Democrats’ Foreign Policy Agenda
Kevin Drum would like to see his party’s candidates get beyond the talking points and focus on the Big Picture when it comes to foreign policy.
I already know that every Democratic candidate thinks we should withdraw from Iraq, but what I don’t know is what they want to do next. What do they think are the biggest threats facing us? Are they willing to repudiate preventive war? (More to the point: Are they going to continue to insist that if all else fails, they’ll wage preventive war against Iran?) Do they agree that democracy promotion ought to be our primary foreign policy goal? If not, what is? What’s the role of the military in the war on terror? In fact, do they even think we’re at war? If so, is it a war on “terror” or something else? What’s the best way to prosecute it? Etc.
Beyond a few platitudes, this shift is highly unlikely to happen. Proposing actual policies that can be nitpicked is a political minefield. Decrying the failures of the Bush administration, by contrast, will draw loud cheers and large donations. Even intramurally, it’s far more lucrative to bash Hillary Clinton than to go out on a limb with your own agenda.
Even aside from the politics, presidential candidate pronouncements on foreign affairs are nearly worthless. Candidate George W. Bush vigorously opposed nation-building but we’ve been doing it (granted, poorly) in Iraq for years. Candidate Bill Clinton lambasted George H.W. Bush for being too soft on China and too hard on would-be Haitian immigrants; President Bill Clinton pursued the identical policies. I don’t think either candidate was lying about their intentions, it’s just that there are far more moving parts to foreign affairs than most realize.