Progressives in foreign policy: or, where the hell are they?

The dominance of the President, Senator McCain, and Senator Paul on foreign policy should trouble progressives. Why? To state the obvious, because none of these three camps adequately represents the views of most American progressives.

This is true. The President (both Obama right now, and the person who will fill the role in the future) is very likely to pursue a muscular, interventionist foreign policy. He/she is the Commander-in-Chief, and almost certainly has the most immediate and direct influence on foreign policy compared to the sausage factory of domestic politics. McCain, meanwhile, has scarcely seen a fight overseas he would not like to involve the US in. Rand Paul, meanwhile, combines a nominally non-interventionist foreign policy with what I suspect are likely to be Ayn Randian economic and trade views.

What’s more, Chris Murphy has a fairly compelling vision of his own here:

Frankly, it’s not hard to figure out what would be the organizing principles of this vision. A substantial transfer of financial resources from the military budget to buttress diplomacy and foreign aid so that our global anti-poverty budget, not our military budget, equals that of the other world powers combined. A new humility to our foreign policy, with less emphasis on short- term influencers like military intervention and aid, and more effort spent trying to address the root causes of conflict. An end to unchecked mass surveillance programs, at home and abroad, as part of a new recognition that we are safer as a nation when we aren’t so easily labeled as hypocrites for preaching and practicing vastly differently on human and civil rights. And a categorical rejection of torture, under any circumstances.

In a nutshell: an emphasis on diplomatic “soft power,” an increased focus on economic aid, an end to mass surveillance, and a rejection of torture.

Sure, sign me up. To be honest, I suspect you could get many conservatives to agree this is a good start to policy if you change the rhetoric slightly. There are some voters who are never going to be satisfied unless the current US President is literally hacking ISIS members to death with a machete. But if you can convince people that this would shift some of the costs off the US–as it arguably would, since you’d require a smaller military, fewer bases everywhere–you could probably find plenty of sympathetic ears. “Why is Europe allowed to freeload off US defense capabilities?” There.

Of course, the greater challenge might be getting Americans to care about US foreign policy in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s