10 Foreign Policy Questions Progressives Ought to Be Thinking About How to Answer
Posted by Suzanne Nossel
After a series of meetings and discussions this past week on questions of progressive strategy thinking beyond 2006 and toward 2008, here are 10 questions progressives ought to be thinking hard about how to answer. I have left out issues - like China, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East Peace Process, Iraq and more - - upon which I sense relative consensus among progressive ranks. These are issues that either divide us or on which we have no clear answers at all:
1. Should the US Military Be Enlarged? - The Center for American Progress and Hillary Clinton say yes, citing our current predicament in Iraq as Exhibit A. Others believe if we forswear unilateral invasions and can reorient the armed forces to be better able to handle challenges like post-conflict reconstruction, we won't need more personnel.
2. Is the Fight Against Terror the #1 priority or simply a top priority? - Progressives are in general agreement that the fight against terror will be a centerpiece of our foreign policy for years to come, and that the battle needs to be waged more broadly and effectively than it has in the past 5 years. But is combating terror the foremost objective? Has the emphasis on terror led us to overlook or neglect other issues?
3. What is our position on free trade? I am troubled that coming up on six years after the Democrats first lost the White House, progressives have yet to arrive at a broadly accepted position in the debate over protectionism versus free trade. Surely the answer lies with an enlightened free trade, paired with systematic measures to temper its ill effects both at home and abroad. But the details remain unresolved and badly needed consensus is still elusive.
4. What are the primary lessons of Iraq for American foreign policy? Iraq was not decisive in the 2002 elections or the 2004 elections. Nor will it be in 2006 or 2008. As the debacle of the lead-up to the war begins to fade from the headlines, the big remaining question will be where does Iraq leave us and what's next. Though the fat lady has not yet sung in Baghdad progressives need to begin to think in terms of a post-Iraq foreign policy.
5. How should the US promote democracy around the world? Most progressives seem to agree that despite the disastrous results of the Bush Administration's purported press for democracy in the Middle East, we ought not throw the baby out with the bath water and abandon an agenda of trying to advance democracy globally. We agree that Bush went about it the wrong way, but need to build consensus on what the right approach will look like.
6. What will we do to revive global nuclear non-proliferation? Progressives need to put forward a clear set of proposals for restriking the broken bargain of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, relatedly, for responding to rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea's. Talking tough on WMD and then advocating little more specific than direct talks with rash and unreliable regimes cannot be the answer.
7. How will we deal with global development and poverty? While progressives have traditionally paid more attention to these issues, it was conservatives who enacted the Millennium Challenge Account which, at least on paper, is probably the biggest policy innovation to occur in this arena in decades. When progressives seek to rebuild global support for American leadership and policy priorities like WMD and terrorism, other countries will demand answers to this question.
8. What are our big new ideas? We didn't have any memorable ones in 2004 and cannot afford a similar void again. My favorite is still the Stabilization Corps.
9. What More Needs to Be Done to Straighten Out the Gathering and Use of Intelligence? A raft of questions are emerging over whether the creation of the post of Director of National Intelligence is serving the coordination function the 9/11 Commission envisioned, or has instead become yet another bureaucratic layer protecting the Pentagon's vast intelligence budget and operation from scrutiny. Progressives need to assert a position.
10. What needs to be done to shore up American superpowerdom? My own view is that this will be the central question of the post-Iraq era, and that the answers are manifold and of vital importance.