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Alleged Democratic unseriousness

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As you know, it makes me crazy when Democrats are labeled "unserious" on foreign policy or defense, and Sullivan is a repeat offender with this kind of nonsense. The Poorman has a hilarious (if cringe-inducing) riposte, and I just want to briefly pile on as well.

First of all, Sullivan seems to think it's the responsibility of bloggers to articulate specific foreign policy strategy: "I have yet to hear anti-war voices on the left propose a positive strategy for defeating Islamist terror at its roots, or call for democratization of the Arab Muslim world . . . Certainly, the Kossites seem utterly uninterested in any of these subjects." This is absurd. Among virtually all Dems, the "positive strategy" starts with Don't Impose Democracy Through Warfare Because That's Ineffective And Counterproductive, and goes on from there into the realms of soft power, including diplomacy, economic carrots and sticks, and, especially, leading by example, something that used to be a bipartisan virtue. Also, there's tons of foreign policy discussion on a variety of leading lefty blogs, including innumerable diaries on these subjects at Kos. I don't see right-wing bloggers articulating intricate new policy positions any more than liberals, and "stay the course" doesn't count as a strategy. Virtually all lefties are pro-democracy, of course, and we do a better job of promoting it.

But he doesn't stop there: "The same goes for the Dems as a whole. Until the opposition party presents a progressive, democratic agenda to reform the Middle East . . . there's no reason to take them seriously on national security." Let's imagine, for a moment, a party that claimed to support democracy. Imagine that party supported a democratic revolution against an occupying nation that claimed it granted sovereignty to its client state but really controlled everything through exclusive power over military and intelligence operations, saying that such control was necessary to maintain security and stability in a nation racked with internal religious and ethnic tensions. Let's say that unstable country managed to throw off the bonds of its oppressor, have elections, and begin the long road towards liberalism, but on that road, a militant group messed things up by commiting terrorist acts. The party that so strongly supported the democratic movement now gives a green light to total destruction of the nation's infrastructure and economy in retaliation. Now what if we called the country "Lebanon" and the party "Republicans." Is that a serious -- or even consistent -- approach to policy?

The Middle East is, prepared to be shocked, a complicated region and set of issues. But Democrats have a virtual shadow government of foreign policy folks churning out papers and positions and proposals at Center for American Progress, Brookings, New America Foundation, National Security Framework, etc. Plenty of serious people thinking serious thoughts, none of which will ever be implemented as long as the decidedly unserious Bush administration continues to muck up everything it touches.

It would be great if everybody could stop pretending that foreign policy is run by anyone other than the executive branch, and, occasionally, the Senate. I'd really like to know exactly which crazy Dems are going to personally torpedo U.S. foreign policy. Who? Most Democratic foreign policy experts aren't bloggers, and they're not even in government right now (again, they're waiting in the wings, as foreign policy is generally executive-driven), but we have plenty of smart, serious people who will do counter-terrorism better, nonproliferation better, trade agreements better, and national defense better. A Democratic Congress would be a good start, a Democratic President could really start to repair the damage.

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