Tuesday, May 11, 2004

BUILDING A BETTER BUSH

Part Two of a six-part series on 'Progressive Internationalism'


A continuing source of frustration for Democrats this spring is how John Kerry has been completely unable to rise in the polls despite the seemingly unending cascade of bad news for the Bush administration. Some wishfully claim that the reason lies in the public simply not knowing Kerry well enough. Many news reporters have noticed over the past several weeks, however, that Kerry�s message may be more to blame.

The Washington Post noticed recently how �despite rhetoric, Kerry, Bush agree on many issues�. Over in the Financial Times, an op-ed writer sees how Kerry and the Bush of 2004 are much alike on issues of foreign policy. The San Francisco Chronicle observes that �what's more notable about the 2004 campaign is how much the two men appear to agree.� By failing to distinguish his foreign policy vision from that of present administration, Kerry is left with the thus far unconvicing claim that he is little more than a �competent� version of Bush.

A reading of the Progressive Policy Institute manifesto �Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy� demonstrates how much common ground exists between the Democratic �alternative� and Bush�s neoconservatism.

The basic definition of the fundamental security situation of and threats against the United States is exactly the same as that of Bush. Progressive internationalism (PI) supports the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. PI sees �keeping mass destruction weapons out of the hands of terrorists� as �by far the most urgent security task facing our nation�s leaders�. PI sees �the transformation of the greater Middle East� as the signature effort of the nation and the establishment of �a decent, representative government in Baghdad, which could inspire and encourage democratic reformers elsewhere in the region� as its most immediate and concrete expression. PI anchors its strategy to the belief that democracies don�t go to war with one another and therefore seeks �to shape a world in which the values of liberal democracy increasingly hold sway.� Every one of these themes lies at the core of the Bush foreign policy as well.

PI is bold enough to state flatly
While some complain that the Bush administration has been too radical in recasting America�s national security strategy, we believe it has not been ambitious or imaginative enough.
There are �too few troops� currently in Iraq; Bush�s fiscal recklessness has prevented him from a �more ambitious strategy to �drain the swamp� from which terrorism arises�; PI demands �dedicating more substantial resources� to the cause of fundamental reform of the Middle East which includes �an expanded NATO peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan� so as to occupy the entire country, not simply Kabul; the US needs more free trade than Bush has delivered, especially with the Middle East. As with the neocons at the Weekly Standard, the cardinal sin for PI is �cut and run�: �We will maintain a robust military presence in Iraq for as long as it takes to help that country achieve security and stability.�

PI�s real problem with George Bush is not on the level of principles or even strategy. It is an argument about tactics. PI condemns Bush for his �unilaterialism� and over-reliance on military force, promising instead a commitment to �a collective approach� and �soft power�. Be not mistaken however; PI believes at its core that its �guiding principle is �together when we can, alone when we must.�� which �sometimes require[s] us to act � if need be outside a sometimes ineffectual United Nations.� This is only a difference of degree from �coalitions of the willing�, not of kind. The beef with Bush comes down quite frankly to his incompetence more than anything else, which has prevented the Bush administration from achieving all the imperial goals on which both PI and the neocons agree. PI says it offers �a smarter approach", not a different approach. It is a condemnation of Bush�s diplomacy � �the White House has fallen short� � not his policies.

Consider Kerry�s defense of the Iraq war (he voted for it after all) combined with his critique of how Bush has fought it. Kerry and PI together promise a more effective American empire � �good government� meets the White Man�s Burden.

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