Democracy Arsenal

May 15, 2005

Progressive Strategy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Weekly Top 10 List – Top 10 Questions Progressives Should be Prepared to Answer
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Last week on Dan Drezner’s blog I posed a series of questions to conservatives and got an avalanche of answers, some snarky but many substantive and thoughtful.  I am planning to eventually return to all those issues, although doing so seriatum was getting a little tedious.

I promised the Dreznerites I would post a companion set of tough questions for progressives to try and answer. Since Dan’s respondents complained about the loaded phrasing of some of my queries, I am going to try to prove I can take about as much as I dish out. I’ll try to get to answers later this week (and, yes, I do think we have answers to all of these - although some are better thought-out and more persuasive than others), and urge my co-blogganists to chime in as well if they care to. Also curious as ever to hear what the commentariat has to say.

  1. The Middle East: Isn’t it the case that had a progressive been in the White House, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, with the Middle East as stagnant as ever? Do you now admit that the only way to get the region moving was to dislodge a major dictator and launch at least one important country on the route to transformation? How else would you have gotten change afoot?

  1. The UN: Do you honestly believe that an organization as bureaucratic, nepotistic, fractured and politicized as the UN will ever be a trustworthy foreign policy instrument? Your reform prescriptions do not address the fundamental problem of uneven political will to confront key challenges; until that is addressed, isn’t the UN doomed to be a talkshop or worse?

  1. Non-Proliferation: What would you really do differently on non-proliferation? Your criticisms center on process more than substance, and its not clear that Bill Clinton’s policies were any more effective than Bush’s. Do you really believe treaties are the answer, and that verification can protect us against dangerous cheaters? You keep saying non-pro's a top priority for you, but how exactly – in a broad sense – would your approach depart from that of the Bush Administration?

  1. Democratization: You go on and on about how democracy cannot be forced on other countries.  Does the promotion of democracy belong as a U.S. foreign policy priority and, if so, what's your strategy for getting it done?  Will you do anything beyond lending a helping hand to dissidents and NGOs and hoping for the best?  Don't fledgling democrats expect more from the U.S.; what are you prepared to deliver?  Or have you now decided that democratization is the province of conservatives?

  1. Anti-Americanism. How can we be sure you won’t sacrifice American interests out of an urge to be better liked around the world? Don’t you realize that a certain level of resentment against the world’s largest superpower is inevitable? Don’t you see some risk in country’s taking advantage of the U.S. if they believe we are preoccupied with winning other countries’ approval?

  1. Overextended Military. If you’re so attuned to the stressed placed on the military and the frustrations that members of the armed forces feel with the current leadership and approach, then how come more servicemembers don’t vote your way? Don’t you realize that all your concern over the need for diplomacy and getting others on board makes the military (and many other citizens) afraid that you won’t be willing to fight back against terrorists and others who threaten us?

  1. Hypocrisy. You’re constantly accusing conservatives of failing to match rhetoric with resources when it comes to programs like the Millennium Challenge Account, and of being “hypocritical” in cooperating on terrorism with regimes like Sudan and Saudi Arabia’s, despite their egregious human rights records. Don’t you realize that foreign policy demands tough trade-offs? What makes you say progressives will do a better or more principled job managing the inevitable contradictions?

  1. International Law. When push comes to shove, who would you rather have as the arbiter of what’s considered “legal” in international relations – some tribunal, court, or multi-national forum, or the U.S. government? Doesn’t it worry you to vest more and more power in bodies over which the U.S. has no control, and that – while they may have a great many perfectly respectable members – also include countries that are single-mindedly out to get us? I understand why smaller countries want stronger international legal regimes and multilateral organizations (in significant part to hem us in), but isn't the calculus different for the U.S.?

  1. Use of Force. Under what circumstances do you think the U.S. is justified using military power without UN imprimatur? Is it only in self-defense? Only when one of the UN Security Council members has what we judge to be a self-interested reason for trying to block what we propose? Is the fact that the rest of the world “just doesn’t get it” enough of a justification for us to act alone? If not, what do we do when others simply refuse to recognize what we view as a real threat?

  1. Derek’s point. What’s your agenda? You’re full of criticism and have had a field day with John Bolton, but I haven’t heard many ideas coming from your quarter. If you had to draw up a foreign policy “contract” to offer the American people, what would be in it?

May 08, 2005

UN, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Weekly Top 10 List: Top 10 Things the UN Does Well
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

This will take a look at the top 10 things the U.S. does well or, in a few cases, not quite "well" but at least better than any other organization out there.  The approach of D-Day on John Bolton makes this as good a time as any to remind ourselves why the UN matters and some of the ways that we count on it.

1. Food Aid. This is an easy one.  The UN's World Food Programme is among the most effective multilateral bodies bar none.  They feed 104 million people a year in 80 countries.    They feed people in war zones, natural disaster situations, health emergencies, and just plain poor countries.   They've also got brilliant and creative people like Richard Wilcox and Tony Banbury (both former colleagues) on staff who are constantly trying to up the organization's game, Richard by building a futures market for natural disasters and Banbury by making sure the world delivers on its promise to tsunami victims.

2. Aid to Refugees. Also easy, because the UN High Commissioner on Refugees is another star in the UN galaxy.  There were 17 million asylum-seekers, refugees and the like in 2004 who got help from UNHCR.  They both help refugees directly and work to ensure that governments meet their responsibilities to these displacees.  The organization got one of its first ever major bouts of bad press in February because of allegations of sexual harassment against its head, Ruud Lubbers, a former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who was forced to resign.  But nothing Lubbers did undercuts the efficacy or value of UNHCR's work.   

3. Protecting Children. Although I still remember the days of holding back my pennies from their contribution boxes on Halloween because the organization was thought to be one-sidedly pro-Palestinian, UNICEF has built a reputation as an advocacy and service powerhouse, with programs ranging from immunizations to AIDS prevention to education and protection against exploitation.

4. Peacekeeping. The UN has 16 active peacekeeping missions right now, in places like Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Lebanon, Liberia and Burundi.  Make no mistake:  in most of those places if the UN weren't there, no one else but the marauders would be and the peace or relative peace being kept would have disintegrated long ago.  The history of UN peacekeeping is checkered for at least 2 reasons:  a) vague mandates and inadequate resources decreed by the countries on the UN Security Council and b) poor planning, management and capabilities.  On the latter front (the only front which the UN qua UN can do anything about), the organization has made real progress based on a 2000 reform report.  While holes still exist, a most-improved-player award is in order here.

5. Intervenor of Last Resort. In peacekeeping but also more broadly, the UN gets involved in messes when noone else will.   The meltdowns in Congo and Liberia are prime examples.  When the U.S. and Europe have no interest in getting involved, and there's no regional player with the will and capabilities, the choice is often letting slaughter and mayhem continue untrammeled, or throwing the problem to the UN.   The UN deserves credit for taking on these quagmires.

6. Running Elections. The UN has quietly built an impressive capacity to run elections under tough circumstances.  This was put to the test in Iraq where, due to security concerns, the organization was able to deploy only a small fraction of the staff it thought it needed, yet still managed to pull off January's historic polling.    The organization has also managed successful first-ever polls in places like East Timor and Afghanistan.  This Spring it was revealed that the electoral assistance division is mired in a host of management problems.  But still, they seem to get the job done.

7. Reproductive Health and Population Management. The UN has built a great specialty in mother and childhood health, family planning, and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.  The UN Population Fund is widely respected, and is credited with helping to drastically reduce infant and maternal mortality in more than 100 countries.  Unfortunately due to its global gag rule designed to prevent health care workers from even talking about abortion, the Bush Administration has deprived UNFPA of funds needed for this vital work.

8. War Crimes Prosecution. This is a fairly new line of business for the UN.  The Tribunals it has set up for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda have had their share of delays and management problems but, all in all, they are respected, have developed important case law on genocide and human rights and have provided a measure of justice that is taken very seriously by the people of affected regions.  The UN is still experimenting with new judicial models for places like Sierra Leone and Cambodia.   The UN deserves credit for the progress it is making in this area, another arena in which its hard to imagine any other country or body taking the lead to the same degree.

9. Fighting AIDS. The UN is the leader when it comes to the global battle against HIV/AIDS.  Between the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria the UN is at the heart of every aspect of dealing with the epidemic, from heightening awareness to raising funds to making sure appropriate programs for prevention and treatment are implemented.  The UN has wisely recognized that the organization itself cannot shoulder this one alone, and has set up the Fund and other mechanisms aimed at drawing governments, other multilaterals, NGOs and corporations into the fight.

10. Bringing invisible issues to the fore. Were it not for the UN, an awful lot of suffering around the world would go even less noticed and addressed than it does today.  Landmine victims, Marburg fever and cholera sufferers, child soldiers, modern-day slaves, lepers and thousands of other populations beleagured by one or another either visible or obscure plight have a place to turn at the UN.

None of this is to say that the UN does anything perfectly, or that there isn't a pressing need for reform.  Its hard to overlook the common theme that emerges above involving good organizations and functions that are nonetheless beset by serious and often embarrassing management shortcomings.  While many of the UN's problems can be blamed on its Member States, poor oversight and lousy personnel practices are the responsibility of the UN Secretariat and Kofi Annan.  Its a good illustration of how the UN's weaknesses get in the way of people recognizing the body's many strengths.

As you know, I am guest-blogging this week on Dan Drezner.   Check out that site for some items that ought to be on the UN's list of strengths, but aren't, and for my best assessment of who and what is to blame.

May 01, 2005

UN, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Weekly Top 10 List: Top 10 Things at Stake in the Bolton Nomination
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Top 10 Things At Stake in the Fight to Defeat the Bolton Nomination – I don’t want to overstate this because I think there’s something to the notion that had Cheney won out in his quest to name Bolton Deputy Secretary of State, the influence of both the man and the hard-line flank he represents would have been far greater than it will be at the UN. But there is more at stake here than one man with a mustache. There’s a reason why this fight has consumed so many of us for months, garnering the UN Ambassadorship more attention than its had in a long time, maybe ever. He’s a stab at some of the larger reasons why this matters.

1. The U.S. Relationship To the UN – We are at a cross-roads as the UN’s supporters and detractors both know. The road to the Iraq war alienated the U.S. from the UN and vis-versa to a degree never before seen. Neither John Negroponte nor John Danforth had the mettle or the mandate to repair the relationship. Bolton, with his avowed “America first” perspective (see the last line of today’s NYT profile) seems inclined to widen rather than bridge the rift.

2. The Prospects for UN Reform – It is high noon for the UN when it comes to reform. But judging from his past, John Bolton’s concept of reform consists of punishing the world organization when it doesn’t hew to American interests. Condi Rice, her principal reform adviser Shirin Tahir-Kheli and other State Department officials appear to be advancing a reform agenda not unlike that of Secretary General Kofi Annan. Rice’s decision to appoint Tahir-Kehli to a newly created reform post within days of Bolton’s nomination was announced suggests that, despite deafening protests to the contrary, she too has misgivings about reform Bolton-style.

3. The Choice of a Successor to Kofi Annan – Annan’s term ends at the end of 2006. According to the UN’s rotation system, his successor should be from Asia. While current handicapping favors Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, its far to early to call the race. Iran has proposed its President, Mohammad Khatami, as a candidate. In recent years the U.S. has had a strong hand in trying to sway the selection of UN leaders’ that have our trust. But if the next ambassador fails to repair U.S. relations at the UN, we may lose influence over the choice.

4. The U.S.’s Commitment to Intelligence Reform – I have made this point before, but given the credible accounts of Bolton’s efforts to retaliate against intelligence analysts for refusing to kow-tow to his worldview, I don’t see how Bush can credibly claim to be fighting to reform intelligence while elevating Bolton. Failure to take adequate account of dissent in the ranks was one of the premier intelligence failings cited by the 9/11 and Silberman-Robb Commissions. Confirming Bolton would sanction such behavior.

5. The U.S.’s Position in the Multilateral Order – Bolton’s candidacy has evolved into a kind of referendum on the U.S. approach to multilateralism, going beyond the UN itself. At the start of Bush’s second term, a series of trips and statements seemed to signal rapprochement. In choosing Bolton, Bush seemed to shift into reverse. The world took it as a sign that hardliners indifferent to world opinion and prospects for cooperation were still very much in charge. Bolton’s appointment suggests that Bush may drift even further away from allies and agreements during his second term. Meanwhile, institutions like the ICC and Kyoto Protocol move on without us.

Continue reading "Weekly Top 10 List: Top 10 Things at Stake in the Bolton Nomination" »

April 24, 2005

Weekly Top Ten Lists

Weekly Top 10 List: Top 10 Things the Bush Administration Could Do, With No Change of Policy, That Would Improve America's Image Around the World
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

This is a list of steps the Bush Administration could take to improve America's poor image around the world, without the need for any shifts in policy.   The best part is, they don't have to do all 10.  Any one would help, and a handful together would send a powerful signal.  Thanks to Heather for the inspiration and her input.  Errors, and I'm sure there are some, are all mine.

1.   Get Behind Gordon Brown's Global Anti-Poverty Initiative – UK Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister wannabe Gordon Brown is championing an effort to get the G-8 countries to live up to commitments made in 2001 (during Bush's first term) to end poverty.  Even if Bush cannot sign onto everything, a nod toward the effort would help show that the U.S. respects the priorities of others and cares about those who have the least.

2.  Declare that the U.S. Does Not Intend to Maintain Permanent Bases in Iraq – By quietly withdrawing its bases from Saudi Arabia in the years after September 11, the Bush Administration tacitly acknowledged that, despite the strategic advantages, having a standing U.S. military presence in the Middle East can become a flashpoint for anti-American resentment. Given the legacy of the Iraq occupation, the point is doubly true there.  During the campaign, Bush stated that the U.S. "had no ambition in Iraq." Though debate on the matter is still raging, a clear statement by Bush would go a long way toward clarifying the U.S.'s intentions in a direction that will reassure the region.  Only problem is it seems Cheney is moving in the opposite direction.

3.  Get Karen Hughes Out of Texas and Into Her Job as Head of Public Diplomacy – Appointing Karen Hughes to front the Administration's public diplomacy effort at least signaled that the country's cheerleader would have the President's ear.  But now the Administration says Hughes won't even start the job until the fall. But the U.S. can ill-afford allowing its pep squad a semester off.   Hughes is waiting for her son to go off to college, but there are worse things in teenage life than a summer in DC.

4.  Initiate a Credible Independent Investigation of the Abuses at Abu Ghraib – Some Americans may have already forgotten the shame of Abu Ghraib, but the misdeeds there will die hard in the minds of people around the world, many of whom saw the prison scandals as emblematic of American abuse of power.  The Army's own just-completed investigation has drawn sharp criticism for essentially clearing the senior-most officials responsible for the prison from any wrongdoing.  Bush should show the world that the horrors of Abu Ghraib have not been forgotten or swept under the rug.

5.  Nominate a  U.S. Ambassador to the UN that Will Command International Support – This assumes John Bolton does not survive the confirmation battle now underway.   Though UN officials tried to put on a brave face, the world saw Bolton's appointment almost as a punishment being unleashed by the Bush Administration.  We have talked here about the sorts of qualities needed in a new ambassador.  Laura Rozen has some ideas of people the Administration would trust, but who would be received in a much more positive light.   

Continue reading "Weekly Top 10 List: Top 10 Things the Bush Administration Could Do, With No Change of Policy, That Would Improve America's Image Around the World" »

April 17, 2005

Progressive Strategy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Weekly Top 10 List: Top 10 Topics That Belong on Progressives' Homework Assignment
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Most of us seem to agree that progressives need a clear set of ideas that can attract wide support in order to fuel a foreign policy platform that gains traction (there’s some ferment over whether such ideas should be thought of as an ends or a means – to me the answer is both).

We should take the next year or so to formulate ideas in each of these areas, and then work to syndicate them across the constituencies that matter - the military, the unions, the left, interested ethnic groups, business, moderate and independent voters, etc. We won’t get broad agreement in all areas, but if we can forge some new ground in 5-6 (including #10) we’ll be well ahead of where we are now.

This isn't a list of all issues that matter. In some areas – like the war on terror, the Mideast peace process and intelligence reform – change is so fast that platforms agreed now risk irrelevancy by the time the public debate refocuses on foreign policy (sometime in 2007, is my guess). As Derek has touched on here, I think progressives have an idea how they’d approach Europe.

There are areas – I would count armed intervention as one – that we must continue to talk about, but where I don’t think fixed policies necessarily have a whole lot of influence over how specific situations get handled. There are other questions, like the treatment of veterans, where we can do a whole lot better than conservatives without having to forge brand new policy ground.

Here are some ideas where some more homework could make a big difference. I invite commentators to add their own to the list.

1. Non-Proliferation. Too often, progressives seem reduced to arguing over the size shape of the negotiation table on these issues, rather than laying out a clear alternative to policies that are flagging. (see this exchange on North Korea from the first 2004 Presidential debate) This Carnegie Commission Report offers some useful new thinking to get the ball rolling.

2. Trade. We’ve begun to discuss here and here, and we all seem to agree that policy is stalled. Tom Friedman’s new book describes what we are up against, essentially tens of thousands of Indian programmers and call center entrepreneurs who are a lot hungrier than we are. The new issue of Foreign Affairs reports that we’ve slipped to 13th in the global ranking for Internet Development, an area that helped us survive the last big economic dislocation a decade ago. The direction needed (new engines for job growth, much broader and better supported retraining and restructuring initiatives, realistic labor and environmetnal standards, etc.) is obvious though the details will be devilish.  Unions will need to get involved or their fears of irrelevancy will become reality. I read this short piece by Gene Sperling on the topic a while ago and still like it.

3. China. While the Bush Administration has antagonized traditional allies and racked up record trade deficits, the Chinese economy is growing at a record pace (though some think its in for a fall, there’s also a sneaking suspicion the Chinese may be able to sustain it) , and the government is shoring up relations with smaller allies and trading partners throughout Asia, isolating Japan. Meanwhile its hard to escape the conclusion that U.S. influence in the region is gradually waning, which may be precisely what the Chinese were hoping to accomplish. Progressives need a clear strategy for how we will play in Asia.

4. Democratization. We’ve talked about this already here and here. The latest Security and Peace Institute poll reveals that Democrats are less likely to view the promotion of democracy as a foreign policy goal than either Republicans or Independents. That’s understandable given the tainting of the concept in recent years, but we need an agenda for recapturing this issue and reuniting our own supporters behind it.

5. Military Readiness. The question of how we ensure that our military manpower needs are met in future is a tough one, but if progressives are hoping to forge a closer bond to the military (see discussions on Democracy Arsenal here and here) we are going to need to answer it. This provocative piece in the Washington Monthly is interesting less for its argument on behalf of a draft than for its analysis of why each of the alternatives now on the table is so problematic.  We'd better start generating some more options.

Continue reading "Weekly Top 10 List: Top 10 Topics That Belong on Progressives' Homework Assignment" »

April 10, 2005

Progressive Strategy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Progressives Don't Do Fear
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Suzanne, I agree with 7 out of 10 of your "Top 10" below.  Number 3 is an especially timely rebuke to some people we know and love who think that alliances are a policy end, not a means. 

But the progressive-wonk mythology about nos. 1, 2 and 4 -- not coincidentally, all issues about how we relate to our base -- is the result of so many layers of misinterpretation, pseudo-science and elitism that we need to go back to basics.

There's no myth about the poll results -- Americans are firmly, though not irrationally, pro-UN, pro-cooperation and anti-policies that put the US in a lone sheriff role.  One of the best distillations of decades of polling and focus-grouping on the subject that I've ever seen is this article by Steve Kull of the University of Maryland's well-respected Project on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), in the form of an interview with Ms./Mr. America.

The answer to the problem you cite, that Americans seem not to favor candidates that favor cooperative global policies, is not as simple as "never translate into political payback."

In fact, it seems that either voters assume their leaders share their beliefs, or (before this last cycle, anyway) simply don't get coverage of what candidates think on these issues and just give up.   This PIPA poll from last fall found that Bush voters favored US participation in the treaty banning land mines (66%), the International Criminal Court (75%), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (68%), and even the Kyoto agreement on global warming (54%).  Intriguingly, majorities of Bush voters believed that Bush supported these international initiatives as well.  How did the pollsters explain this?  The public believes that Bush has done a good job of keeping them safe, and therefore assume he is a good guy enough to support the things they support.  The pollsters also suggest people actively screen out information to the contrary. 

So it isn't the case that the way to win elections is to cast the world even more gloomily than our opponents.  Besides, that is a game at which progressives will always be playing catchup -- and unsuccessfully.  We don't do fear very well, because a core tenet of progressivism, after all, is that there are good things out there to progress toward.

Think about what Clinton and Reagan had in common.  Each won the White House by offering an alternative, more appealing and more hopeful vision of the world in which Americans found ourselves, and the world to which we might aspire.  That's the place to steer toward, rhetorically and attitudinally -- though clearly, you can slot a wide range of actual policies into that tough-but-hopeful worldview. 

And remember, why did Bush even bother going to the UN before Iraq?  Why the bowing and scraping at various points subsequently?  Because somebody was reading the polls.

April 09, 2005

Progressive Strategy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Weekly Top 10 List - Top 10 Myths Progressives Need to Let Go Of to Regain the Upper Hand on Foreign Policy
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

1. Americans like and care about the UN – Progressives love to cite studies showing that most Americans support the UN. That support may be a mile wide, but its an inch thick and never translates into political payback for politicians who either undermine or strengthen the world body  It's not that going through the UN on many issues doesn't make sense to people, but they need to see the rationale for it. 

2. Americans want to be liked/don’t want to be seen as a global bully – Most progressive foreign policy types (myself included) believe that, as a strategic matter, the U.S. is best off being liked and respected around the world. But this should not be confused with public concern for the U.S.’s popularity. If given a choice of whether the U.S. is better off being liked or feared around the world, most Americans would choose feared.   We need to explain that being liked need not be at the expense of being influential.

3. Americans care about alliances for their own sake – Clinton framed the progressive approach as: “with others when we can, alone when we must.”  (Amb. Richard Gardner may have originated this coinage).  Some have described the conservative ethos as “alone where possible, with others where forced to.” The public likes coalitions in that they save money, and because international imprimatur can save us divisive and politically costly internal debates. But they are also deeply attached to the idea that we can act alone. The end result is something like: “with others where possible, alone when we feel like it.”   So we cannot totally discount the option of going it alone.

4. A progressive foreign policy is reconcilable with protectionism – Protectionism will never look like anything other than hypocritical pandering to labor. That doesn’t mean labor’s interests don’t have to be taken into account. Progressives should be working now to put flesh on the bones of compromises involving labor and human rights standards that most agree are the only way forward here.

5. Either the left or the center will get a foreign policy platform it is reasonably happy with – Ain’t gonna happen on either side. Neither of their pure prescriptions will attract a broad enough constituency, so we need both sides under the tent. They can debate all they want in bars and blogs, but when it comes to politics, both sides need to replace purity with pragmatism.

6. America is a dangerous force in the world/does more bad than good – Americans will never follow a leader who believes this.  (A corollary myth we must abandon is the idea that a policy of promoting democratization is necessarily tantamount to imperialism.  Bush has made it that, but it needn't be.  See more on that here).   We need to assert a confident vision of how American power can be channeled to positive ends.

7. Americans can fully appreciate abstract threats – Though they are all critical issues, talk of loose Russian nukes, North Korean uranium enrichment and dirty bombs aren’t going to move ordinary Americans unless something happens to make these threats real. Until then, the criticism of conservatives’ over-emphasis on the terrorist risk at the expense of these dangers falls flat.  We should continue to talk about these things, but should not expect most Americans to focus on them.

8. The failures in Iraq will push ordinary Americans toward a progressive foreign policy – This did not happen in 2004 when Iraq was at its worst, and won’t happen in future. That most Americans do not approve of the U.S.’s approach to post-war Iraq is not driving them toward alternatives (probably because the level of casualties is low enough).   Our criticisms and the alternatives we offer need to go well beyond Iraq.

9. We’re up against a tradition of passivity and pacifism in our own ranks – Not so. Witness FDR, Truman, JFK and even Bill Clinton. We need to get over our own self-doubts if we’re going to win over others. Getting closer to the military as suggested here and here will help.   So will elevating people with the background and personality to be convincing in talking about security issues.

10. The U.S.’s challenges in the Middle East are primarily caused by our policy toward Israel – On the contrary, it’s the U.S.’s unwavering support (and his own history of hawkishness) that has allowed Ariel Sharon to move forward. Abbas’ election and the restarting of peace talks prove that Arafat was a huge part of the problem in recent years.   At the same time, there are areas where we can and should challenge Israel.

April 03, 2005

UN, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Weekly Top 10 List - Top 10 Reasons Why John Bolton Should Not Be Confirmed As U.S. Ambassador to the UN
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Bolton’s confirmation hearings start Thursday, and its not too late to weigh in, particularly with Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.  While the chances of flipping any conservatives on the SFRC to vote against Bolton are slim, Chafee is thought to be the best prospect.  For more on Bolton check out the Arsenal archive, the CAP website, and especially the which is on the forefront of this battle.

Top 10 Reasons:

10. He hates the UN. He’s said that the U.S. should be the only country on the UNSC, that the UN building could be shaved of 10 stories without it making a difference, etc.  Check here for direct quotes.

9. He doesn’t believe in paying U.S. dues to the UN. And has said so.  A big part of the job of UN envoy is working with the Hill to get U.S. contributions paid.  Withholding dues in the ‘80s and ‘90s led to a diplomatic debacle that took years to put right.  We don’t have the time, energy or goodwill to waste on such battles.

8. He won’t enjoy the support of U.S. diplomats around the world. 60+ ex-diplomats have signed a letter opposing Bolton. Current envoys feel the same way.  But Bolton will need the embassies to back him in capitals to succeed in pushing through U.S. proposals (see Retail Diplomacy).  Personal views about Bolton will undercut this support. 

7. He and the Secretary of State are not on the same page. Insiders seem unanimous that Bolton was foisted on Rice.  This is a recipe for tension between USUN and the Seventh Floor, a fissure that other countries will try to exploit. 

6. His statements on China are reckless.  He clearly enjoys the role of provocateur vis-à-vis China and Taiwan.  At a sensitive point in relations, we cannot afford to have a flamethrower in the mix.

5. The damage will not be confined to the UN.  Bolton is not a team player.  He has  a track record of breaking rules and exceeding his mandate (including by setting an unauthorized deadline for Russian acceptance of US conditions for remaining in the ABM treaty).  The UN post touches on a wide range of issues, and is notoriously difficult for the State Department to control.

4. Denying confirmation would signal the world that the foreign policy opposition is alive and kicking.  If they see an active progressive opposition, the world will continue to distinguish between their view of this Administration and their view of America at large.  With Bush’s reelection and supposed mandate, the separation gets harder -- and more important -- to sustain. 

3. He will not change his spots.  Some, including progressives, have argued that Bolton may change his ways once at the UN.  But this is the man with whom Jesse Helms wants to stand at Armageddon.  Can you imagine, if the roles were reversed, conservatives giving the “benefit of the doubt” for a nominee they saw as weak on security (“well, once he gets to the Pentagon, that may toughen him up”).

2. He is a proven opponent of arms control.  Bolton has blocked a slew of arms control agreements, from the CTBT to a small arms accord and a biological weapons agreement.   With proliferation, terrorism and the combination thereof topping of the list of threats against the U.S., arms control belongs at the forefront of U.S. national security strategy.  Bolton will stand in the way of that.

1. He will be ineffective in representing U.S. interests.  And this is most important of all.  Promoting U.S. interests at the UN is an art and a science.  A hammer is an essential part of UN diplomacy.  But Bolton is missing the rest of the toolbox.  See my article on Retail Diplomacy (PDF) for more on how the US can get its way at the UN through crafty diplomacy.

March 28, 2005

Progressive Strategy, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Step 1: Don't Blame the Victim
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

OK, tired of finding different groups to blame for Democrats' inability to get over the wall on national security.  Here's my proposal for a ten-step program to get Democrats back on the map:

Step 1.  Don't Blame the Victims (grassroots progressives).  Beinart lost a lot of credibility with me when he published an op-ed blaming the problem on liberal Iowa voters.  It's our job to help them figure out what to think about national security... isn't it? 

Step 2.  Stop caricaturing what both progressives and the general public want in foreign policy.  They think much more sensibly than we give them credit for -- and then don't find candidates who express what they think.

Step 3.  Send all senior-level party functionaries and would-be candidates off to learn something about the fundamentals of foreign policy.  Don't let 'em back until they have.  Oops, that would require...

Step 4.  Create progressive institutions that are focused not on media grandstanding, arguing with other progressives or debating how many Security Council seats can fit on the head of a pin, but actually educating our own and giving them products they can use.

Step 5.  Send all progressive foreign policy experts off to learn something about the country we live in, how our political system works, and how to talk to normal people without condescending, so that they can then populate the institutions created in step 4.

Step 6.  Every progressive takes a personal vow to learn something about our military, how it works, what its ethos is, and how it affects our society at all levels -- as well as what it does well and less well in the wider world.

Step 7.  Reformed policy experts can work on crafting what Suzanne mentioned in her post -- a larger agenda that speaks to the core values and beliefs of our voters, into which we can slot all our favorite policies and programs because the larger concepts would reassure voters that they can trust us.  (Suzanne mentioned several concepts that don't cut it.  Let me add another from the campaign:  "Strengthen core alliances."  I'm a liberal, for heaven's sake, and even I know that alliances are not an end in themselves but a means to do things we want done.)

Step 8.  Said constructs then have to be framed (you knew I'd get to Lakoff eventually) in a way that vaults over the wall of fear and mayhem that our opponents and the media have conspired to construct in regular folks' minds about the world.

Step 9.  Reformed party bigs then concentrate on making this agenda an organic part of an overall progressive agenda, and send out candidates who look credible.

Step 10.  Progressive rank-and-file then has to take a deep breath and get into this.  Then, if it still doesn't work, we can follow Peter Beinart and blame our troubles on those Iowa progressives.  But not before. 

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