"multi-pole" foreign policy: muscular Wilsonianism

Josh Marshall wrote a landmark essay on what the shape of foreign policy would likely be under a Kerry Administration. That article basically delineated the difference between the Republican and Democratic approaches to foreign policy as sponsor-state-driven and independent-actor/global-forces-driven, respectively. It's not a matter easily sumarized but is rich fodder for debate after you've read it.

In the course of researching the article, Marshall interviewed Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and has posted the first half of that transcript. Here is the important part of Senator Biden's remarks:

In 1994, when I was pleading with the president to use force in the Balkans, Warren Christopher was adamantly opposed. The bulk of the administration except for the president was adamantly opposed. We talked in terms of sovereignty, of nations not being able to be violated. I made a very controversial speech in �94 saying I believe countries forfeit their sovereignty when they engage in certain activities --- genocide being one of those activities, harboring terrorist organizations with the knowledge that they are doing damage to other nations.

I was roundly criticized by the foreign policy establishment in my party for that at the time and ironically by the Republicans. When I introduced legislation here to give the president authority to use force in Kosovo the people who blocked it were the conservative Republicans. And if you go back and look at their argument it was the sovereignty of Yugoslavia --- �we had no right to intervene�.

So I think one of the things that has happened is that in the debate within my party, my team has won. There is no longer nor should there remain the standard for use of force that pertained from the Vietnam War until the time that we lost the election in 2000. And there is an emerging change in the standard. Even Kofi Annan two years later came along and by inference acknowledged that an international body cannot allow genocide to take place within a nation. We were still arguing --- Democrats and Republicans --- or the bulk of them were still on the side of the equation different than the one I was promoting, for example.

I think John Kerry --- I know John Kerry personally --- and I think the Democratic party generically in a new administration would be a party that was, a government that was, something along the lines that I've been arguing for, which is to have an enlightened nationalism --- to realize that force is a legitimate tool in the toolbox and able to be exercised under a series of circumstances short of all out invasion [on the part] of the United States �

So that I think that what you see is emerging, is that the world has changed, is that a Kerry administration would reflect a willingness to use force unilaterally if one of several conditions pertained: One, international conventions were being violated; they affected American interests; and the international community would not step up to the ball.

Case in point --- took me a while, and I think he would tell you this if you asked him, to convince Clinton to use force in Kosovo. He kept saying, �The UN will not go�� . I said �Don't go to the UN� --- and I'm an internationalist --- I said �Don't go to the UN. You're going to get �no� for an answer. But they know, we know and the world knows that there's genocide taking place on the continent of Europe. You have an obligation to lead. And if you do, the French will follow.�

That was a gigantic departure from the orthodoxy not only of the left but the center of my party. That is now the center of my party.

I find this very much in line with my own views, and this makes for a nice counterpart to Gary Hart's interview with the American Prospect earlier. If I were to give this a name, I'd call it muscular Wilsonianism. Like Tacitus commentator praktike, my views on foreign policy have shifted, but unlike praktike I don't characterize that shift as "rightwards". In fact, from the emerging paradigms embraced by two parties both prior to 9-11 (for laying the groundwork, the Brent Scowcroft-ian realism vs the Warren Christopher-ian multilateralism), and post-9-11 (articulated by Hart and Biden above on one side and Perle and Rumsfeld on the other).

It was really President Carter who first linked human rights to foreign policy. But a more muscular approach is needed. The United States has great resources to effect the state of liberty (but not neccessarily democracy per se) across the globe. Some of these resources are purely an excercise in force application (a great example being the Summer Pulse excercise in the Pacific Ocean, where an unprecedented 7 carrier groups will mobilize simultaneously. This has not gone unnoticed by the Chinese). However, other resources are more subtle, and a "multi-pole" approach is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.

For that matter, the foreign policy of an Administration is often more than the sum of its Cabinet officials, also.

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