|PPI | Key
Document | October 30,
Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy
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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. President Truman forged democratic alliances such as NATO that eventually triumphed in the Cold War. President Kennedy epitomized America's commitment to "the survival and success of liberty." Jimmy Carter placed the defense of human rights at the center of our foreign policy. And Bill Clinton led the way in building a post-Cold War Europe whole, free, and at peace in a new partnership with Russia. Around the world the names of these Democratic statesmen elicit admiration and respect.
Today America is threatened once again. Our country needs a new generation of Democratic leaders to step forward and provide the same caliber of leadership as their 20th century predecessors.
Two years ago, terrorists declared war on America by killing thousands of innocent civilians. But America was not the only target: The September 11 hijackers acted in the name of a hateful ideology inimical to the cause of liberty everywhere. Like the Cold War, the struggle we face today is likely to last not years, but decades. Once again the United States must rally the forces of freedom and democracy around the world to defeat this new menace and build a better world.
The 21st century has brought a new set of threats whose origins are different but whose consequences are potentially as dangerous as the totalitarian challenges of the last century. We were fortunate that our terrorist enemies did not yet have the capacity to inflict catastrophic harm on us with weapons of mass destruction. Preventing a deadly fusion of terrorism and rogue states on the one hand and mass destruction weapons on the other is one of the paramount challenges of our time.
In times of danger, Americans put aside partisanship and unite in the defense of our country. That is why, as Democrats, we supported the Bush administration's toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. We also backed the goal of ousting Saddam Hussein's malignant regime in Iraq, because the previous policy of containment was failing, because Saddam posed a grave danger to America as well as his own brutalized people, and because his blatant defiance of more than a decade's worth of United Nations Security Council resolutions was undermining both collective security and international law. We believed then, and we believe now, that this threat was less imminent than the administration claimed and that the United States should have done much more to win international backing and better prepare for post-war reconstruction. Nonetheless, we are convinced that the Iraqi people, the region and the world are better off now that this barbaric dictator is gone.
At the same time, we believe President Bush is in many respects leading America in the wrong direction on national security. Having triumphed on the battlefield in both Afghanistan and Iraq, we are now in danger of losing the peace in both countries. By insisting on our right to act unilaterally, by ignoring intelligence assessments that conflicted with his desire to act, and by underestimating the resources needed to accomplish the missions, the president is putting America's battlefield gains in jeopardy. By focusing too much on U.S. military might as its main foreign policy instrument, the administration is abdicating its responsibility to fashion an effective, long-term political and economic strategy for changing the conditions in which Islamic fundamentalism breeds and from which new threats to our national security are most likely to arise. And by pushing ideologically motivated tax cuts and repudiating the nation's hard-won commitment to fiscal discipline, President Bush also is reducing our future capacity to act around the world and weakening American economic leadership and leverage.
In addition, the administration has yet to put an effective check on the dangerous nuclear ambitions of North Korea or Iran, or to make any progress toward ending the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. On the domestic front, it has failed to devote sufficient energy, focus, and resources to the pressing task of defending our homeland against another terror attack. Instead of mobilizing our friends and isolating our enemies, this administration is isolating the United States from the rest of the world, squandering the good will and alliances built up over decades by successive U.S. leaders. American military strength is at an all-time high but our moral authority around the world is at an all-time low.
We recognize, however, that Democrats must do more than criticize this administration's increasingly incompetent handling of our nation's security. That alone will do little to allay the doubts that too many Americans have about our party's willingness or ability to pursue the tough defense and security policies today's world demands. To re-establish our credibility on national security, Democrats must offer a positive vision that spells out how we would do a better job of keeping Americans safe and restoring America's capacity to lead.
We begin by reaffirming the Democratic Party's commitment to
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. We need to do more, and do it smarter and better to protect our people and help shape a safer, freer world.
Progressive internationalism occupies the vital center between the neo-imperial right and the non-interventionist left, between a view that assumes that our might always makes us right and one that assumes that because America is strong it must be wrong.
Too many on the left seem incapable of taking America's side in
international disputes, reflexively oppose the use of force, and begrudge
the resources required to keep our military strong. Viewing
multilateralism as an end in itself, they lose sight of goals, such as
fighting terrorism or ending gross human rights abuses, which sometimes
require us to act
Progressive internationalism stresses the responsibilities that come with our enormous power: to use force with restraint but not to hesitate to use it when necessary, to show what the Declaration of Independence called "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind," to exercise leadership primarily through persuasion rather than coercion, to reduce human suffering where we can, and to create alliances and international institutions committed to upholding a decent world order. We must return to four core principles that have long defined the Democratic Party's tradition of tough-minded internationalism:
In the 20th century, Democratic statesmen like Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy applied these core principles to lead America out of isolationism into world leadership. They championed democracy. They built up and used our armed forces to combat and contain fascism and communism. They expanded trade and created the world economic system that brought decades of unprecedented global prosperity. They created alliances like NATO that not only deterred the USSR but also subsequently helped to transform former adversaries into new allies. They recognized that to win the Cold War, America had to inspire not just fear in our enemies, but admiration and loyalty in our friends. To that end, they built an enduring network of alliances and institutions that shared our burdens, enlarged our influence, and encouraged other free peoples to stand with America.
That strategy led to victory in the Cold War, the consolidation of a
new peace throughout Europe, and a dramatic expansion of global freedom.
By the end of the 20th century, the United States was an historical rarity
That is the legacy the Bush administration inherited, then squandered.
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