Berger Lays Out a Democratic President’s Foreign Strategy

March 29, 2004

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In the May/June 2004 Issue of Foreign Affairs...

Despite what many think, the foreign policy debate in the coming election is as much about means as ends, argues former National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger. Most Democrats as well as most Republicans think that the fight against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction are top priorities, that the war in Afghanistan was necessary and just, and that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq posed a grave danger. The Democrats’ chief quarrel with the Bush administration is the way it has approached the world:

 

Excerpt: The administration’s high-handed style and its gratuitous unilateralism have embittered even those most likely to embrace American values and invited opposition even from those with most to gain from American successes. ... As a result, although the United States has never enjoyed greater power than it does today, it has rarely possessed so little in?uence. We can compel, but far too often we cannot persuade. Our most important global initiatives, from advancing reform in the Middle East to defeating terrorism, will likely fail, unless there is a change in approach— or a change in leadership.
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According to Berger, the hard-liners in the administration channel the spirit of former Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft, who fought virtually every measure to build a postwar international order. Half a century later, Taft’s ideological descendants are trying to succeed where he failed:

 

Excerpt: The real “clash of civilizations” is taking place within Washington. ... It is a battle fought between liberal internationalists in both parties who believe that our strength is usually greatest when we work in concert with allies in defense of shared values and interests, versus those who seem to believe that the United States should go it alone— or not go it at all.

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The irony is that the Bush administration’s approach has let America’s allies off the hook, giving them an excuse to shirk their global responsibilities:

 

Excerpt: Iraq will require a generational commitment by the international community. ...The disintegration of that country along ethnic and religious fault lines would destabilize the Middle East and energize radical movements that threaten the world. A stable and democratic Iraq, on the other hand, would stimulate reform throughout the region. But attaining the latter outcome will require continuous involvement in Iraq’s reconstruction and development...[something that] will be unsustainable— and will be considered illegitimate by ordinary Iraqis— unless it is viewed as a truly international, rather than exclusively American, effort.

 

This is the second in a series of commissioned essays on foreign policy concerns for the next president.

A Republican view is scheduled for the July/August issue.

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