Security and Peace Initiative Democracy Arsenal

« August 13, 2006 - August 19, 2006 | Main | August 27, 2006 - September 2, 2006 »

August 25, 2006

Progressive Strategy

Exemplarism in Iraq
Posted by Michael Signer

My good friend and tough critic (isn't it nice when they're the same thing?) David Adesnik has recently hammered me for not being sufficiently specific about what "American exemplarism" -- the doctrine I argued for in the recent inaugural issue of Democracy:  A Journal of Ideas -- would mean in Iraq.  David writes:

When America has the power to go it alone but the rest of the world refuses to go along, what should America do? That was the question Clinton and Albright could never answer. If exemplarism wants to succeed where they failed, that is the question it must answer.

Irving Kristol once wrote that neoconservatism was, above all else, a "persuasion" -- a way of approaching the world and a valence for one's own thinking and conclusions.  So exemplarism wouldn't necessarily be defined, inductively, as a product of certain policies.  Instead, it's a set of principles -- America is and should be exceptional; America is and should be strong; America should lead the world in moral accomplishments; America should seek to be willingly followed by the community of nations -- that generate policies.

But this doesn't mean that exemplarism wouldn't also be about policy.  As regards Iraq, it seems to me the correct exemplarist policy would be something along the lines of what's now being proposed by Joe Biden and Leslie Gelb, among others -- that progressives should dedicate themselves not just to redeployment, but additionally to solving the problem during and after the military redeployment by building a workable, long-term, constitutional solution that would resolve Iraq's current ethnic and geopolitical tensions.

Continue reading "Exemplarism in Iraq" »

August 24, 2006


Words Matter
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Our friends over at the Century Fund have published the musings of Mort Abramowitz and myself on why this Administration's rhetoric is such a substantive disaster.

Mort, in addition to being brilliant and idiosyncratic, is an old-fashioned public servant of the "political differences stop at the water's edge" type who was appointed to high positions by Republicans.  When he and I write together, he usually tells me that I am too snarky and partisan.  So I offer our joint thinking as evidence, on the one hand, of just how off the rails things have gotten, but on the other hand how much people who care about foreign policy can actually agree on if they try (and if I save my snarking for the blog.)

The Bush administration is struggling to convince our allies, the Israelis, the Arabs, indeed the world, that it has a vision for an achievable peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it is drowning in its own idealistic rhetoric, which has turned on itself and is peopling the world with cynics.

The stated goal of a new, democratic Middle East requires us to stay the course in Iraq and pay long-term attention to the failed states that spawn terror. Each successive rhetorical device is emptying its predecessors of substance—and makes the unenviable task of coming up with policies that work and maintain public support that much harder. The future “promise of a democratic peace” is the glue that holds them together.

Each administration generates its own buzzwords, if only to distinguish itself from the bad guys who came before. But when the nation embarks on and ambitious new enterprise, the words get bigger and the stakes higher. Ever since “making the world safe for democracy” entered the lexicon, the grandiosity of the ambitions must be matched by rhetorical shorthand that offers cosmic significance to the cognoscenti and laudable goals to the country at large. The risks: our rhetoric both raises the real world stakes of the policy and gradually departs from the reality it is trying to shape.

Read the rest here.

Continue reading "Words Matter" »

Progressive Strategy

A Proposal for a New Progressive Foreign Policy
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Here's Part II of my American Prospect article on the future of progressive foreign policy. Where in Part I I talked about the "vision gap," in part II, I attempt to close it, by proposing a new way of conceptualizing democracy promotion and its place in US policy. I'm really curious about what Democracy Arsenal readers (i.e. you) think about some of these issues. Here's an excerpt:

The progressive approach to democracy promotion is distinguished by a fundamental realization that democracy cannot be imposed at gunpoint. The United States can, however, effectively pressure Arab governments to democratize by making economic and military aid conditional on a pre-established set of markers emphasizing freedom of expression, free elections, and the rights of opposition groups. In practice, this would mean telling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan, and others that if they do not get serious about political reform, the United States will get serious about slashing foreign aid. For governments that demonstrate a willingness to change, a comprehensive package of incentives will be offered. A successful democracy promotion policy consists of more than just a statement of intent. It requires a sustained commitment, clear objectives, and detailed policy prescriptions tailored for each country’s particular needs and challenges.

Democracy promotion should no longer be viewed as one policy instrument among many. Rather, a democracy-centric foreign policy will provide an integrated approach that will, in turn, clarify other important U.S. objectives:

  • War on Terrorism. Terrorism does not occur in a vacuum. When people are unable to express their grievances through a legitimate, responsive political process, they are more likely to resort to political violence and terrorism. Islamic extremism feeds upon humiliation, or what Tom Friedman has called “the poverty of dignity.” Arabs can reclaim their dignity only through a democratic process that treats them as citizens with rights, rather than subjects whose sole obligation is to obey. Only with the promise of a democratic future can the Middle East break free of the economic, cultural, and political malaise that has, for decades, fueled the rise of religious extremism.

  • Promoting Moderate Islam. Political reform leads to religious reform, not the other way around. Islamic thought and practice has been stifled by an undemocratic atmosphere in which Muslims are not exposed to the full diversity of opinions on issues of importance. Democracy, as Madeleine Albright argues in “A Realistic Idealism,” will “create a broader and more open political debate within Arab countries, exposing myths to scrutiny and extreme ideas to rebuttal.” In free societies, Arab liberals will finally be allowed to organize politically and communicate their ideas to a larger audience.
  • Read the whole thing here.

    August 23, 2006

    Progressive Strategy

    Do Democrats Have a "Vision Gap" on Foreign Policy?
    Posted by Shadi Hamid

    Well, yes, they do. And that is the subject of a two-part series I'm writing for The American Prospect Online on the future of progressive foreign policy. Here is the beginning of Part I: 

    “Don't doubt yourselves. We know who we are.” Senator Barak Obama said those words to an audience of progressives in a well-received speech at the Take Back America conference in June. If only it were true. When it comes to foreign policy, we do not know who we are, at least not yet.

    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.

    There have been sustained efforts by Democrats of late to close ranks and present a unified front. Bill Clinton has said that “we ought to be whipped if we allow our differences over what to do now over Iraq divide us.” Even despite these differences, most progressives now agree that the Iraq adventure, for all the promise it might have once had, has proven a disastrous mistake. And over the past year, Democrats in Congress have done a much better job of coordinating their opposition to the Bush administration’s innumerable national security missteps.

    An artificial, contrived consensus based on the lowest common denominator might suffice while in the opposition. However, if Democrats win back Congress this year or the presidency in 2008, a more clear vision will be necessary. Ideas are imperative -- but while it is easy to argue that Democrats need “big ideas,” it is more difficult to figure out what those might actually be.

    In recent months, there have been several noteworthy attempts to provide an intellectual and ideological frame for progressive policy. Here, in the pages of the Prospect, Michael Tomasky as well as John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira have offered the most cohesive arguments to date, proposing the “common good” as a foundation for a new progressive vision. Unfortunately, both these efforts reserve their focus for domestic policy. Their foreign policy suggestions are vague and, for the most part, avoid tackling the challenging questions that have sowed division within liberal ranks.

    Read the rest here

    August 22, 2006


    No Marines to Send
    Posted by Heather Hurlburt

    Almost a year ago, I attended a conference at which several senior retired Marines said that we would soon see evident in the Marine Corps the same kind of stress and strain that has been much-talked about in the regular Army.

    In fact, the talk about "straining the Army to the breaking point" died down for a while this spring, when troop levels were quietly declining.  Now, of course, that trend has stopped.  And guess what?

    The Marine Corps announced today that it is short 1200 active-duty forces over the next twelve months and will begin its own involuntary recalls.  The specific problem seems to be that Marines who have served their active duty commitment, and were formerly quite reliable about volunteering when needed, have become steadily less reliable over the last two years.  It's worth emphasizing that this affects only Marines who volunteered to serve four years of non-active duty in an Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) instead of the regular Reserves.

    The head of the Marines' manpower mobilization planning said that President Bush has authorized this "until the GWOT is over with."  Just in case you were wondering.

    Middle East

    The War Within Islam and How We Can Help Fight It
    Posted by Shadi Hamid

    I attended a rather interesting sermon (or khutba) this past Friday at George Washington. It was a refreshing change of pace from the oratory, at once dicactic and incoherent, of Friday sermons in Egypt and other Arab countries (I just got back from Cairo last week).

    At the end of the khutba, the imam will ask God for a variety of things and the congregation is expected to respond “amen” to each supplication or dua. In Egypt, I would have to listen closely so as to avoid saying “amen” to the anti-American, anti-semitic dua that are pretty much par for the course even in those countries that are supposedly at “peace” with Israel and have close relations with the US.

    In any case, the prayer leader at GW on Friday was making a distinction between “human nature” and “Islamic nature.” Human nature, he said, is when you are nice to those who are nice to you. His argument was that “Islamic nature” – whatever that might be – is a cut above and takes things even further, that Muslims are supposed to respond with kindness, understanding, and tolerance even to those who mistreat them. He used examples of the Prophet Muhammad’s dealings with the Meccans (who tried to kill him and his companions) to illustrate the point.

    I told a friend about this and she said it sounded a bit “Christian.” Maybe. Whatever it sounded like, it sounded good. This is the kind of message that European governments need to promote within ghettoized Muslim communities that find themselves increasingly isolated and alienated, particularly in Britain, France, and the Netherlands. As I argued last year in the Christian Science Monitor after the July 7th London attacks, we must tell young European Muslims that whatever grievances you might have, the answer is not radicalism, but rather peaceful participation in the democratic process and engagement – instead of withdrawal – from mainstream European society. Not only is this the sensible approach, but it is the Islamic approach, one that the Prophet Muhammad himself would have advocated if he was alive today.

    Within the Islamic tradition (like any other tradition), one can find that which supports violence and intolerance and that which repudiates it. In today’s war of ideas, we must take the peaceful precedents in Islamic history and amplify and communicate them to a larger audience. This is something Muslims themselves in Europe and the Middle East can and must do more of. The political context, however, is not conducive to such moderation and this is where US policy can either help or hinder the situation. Unfortunately, today, with the ensuing mess in Lebanon and Hezbollah’s disturbing rise in popularity, Muslim liberals and progressives will find it more difficult to promote a moderate message.

    Continue reading "The War Within Islam and How We Can Help Fight It" »

    August 20, 2006


    Lebanon and the Future of the UN
    Posted by Suzanne Nossel

    Just as the deployment of a UN-sponsored force will be critical to the future of Lebanon, the same mission could be a cross-roads for the UN.  The UN has in recent years come under heavy criticism in the US for corruption, ineffectiveness and an unwillingness-cum-inability to reform.  On the other side, the organization's boosters point to the flagging US support for the UN as a key detriment to the world body's efficacy.  The Lebanon mission may put these competing claims to the test.

    The mobilization of the mission is getting more complicated by the day.  While France had originally signaled willingness to serve as the backbone of the force, this week they revealed that they only intend to send an incremental 200 troops, a fraction of the 15,000 that will ultimately be needed.  France has a well-trained and respected military with deep ties to the region, making this a heavy blow to the nascent mission.   

    On Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Israel will not accept participation in the mission of troops from countries that do not recognize Israel.  This would exclude Bangladesh, which is currently the leading troop contributor to UN missions worldwide, as well as Indonesia and Malaysia, both of which had already stepped forward as willing to send in men.  Meanwhile Lebanese President Emile Lahoud has said his country will reject involvement of countries that have military ties to Israel, a ban that could potentially exclude Turkey and India, two other potentially important prospects.

    Meanwhile, the ceasefire is in trouble on the ground.  Partly due to the week-long delay in deploying additional international troops, skirmishes between the parties are already breaking out.

    There's reason to believe the resolution of these issues may matter as much for the future of the UN as it does for Lebanon.  Why?

    Continue reading "Lebanon and the Future of the UN" »

    Guest Contributors
    Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.

    www Democracy Arsenal
    Powered by TypePad


    The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of the Security and Peace Institute, the Center for American Progress, The Century Foundation or any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
    Read Terms of Use