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I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Debate over UAE control of American ports revisited:
   TNR's Beinart speaks out

Yesterday, I offered George Friedman's analysis of the political components of the topsy-turvy debate over Middle East ownership of American ports. Today, Peter Beinart, editor-at-large at The New Republic, invokes Walter Russell Mead to explain,

In 2001, Mead (the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations)) published a book titled Special Providence, in which he argued that four traditions comprise U.S. foreign policy. Wilsonians believe America must make the world safe for liberty. Hamiltonians believe America must make the world safe for commerce. Jeffersonians fear that both of these crusades threaten liberty at home. And Jacksonians believe in destroying America's enemies and defending America's sovereignty, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.

Mead described Bill Clinton's foreign policy as a coalition between Wilsonians and Hamiltonians. Wilsonians saw the post-cold-war world as a golden age for democracy. Hamiltonians saw it as a golden age for free trade.


In the wake of the [9/11] attack, Jacksonianism - epitomized by Bush's "wanted, dead or alive" rhetoric - immediately leapt to the fore.


But, when it turned out Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, the Jacksonian rationale for war collapsed ... So Bush drifted in an increasingly Wilsonian direction. By 2005, freeing the Middle East had become his central rhetorical thrust. And, ever since, Bush's foreign policy has had three characteristics: Wilsonian (the crusade for democracy), Hamiltonian (securing oil), and Jacksonian (doing "whatever it takes" to defeat the terrorists, civil liberties and international opinion be damned).

But, in the port security furor, these tendencies have collided. From a Hamiltonian point of view, the port takeover is a no-brainer. Eighty percent of America's terminals are already owned by foreign companies, and requiring U.S. companies to take them over would throw a wrench in international commerce. ... From a Wilsonian perspective, the deal also makes sense. Bush's democracy crusade has made him increasingly interested in winning Muslim "hearts and minds." ... But, for Jacksonians, it is never worth sacrificing concrete U.S. interests to make foreigners feel better.

Considering that Jacksonianism has been Bush's political trump card since September 11, this is a big change. And it has created exactly the opening that Mead envisioned at the end of his book: for Jacksonians to make common cause with Jeffersonians and turn the foreign policy coalition of the '90s on its head.

If you listen to Democratic criticism of the port deal, the Jacksonian themes are clear. In the words of California Senator Barbara Boxer, "We have to have American companies running our own ports." But nationalism tinged with xenophobia makes Democrats uncomfortable. And that's where Jeffersonianism comes in. Jeffersonians have long worried that foreign policy crusades threaten American liberty, and they have a particular fear of government-corporate collusion.


In liberal circles, in other words, Jeffersonianism is giving Jacksonianism intellectual cover. But make no mistake: Jacksonianism is where the votes are. For Democrats, stealing the Bush administration's populist, unilateralist thunder would be a remarkable coup. And it would be a remarkable historical irony, since Jacksonianism in Jeffersonian clothes - civil libertarian, anti-globalization, uninterested in transforming the world - inverts the foreign policy of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

Politically, the opportunity is clear. There's just one catch: Is this really what Democrats believe?

And, does it really matter? Or, perhaps less flippantly, does this give Lieberman, et al, a real chance to overthrow the self-destructing Deanics' mantle of power and influence in the Democratic Party?


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