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July 07, 2006


Mexico -- A Silver Lining
Posted by Michael Signer

The coverage of the upcoming electoral stalemate in Mexico's Presidential election has an ominous tinge.  The New York Times tells us:

In the meantime, the way the candidates manage themselves and their supporters will determine whether or not this stalemate weakens or strengthens Mexico's young democracy.

After a tumultuous night in which both candidates claimed victory and held rowdy celebrations, conflicting feelings of concern rippled across a nation that is averse to political violence and that has lived through decades of electoral fraud.

Without being an expert on Mexico, I still think it's worth noting the silver lining here.  Mexico faces a test of the essential premise of the rule of law -- judicial review of political contests -- should prevail, no matter how much anxiety is provokes internally about possibilities.   And if the last two days of head-clutching are any indication, it's looking good that Mexico will take the democratic path this time around.

If Mexico -- a country that was run, dictatorially, by a single party for decades -- passes the test, it will demonstrate its ascension into the community of modern democracies.

Continue reading "Mexico -- A Silver Lining" »

July 06, 2006


Rachel Kleinfeld at TPM Cafe
Posted by Michael Signer

A quick update -- Rachel Kleinfeld, the co-founder and Director of the Truman National Security Project, is guest-blogging for Anne-Marie Slaughter over at TPM Cafe's America Abroad section for the next five weeks. 

As one of our brightest young lights in national security and foreign policy, Rachel will take great advantage of this opportunity, so check over there early and often (and I'd say that even if she didn't just blog on my recent piece for Democracy: A Journal of Ideas!).

Capitol Hill

Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld Debate: Who is a true Conservative?
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

During the Cold War,  foreign policy stopped at the water's edge.  For the most part, elected leaders, in a common cause against an ideological foe, abandoned partisanship to join a united American democratic ideal.  Well, those days are really over.  Late last week the House GOP leadership demonstrated that the water could be a reeking sewer and they'll still take off their shoes and jump right on in.

After last Thursday's  Supreme Court ruling (Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld) that rejected the Bush administration's plan to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, Majority Leader Boehner attacked Democrats who-- upon hearing the ruling-- praised the Rule of Law and acknowledged the importance of cautiously moving forward in the realm of post 9/11 international justice.  Boehner and the GOP echo chamber pounced-- accusing the Democrats of wanting "special rights for terrorists" while acknowledging  how this talking point would rally the conservative base for November 06.  Time to take the gloves off. There is a difference between politics and policy.  Congressional conservatives--in a fit of self-hate for their own institution-- are attacking our constitution.  Their disgraceful talking points are a one-two punch-- for in "rallying" their base, they undermine another great American institution as well--the US military.

This breed of politically partisan rhetoric is not "just politics" . There are no exuses for political talking points that rationalize threats to the  foundation of American democracy. True conservatives everywhere should read this interview  by Reagan appointee Bruce Fein as a call to take their party back.

Today's conservatives in power (as opposed to real conservatives)  love to brag about how they value the military, but the truth is they have few military values.

Continue reading "Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld Debate: Who is a true Conservative?" »

July 04, 2006


North Korea: Sticking it to Washington (and Beijing)
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Pyongyang's choice of July 4th to launch a much-anticipated and roundly discouraged test of its long-range missile capabilities, (despite having failed rather spectacularly in the first minute after launch) will go down in history as one of the more flagrant recent attempts to goad and humiliate the superpower. 

But this time there's a twist.  While the timing is unquestionably meant to provoke Washington, the move ought to attract roughly equal ire in Beijing.  First off, China now chairs the six-party talks aimed at controlling North Korea's nuclear program.  The test thus marks the failure of Beijing's highest-stakes diplomatic gambit yet in their own rise to great-power status.   

Moreover, the Chinese have, laudably, been working assiduously in recent weeks to avert the missile launch.  It was reported on Sunday that the Chinese were looking to reconvene an informal session of the six-party forum later this month.  Just yesterday China and North Korea jointly announced a planned exchange of high-level visits to, among other things, discuss the threatened missile launch.  For Kim Jong Il to have proceeded in the face of ongoing Chinese diplomatic efforts is at least as much a slap in the face to Beijing as to the US.

Apart from misery loving company, what's the significance of China being just as dissed as we are?  It's impossible to say, but a few musings:

Continue reading "North Korea: Sticking it to Washington (and Beijing)" »

July 03, 2006

Going to the Parade
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

My patriotism is of the quiet, "thank goodness I didn't move to country X when I was love-addled in my 20s" type.  I'm not much for parades, normally.  But I have a two-year old, who adores music, drums, dancing, sparkly things and flags.  And who smiles so cutely he oughta be in pictures.

All of this adds up to a date tomorrow morning with the local 4th of July parade -- which will, admittedly, have some kind of "Mad Hot Peace" float in addition to the more traditional offerings.  But I have been thinking about reasons to look forward to the parade this year, and I have come up with several.

1.  Resurgence of patriotism that is filled with uplift, rather than rage.  I cried through the trailer for the Oliver Stone 9-11 movie World Trade Center last weekend.  Then I read this article about it and cried some more.  Although I suppose one should withhold judgment until it's out, it appears to be a positive, uplifting story about Americans coming to the aid of other Americans -- about people finding personal and national redemption in themselves and their fellow Americans on a dark, dark day.  The suburban accountant who went home, put on his Marines uniform, drove to Ground Zero and walked through the rubble calling out "US Marines" and was heard by survivors.  A lapsed paramedic who dug through rubble looking for some kind of personal redemption, and found another survivor.  Both true stories, apparently.  It's time to hear more about those better angels of our American-ness, and not just the horrors unleashed by war and unclear mandates in Iraq and unfocused fear at home.  Not because we shouldn't hear about the bad stuff, b ut because we need to remember that we're capable of better.

2.  A good parade encourages the above.  Two weeks ago we got stuck in a parade in Cedar City, Utah -- a pretty small place that had shut down entirely for the occasion.  What occasion?  Their local National Guard, the 222nd, was home after 18 months in Iraq -- six months longer than planned -- without losing a single person.  The unit before them had suffered quite a few fatalities, and all the surrounding communities were ready to celebrate.  People left stores and restaurants untended to go cheer as the Guard marched by, with a band and fire trucks and a three-story-high flag.

I thought of this again the next week, when the US Congressman from that part of Utah -- apparently one of the most conservative in Congress -- survived a primary challenge from the right on immigration.  Apparently the incumbent had done sinister things like accept an award from an immigrant rights group.  "Racism and xenophobia are not Republican virtues," he said.  But, as I say, he won handily.  Would I dare suggest a connection?  No.  A good thing for our common humanity?  Yes.

3.  It's about community.  I've been trying for months now to practice what I preach and not use my bloggy pulpit to rant about divisions in the progressive community, and progressives who seem to devote their full and impressive energies to enlarging those divisions.  But it's getting me down.  So hear this:  I am one web-literate progressive who does not care what the New Republic thinks of Daily Kos, and vice versa.  I do not care why Madeleine Albright wrote a book about religion now, and not five, ten or fifty years ago.  And I really don't care very much which sect of true believers on the way ahead in Iraq you belong to.

I care whether you have good, interesting, challenging ideas, and whether you are capable of publicizing them in a way that moves our community -- and perhaps our nation -- forward and up instead of bogging us down.

So I'm going to the parade with a two-year old's sense of glee at the noise and the sparkle, and something else besides:  the knowledge that the family next to us may think that tapping our phones is just great and Jesus talks to President Bush every day.  Or they may think I'm a ghastly right-winger because I go to church and worked for Bill Clinton and once wrote something nice about Peggy Noonan.  But you know what?  As long as we're standing there with our flags, that won't matter.  They're not going to hurt me, and I'm not going to hurt them.

And that's part of what makes America great, when we are great.  The words to "America the Beautiful" get most of the rest of it.  Have a happy 4th.


Progressive Strategy

Bring in the Big Ideas
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I finally got around to reading the slew of new articles which argue that we should adopt the “common good” as the foundation of a new progressive vision for America. Like Suzanne, I think the “common good” frame may work for domestic policy, but it comes up short in providing a coherent, democratic alternative to the discredited amalgam of neo-con posturing and realist essence (i.e. taking the worst of the two approaches, fusing them together, and letting someone relatively unintelligent implement them). To their credit, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin in their American Prospect series did make a point of mentioning democracy promotion, but it seemed more like a concession than a commitment. This is the problem – I don’t know if liberals today really have the stomach for costly, interventionist “adventures” abroad. I call them adventures because that’s probably what they’d end up being. Democracy, as I’ve pointed out before, is, by definition, a risky enterprise characterized by high levels of uncertainty. In democracies, you’re not supposed to know who will win before people actually vote. For some, particularly Rovian republicans and Arab dictators, this is a problem. For small-d and big-D democrats, it usually isn’t (or shouldn’t be).

In an impressive speech to the Take America Back conference, Barak Obama told attending progressives, “Don't doubt yourselves. We know who we are.” I’m not sure that we do, at least as far as foreign policy goes. There remains substantial disagreement among progressives regarding America’s role in the world. But at least now there is a serious discussion underway about the ideas and ideals which will come to guide a progressive foreign policy in the years ahead.

For once, we are beginning to move beyond reflexive criticisms of Bush administration policy and offering bold alternatives to realist neo-isolationism and the belligerence of neo-conservatism. Some of the best efforts in this regard are Madeleine Albright's article on a "Realistic Idealism," Michael Signer's piece on "exemplarism," Peter Beinart's new book, and many others. Give them a read. For all our differences, progressives are finally starting to realize that critiques and policy prescriptions are not enough. Ideas are needed, preferably big ones.   

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