This has got to be our accidently best-timed meeting ever. As events spiral out of control in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and elsewhere, the old guard neoconservatives (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, McCain) seem to be making a push to reassert their relevance in our national conversation and their primacy in the Republican Party. Plus, a month ago Obama gave a major speech on foreign policy that many found bold (or frightening). So, I can’t think of a better time to talk about what both conservative and liberals really stand for in this area.
Another reason is I just don’t know what either left or right believes in foreign policy anymore. Conservatives are in chaos, still so haunted by the neocons’ failures they seem unable to do much beyond criticizing everything Obama does and hoping no one notices they have no replacement vision of how the United States should interact with a rapidly changing world. Progressives seem to me to be stuck in their usual spot, the let’s-rely-on-international-institutions spot. They don’t understand, In my view, that the world still leans heavily on the United States to provide the “public goods” of globalization and global security. The IO’s do not and cannot always protect American interests.
Worst of all, the punditry and news media have done a terrible job of explaining the principles behind President Obama’s foreign policy. If it can’t be labeled a doctrine and put on a bumper sticker, they ignore it until bad things happen and then they ridicule it. (Is Obama a failure or a weakling? Where’s the vision?) There is a strategy behind what Obama is doing on foreign policy. You may not like it, but it’s been there the whole time in plain sight.
Since Obama is the leader of the party in power for two more years and Hillary will have to pivot off of his policies when she runs, I’ll open our meeting on Monday by quickly explaining the principles behind Obama’s foreign policy. Then, rather than trying to answer our evening’s question, I’ll finish by reminding the group of the different major internal factions that both parties have to satisfy on foreign policy. These groups (neocons, Libertarians, religious right; white liberals, African-Americans, Latinos, Hillary’s people, etc.) have different and hard to reconcile ideas for which principles should guide our foreign policy.
- A huge link-fest this week because I track foreign policy a lot. The long articles are mainly for those who want to climb deep into the weeds of foreign policy. And, yeah, yeah, there are not many good links to the conservative POV. Sue me.
Discussion Questions –
- Consensus: Elites have always had their way within narrow limits on USFP. Free trade. Frequent use of force to enforce world order. Protect energy supplies. Etc. Will that ever change? Could a right-wing or left-wing foreign policy ever really happen??
- Obama: What are the principles behind his foreign policy? What view of the future does it emanate from? Critique/defense of it?
- Factions: What different factions do liberals and conservatives have to satisfy when establishing their foreign policy visions? Which ones are most influential?
- Conservative FP:
- Is Neoconservatism dead? What were the principles behind it?
- What do conservatives stand for on FP right now?
- Future: Who/what principles will win this fight? Rand Paul? Neos?
- Progressive FP:
- How do they view the world and America’s role in it?
- How do liberals feel about using American power? Are they fundamentally uncomfortable with it?
- What do progressives stand for on FP right now?
- Future: Hillary was a hawk and a (kind of) progressive as SecState. What would she do as president?
- Are the Democrats and Republicans about to reverse roles on foreign policy?
Understanding Obama’s foreign policy –
- He lacks a foreign policy doctrine, and that’s fantastic!
- No, it’s just the most dovish, anti-war doctrine in decades. Recommended.
- A strong defense of Obama’s foreign policies by Fareed Zakaria.
- A strong attack on it (Weekly Standard).
Conservative Principles –
- The real GOP civil war is over foreign policy.
- “Why I Am Still a Neoconservative”
- Conservatives should revive the ideas of …George W. Bush! Seriously, read.
- Rand Paul’s point of view.
- The fringe nuttiness going mainstream matters in any discussion of conservative foreign policy beliefs. Recommended.
Liberal Principles –
- A progressive grand strategy. Or, this one: We must adapt to a less U.S.-centered world. Either recommended.
- Is THIS angry denunciation the real progressive view?? How many people feel like this and how influential are they? Read.
Next Week: Racial Profiling and Stop and Frisk