Thursday, August 10, 2006

Opposition versus Strategy: The Lamont Challenge

As the dust settles from the Ned Lamont victory, it is time for Democrats to begin to realize that opposition only gets you so far. It is very true that most Americans now oppose the war in Iraq--but there needs to be some sort of strategy that is offered.

In the forthcoming issue of TNI, Senator Joe Biden will be offering his plan for dealing with Iraq and discussing how this fits in his overall vision for foreign policy. It has a realistic edge to it, about dealing with actual conditions on the ground rather than starting with your overall preferences, and advocates something I've also been promoting for years--a "division within unity" approach for reconciling demands for autonomy with keeping Iraq's territorial integrity intact.

But I don't know to what extent Biden's approach--a phased withdrawal based on yardsticks rather than strict adherence to a timetable--something Paul Saunders and I argued was the best approach last year--can capture the imagination of the Democrats and serve as the basis for a unified approach to foreign policy.

The other factor that worries me is our increasing inability and unwillingness to accept the need for trade-offs and choices. It seems that if we can't have the optimal solution, then we go home. Or we simply say that we "can do both"--a favorite Clintonism of the 1990s. We can have Taiwan declare independence and keep a good relationship with Beijing. We can pressure a government with sanctions and still get top line intelligence sharing cooperation. We can have a democracy in Lebanon that will expel Hezbollah (how this happens in a country that is 60 percent Shi'ite is not explained).

Some Democrats seem to be stumbling on realism as the preferred approach. Will Lamont be one of the converts to the "American ethical realism" of Morgenthau, Niebuhr and Truman?

Are you going to post any parts of the Biden article?
Biden is not a Realist but at least he is willing to consider prudence as an ingredient in foreign policy.
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That's 60% Muslim (of which 60% is Shiite). And are you referring to the Democrats when you speak in the second person? Doesn't the lack of a Plan B, even now, on the part of the Bush administration demonstrate a bipartisan, trade-off and choice deficit?
Thanks for the clarification, yes 60 percent of 60 percent. And yes, this is a problem that besets both parties--the (plus or minus, depending on your party affiliation) problem/advantage is that Republicans still have a default setting that gives them the aura of being a more competent party for dealing with national security/foreign policy issues.
So far Nik no evidence of Lamont embracing any sort of hard-headed "progressive realism" of the style peddled by your contributor Anatol Lieven. And Webb seems to have disappeared off the radar screen too. No, back to more vague wishy-washy talk.
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