Monday, May 10, 2004


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

This is the first in a series of six postings on the theme of �progressive internationalism,� the foreign policy strategy offered by intellectuals associated with the Democratic Party as well as the party�s standard bearer in the 2004 election, Senator John Kerry. The goal of this series is to both make readers aware of what the strategy of �progressive internationalism� is as well as to demystify it. While Kerry and intellectuals associated with the Progressive Policy Institute, the prominent �third way� or �new Democrat� think thank in Washington, pretend that �progressive internationalism� is a robust alternative to the Bush administration�s Project for a New American Century of preemptive war, unilateralism and imperialism, the differences between PNAC and PPI on American empire are matters of degree and not of kind. The differences in fact are such that �progressive internationalism� is perhaps the most effective form of global Bushism possible.

In October 2003 a group of foreign policy intellectuals associated with the Democratic Party released a manifesto titled �Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy�. Its authors included prominent �liberal hawks� such as Larry Diamond, Bob Kerry and Kenneth Pollack from centrist think tanks such as the Progressive Policy Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Brookings Institution. In short, the PPI sees �progressive internationalism� as the �vital center� between Bush and the �pacifist� left. It is about being �muscular,� �tough-minded,� and advancing �the bold exercise of American power,� a rather transparent attempt to �allay the doubts� of Americans who thinks Democrats don�t have the guts to blow people up. The effort to define the Democratic Party as essentially masculine (if not downright �manly�) and not feminine is obvious.

Long before PI was written, however, John Kerry began defining his foreign policy strategy as one of �progressive internationalism�. The lead quote on Kerry�s campaign web page devoted to foreign policy is an excerpt from a January 2003 speech at Georgetown University in which the senator used the term �progressive internationalism� five times as a label for his positive alternative to �the Bush administration�s erratic unilateralism and reluctant engagement.� Kerry has continue to use the phrase consistently throughout the campaign to depict a muscular �third way� between the recklessness of Bush and the reluctance of the left wing of the Democratic Party.

This is no surprise in that Kerry has long been a member of the Democratic Leadership Council, the standard-bearer for �third way� thinking in the party.

Although I have uncovered no clear evidence to suggest that the PPI manifesto was written for Kerry, the parallels between it and Kerry�s 2003 Georgetown University speech are striking. Take the following as instructive examples.

Kerry: �That vision is defined by looking to our best traditions � to the tough-minded strategy of international engagement and leadership forged by Wilson and Roosevelt in two world wars and championed by Truman and Kennedy in the Cold War.�

PI: �As Democrats, we are proud of our party�s tradition of tough-minded internationalism and strong record in defending America. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman led the United States to victory in two world wars and designed the post-war international institutions that have been a cornerstone of global security and prosperity ever since.�

Kerry: �We must drain the swamp of terrorists�

PI: �thanks to the administration�s monumental fiscal mismanagement, the United States may not have the necessary resources to finish the job in Iraq or undertake a more ambitious strategy to �drain the swamp� from which terrorism arises.�

Kerry: �The transformation of the Middle East which can come from these efforts will determine much of our future�

PI: �For Democrats, the transformation of the greater Middle East . . . is a central challenge of our times.�

Kerry: �lead the world toward liberty and prosperity�

PI: �lead the world toward political and economic freedom�

�Progressive internationalism� is the idea that binds Kerry to the militarism and imperialism of �third way� Democrats and makes him a vigorous opponent of anti-imperialist Democrats such as Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich. Rather than the liberal standard bearer depicted in the Bush commercials against Kerry, the Kerry of �progressive internationalism� is a man more than willing to wield military force and economic power towards the end of American empire. Through Kerry and PI, the �third way� continues to demonstrate its historical mission to be the transformation of the Democrats in the 2000s to liberal Republicans of the 1960s and 1970s. The enabling of the rightward shift in American politics at the hands of Democratic presidents � from Carter to Clinton to a possible Kerry � marches on.

The PI manifesto may in the near future serve much the same role for a Kerry presidency as the PNAC manifesto �Rebuilding America�s Defense� did for the Bush presidency. Knowing what �progressive internationalism� really is and how it embodies many fundamentally neoconservative orientations and principles thus becomes a critical task.


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