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November 03, 2006

Progressive Strategy

(Non-campaign) Bumper Stickers
Posted by Michael Signer

I'm down in Charlottesville for a few days coordinating the get-out-the-vote programs for a few Shenandoah Valley counties for James Webb (and there my partisan comments end, thank you to our 501(c)(3) status), so I unfortunately can't blog very much this morning.  But, in the few seconds I do have between creating some last-minute flyers and handling a billion phone calls, I thought I'd point everyone's attention to an interesting post by Bruce Jentleson over at TPMCafe.  Jentleson is writing about whether progressives need a "bumper sticker" type of message on national security, and concentrates on the "liberty under law" idea generated by the Princeton Project on National Security.

We hear a lot about the need for a single concept and phrase like containment both to win the “big ideas” debate and work politically as a bumper sticker. This has been part of the discussion of the Princeton Project on National Security (PPNS) over on The Book Club, both with some critics saying the PPNS Report has too many issues and priorities and not one overarching one, and Anne-Marie Slaughter and John Ikenberry making the case for “Liberty Under Law” as their core organizing concept and integrating strategy.

While we do need core ideas and strategies that are not just laundry lists of position papers, they need to strike the tricky balance of being simple but not simplistic. Clear and integrating enough to be the forest, and not just the trees of this and that issue, but also not denying the complexity that is reality. I have some differences with Liberty Under Law as a core macro-idea and strategy, for later discussion. Here my point is more addressed to the PPNS critics who lapse into rose-colored history about how much and how well containment really worked as the Cold War’s single organizing concept.

I myself kind of like Liberty under Law because it gets at the critical importance of constitutionalism, but I still think the underlying concept of whatever bumper sticker phrase we use should highlight the importance of America's strength and moral leadership.  I'd be partial to something along the lines of "A leader the world wants to follow" -- or, maybe more simply, "The World's Leader" -- or, really, really simply:  "Leadership." 

But then maybe I've got really short bumper stickers on the brain... OK, back to the campaign!

November 02, 2006

Progressive Strategy

Understanding the Liberal National Security Problem
Posted by Marc Grinberg

With poll after poll showing Americans are looking for a new foreign policy direction and the litany of foreign policy failures of the past six years, you would think that conservatives would be running away from security to something they have the advantage on, like...well, something. So why is it that the Rove team has decided to make national security the issue of next week’s mid-term election?

The answer lies in the fact that even while the public may agree with liberals (note: I use liberal and progressive interchangeably) on the specifics of national security policy and may recognize the massive failures of the Administration, when it comes to pulling the lever or punching the chad, their intuition is that they cannot trust liberals with their safety.

Jeremy Rosner has some good suggestions for this "third national security election" over at The Democratic StrategistMy focus is on the long term.

For liberals, this is a problem of appearance (messaging), rather than substance (policy), and it stems from numerous factors, including post-Vietnam American political history and the success of the Republican strategy of fear. But most important, I believe, are the (mistaken) beliefs that liberals: 1) Don’t take national security threats seriously; 2) won’t do what needs to be done to keep America safe; and 3) aren’t sincere when they take strong positions on national security. My posts over the next few days will address all these issues.

What is central to my argument is that the liberal national security problem is not one of policy, but of communications. Liberals politicians and center-left think tanks have plenty of good policy ideas (so good, in fact, that many have been stolen – and then perverted - by conservatives).  But, liberals fail when it comes to the message and delivery.  They lack a national security narrative – that is, a story about why they believe in the policies they do and why the American public should trust them with their safety.  The problem, then, is not in their product, but in how they sell it.

Developing this narrative and fine-tuning their message and delivery is a vital issue that liberals should be concentrating more on in the coming years. Groups like the National Security Network and the Truman National Security Project are already working on this (full disclosure: I am a Principal of the Truman Project) . But more support is needed. Liberals have recognized that they must set up an infrastructure to match that of conservatives, but their focus to date has been on policy. Now they need money and people on the marketing side.

It appears this post has inadvertently turned into a call to arms – so get to work.


Speaking of Apologies: Neo-Cons and the Army
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Yesterday's over the top White House rumpus over Senator Kerry's flubbed line  about troops in Iraq is truly ridiculous. It was a dorky mistake but in no way merits a new swiftboating of Democrats.  The calls for apology coming from left and right alike are, well, they are just silly.  The idea that any variety of lip service will somehow "support" our troops--after what we've done to them--is laughable.  Kerry is a conservative fist-magnet and conservatives are desperate to change the subject from our real problems the week prior to the election. Problems like the fact that our fine military institution has lowered standards to meet recruitment goals, is now accepting 42 year olds and mediocre high schoolers and that this is causing the decay of the entire institution.  (did I mention the ranks of the Army being infested with white supremists?)  Lots of things to apologize for. Bad jokes not among them. That the media even covered this gaffe is pathetic.

How about a collective apology from civilians for not paying attention-- throughout the 1990's-- to what our military has been doing? Like implementing the majority of our post Cold War foreign policy, from building girls schools, to AIDs prevention to (horrors!) peacekeeping and peacebuilding around the world. How about an apology for not ever devising a truly new grand strategy when the Soviet Union fell apart? Now we have an Army that doesn't have enough down to Earth items like body armour or Farsi speakers but continues to be the organizational home for that space-weenie fantasy missile defense?

Only this year did the military put forward a new counter insurgency doctrine  Only last November, did the DoD come out with a directive  stating that stability support is as important as combat in today's missions.

BTW, an article that ran last week about the Army budget deserves major attention. Seems it has been muffled because of its lousy timing.(meaning elections) In short, Republican appointee, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England has given a figure for the Army budget that is $17.8 billion dollars short of the amount Army leaders say is required to execute its part of the current military strategy. Read the whole article here. . Progressives, check out the new organizations out there that are breaking down the notion of "strong" on defense. Look who gets the F grade  when defense issues focus on human resources.  And jump on this NOW.  The neo-cons are onto it. In his convenient revision of recent history, Joshua Muravchik  at AEI makes one important coherent point about the importance of human resources in the military. That we've focussed on technology at the expense of human beings.

A lame joke is so nothing compared to this strategic blindness. The Iraq war is a mess, yes. Afghanistan's woes a missed opportunity...but our current leadership has put our very military institution in peril.  Who is going to apologize for this?

Capitol Hill

"When Congress Checks Out"
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

My inbox is just full of goodies today...  I try very hard not to act as a pass-through for press releases, but I'm making an exception for this Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann article which is to appear in the next Foreign Affairs.  The red-and-blue political analyst duo make an extensive and thoughtful case for the assertion that

congressional oversight of the executive across a range of policies, but especially on foreign and national security policy, has virtually collapsed. The few exceptions, such as the tension-packed Senate hearings on the prison scandal at Abu Ghraib in 2004, only prove the rule.

(This appears, by the way, to be drawn from a broader book they've done on Congressional oversight.)  Interestingly, they trace the beginning of the decline to the GOP's re-taking of Congress in the 1990s.  Somewhat counter-intuitive.  It certainly felt to those of us inside the Clinton Administration that we were been foolishly but extensively overseen by Congress.  But I'll look forward to reading the whole thing -- and, more important, seeing how a closely-divided Senate opts to mend its ways starting in January...

How Can A Progressive Talk To An Islamist
Posted by Ali Eteraz

It is inevitable that the tyrants (and oligarchs) in the Muslim world -- Musharraf, Mubarak, the Hashemites, the Ayatollahs, Zine el Abidine of Tunisia -- will be toppled. In some places, the vacuum will be filled with another tyrant. Yet we have finally realized that the short-term and superficial stability that a tyrant provides is "chump-change" in the face of the dictators' horrifying human rights records, and of their ability to create a vast class of militant Muslim revolutionaries (who then rage against us).

In other words, progr