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Divides

By Matthew Yglesias

"Divides"

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Kevin Drum was making the argument the other day that Democrats aren’t really divided about national security issues. There’s something to what he’s saying, but I also think it’s problematic in a variety of ways. I guess I’ll try to do an opus on this subject at some point, but for now let me just note something minor, an LA Times op-ed by Nancy Soderberg, a Democratic Party foreign policy practitioner in good standing — the number three official on the NSC in the first Clinton administration and the number two member of our UN delegation during his second administration — the sort of person who’ll very plausibly have an important job in the next Democratic administration.

The subject of the op-ed is that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Nestor Kirchner of Argentina are forming an aliance to create a regional alternative to the International Monetary Fund and also that, back in January 2005, Argentina used its power as a sovereign state to essentially default on some debt it had incurred. Soderberg thinks this is bad. Very bad. So bad that she breaks out the classic Americanism that “Democracy is at risk in Latin America.” As Robert Farley says “Argentina’s position on loan repayment has absolutely nothing to do with its status as a democracy.” Chavez really is an anti-democratic leader in many respects, but obviously the United States of America — like all countries — makes diplomatic agreements with non-democracies on a regular basis.

One could go on, but the basic shape is clear. America needs to use its power in the region in order to maintain its power in the region and occassional deploy that power on behalf of international lenders and we need to engage in a lot of bogus rhetoric about how what we’re really doing is standing up for democracy. And this is, as I started off saying, a Democrat’s position. Now does that mean “Democrats are deeply divided over Argentina?” Of course. Most people never think about Argentina and don’t have opinions one way or the other. But the difference in underlying attitudes is very clear. A lot of Democrats are peddling what you might call neoconservatism with a human face, or promising us a smarter, more effective imperialism rather than putting forward genuine alternatives to current policies.

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