Debating Liberal Internationalism

In this essay, based on his new book Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats, Matt Yglesias explains how Democrats have been hurt themselves with incoherent foreign policy thinking and how they can improve in the future.

TAP has invited a group of foreign policy experts from across the ideological spectrum to respond to the essay. Brief bios of our contributors are below. Click on each author's name to read their contribution or just scroll down.

Matt Yglesias a former Prospect staff writer and an associate editor at the Atlantic.

David Rieff is senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and author of At the Point of a Gun: Democratic Dreams and Armed Intervention.

Justin Logan is associate director of foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute.

David Frum is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a columnist for the National Review Online.

Derek Chollet is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and co-author with James Goldgeier of America Between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11, which will be published in June by PublicAffairs Books.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International at Princeton University and co-chair of the Princeton Project on National Security.

Matt Yglesias:

After decades of facing a serious political deficit on national-security issues vis-à-vis the Republicans, Democrats now enjoy rough parity on the subject in the polls. But it's a parity that's been secured overwhelmingly by the failure of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq. And when you consider the scale of that disaster, the fact that it's merely parity is somewhat distressing. (What, exactly, would be required for Democrats to wrest the advantage? Bush personally flying planes into office towers? Cheney giggling his way through an Abu Ghraib slide show?) Meanwhile, John McCain and his political consultants clearly believe that superficial modifications of the Bush approach to foreign policy can turn national security into a winning issue -- and they may well be right. It's clear that Democrats shouldn't be celebrating yet.

The conventional advice offered to Democrats worried about national security has been to 1) dodge the issue and focus on domestic concerns, 2) increase the public's perception of their toughness, or 3) work with Republicans to increase the public's perception of their toughness so they can better dodge the issue and focus on domestic concerns. Democrats tried this strategy in 2002, when the party's congressional leadership and most challengers hoping to wrest control of GOP-held seats chose to go along with the Bush administration's Iraq policy in hopes of taking the issue "off the table" in the midterms. It's also been exhibited more generally when candidates display that ostentatious hawkishness will help "immunize" candidates against nationalist demagoguery.

This advice has not, in practice, served Democrats very well in the post-September 11 era. And no wonder: Suggesting that the appropriate response to the failures of right-wing foreign policy is for the opposition party to shift to the right is perverse. Fundamentally, the GOP's current political weaknesses stem from the substantive weakness of their underlying policy vision -- the gruesome trajectory of the Iraq War death toll being only the most high-profile and regular example.

But the Democrats have not been able to take full advantage of these failures because they have not articulated a compelling account of why Bush is failing, or outlined a coherent alternative vision. Instead, Democrats' seem stuck in a futile effort to reduce national-security policy-making to personal characteristics like Barack Obama's vaunted "judgment" or Clinton's oft-mentioned "experience." These are supposed to contrast with Bush's original foreign-policy sin: incompetence. Years of disastrous governance have succeeded in convincing people of at least the last of these assertions, Bush is now the least-popular president ever, and Democrats have seized control of Congress. Yet, with Bush off the ballot, this kind of personalized critique will have little continuing salience and will not convince the public that liberals have the answers the country needs.

This is unfortunate, because liberals do have the needed answers, and we've had them for some time. In the aftermath of World War II, the United States, guided by liberal internationalist principles, sought -- successfully -- to knit together a "free world" of allied powers that interacted with each other in a cooperative, rules- and institution-based way. This made intra-Western international politics a series of positive sum interactions that allowed us to contain and out-compete our communist adversaries. At the same time, a universalistic United Nations was, despite Cold War tensions, able to do some important humanitarian and peacekeeping work and help further the idea that even superpower competition should be conducted with some restraint. And following the end of the Cold War, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton governed (albeit imperfectly) along internationalist lines, using American power to create, uphold, and strengthen a liberal world order.

They sought to expand and deepen our existing close ties with democratic allies while also strengthening the United Nations, related worldwide institutions, and treaties. H.W. Bush prosecuted the first Iraq war under Security Council auspices, setting a precedent against aggression and for legitimate use of force. Clinton continued in this vein and helped shepherd the expansion of NATO while prodding it into a new role, and also offering American encouragement to the expansion and transformation of the European Union.

George W. Bush came into office with some very different ideas. His administration believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union created a "unipolar moment" that allowed us to cast off the restraint required for our submission to international rules and instead seek world domination. From day one, the Bush administration withdrew from treaties, indicated a desire to abrogate future ones, and violated existing nonproliferation norms. But it was the psychological shock and emotional trauma of 9-11 that created its big political opening. Bush argued that we should view the broadly and vaguely defined "war on terror" as the organizing principle of our foreign policy, and asserted that America's crucial nonproliferation goals would be advanced not by strengthening the existing treaties and institutions (like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its International Atomic Energy Agency), but through a policy of preventive war that would allow us to intimidate our enemies without ourselves needing to follow any rules or disarmament requirements. Indeed, we went so far as to pursue new, "tactical" nuclear weapons at the same time we were launching invasions and threatening air strikes on countries pursuing their own weapons.

The consequences of these ideas -- which reach far beyond the mishandled postwar occupation of Iraq -- have been disastrous. But it is crucial to understand them as a coherent set of ideas -- a singular foreign-policy vision that unites projects [as disparate as the war in Iraq and the opposition to the International Criminal Court. The consequences have been similarly interconnected, as traditional allies have shown themselves unwilling to aid us in our ventures. Acting alone, we have often found our agenda stymied or our military and treasury stretched because there were no allies to share our burdens.

The country badly needs to turn away from the self-destructive nationalism of the Bush years and back to the cooperative internationalism that's served our country well in the past. Indeed, in the wake of the Iraq War we must adhere to internationalism more rigorously than ever before to regain the confidence of the world and restore our ability to lead effectively. But to make these points succesfully, Democrats will need to ditch the approach of 2002-2003 and leave behind the principles and ideas that led so many to embrace the Iraq War. They will need to rediscover a faith in themselves, and their past, and come to the American people with a vision, rather than simply a critique.

David Rieff:

A multiple choice question for those who believe that there is a fundamental difference between the views of Republicans and Democrats about American hegemony. Name the person who, in a speech before a distinguished foreign-policy group, said the following:

"I reject the notion that the American moment has passed. I dismiss the cynics who say that this new century cannot be another when, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good. I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth."

Was it John McCain? Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama? Or was it Dick Cheney? Or even George Bush? The generic answer, I think, is that any of these five people could have uttered those words. And that fact should inspire second thoughts (and likely lead to buyer's remorse for those planning to vote for the Democratic nominee for president in 2008 strictly on foreign-policy grounds) in anyone tempted by the view that the liberal internationalism to which Matthew Yglesias describes so rapturously and which he wishes to distinguish so absolutely from what he calls "the self-destructive nationalism of the Bush years."

Self-destructive they have been, but is the Democratic idea of nationalism and of America's role in the world really that different from that of the Bush administration? Here's another excerpt from this same speech:

"I insist, however, that such an abandonment of [American] leadership is a mistake we must not make. America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission -- we must lead the world, by deed and example."

From this, obviously, it is clear that we are not talking about George Bush or Dick Cheney. To the contrary, the speech is an attack on their stewardship of America's foreign policy. But could it have not been John McCain in his "distance myself from George Bush" mode (as in his speech in the 9th Ward of New Orleans recently)? But while the candidate castigates the current administration he or she is of an equally millenarian cast of mind with regard to the United States' role and mission in the world, saying:

"I still believe America is the world's last, best hope. We just have to show the world why this is so. This president may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free the world has remained open. And it's time to fill that role once more."

In case you haven't guessed who the declaimer of this hymn to American exceptionalism, American goodness, and the moral necessity of American hegemony is yet, the answer is Sen. Obama.

Matthew Yglesias offers no real evidence in his essay that he would disagree all that much with the senator. Toward the end of his piece, after laying out the radical differences between the Bush vision of America's role in the world and the vision Democrats must stand for, Yglesias writes that "in the wake of Iraq we must adhere to internationalism more rigorously than ever before to regain the confidence of the world and restore our ability to lead effectively" [italics mine].

I should say in the interests of full disclosure that I am not a Democrat, and in consequence, one of the main purposes of Yglesias' essay, which is to help formulate a policy that will HELP the Democrats compete effectively with Republicans on an issue that has been their Achilles' heel in recent years, is one with which I am not in any particular sympathy. Yglesias' conviction of American leadership is, like Sen. Obama's, more respectful of and reliant on international institutions and international law, more decently modest in its expression, and far, far more skeptical of the role of the use of force than President Bush's. Nonetheless, it only reinforces my view that the debate between Democrats like Yglesias and neoconservatives like those who supported the Bush administration and now are drifting back to Sen. McCain is more in the nature of an internationalist family quarrel than a fundamental difference over matters of principle.

Yglesias is anything but naïve, and I have long admired and been instructed by his work. But I cannot understand how he can argue that, however imperfectly, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton used "American power to create, uphold, and strengthen a liberal world order," and not see that this is an imperial vision, rather than a cooperative one, an internationalism based on hegemony, not a world order based on a notion that what was in the best interests of the United States was not necessarily in the best interests of the world.

The real debate between Democrats like Yglesias (and Obama) and the current administration is, in fact, not about principles at all but rather about which form of Wilsonianism -- hard or soft, bound to rules of America's own making or contemptuous even of these rules -- best furthers America's interests in the world. Toward the end of his essay, Yglesias emphasizes this, writing that, as a result of the Bush administration's unilateralism and arrogance, America's "traditional allies have shown themselves unwilling to aid us in our ventures ...and we have often found our agenda stymied or our military and treasury stretched, because there were no allies to share our burdens."

Joseph Fouche, Napoleon's secret police chief, made much the same point when, writing of the emperor's decision to execute the duc d'Enghien, who had plotted a coup, he said that "it was worse than a crime, it was a blunder."

In fairness, with the exception of relatively insignificant constituencies on the far left and isolationist right, there is consensus in the United States about the benignity and necessity of American preponderance. Yglesias reflects this view in his piece. And from a political standpoint, he may well have it exactly right. But to claim that these second-order differences are matters of fundamental principle seems absurd. It is to have so assimilated the ideology of America's manifest destiny and of American exceptionalism ("the cause of the United States is the cause of humanity"; Benjamin Franklin said that, not some wicked neoconservative) that anyone not similarly convinced of America's positive role in the world -- and certainly people like me, who tend to view the United States as one more empire, probably no worse than its British predecessor but no better, either -- CAN ONLY admire this ILLUSTRATION, in the foreign-policy sphere, of Freud's "narcissism of small differences."

David Frum:

Matt Yglesias' account of the recent past of American foreign policy is not history: It's a campaign document. And his recommendations for the future blithely disregard the most important and difficult facts about the present.

History first:

Matt Yglesias posits a sharp caesura in American foreign policy. On one side is the golden age, stretching from 1945 to Inauguration Day 2001. During this period, American statesmen worked to build a rules-based international order -- and dutifully accepted limits on American power imposed by those rules. On the other: the dark night of the Bush administration, in which all rules were broken in the heedless pursuit of global domination.

This schema ignores too many complicating facts. Yes, it's true that the United States has sought to build a rules-based international order. But it's equally true that even the most rules-minded leaders have faced situations in which the only way to sustain that order was through the unilateral use of American power.

Thus, Harry Truman's CIA spent millions of secret dollars in (probably illegal) direct subsidies to Italian political parties, trade unions, and media outlets to defeat the communist bid for power in postwar Italy. Dwight Eisenhower authorized overflights of Soviet territory by American spy planes -- then lied about it.

And Bill Clinton initiated the rendition of terrorist suspects to countries known to torture. (It's also worth noting, contrary to what Yglesias says here, that it was Clinton who decided that the United States would not join the International Criminal Court. He signed the treaty but declined to send it to the Senate for ratification on the grounds that as written it failed to meet unspecified "fundamental concerns.")

Presidents besides George W. Bush whom Matt Yglesias might be inclined to condemn as domineering have worked hard to build international institutions. Richard Nixon was a fervent arms controller, not only bilaterally with the Soviet Union but multilaterally through the Biological Weapons Convention first drafted in 1972. And it was Ronald Reagan who negotiated a final draft of the Law of the Sea Convention in 1982.

George W. Bush, the supposed unilateralist, has thus far signed Free Trade Agreements with Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Korea, Morocco, Oman, and Singapore. Under President Bush, the U.N. Security Council adopted its first resolution calling on all states to suppress terrorist acts and terrorist financing. Likewise, it was the Bush administration that negotiated with the world's first global convention on cybercrime.

There was no Age of Innocence in American foreign policy. Law must always be supported by power; power must always be tempered by law. The art of foreign policy is somehow to balance these considerations under often extremely unfavorable circumstances, with often very imperfect information, and always in full knowledge that the consequences of error can be catastrophic.

If Matt Yglesias' history is polemical, his recommendations for the future disregard the most relevant and obtrusive problems facing U.S. foreign policy. As recently as 1985, half of the planet's output was produced by liberal democratic societies that broadly shared American norms and values. These societies had their disputes, of course, but on most issues most of the time, they resolved those disputes in exactly the way Yglesias would recommend.

That is not the way the planet looks today, and it is certainly not the way the planet will look tomorrow. If current trends persist, the core block of American allies -- the NATO alliance plus Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, and Israel -- will together produce only about one-third of the planet's output by 2025.

How do you build a rules-based order on a planet where more and more power is gravitating to non-rules-based societies? Matt Yglesias' prescriptions do not begin to reckon with these new challenges. Would it be ageist to suggest that the bright young light of the Democratic blogosphere seems to be strangely backward-looking in his thinking? Probably so. Let's say instead that it's not that Matt Yglesias' answers are wrong. It's more that he does not seem to have noticed that the questions have changed.

Justin Logan:

Matt Yglesias and I agree that American foreign policy since 9-11 has been a disaster. Along David Frum and David Rieff, I have perhaps the least basis in this discussion to advise liberals about what political tactics they should use to deal with national-security questions, so I don't want to focus on that topic.

Rather, I wonder how large a factor this struggle of ideas really is in the making of U.S. foreign policy compared to the influence of the processes and institutions through which U.S. foreign policy is made. (When libertarians talk about these kinds of factors, we refer to the theoretical lens as "public choice," not Marxism, so please no one get me in trouble and refer to it as the latter.)

It is fashionable and self-serving for us policy wonks to convince ourselves that "ideas matter" -- it is on this conception that we raise funds for our work, and it is the animating force that gets us out of bed each morning. But the foreign-policy debate over the past five years has made it clearer and clearer that ideas are necessary but not sufficient to determine what actually comes out of the foreign-policy-making process.

As my colleague Benjamin Friedman recently observed (PDF link):

In current national security politics, there is debate, but all the interests are on one side. Both parties see political reward in preaching danger. The massive U.S. national security establishment relies on a sense of threat to stay in business. On the other side, as former defense secretary Les Aspin once wrote, there is no other side. No one alarms us about alarmism. Hitler and Stalin destroyed America's isolationist tradition. Everyone likes lower taxes, but not enough to organize interest groups against defense spending. A scattering of libertarians and anti-war liberals confronts a bipartisan juggernaut. The information about national security threats comes to Americans principally from people driven by organizational or electoral incentives toward threat inflation.

This confluence of material interests -- ranging from aerospace and defense contractors and other members of the military-industrial complex to well-funded lobbyists for foreign governments -- is buttressed further by a media elite that appears entirely at peace with the disaster that neoconservative policy-making has wrought on the country. Instead of hiring someone who has demonstrated wisdom about foreign policy -- someone who threw the penalty flag on the Iraq War before it started, say -- The New York Times gives William Kristol a regular column on its op-ed page (alongside his ideological twin David Brooks) because Kristol is believed to be in possession of the all-important "influence."

None of the people who urged us to start the war (except, perhaps, the president himself) have failed to be insulated from the disaster that their policies have wrought. From Michael O'Hanlon's omnipresence on the leading op-ed pages to Paul Wolfowitz's appointment to Robert S. McNamara's old post as head of the World Bank, the architects of our Iraq policy have emerged from the wreckage that their plans produced with their reputations remarkably intact. The much-vaunted "marketplace of ideas" seems to be suffering from market failure.

In addition to the range of special interests and the insular and narcissistic media elite, the war party is supported by the largesse of a number of billionaires who seem to have been convinced -- after having been informed that the choice before them is between victory and holocaust -- that they personally are under existential threat every day. This is a strong motivation indeed. On the other side, it is true, George Soros has done heroic work in attempting to beat back the ideologues who brought the country to war in Iraq, but he cannot win alone against the legions arrayed on the other side.

At the level of the ideological infantry, neoconservatism is a career, as Scott McConnell has observed and Randy Scheunemann has proved. Noninterventionism, or realism, or even liberal internationalism of the variety Matt is selling, is not.

Accordingly, at this point I am less concerned about the battle of ideas than I am about the battle of interests. The facts have a way of making inroads, ultimately, in the battle of ideas. But to consolidate the gains our side has won in the ideological struggle against those who got us into Iraq, there will need to be a much more substantial array of interests aligned to populate Aspin's currently nonexistent "other side." Otherwise, we will clap each other on the back and congratulate ourselves for our strategic and moral rectitude as the country is led further and further toward the inevitable denouement of empire.

Derek Chollet:

Matt Yglesias is right to argue that when it comes to the future of American foreign policy, liberals must be more creative than simply aping conservatives' toughness or lobbing critiques without offering solutions. Yglesias' attempt to revive liberal internationalism should be applauded.

But he goes too far in his attempts to end the influence of the so-called "liberal hawks." The global problems that Bill Clinton confronted during his presidency -- genocide, ethnic conflict, weapons proliferation, security threats emanating from weak or failed states -- have not disappeared. In many ways, they have only become more troubling. And the ideas and theories that the foreign-policy thinkers associated with Clinton's administration developed to counter them have only become more relevant. Liberals would be ill-served if they let the Bush administration's disastrous legacy tarnish them.

Throughout the Bush years, liberals have debated the proper use of American power. These disputes have often been subsumed into tactical conversations over whether liberals should cooperate with Bush on policies where they agree (such as multilateral diplomatic efforts to curb Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions) or instead oppose him outright. But at a deeper level, they reflect an ongoing argument as to whether the policies that comprised the core of Bill Clinton's foreign policy -- such as stressing democracy promotion and using American military power to serve goals like upholding human rights -- should define liberal foreign policy in the future.

Take democracy promotion, an idea at the heart of liberal internationalism since Woodrow Wilson. Clinton championed the concept in his campaign against George H.W. Bush in 1992 in an attempt to reunify Democrats around a high ideal and attract disaffected neoconservatives who had left the party in the 1970s. Once in office, Clinton sought to enshrine "democratic enlargement" as a strategic theme. While the label hardly stuck, the policy was implemented through strategies like NATO enlargement, bringing peace to the Balkans, and Madeleine Albright's efforts in the late 1990s to establish global organizations like the "community of democracies."

But Bush has lashed democracy promotion to the war in Iraq and his ambitions to remake the Middle East by force. As a result, Democrats have become increasingly unwilling to lend it their support. Liberal leaders complain that, by acting as though he invented the idea, Bush has made it politically radioactive at home and abroad, even when done right. "They picked up a lot of things we were doing and pushed them to their exponential degree," Albright says of Bush and his team. "They give democracy a bad name."

But the sharpest divide among liberals concerns the use of military force. After the Cold War, many experts and ordinary people expected that U.S. military power would be less important -- that there could be a "peace dividend" in which Pentagon spending could be lower because armed interventions would be less frequent. But from 1989 to 2001, the U.S. averaged one large-scale military intervention every 18 months. Moreover, there are several instances, like Rwanda in 1994 or the rise of Al Qaeda before September 11, in which many now argue that the U.S. erred by not using greater force. In this sense, there is more overlap between Clinton's policies and the ideas about military power that have become identified with Bush -- especially when serving the objective of defending values -- than many Americans have perceived (or partisans on both sides care to admit).

In the mid-1990s, Clinton settled on a set of beliefs about the appropriate use of force that he later implemented in Iraq (in 1998) and Kosovo. As Laura Secor has noted, they turned the usual liberal debate about using military power on its head: Instead of the burden of proof falling on those advocating intervention, it fell on those who advocated doing nothing in the face of violence. While this approach was resisted by some on the left (and the right), it represented a shared perspective among the liberal foreign-policy establishment that later shaped the Democrats' response to the Bush administration's post-September 11 policies.

These "liberal hawks" -- the policy-makers and intellectuals who championed intervention to uphold human rights or prevent WMD proliferation -- did not agree with the way that Bush went about invading Iraq. But they also did not dispute the underlying premises. In the 1990s, they came to believe that failed states and rogue regimes posed a serious threat, especially those bent on developing weapons of mass destruction. In fact, some former Clinton officials argue that Bush made his case more difficult by trying so hard to distinguish what he was doing from the approaches he inherited from Clinton. So perhaps it is for partisan reasons that the liberal hawks remain in Ygelsias' crosshairs.

Of course a new Democratic administration will assert such interests with much less hubris than Bush has. It will work harder to gather broader global support behind its actions. One of the consequences of Bush's excesses is that liberal internationalism has been given new life. It is self-evident that all of the major global challenges we face require working with others. But beyond burden-sharing, the core concept of liberal internationalism -- earning legitimacy -- is essential for America to project its power and maintain leadership, especially when it promotes democracy or uses force. The U.S. needs to offer others a reason to have some allegiance to it beyond its sheer power; what makes America unique from other powers (like authoritarian states like Russia and China) is that it seeks to lead by consent as much as possible. Even some prominent conservatives are now conceding that an important way the U.S. gains legitimacy is by working with others in rules-based institutions.

However, though a Democratic administration will embody and practice liberal internationalism, it is important to keep expectations in check. Bill Clinton worked hard to promote cooperative internationalism, but he and his former aides will be the first to admit that this proved immensely frustrating and sometimes wholly unsuccessful. The history of their efforts illustrates the limits of institutions like the United Nations. And now a rising China and a resurgent Russia (as well as important states like India and Brazil that aren't part of key institutions) render liberal internationalism even more difficult to practice successfully. Therefore, to fulfill the hopes that Yglesias and many of us have about the possibilities for greater global cooperation, we must figure out how to make such institutions effective -- or, in some cases, to decide that we need new ones.

Anne-Marie Slaughter:

Matt Yglesias is certainly right in his description of the tenets of postwar liberal internationalism -- he is channeling and recycling John Ikenberry's After Victory, Timothy Garton Ash's Free World, large parts of Peter Beinart's The Good Fight, and, dare I say, my own The Idea That Is America, not to mention countless articles in places like The American Prospect. The central liberal internationalist premise is the value of a rules-based international order that restrains powerful states and thereby reassures their enemies and allies alike and allows weaker states to have sufficient voice in the system that they will not choose to exit.

That order requires an open world economy with sufficient safeguards and exceptions controls to allow for what John Ruggie famously termed "embedded liberalism" -- permission slips that allow governments to protect their citizens from the economic and social dislocations caused by free trade and capital flows. But such economies cannot flourish or deliver social benefits without sufficient security within and between countries to allow producers to plan and produce and consumers to save and consume. Hence the accompanying liberal internationalist rules governing the use of force.

Nothing here is either surprising or controversial. But, at least in this essay, Yglesias oddly ignores how Obama and Clinton have both drawn deeply on this vision in their foreign-policy platforms, and seems oblivious to the need to adapt ideas and institutions developed in the late 1940s to the 21st century.

On the first, Yglesias argues:

"The conventional advice offered to Democrats worried about national security has been to 1) dodge the issue and focus on domestic concerns, 2) increase the public's perception of their toughness, or 3) work with Republicans to increase the public's perception of their toughness so they can better dodge the issue and focus on domestic concerns."

Political advisers may offer these recommendations, but not foreign-policy advisers. Consider, as just one example, Obama's and Clinton's Foreign Affairs articles laying out their basic foreign-policy ideas. Obama emphasizes a "common security for our common humanity," describing a deeply interconnected world in which it is actually impossible to separate domestic from international concerns. And certainly his insistence on being willing to talk to leaders around the world without preconditions is not designed to emphasize his "toughness" but rather his flexibility and willingness to innovate.

Clinton, on the other hand, as any woman immediately understands, cannot afford to allow even a hint of softness on security issues. Yet, she too calls for a return to the rule of law in international relations and a principles-based foreign policy that works through institutions rather than against them. Her Foreign Affairs article emphasizes opportunity as much as security -- opportunity particularly for women and children around the world who must be given the basic tools that will allow them to join the global economy.

So when Yglesias writes that Dems have failed to a develop "a coherent alternative vision" to Bush's foreign policy and instead "reduce national-security policy-making to personal characteristics like Barack Obama's vaunted ‘judgment' or Clintons oft-mentioned ‘experience,'" I don't know what he's talking about. As part of the Princeton Project on National Security, John Ikenberry and I reviewed many national-security strategy reports from individual scholars and think tanks like the Center for American Progress. The problem is not lack of vision but lack of power to implement the vision, which is what is at stake in this election.

Second, Yglesias never mentions the vital need to update and reform institutions that represent the power configuration of the 19th and mid-20th century. It's not enough to repeat the old tenets of liberal internationalism; it is essential that we find ways to update them so that a much broader group of important nations are included in the councils of decision -- at the very least, the G-8, plus China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico and ideally also, in my view, some rotating representation of Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, South Korea, Australia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and, down the road, Iran.

We must also overhaul the global financial institutions so that they address the problems of a 21st-century economy rather than those of one from the 1930s. That, in a nutshell, means finding ways to make globalization work for everyone. Not "development" World Bank-style, but closing the widening gap between rich and poor. Not providing liquidity to bolster currencies International Monetary Fund-style, but cushioning the impact of turbulent global markets on those hardest hit and least able to afford it.

Those are the issues Dems must be talking and writing about, rather than simply returning to well-worn and agreed liberal internationalist formulas of the past.

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