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December 15, 2006


1000+ Iraqi Troops Call For Withdrawal From Iraq
Posted by Ali Eteraz

It may not be Bush, the Senate, or the blogosphere, which decides if and when the troops come back from Iraq. It will be the thousands of twenty somethings out there fighting. 1000 and counting American troops, headed by a 29 year old Navy man, are calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

The Nation breaks the story about these American refuseniks: 

For the first time since Vietnam, an organized, robust movement of active-duty US military personnel has publicly surfaced to oppose a war in which they are serving. Those involved plan to petition Congress to withdraw American troops from Iraq. (Note: A complete version of this report will appear next week in the print and online editions of The Nation.) After appearing only seven weeks ago on the Internet, the Appeal for Redress, brainchild of 29-year-old Navy seaman Jonathan Hutto, has already been signed by nearly 1,000 US soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, including dozens of officers--most of whom are on active duty. Not since 1969, when some 1,300 active-duty military personnel signed an open letter in the New York Times opposing the war in Vietnam, has there been such a dramatic barometer of rising military dissent.

   Here are what some of the soldiers are saying: 

"Lisa"--20 years old, E-4, USAF, Stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii: I joined up two weeks after I turned 17 because I wanted to save American lives. I wanted to be a hero like any American child. I supported the war when I joined because I thought it was justified. Only after my own research and the truth coming out did I learn how wrong I was, how--for lack of a better word--how brainwashed I was. Now I know the war is illegal, unjustified and that our troops have no reason for being there. When I saw an article about the Appeal in the Air Force Times I went online right away and signed it and have encouraged others to do the same.

"Sgt. Gary"--21 years old. US Army. Deployed with 20th Infantry Regiment, near Mosul, Iraq: I joined up in 2001, still a junior in high school. I felt very patriotic at the end of my US History class. My idea of the Army was that you signed up, they gave you a rifle and you ran off into battle like in some 1950s war movie. The whole idea of boot camp never really entered my head. I supported the war in the beginning. I bought everything Bush said about how Saddam had WMDs, how he was working with Al Qaeda, how he was a threat to America. Of course, this all turned out to be false. This is my second tour, and as of a few days ago it's half-over. Before I deployed with my unit for the second time I already had feelings of not wanting to go. When in late September a buddy in my platoon died from a bullet in the head, I really took a long hard look at this war, this Administration, and the reasons why. After months of research on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that this war was based on lies and deception. I started to break free of all the propaganda that the Bush Administration and the Army puts out on a daily basis. So far in three years we have succeeded in toppling a dictator and replacing him with puppets. Outlawing the old government and its standing army and replacing them with an unreliable and poorly trained crew of paycheck collectors. The well is so poisoned by what we have done here that nothing can fix it.

So the troops want to leave. There won't be anyone to stop them from coming home. They didn't start the war; but they can end it. Looks like that's what they are doing. The fact that we no longer have a draft, though, cuts both ways when stuff like this happens. On one hand, in an all volunteer army -- like employment at will -- if you quit, its like you are resigning. When you volunteer, on the other hand, when you quit, there's nothing symbolic about it. You just quit your job. My sense is that questioning what the military is doing is more emphatic when civilians who have been drafted do it. I think these guys are really brave for standing up for what they believe in. However, they are likely just to get "fired." In that sense, the lack of a draft cuts both ways.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't say something about the Iraqis. When we leave, what will happen to them? Now that they are caught between a warlord of the Shia variety and warlords of the Sunni variety? Are we going to watch the Iraqis be crushed while we celebrate with those of our troops that have come home. What happens if post-departure Iraq becomes another Darfur. Will we intervene?

Originally posted @ Eteraz.Org

Iran's Velvet Revolution & Why Left Coverage of Iran is Better
Posted by Ali Eteraz

I look at a couple of case studies on the blogosphere/print media and try to discern who, the Right or Left, has the better coverage of Iranian democracy and dissent.

In the process I discover the existence of an Iranian Gandhi which is a must-explore-further.

Please go to Eteraz.Org

I also encourage all of you to register to become users since one of my goals is to create more links between the Islamo rank and file with the Left.


Evaluating Iraq Policy through Two Lenses
Posted by Jordan Tama

In debating Iraq policy, I'm struck that we often view Iraq through either a strategic or a humanitarian lens. The strategic lens centers our attention on how to pursue the goals of stabilizing the country, weakening Al Qaeda, minimizing Iranian and Syrian influence, and protecting other U.S. interests in the Middle East. The humanitarian lens brings into focus the huge human costs of our intervention in Iraq: the 2900 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis who've been killed, and the 2 million Iraqis who've become refugees.

Each of these lenses is very important. But the strategic lens tends to dominate discussions among foreign policy experts of how to proceed in Iraq, while the humanitarian lens usually frames the arguments of antiwar activists. In this post I'll attempt to evaluate some key Iraq policy choices through both lenses. (To simplify, I'll use the term “humanitarians” to refer to people using a humanitarian lens and the word “strategists” to describe people employing a strategic lens.)

I start with the premise that humanitarians share the general goal of minimizing the loss of life and other human costs of political violence. This goal can't tell us precisely what to do in Iraq, but, in combination with the strategic lens, it can help us rule out several choices and thereby narrow the range of options we should seriously consider:

1) Continue present policy. Since sectarian violence in Iraq is escalating under current U.S. policy, continuing that policy should clearly be unacceptable to strategists and humanitarians.

2) Adopt the "80% solution." Dick Cheney is reportedly advocating an 80% solution in which the U.S. would throw its support behind Iraqi Shiites and Kurds, enabling those groups to cement their dominance of Iraq. Strategists should reject this proposal because it would infuriate Sunnis throughout the Middle East, potentially doing long-term damage to our relationships with key Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Humanitarians should reject this morally reprehensible option because it would have America look the other way as Iraqi death squads slaughter Sunnis on a massive scale.

Continue reading "Evaluating Iraq Policy through Two Lenses" »

Progressive Strategy

Refusing to Accept "Reality"
Posted by Shadi Hamid

While I’ve been off-roading in the Emirates and relaxing on the gorgeous beaches of Sharm el-Sheikh, it appears that Ali, Marc, and Lorelei have been busy with something infinitely more useful but perhaps less fun – provoking a serious, fascinating debate on the future of liberal interventionism.

I’m late to the game, but let me say a few things. First of all, I’m not convinced, as Lorelei and Marc suggest, that there is anything approaching a broad consensus among progressives on foreign policy. There is a real, significant divide on crucial questions regarding the uses and abuses of American power, the role of idealism in foreign policy, and, yes, democracy promotion in the Middle East. Now, it may make sense in the interest of unity to de-emphasize these differences, but that doesn’t make them any less real. I’ve made similar points before here and here, so I'll leave it at that.

I think one of the most interesting "dividing lines" not only among those on the Left but between realists and anti-realists such as myself is how we perceive “facts on the ground.” Rachel Kleinfeld, co-founder of the Truman Project, wrote in comment #20 to Ali Eteraz’s original (flame-throwing) post that “belief should never trump facts on the ground.” Now, I know exactly what Rachel means by this and it’s an important thing to say after 6 years of an administration that doesn’t seem to have any grasp of reality.

However, if we take the statement literally, then I actually disagree with it. I think there are cases where belief should trump facts on the ground. And I think this is fundamentally what separates interventionists from anti-interventionists. Interventionists look at the way things are in, say, the Middle East, and say: dictatorship is not right and, therefore, we cannot and will not accept it. We cannot accept it (from a moral standpoint) because then we are complicit in a grave injustice. More importantly, accepting the “facts on the ground” in such a case would be a betrayal of the very essence of what it means to be American. This is not why our parents came to this country.

Quite often, when I bring up democracy promotion, people will say exactly what I expect them to say: “be realistic, Shadi.” Then they go on to explain in a very long-winded way why the Arabs are incapable of democracy or why Americans are incapable of promoting it. They say, “America has been supporting Arab dictatorships for the last 60 years. Why do you expect that to change now?” Or worse: “maybe democracy isn’t appropriate for the Arab context” (presumably because Arabs are somehow less deserving of the one thing that God has granted all men: the inalienable right to make their own decisions and to determine the course of their own destinies).

Continue reading "Refusing to Accept "Reality"" »


Truman Truce
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Okay, the Truman stuff is getting boring. This site is already way too wonky. It needs to stop. I'm copying here a letter I received from an individual who, I believe, represents a good way to restore balance.  I'm hoping that sharing it here can serve as a truce.
BTW, I'm just going to have a tiny rant:  We really have no "Left" in the USA. Although we should.  I have worked with an actual revolutionary Left.  They were not scary nor interested in making pipe bombs in the basement. They were decent people being shafted by their government. This was East Germany.  I've worked with the left of the Left here in the USA also, in the House of Representatives.  Never have I heard one of them say something anti-military, disloyal, or even "weak" on defending the USA.  They may let their rhetoric get blurred by idealism occasionally--but that's the worst of it.  And you know what?  THEY HAVE BEEN RIGHT. On the war, on our budget priorities, on climate change, on economic inequality, on long-term thinking, on individual freedom and citizen responsibility, on taking care of veterans, on taking care of our roads, bridges, ports (otherwise known as critical infrastructure).  I could go on and on....

Here's the letter...

Continue reading "Truman Truce" »

December 14, 2006

Progressive Strategy

Am I a Truman Democrat? Are You?
Posted by Marc Grinberg

As movements grow, they tend to be defined by friend and foe in ways that pervert reality.  I do not suggest that this is done with evil intent.  Individuals simply have an interest in describing ideologies as they want them to be, often obscuring what they actually are. 

In the past two years, as the Truman National Security Project developed and grew, it has all to often been the victim of such mischaracterization.  As Truman Project founder Rachel Kleinfeld argued in response to a post by Matt Yglesias in response to a post by Ali Eteraz, if you "want to understand what we are about, our own website and writings are the best place to look."  So let's go to find out what a Truman Democrat really is.

Truman Democrats believe in core universal liberal values: equality of opportunity, civil and human rights, the possibility of progress, the importance of a just society, etc.  But if all liberals share the same values/desired ends, then how does one liberal differ from another?  The answer is implementation.  In both domestic and foreign policy, disputes among liberals occur in the process of developing policies, that is, liberals disagree about how to best pursue their values/ends.  We see this in education policy, welfare policy and, obviously, foreign policy.

Truman Democrats differ from others in their understanding of processes of international relations and thus their assessment about how to best achieve liberal foreign policy goals.  To clarify what beliefs underly the Truman approach to national security, we look to the website and Truman Project writings:

Truman Democrats believe that the pursuit of American national interests (as defined by liberals - this means they include not just security and American material interests, but also our values and the well-being of all humans) requires, in no particular order:

  1. Active American involvement in the world, with all our tools of power
  2. The promotion of real liberal democracy
  3. Robust military and intelligence capabilities
  4. Strong alliances and active involvement in international organizations
  5. Legitimate international behavior
  6. Free trade
  7. International development
  8. Comprehensive policy coordination

Many of you will read this list and agree with each of these beliefs.  Then welcome, you are part of the Truman Democratic movement.  This doesn't mean that you necessarily share specific policy views with me or, say, Mike Signer (I sometimes disagree with him too).  Truman Democrats are not defined by policy positions - you will find Truman Democrats on all four sides of most current issues.  Instead, Truman Democrats are united by a set of beliefs that define a general approach to national security. 

It becomes clear, then, how Truman Democrats differ from the various conservative and alternate liberal approaches to foreign policy.  Neocons, for example, may agree with 3 and 6, but would disagree with our other beliefs.  Conservative realists may agree with 1 and 3, but would disagree with the rest.  Some liberals may agree with 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8, but disagree that America needs a robust military capability, that we should promote free trade and that America should at times intervene militarily.  If we understand the Truman approach this way, then it is clearly not neocon-lite.  It is distinctly liberal.

The foreign policy debates among liberals are real, but lets not pretend that there is a simple dichotomy between interventionists and isolationists.  The vast majority of our readers, I believe, agree with the foundational beliefs of Truman Democrats.  I would even venture a guess that most Democratic Members of Congress (from the Progressive Caucus to the Blue Dogs) agree with the Truman Democratic approach.   Of course we don't all agree on policy.  Some of the hottest debates today are among Truman Democrats - between Brian Katulis, Ken Pollack and Les Gelb on Iraq; between Wendy Sherman and Bill Perry on North Korea.  But we are united on how we broadly approach national security.  And as we enter 2007 in the majority, this is good news.

December 13, 2006

Capitol Hill

Congress: the Progressive List
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Here is the post from last week that I skipped because technology failed me while I was in New Orleans:  But first my weekly rant:

This article at Oneworld  makes the depressing case that the Dems will not change much on defense--that their ideological clinginess will keep those monster Cold War weapons programs in the budget.  Has anybody else noticed the over the top  Lockheed Martin, "We Never Forget Who We Work For" ads lately?  I can almost see the slobber on my TV set after they play.

One more thing and I'll hush.  I was at an event last week that included a Defense Department speaker who was asked about the future of the military in peace and stabilization type missions (the implication being that today's military is lacking and or not really interested).  He said that we need to "incentivize" these new missions so the defense industry would be interested.  Um.  WHAT?!!!!  How about telling these corporations--who live on the taxpayer's dime--to do what you tell them to do?  hmmmm...civilian oversight. What a concept.  Keep in mind, World War II was won and the Air Force was created through a helpful partneship between industry and government.  Where is that corporate patriotism today? Skiing in Aspen, I suppose.  Or maybe clipping the topiary on the Fairfax County farmette.  You can bet its somewhere they can forget who they are working for.

Okay, back to my post. We need to continue to make the case that last month's election were a progressive victory. My fellow political junkie Darcy Scott Martin  recently sent me a list of victorious candidates categorized by progressive potential. I'm going to be keeping an eye on these folks and hopefully finding an angle on their national security (I'm not kidding about the wiki ) platforms. Will they be new strong voices or, will they take the path of least resistance and stay away from the issue? Approximately a third of the newly elected members coming in are full fledged progressives.  They are:


Continue reading "Congress: the Progressive List" »


Bits from Army and Congress
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Here are the new Democratic Members of the Armed Services Committee in the House of

Congresswoman-elect Nancy Boyda of Kansas Congressman-elect Joe Courtney of Connecticut Congressman-elect Brad Ellsworth of Indiana Congresswoman-elect Gabby Giffords of Arizona Congresswoman-elect Kirsten Gillibrand of New York Congressman-elect Hank Johnson of Georgia Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania Congressman-elect Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania

I am working with a couple of techie friends to set up a wiki   for me and readers to collaboratively work on individual national security profiles of new Members of Congress, particularly the progressives.  Having detailed background information on Members' interests may well help create a more effective political constituency for those of us seeking changed priorities and a better strategic concept (It can't be too hard to beat pre-emptive war, after all).

Speaking of change, I received a nice list of websites from the Army War College this week. They've started an email notice list to create a better network for those who care about about Stability, Security, Transformation, Reconstruction and Peace Operations  (hold your breath for the acronym)   SSTR&PO. Write me off site if you'd like more info on how to get on this list.

Continue reading "Bits from Army and Congress" »

December 12, 2006


MORE Troops for Iraq?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

After I wrote last night's post about foreign policy events that could knock Washington flat between now and '08, I lay awake thinking of additional unpleasant possibilities.  A Lebanon-1982 style attack on US forces.  Taiwan.  Pakistan.  Saudi Arabia.

But I didn't think of the one Kevin Drum says Fox News is reporting -- that, after finding some experts who don't like the Iraq Study Group conclusions, the President is now leaning toward sending more troops to Iraq.

I hope this is wrong, or a trial balloon that can be stopped.  I'm straining to avoid rhetorical excess, but I see such a move as bad for Iraq, bad for the Middle East, bad for US power, and US influence, and US values, and the US military, and the US way of life.  And bad for the contract between American citizens and their government.

Karl Marx, wrong again.  The first time, tragedy with overblown dominoes.  The second time, tragedy with significant potential to go on causing tragedy for decades?

Progressive Strategy

Left Realists or Exemplarism?
Posted by Ali Eteraz

Any language that contains the name "Truman" sends shivers down progressive spines. I don't necessarily blame them. While I think the six principles (American exceptionalism, the use of force, American hegemony, the world community, liberal-mindedness, and helping the least well of), if used in a balancing test, are a meaningful way of conducting foreign policy, and far more effective than any cooperation-first method, I don't think it really matters if you take the "Truman" out of there (sorry Rachel).

In his now oft-cited piece, Shadi suggested that the term to employ was Exemplarism. I think it is a wonderful term. I have nothing metaphysical against it. I just think we can do better.

I remember when I read that piece by Shadi, one particular line (among many) made me think. It was this:

In many ways, what is being offered is a middle way between a more narrow realism and the missionary (some would say messianic) activism of neoconservatism. This alternative attempts to reclaim the democratic idealism of the neoconservative movement while wedding it to a more multilateral framework that recognizes the importance of alliances and international institutions.

I remember thinking: isn't "narrow" realism really just conservative isolationism a la Buchanan? And isn't "missionary activism" really just hyper-idealism? I remember thinking: doesn't that just make Shadi a realist? That is what I, a guest blogger, finds so hopeful at the Security and Peace Initiative: a group of people whose domestic policies are egalitarian and civil libertarian and whose foreign policy is realist but not trigger happy.  It makes me want to call myself a Left Realist.

Problem is, when we use the term "Realist" people inevitably think this is a code word for Neo-Con. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, it is precisely because Neo-Cons are not Realists that when they claim to be so the results are so absurd and laughable. I recently read a piece by Fouad Ajami where he makes this argument:

It was not naive idealism, it should be recalled, that gave birth to Bush's diplomacy of freedom. That diplomacy issued out of a reading of the Arab-Muslim political condition and of America's vulnerability to the disorder of Arab politics. The ruling regimes in the region had displaced their troubles onto America; their stability had come at America's expense, as the scapegoating and the anti-Americanism had poisoned Arab political life. Iraq and the struggle for a decent polity in it had been America's way of trying to extirpate these Arab troubles. The American project in Iraq has been unimaginably difficult, its heartbreak a grim daily affair. But the impulse that gave rise to the war was shrewd and justified.

Really? This is news to me! If Iraq was a way to assure that the Arab world would stop unleasjing its discontent upon the world i.e. terrorists, then why was it Iraq that was chosen? Why not Saudi Arabia, UAE, even Pakistan? Hell, Osama's entire pre 9/11 MO was his hatred of the Saudi regime. No, Ajami is wrong and he is misconstruing the Neo-Con position just to fit under the Realist banner. It was the Realists from the Left who said that by broadening  the conflict to a post dictatorial Iraq you would create the space for more terrorists; a Babylonian Belt of cviolence filled with mercenaries more violent than the Hessians and Barbar coast pirates. The Realists from the Left turned out to be right. It wasn't because they are from the Left that made them such astute readers of the situation.  It is because they were Realists.

Today, those Realists are saying that we must begin to create democratic institutions in the Middle East (peacefully) no matter what our current state of mind with respect to promoting democracy. We must begin to talk to the Islamists and see if we can turn them democratic. Hint, they are already there: read their principles.

Today, those Realists are saying that we cannot just leave Iraq at the drop of a dime because a human catastrophe might occur. It might not, but we, as members of the International Left, do not roll dice with Life. Our concern for the individual, and our humanitarianism, is what sets us apart from others.

This is Left Realism: taking to task those that erred; but not forgetting to set things aright. A commentator said that the best we can do is return to the pre 9/11 world. You know what? If that is the first step to  undoing what Bush has wrought then sign me up.

December 11, 2006


8 Events That Could Change Everything
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

A few days ago, Suzanne postulated a number of possible outcomes for Iraq.  I’ve been thinking about the other events – outside Iraq and its immediate neighbors – that could and probably will come along to challenge our hamstrung foreign policy capacity in the next two years.  I think the chances of one or more of these happening are excellent – and readers will no doubt have their own candidates.  As my mother likes to say, “life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”  Progressives need to think about how we'd deal -- and how we'd want to help the country deal -- with any and all of the following:

1.  Castro dies.  Wheeeee.  Miami goes nuts.  Presidential candidates from both parties face ugly dilemmas with respect to Florida and New Jersey votes.  One wing of the Administration wants to “offer assistance” with lessons learned from Iraq.  It isn’t pretty.

2.  Lebanon blows up.  More than a year ago, someone wrote that Lebanon was a dozen assassinations away from civil war.  Umm, are we there yet? 

3.  Nigeria blows up.  If you like something more esoteric, Chavez takes Venezuela’s oil off the market – or, a really scary one, the Saudi government goes under.  We’re talking a development that is bad in its own right, bad for stability in the region concerned, challenging for perceptions of the US and traumatic to the oil market.  Oil heads toward that magic $100 a barrel, and world markets and polities alike freak out.

Continue reading "8 Events That Could Change Everything" »

Progressive Strategy

Truman Democrat II
Posted by Ali Eteraz

See update I below.

There has been a lot of feedback to my inquiry whether Truman Democrats could become a movement. In the comments. By Mathew Yglesias. And a snark by Atrios who has labeled me among the "silly" people.

The majority of the replies have argued that my dichotomy between "Isolationist Leftist" and "Truman Democrat" is false. They prefer to be referred to as "anti-interventionists." Their assumption is that since the word "anti-intervention" is not as insular sounding as "isolationist" they can't be accused of being self-obsessed Americans. This is an altogether meaningless game of semantics. Why? Because there is no such thing as a pure anti-interventionist. Even Kossacks have a favorite intervention: Darfur (these are the 432,00 results when you type "Darfur Daily Kos" into Google). So, very quickly it is established that in this global world, every American is an interventionist. (By the way, what exactly is "interventionism" anyway? Is foreign aid a form of interventionism? In that case we've been "intervening" in Israel since '67 and in Egypt since '79 both as Republicans and as Democrats). So those who don't want to be called Isolationist need to come up with a better term for themselves than "anti-interventionist."

Second, Yglesias'  reply and the Atrios snark are predicated on their antagonism towards "hegemony." (In my post I stated that American hegemony was principle # 3 of a Truman Democrat). But hegemony, by itself, is not bad. It is what is done with hegemony that matters. This is the most significant point at which Truman Democrats differ from the Neo-Cons that the ultra-Left wants to paint them out to be. Neo-Conservative hegemony was rooted in the idea that the first step in "improving" relationships with the the third world was to use military means to depose its dictators (which we ironically previous supported), and simply wait for those third world savages to run around in backbending thanks for being "liberated." Neo-Cons thought that once you put a good licking on a country (Japan 1945) that country's population did what you wanted them to do. Truman Democrats differ from this. It is disingenous for the ultra-Left (which is what I'm calling them since they don't like Isolationist and aren't anti-interventionist) to characterize a Truman Democrat in this manner as they do when they use the word "hegemony" as an epithet (or as Yglesias does when he reduces my entire post to "Democratic Hegemonists").

Now, to his credit, after Yglesias reduces a Truman Democrat to a "hegemonist" and concludes that the ultra Left is not Isolationist either, he offers a third way out: he calls it Liberalism.

The alternative to hegemonism and isolationism is, well, liberalism a policy of global engagement based on the attempt to create and sustain a liberal world order. To take a specific example, for the United States to join the International Criminal Court would be neither an isolationist policy nor a hegemonic one, but rather a liberal policy in which we submit to an egalitarian framework of rules and cooperate with others in the effort the enforce those rules. Generally speaking, the concept of cooperation is what's missing from the "Trumanite" world-view.

Ok, but I have no idea what a "liberal world order" means, especially since the rallying cry of the hawks since 2001 has been that they are out to create a liberal world order. Besides, isn't talking in terms of "world orders" so Condi Rice circa 2005? Any suggestions on how to wrest "liberal" back from the hawks? If I am not mistaken, it was precisely because the hawks were so firmly in control of the word that the term "progressive" became so popular. Yglesias thinks that it is sufficiently clarifying to say that one is a liberal when one joins the International Criminal Court since that kind of stuff demonstrates the sort of "cooperation" he believes is missing from the Truman Democrat worldview. Well, if that's the case, then Yglesias is a Truman Democrat because it just so happens that the Truman Democrats are backed by such people as Anne-Marie Slaughter, who is one of the foremost proponents of an internationalist legal regime. Not only that, but her recent work has involved talking about "soft-law" (the kind of legal relations between judges and lawyers from various first and third world countries which help promote, oh, what was that, oh yes: cooperation. (In fact, my 6 part definition of what is a Truman Democrat comes from her definition). So either Truman Democrats are liberals, or the self-styled left liberals are Truman Democrats. Point is: the ultra-Left needs to take a breather each time they see the word "exceptionalism" and "hegemony" because they will often find that not everyone is out to use these principles in a way that Bush used them in Iraq.

Truman Democrats do, however, believe in the use of force, and that is, to me, where the crux of the matter lies. I think the rank and file in the American Left today are very wary of any foreign policy position which takes the use of force as a given -- this is due to Iraq. This is understandable. However, Truman Democrats have to honestly say that the use of force that they would engage in would be a) circumscribed by international norms, b) in line with American tradition pre-Bush's pre-emptive war ideology and c) in line with Western natural law theory. What Truman Democrats are very clear about is that even if a, b, and c are satisfied, the use of force may still be necessary. It may, for example, be necessary to put gunships in Iran's mouth if it makes a strategic bid to cut off the Persian Gulf. Just as, it would be (and is) necessary, to send troops to Darfur. Power is a fact. If our foreign policy presumptively discounts the use of power politics, we will be outstripped by the illiberal Chinese and the protectionist Europeans.

With respect to the Middle East, Truman Democrats are driven by the idea that building institutions in the Middle East, with a diplomatic and hardheaded push for democracy, an activist engagement in the human rights regimes, and a resolution to the issue of Israel are of utmost importance to our American security (since it is accepted that the absence of freedom creates the conditions for fanaticism and terrorism).

With respect to Iraq, for the most part, Truman Democrats are of the opinion that what was a war that we didn't support, and was a war that exceeded acceptable human rights norms, has, due to our -- American -- hubris, now set the stage for a potential human catastrophe if we withdraw without giving the Iraqi government adequate tools to fend for itself. I fail to understand why the ultra-Left would not support a strategic presence in Iraq for the simple reason that the alternative is a human catastrophe potentially like Darfur (except with suicide bombers instead of machete-men). Truman Democrats want to create the conditions -- by using resources and man power -- to help create civil society. Ultra-Left/Isolationists/Cooperationists/Left-Liberals think that if you leave people alone, they can do these things on their own. It is true, people can. But they can do these things faster when they have backing. Neo-Cons wanted to back them with guns. The ultra-Left wants to back them with spirit. Truman Democrats want to back them with resources. 

Leadership often requires fixing the errors of our predecessors. The War in Iraq was an erroneous war, and to make matters worse, the predecessors were not ones we chose. But the fact is, with the Left in charge of the House and the Senate, it has to exhibit the leadership qualities which ameliorate the errors of the predecessors. And it has to do so by working with the people available to it in the real world, not the people it imagines could exist once everyone else got their house in order. It is for this reason that projects like Eteraz and Conflicts Forum get political importance by Truman Democrats but get only symbolic importance ("good for dialogue") by the ultra-Left.

Update I: Some thoughts on why I concur that dropping Truman is wise and Left Realism is better.

December 10, 2006


Iraq: Damage Control
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

After five days of ruminations and commentary, the prevailing feeling on the Iraq Study Group seems to be one of disappointment and a renewed sense of despair that the hoped-for silver bullet bipartisan solution failed to materialize.

The dashed expectations are twofold: 1) first off, as I lay out here and many others have also written, some of the report's most important recommendations seem flat-out unrealistic, less because they're wrong in theory than because the moment to try to implement them is long-past; 2) with the Bush Administration having swiftly made clear that much of the advice went straight to the cutting-room floor, the parts of the Report that stand a chance of being acted on do not, in themselves, constitute a solution to the crisis or anything close.

The Commission ended up addressing itself to conditions that prevailed a year or two ago rather than the much worse and more confined set of options that are truly viable today. Frank Rich is articulate on this point.

Moving forward, focus should shift to damage control. This requires honing in on the ways in which the situation in and around Iraq can get worse from the perspective of US interests, and taking action to try to prevent those outcomes from happening. While Republicans in Congress are still talking to one another about "victory," the American people stopped listening and believing long ago and now deserve more honest rhetoric and a more realistic strategy.

I can think of six ways in which the situation in Iraq could worsen dramatically (some of this builds on a talk Mort Halperin gave at the Century Foundation last week). Figuring out what to do about each one is trickier, particularly as various preventive steps may conflict with one another. But here's a shot at the 6 worst things that could happen and how to prevent each:

Continue reading "Iraq: Damage Control" »

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