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October 16, 2007

How to read Foreign Affairs
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

When I read the Foreign Affairs candidate pieces, I'm looking less for the canned paragraphs on the designated HOT ISSUES.  Anybody can hire staff to write those.

What I want is evidence of an overall worldview, a moral sense, and an understanding of how specific issues big and small fit in.  And the Clinton piece scores big on all fronts.

By and large you won't read about those three larger points unless you read the article yourself, allow me to recap:

Overall worldview:  ... opportunity cannot flourish without basic security.  We must build a world in which security and opportunity go hand in hand, a world that will be safer, more prosperous and more just.

To meet these challenges, we will have to replenish American power by getting out of Iraq, rebuilding our military, and developing a much broader arsenal of tools in the fight against terrorism.  We must learn once again to draw on all aspects of American power, to inspire and attract as much as to coerce.  We must return to a pragmatic willingness to look at the facts on the ground and make decisions based on evidence rather than ideology.

Values  The piece makes the explicit point about our values being part of our appeal, and the need for us to get back to them; but then there are what I would call values or ethical issues woven through every segment, including the classic power politics ones focusing on Iraq, terrorism, etc.  This is a good job of getting beyond paying lip service to values and actually integrating them into pragmatic discussions of issues.  The "establishment" will probably either wince or ignore it.

I'm selecting a few examples of that -- elements you won't read coverage of -- below...

As we counsel liberty and justice for all, we cannot support torture and the indefinite detention of individuals we have declared to be beyond the law.

I will focus U.S. aid on helping Iraqis, not propping up the Iraqi government.

(big kudos for stepping away from the politically-popular idea that we can just cut off aid...)

Whether or not the United State makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent U.S. involvement (in the Middle East peace process) can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region.

(I used to think this was too obvious to need repeating, but not any more)

The Russia and China sections are too long to reproduce here (I'm typing one-handed today) but worth looking at for how they balance geopolitical and human rights concerns.  Don't you miss leaders intelligent enough to admit there's a tradeoff and talk about how best to balance it?

And my personal sneaky favorite...

We can strengthen the International Labor Organization in order to enforce labor standards, just as we strengthened the World Trade ORganization to enforce trade agreements.


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Have to disagree. I genuinely think there is nothing of real substance in any of these Foreign Affairs pieces. I'd argue that the best way to figure out how to judge these folks's foreign policy is by checking out who their advisors are. For example, Josh Marshall's piece about Rudy will tell you much more about him then any article in Foreign Affairs.

we will have to replenish American power by getting out of Iraq...

How does this square with the fact that, in the MSNBC debate, she basically said "no" when she was asked if she could commit to a total withdrawal from Iraq by 2013?

Values? I think we learned all we need to know about HRC's sense of American values in October 2002. I've heard nothing since then that suggests she's changed.