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June 12, 2005

Trumanites at the Drawing Board
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

A few wrinkles on the modern day Truman Doctrine as expounded by Michael and noted over at America Abroad (OK, so maybe this is the Nossel doctrine - I leave it to the Trumanites to pronounce on whether they agree or not):

Exceptionalism - Yes, we do believe it, but we part ways from the neocons in that we're not so naive as to expect the rest of the world to buy in as well. We are also less likely to assume that our unique status does or should exempt us from the rules we expect others to follow.   We recognize that by claiming exceptionalism, we risk undercutting values and norms whose broad acceptance would advance U.S. national interests.   

Use of force - We do favor the use of force to advance U.S. security and priority matters of national interest.  But we're committed to using force a lot more smartly than the neocons.  We don't fetishize American power.  We're not so blinded by our own prowess that we believe our soldiers can deliver anything regardless of how little - in terms of planning, equipment, boots on the ground, and political support - we deliver them.  We are hard-headed about what force can and cannot accomplish, and we're committed to ensuring that force is used wisely in combination with other forms of power.

Hegemony - Yes, we think America ought to fight hard not to let any other power challenge our position.  But we don't think even a hegemon (even one that has "earned" its status) can rule by fiat.  We recognize that the world is becoming more democratic with a lower case "d" and we will need to exercise power in a manner more closely resembling a democratic leader - rallying others, persuading others, building alliances and constituencies, being responsive to global concerns.  For more on that, see here.

More on the elements that distinguish progressives another time.


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» Principles and a progressive natioanl security from Stygius
The other day, Democracy Arsenal's Suzanne Nossel issued another one of those bullet point-esque posts, a variation on her [Read More]


FYI, its America Abroad, not Americans Abroad...

From Suzanne's Dissent article:

--"The maintenance of a powerful military will be no less essential to U.S. leadership in a more democratic system than in a world ruled by superpowers.... Military and economic power is also vital as a source of "pork"-favors, handouts, and bargaining chips that can be used to win support."---

The World Policy Institute recently issued a report saying that the US is the world's leading arms exporter. Nearly all of these countries have poor human rights records, according to our own State Dep't, and most of them are undemocratic.

Since this seems to be a bipartisan policy, I hope you'll comment on this sometime -- and whether or not you think this is a realpolitik necessity.

Why does everything have to be framed in relation to the neocons?

"Praktike" makes a good point. Wouldn't it be better to discuss neoconservativism as a wrong-headed deviation from the kind of hawkish liberal internationalism the Truman Project seems to represent?

This kind of thing seems to be rife with insecurity about national security credibility. But it seems to go along the lines of briefly saying "we can play rough too!" before veering off into abstract IR jargon.

If progressive-types want to start being electable on national security grounds, avoid the abstraction -- and for God's sake don't start out by making qualifications. All those things are very nice and reasonable, but maybe they should come after emphatically stating a core principle of any pertinent American foreign policy, which is:

Dead terrorists can't kill Americans.

Embrace it, and all else will follow.

"Praktike" makes a good point. Wouldn't it be better to discuss neoconservativism as a wrong-headed deviation from the kind of hawkish liberal internationalism the Truman Project seems to represent?


If your goal is to turn the Truman project into yet another group of leftie moonbats throwing feces at neoconservatives, go ahead.

I'd rather see it discuss it's own positions relative to the Democratic manstream. The point is not to argue with the right, the point is to come up with a credible, viable foreign policy for the left.

Your "America Abroad" link goes to
Microsoft . . . again.

Someone is redirecting your links.

Please correct.

"Dead terrorists can't kill Americans." -- Posted by: Stygius | June 13, 2005 05:01 PM

No, they just inspire people to kill Americans.

Sure, your line works as a soundbite, conveying strength, grit, determination and toughmindedness. And you're right, that is a lot of what we need to do -- hell, maybe all we need to do -- electorally as Democrats.

But what we need policy-wise, and what we need to be able to explain without trashing our electability, is a policy that recognizes that "having people like us" IS a crucial element of our national security, and ignoring and/or mocking it in favor of the sheer joy of maximizing ass-kicking potential is not only repugnant to American values but a recipe for long-term national decline.

If you listened to what Howard Dean actually said during his campaign (which you'd probably have to have gone to C-SPAN for), you heard a pretty good, if insufficiently polished, take on this, with the bluntness that he recognized as necessary, rather than Kerry's eloquent foofery. "I don't think this President understands national security....One of the reasons we won the Cold War and the Berlin Wall fell was that we had strong alliances and a strong military. But another reason was that most people on the other side of the Iron Curtain wanted to be like America, and wanted to be like Americans. You'd be hard-pressed right now to find many countries where a majority say they want to be like us or be like America. And that makes us weaker, not stronger." (From memory, but almost exact Dean quotes.)

America can't win with smart and weak, and it can't win with strong and stupid. We have to be strong and smart. Right now our foreign policy is all force and no brains, and it's not making us stronger in the world, it's making us weaker. We need a policy that builds on our strengths, not one that squanders them. And as long as we have this in-denial one-note tunnel-vision crew in charge, we'll never have a foreign policy that takes care of America or that takes care of Americans.

NH Dem.

I agree completely. And while my little slogan there may come across as a trite bumper sticker, I think it's also RIGHT, and that it is not BAD to talk about things in such terms. But it's not a policy, nor do I intend it to be. It does away with these efforts to seem tough on national security by talking about expanding the Army, increasing Special Ops numbers, targeting networks, and other various euphemisms while not getting directly at why we ought to do so and what it means to actually DO these things: which is go and fight -- and fight to win, and what that entails. I think there is a discomfort and an unwillingness to talk about it in these terms; not only do I think it is self-defeating politically, but more importantly it is strategically self-defeating.

I'm tired of Democrats ceding such territory to Republicans, and constantly changing the subject to "soft power" and fighting "smart" and "draining swamps" always comes across as, well, changing the subject -- it's not a strategy just because it poses as a condescending big picture POV. Frankly, I just want to get around the weak and stupid at this point.

And "maximizing ass-kicking potential" for it's own sake is not what I'm trying to get across. That should be obvious. I'm talking about maximizing ass-kicking potential because it is the RIGHT thing to do, because it is demanded of us. It is not desirable -- it is 'necessary.' I'm as suspicious of 'necessity' logic as the next guy, but ass-kicking is just as necessary as a whole host of other tactics that make up a global strategy.

None of them on their own are sufficient, which is why changing the subject will never persuade.


One of the reasons we won the Cold War and the Berlin Wall fell was that we had strong alliances and a strong military. But another reason was that most people on the other side of the Iron Curtain wanted to be like America, and wanted to be like Americans.



The reason our alliances were strong was because the countries on this side of the Iron Curtain wanted to _stay_ on this side of the Iron Curtain, and having a strong alliance with the US was considered the best way to accomplish that.

Now that the Soviet Union is no longer around, one of the major reasons other nations sought a close relationship with the US no longer exists.

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