Ask it Again: How Divided is the Left?
Posted by Shadi Hamid
Last week, Kevin Drum made an interesting argument that’s worth chewing on:
Democrats have recently achieved a fairly considerable consensus on how to move forward. I don't want to overstate this: obviously there are still plenty of differences among major players in the party. But if you take out, say, the Chomsky wing on the left and the Lieberman wing on the right, there's a surprising amount that the rest of us agree on.
This is nearly the opposite of what I argued in my recent American Prospect articles. I said:
Today, significant fault lines divide the left on a host of major foreign policy questions. If such disagreements were simply a matter of differing policy prescriptions, that would be one thing. But the divisions are of a more fundamental nature – a product of competing meta-narratives liberals hold to understand
America’s role in a post-9/11 world.
Well, what’s going on here? Drum might be right that Democrats agree on specific policy
prescriptions such as spending “more on things like port security and chemical
plant security,” “strengthening cooperation between the FBI and the CIA,” and
supporting “a far more serious energy policy.” Fair enough. But these are
commonsensical positions that anyone who is not slightly deranged would
agree with. Moreover, Drum avoids the aforementioned question of meta-narratives: how
The Kossack left, certainly, is rather ambivalent about the utility and uses of American power, but much less so about its abuses. It is a bit challenging to even figure out what the this group really thinks about outstanding foreign policy questions, since all they really do is criticize whatever the Bush administration happens to be doing at any given moment coupled with simplistic calls for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Indeed, as others have pointed out, the Kossacks and a good chunk of the Democratic base don’t have well-defined positions on foreign policy. Rather, they seem to take a “if Bush says it or does it, it must be bad” approach to national security.
Similarly, I recall an infuriating article by Juan Cole in Salon after Hamas came to power in January’s Palestinian elections. Its title - “How do you like your democracy now, Mr. Bush?” – made me cringe. The occasion of Hamas’s victory was too readily employed in the service of cynical “I told-you-so putdowns,” when it should have been used for reasoned reflection on how to improve our democracy promotion strategy.
As I’ve argued before, even Congressional Democrats, despite the presumably "hawkish" tendencies of some of its membership, had the audacity to come up with a national security plan which not once mentioned the word “democracy.” This is, it strikes me, a rather glaring omission. In short, contrary to what Kevin suggests, all is not well. Far from it.