DEMOCRATS AND SECURITY. Two more brief notes related to the Democratic security plan. First, the Iraq material is, of course, some pretty thin gruel. The Dems' position on Iraq involves calling for 2006 to be a "significant year of transition," even though the party won't have a chance to actually affect policy until (possibly) 2007 -- this confusion is sort of inherent to an "agenda statement" that's really a campaign document. Beyond that, their failure to specify any actual mechanisms by which the United States can induce "Iraqis [to] make the political compromises necessary to unite their country" is understandable, given that such mechanisms don't exist, but substantively it points to some rather starker conclusions about the right way forward. Various Democrats disagree in good faith about this issue so the banality on display here is probably unavoidable, but on the merits it�s problematic.

Secondly (and this is only tangentially related to the Real Security plan), one tendency liberals ought to avoid is conflating "support the troops" policies like boosting veterans' benefits, health care, and mental health services -- all important and valuable positions in their own right -- with a national security posture that actually addresses public suspicions about Democratic weakness on defense and foreign policy. These positions on social services and benefits are really just straight-up, bread-and-butter liberal domestic policies, only aimed at a military constituency. I think Americans recognize that, and that's why highlighting Democratic support for such measures isn't a particularly effective rejoinder against right-wing "soft on defense" attacks. I should caution that I don't actually mean this as a criticism in any way of the Democrats' Real Security plan, which covers a lot of ground beyond social service support for troops and vets, and engages major national security issue areas (terrorism, homeland security, Iraq, etc.). But it is a tendency I've noticed among plenty of liberals and Democratic politicians before.

The real sources of Democratic political weakness on defense issues go deep, and aren't all reducible to messaging -- they have to do with things like nationalism and war-making. Without, say, Democrats actually becoming a more affirmatively pro-war party (something I wouldn't want to see happen), I tend to think that, to at least some degree, this political vulnerability is intrinsic and insoluble, though Matt has certainly written extensively on ways it could be mitigated significantly.

--Sam Rosenfeld