Wednesday, March 07, 2007

progressive national security policy

Matt Yglesias wonders why Democrats fight for union-friendly policies domestically but drop the ball again and again on crucial foreign policy issues.

Sadly, there are virtually no institutions of any consequence organized around providing a progressive take on the substance -- as opposed to labor procedures -- of national security issues. And until that changes, you'll keep having what we have today; a Democratic Party with very clear ideas about whether or not airport screeners should be represented by unions, but very hazy ideas about how to deal with Iran.

Union members are voting U.S. citizens. If they are unhappy, then Democratic politicians feel motivated to do something about it to improve their own job security. In my view, a progressive foreign policy would take into account the preferences of non-U.S. citizens. Or at least respect those preferences—I’ll settle for acknowledging that they exist for starters. Right now there’s not much in the way of international institutions that impartially and systematically determine which competing preferences among nations win out. In order to have a truly progressive foreign policy, you need truly democratic international institutions. What you have instead currently is an anarchic international political system in which nation is pitted against nation as each tries to improve its “national security” position vis-à-vis the others, and the stronger nations attain security at the expense of the weaker ones. The narrative that this situation generates is that when a nation is sufficiently threatened, it’s time to circle the wagons and do whatever it takes to defend the homeland. This narrative is not progressive. In this sense, “progressive national security policy” is an oxymoron, since there’s really no such thing until there’s a democratic international framework on which to hang it.

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