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Winning on Security

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"Winning on Security"

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Brian Katulis writes on a subject near to my heart: how progressives can win on national security. His thought, meanwhile, largely mirrors my own. It’s important to make a broad-based, principles-driven argument that the failures of the Bush years represent an ideological failure that discredits not specific people but their ideas.

I do, however, have one point of disagreement related to Katulis’ disparagement of calls for bipartisanship. I think one has to be careful here. The party coalitions are arranged primarily around issues of domestic policy and identity, so there often isn’t especially sharp partisan differentiation on these subjects. Most elected officials just don’t care at all about the substance of foreign policy issues. Meanwhile, many moderate Republican politicians have really been no worse than your “liberal hawk” types. I’m not one to go over-the-top in valorizing Chuck Hagel et. al., but he’s been at least as good as, say, Ben Nelson on a number of key issues.

This goes two way. On the one hand, Dick Lugar really is someone it should be possible for a new administration to work with on a number of topics. Conversely, there are plenty of Democrats who are sort of no good. So bipartisanship can work out well or it can work out poorly. I think, for example, that this “bipartisan agenda” statement from the Stanley Foundation on “revitalizing international cooperation” is pretty good. Their book of “bipartisan” essays, on the other hand, is a very mixed bag. The “bipartisan center” composed of Michael O’Hanlon and Frederick Kagan is one we could do without. But Francis Fukuyama is the author of an important critique of neoconservative foreign policy and when he teams up with Michael McFaul the results are good.

Basically, during 2002-2003 we saw pernicious factions take control of both political parties. But other factions exist inside both parties. Building alliances with the more sensible moderate Republicans, paleocons, libertarians, etc. is, I think, essential to beating back the tide of horrors.

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