sans Christopher Hitchens, if anyone still gives him that label) have been the only people who haven't forgotten that one of our most potent weapons against stateless terror groups is our "soft power."

As the terrorists are sending forth their suicide bombers and fomenting chaos, the most effective response the U.S. can make is to model the opposite kind of behavior, which most of us would call "civilized." This means abiding by the rule of law, using military force only when necessary and only against targets that cannot be dealt with better in any other way (such as, arguably, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan), and demonstrating what it means to be a responsible member of the international community.

(Julie Saltman's responses to Beinart here and here are both on-target.)

Posted by Carey at December 6, 2004 10:24 PM
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