One of the standard knocks on Democrats (not that it's true, but it is a meme all of our candidates will have to fight) is that we are "weak" (whatever that means) on security and defense issues. It's worth remembering that the party has produced some heavy hitters on these issues, and a couple of them made important speeches last week.
Bill Clinton gave the keynote address at the 30th reunion of his Yale Law School class on Friday. Haven't found the transcript yet, but here are some excerpts from the article in The New Haven Register
Clinton said a genuine global community must have shared responsibilities, shared benefits and shared values and "build institutions of cooperation so people get in the habit of resolving their differences in a peaceful way."
He criticized the Bush administration for failing to consult others in international situations and instead was guided by the mantra "we've got the juice, we're going to use it."
" ... if you believe that we should be trying to create a world with rules and partnerships and habits of behavior that we would like to live in when we are no longer the only military economic superpower in the world, then you would not do that," Clinton said.
A popular figure at his alma mater, Clinton stressed the need to spread the benefits of globalization with the developing world.
Beyond the ethical and moral reasons to do so, Clinton said one would arrive at the same conclusions from a selfish perspective, as well.
"If you come from a wealthy country with open borders, unless you seriously believe you can kill, imprison or occupy all your enemies, you have to make a world with more friends and fewer enemies - with more partners and fewer terrorists," he told the 2,400 people, who interrupted his talk several times with sustained clapping.
Earlier last week,Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinsky gave the closing speach of the conference on New American Strategies for Security and Peace of the Center for American Progress. It's quite long, and worth the read (and check out the Center's website, lots of goodies for progressive's talking points) but there are a number of things which complement Clinton's speech.
War on terrorism defines the central preoccupation of the United States in the world today, and it does reflect in my view a rather narrow and extremist vision of foreign policy of the world's first superpower, of a great democracy, with genuinely idealistic traditions.
The second condition, troubling condition, which contributes in my view to the crisis of credibility and to the state of isolation in which the United States finds itself today is due in part because that skewed view of the world is intensified by a fear that periodically verges on panic that is in itself blind. By this I mean the absence of a clearly, sharply defined perception of what is transpiring abroad regarding particularly such critically important security issues as the existence or the spread or the availability or the readiness in alien hands of weapons of mass destruction.
Both of these Democrats speak about foreign policy in a way which is in absolute opposition to the foreign policy conducted today (in fact, I think Bush Sr. would have signed on to Clinton and Zbig's concept.) The Bush-Cheney approach to the rest of the world has been "screw you, we'll pursue whatever our narrow self-interest is decided on in the Monday memo meeting." We're suspicious of outsiders, we see no long-term need for a relationship except when it suits us. We'll call you when we need you. This is not the approach used by a person or a country that is confident that wisdom comes in consulting widely. Perhaps you've known people like this. Heaven forbid, perhaps you've even had to work for one.
Even with a new President in 2005, it is going to take years to undo the damage of the last three. Clinton and Zbig are describing a foreign policy based on trust, the kind of trust we lost on the ground in Iraq when we failed to have a plan in place. A confident person or country is trustworthy and willing to trust long-term allies. The neo-cons running the show don't trust anybody. Life is made up of relationships. They aren't easy, disputes and disruptions happen, but the willingness to show up and continue working on them is what makes friendships for people and solid allies for countries.
UPDATE: Just found this, which I think could be titled "The World According to W":
A fiction shattered by America's aggression
By William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, November 1, 2003
...what actually has happened during the past nine months is something Americans have yet to grasp, and that others have yet to say out loud: People outside the United States have stopped believing the American story.
They don't think terrorism is an Evil force the United States is going to defeat. They say instead that terrorism is a way people wage war when they don't have F-16's or armored divisions.
They say that Chechens, Moros, Taliban, Colombian insurgents, Palestinian bombers and Iraqi enemies of the U.S. occupation do not really make up a single global phenomenon that the world must mobilize to defeat.
They say that, actually, they had never really believed the American story in the first place. They had listened to it because Washington said it, and they respected Washington. Now they don't.