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March 07, 2013

Foreign Policy Bipartisanship is Not Dead UPDATED
Posted by David Shorr

BannerBipartisanship in foreign policy hasn't vanished entirely, though in the recent political climate it probably qualifies as exotic. Today the Project for a United and Strong America is releasing a proposed national security strategy from a bipartisan group of experts (including yours truly). Having done a couple of these accross-party-lines exercises  back in 2006-07, it was interesting to see how it goes after the change of administrations. So I'll start with a congratulatory shout-out to Kurt Volker, Ash Jain, and Jim Goldgeier for successfully leading us to consensus. 

Despite the continued high temperature of foreign policy debates, relations between Republican and Democratic experts have stayed pretty amicable. For some, this is a vice not a virtue -- symptom of an insular groupthink-prone Washington establishment. For the rest of you, let me offer thoughts to inform your reading of this "Setting Priorities for American Leadership" strategy report.

What I find most interesting in a document like this are the ways it differs from what we hear in the political battles over foreign policy. With apologies to Sherlock Holmes, I suggest you listen for the partisan attack dog that didn't bark. Readers of this blog know all too well what issues and perspectives have split the opposing political camps; the "Setting Priorities for American Leadership" national security strategy marks out their common ground. It's not as if the experts in this group forgot what the political fights have been about; the report represents what all of us were comfortable saying (though not every participant agreed with every...) 

For the moment, I want to hold off from getting into the substance. I'd like to wait until after people have started to read and react to the report. That said though, another participant who blogs over at Shadow Government, Dan Twining, has already offered a comment that begs a response. Here's the lede to Dan's post:

The Obama administration's minimalist foreign policy, animated by domestic political expediency and a cramped view of America's responsibilities to uphold the liberal international order from which it has benefited so richly, can lead observers to forget what a more traditionally engaged foreign policy even looks like. The new national security strategy developed by a bipartisan group under the aegis of the Project for a United and Strong America fills that gap.

Like I say, I wanted to wait and see what others gleaned from the document, but I guess Dan went the other way. For the record then, I do not believe this report can be read as any kind of rebuke or repudiation of Obama foreign policy. At the most, it may be interesting window into a nascent intra-party debate outlined recently by Tom Wright (to which I've already reacted).

On the other hand, I guess the report can be taken as a slam against the figment Obama Republicans are always talking about. But then with enough imagination, anything can be taken that way.  

UPDATED to reflect the project's separateness from the McCain Institute.

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