Democracy Arsenal

« PPI vs. Kos? | Main | Don't Let the Door Hit You . . . »

August 13, 2007

On Shadi, "them,"us," and the "Foreign Policy Community"
Posted by Moira Whelan

Apologies, up front Shadi, for using your piece as a bounding off point, but it got me fired up. From beginning to end, I have many problems with Shadi's last post. I am however, avoiding the DLC-Kos Sunday Show Strawman for now and stick to my ballywick.

 My problem is that Shadi distinguishes himself from the progressive blogosphere and then associates himself with the DLC, while at the same time drawing yet a different line to sound national security ideas as being the independent unifier of both. In other words, national security issues are outside of partisan politics. Shadi's distinction is hardly  unusual, but it is problematic.

Everyone should be stewards of sound national security policy. Pointing out bad policy is everyone's responsibility. (Imply criticisms of those who don't here.) The O'Hanlon/Pollack issue illuminated and many have done a great job digging into the problem we all need to confront. The "Foreign Policy Community" should not be something different and escape accountability or responsibility for Iraq or anything else. The fact is that unlike what some foreign policy specialists would like to believe, these issues have long been partisan because those in charge of the final execution of policy are always partisan.

Sitting back and expecting that everyone will walk towards the light that is the sound foreign policy as presented by whoever is writing the piece, simply ignores the political realities that exist. Ignoring political realities that exist in other countries is considered irresponsible in foreign policy wonk circles. (Take, for example, the arguments used against the administration ignoring political realities in Iraq.) Ignoring it here is standard fare.

  More after the jump--

So criticizing others for engaging in strawmen debate about politics may be valid, but it ignores the fact that it goes on every day in the field those of us on this blog spend the most time exploring. The line between "foreign policy" and "politics" exists only in the minds of some in the Foreign Policy Community. That community (mostly self-selected and based loosely on affiliation with the Council on Foreign Relations) could not be larger than a few thousand throughout the country. Most are smarter than I, and have taught me a great deal over the years. I'm sure others would love to engage in some of the hallway conversations I've been privileged enough to have. I have learned some, although less, in the structured panel lectures I have been to over the years. I don't like to just listen. I like to learn and engage. Wonks, sometimes for selfish reasons of self promotion, other times for fear of exploitation of their ideas, avoid these more personal conversations with non-wonks, and have a tendency to deem "activists," "bloggers," and even "voters" as uniformed. Nothing could be further from the truth...but I'd rather wonks discover this for themselves than lecture them on this reality.

Back to partisan politics for a moment and the idea that foreign policy sits outside the system. Perhaps that's the desire, and what traditional "levels of analysis" concepts tell us. But the fact is, foreign policy has been used and exploited by the very people responsible for implementing the policies of this country for political gain. The goal of those in professional national security positions is to acknowledge and confront those realities while balancing the outward security imperatives of the nation. Let’s look at the situation currently:

On the conservative side, national security is part of the primary dialogue. "War on Terror" and all that goes with it is spouted by conservative leaders with "national security" credentials that range from preacher to exterminator...ideologues have substituted dialogue, and look where that has gotten us. This is not an environment in which national security specialists can prosper. This does not foster the best ideas, if it fosters any.

On the progressive side, those in the Foreign Policy Community often lament how "they" --meaning the progressive masses--don't get it. Well newsflash: "they" do get it. Those that didn't cut their professional teeth on these issues have done tremendous work in recent years to get educated by reading what a lot of wonks have written. Even those that didn't are entitled to an opinion and a legitimate airing of their ideas. Just think of how smart we'd be if wonks would actually TALK to individual activists who've turned themselves into amateur "scholars." Just think about how smart the wonks would be if they were challenged with these non-traditional approaches. The doors are wide open for us all to be one big happy family, so long as mutual intellectual respect is present. No one gets put on a pedestal in this community, as it should be.

National security issues are part of the progressive dialogue. The problem is that leaders of the Foreign Policy Community aren't often participating, and should. 

I personally will have on-going beef with anyone that wants to pretend this is a non-issue and "progressives" should just listen and learn to their outstanding leaders. It's not only that this is contrary to progressive values; it is contrary to American values as well. The Foreign Policy Community should not think that this is a passing critique that will soon die down. Blogs are not a passing fancy and let’s face it; progressives built this country so we're not going anywhere. There is a movement in this country and it's amazing and exciting. Get on board and be part of it, and lead to the degree that merit and engagement entitles one to lead. It has everything wonks love--tough decisions, hard work, unity of effort, vigorous debate, loads of reading and all the rest.

For those that have taken the step and want to engage, the "us" and "them" stuff has got to stop. Subcultures exist everywhere, and it just so happens the Foreign Policy Community works to have tremendous influence on leaders and is therefore interested in staying as small of a subculture as possible. Separation and avoiding accountability simply aren't going to work (think about a microcosm of the traditional globalization arguments made by free traders and apply here).Responsibility to a community is where the payoff can be found. Interdependence not unitary action. Take advantage and learn from the vocal progressive leaders, and who is blogging. You will find out that above all else, they know how to get things done. You will also find out that the "uninformed" argument is simply wrong. Frankly, I know more people who consider themselves "progressives," than those who consider themselves "scholars," who have the merits, professional background, relationships with foreign leaders, and expertise to get published in Foreign Affairs. The difference is that they want to talk to

America

, not to a few thousand self-designated leaders...why? Because that is their responsibility as stewards of sound foreign policy.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451c04d69e200e3982756048833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference On Shadi, "them,"us," and the "Foreign Policy Community":

Comments

Harold Ford on Meet The Press, August 12, 2007:
"... And the reality is, in national elections, I believe to win you have to cross three hurdles. First, you have to demonstrate your strength and trustworthiness on national security. You have to demonstrate that your values are squarely in the mainstream of America. And, three, you have to demonstrate as a Democrat that you can be trusted on taxes, economic and fiscal policy."
When the hell do Democrats stop spouting Republican talking points? For God's sake we have to push back relentlessy on these apparently generally accepted lies. Democrats are not trustworthy on national security, taxes and economic and fical policy? Since when? How can that go unremarked upon in the face of the Republicans' vandilizing of this nation's military, it's constitution and it's social fabric?

s"

Thank you. Especially to my liking was the following:

On the progressive side, those in the Foreign Policy Community often lament how "they" --meaning the progressive masses--don't get it. Well newsflash: "they" do get it. Those that didn't cut their professional teeth on these issues have done tremendous work in recent years to get educated by reading what a lot of wonks have written. Even those that didn't are entitled to an opinion and a legitimate airing of their ideas.

No kidding. Isn't the whole idea in a democracy, that we don't have an aristocracy of enlightened betters who make decisions for us plebes? That's the way it feels often, when it comes to foreign policy debates.

I also liked:

"I personally will have on-going beef with anyone that wants to pretend this is a non-issue and "progressives" should just listen and learn to their outstanding leaders. It's not only that this is contrary to progressive values; it is contrary to American values as well. The Foreign Policy Community should not think that this is a passing critique that will soon die down. Blogs are not a passing fancy and let’s face it; progressives built this country so we're not going anywhere."

The only thing that you left out was how much the professional Foreign Policy Community (or Very Serious People) has gotten wrong in the past 6 years. But kudos to you.

I think your observations go a long way toward explaining why no one is paying attention to any of this:

www.asecondlookatthesaudis.com

A little too straight-forward for those Very Serious People.

Why can't we all just get along?

Bailiwick, and comma before a dircet adress. Nitpicking, but still...

"On the conservative side, national security is part of the primary dialogue. "War on Terror" and all that goes with it is spouted by conservative leaders with "national security" credentials that range from preacher to exterminator...ideologues have substituted dialogue, and look where that has gotten us. This is not an environment in which national security specialists can prosper. This does not foster the best ideas, if it fosters any."

While I would like to support much of your post, and think it is a positive step, there are still huge issues in framing and stepping away from the Conventional Wisdom. On the "conservative side" they don't give a shit about national security, or we would have properly secured our ports, chemical and power plants, etc. The above quoted material obfuscates that reality. All the right wingers have been doing is the equivalent of yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theater. They have no ideas, and they don;t plan on getting any (except for the neocon looney tunes). I have no idea what you mean by suggesting they have fostered "dialogue", unless the Faux News shout fests fit your defintion of that word.

Anyway, thanks for trying to build at least a rope ladder between the "foreign policy community" and those of us that live in the real world. You guys should visit some time.

Wow, I have to say that I am shocked to see that there is at least one non-buffoon posting here.

Thank you for the effort, and my condolences to you for having to deal with such breathtaking jackassery here after we have all moved on to sites that we actually like.

If the world looks at bloggers as uniformed, there's no reason to think they don't support the troops...
...I think you meant "uninformed."

:-D

Moira
Nicely done. "everyone should be stewards of sound national security policy."
Now if we could only decide what that is to be. And stop with the "sexing up" of intelligence to fit pre-determined policies.
It seems to me we're already setting up Chavez in much the same way we did Saddam. The right wingers already believe he's somehow a threat to us.

How can you even discuss the concept of non-partisan foreign policy when one side repeats, over and over, that only they have the balls to run a real foreign policy while the other side is full of America-hating traitors who want our enemies to win?

Since the 1950s, the Republicans have been using foreign policy as a political bludgeon. So why is it the Democrats who always seem to be on the receiving end of the criticism when well-meaning, hand-wringing experts worry about politicizing foreign policy?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Emeritus Contributors
Subscribe
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Email: 
Powered by TypePad

Disclaimer

The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use