Monday, March 21, 2005

Thinking About World Democracy

A recent quote from Barbara Boxer got me thinking. In response to Bush's inaugural address she said, "He said that our freedom and our democracy depend on the freedom of other countries. I think that America is so strong, it has such a strong Constitution and a great history of freedom, that while we must, of course, be deeply concerned about what happens in other countries, what happens to this country is up to us."

While it's stupid to disagree with Boxer that our fate depends largely upon us, I am really uncomfortable with the foreign policy implications of what she is saying. This is exacerbated by remarks she made about the happenings in Lebanon--"the streets are flooded with protestors today (the pro-Syria demonstrations) and you wonder if maybe a little quiet diplomacy there might have produced better results."

To me these remarks, certainly representative of many Democrats, are essentially an abdication of promoting freedom in other nations. First of all, a little quiet diplomacy wouldn't have done anything to promote democracy in Lebanon. What would our bargaining chips be against Syria to get them out of Lebanon? Bombing them? I mean regardless of what you think about Bush, the events in Lebanon have to be seen as generally positive so long as the nation doesn't erupt into civil war again.

But more generally this essentially isolationist view of the world that dominates the left side of the Democratic party to me undermines what it means to be a Democrat. Really we are the party of freedom. The Republicans have co-opted this to promote American interests abroad and to promote their economic ideology around the world. I refuse to believe that the Republicans are more right on ideas of world democracy and justice than we Democrats are. But I get the feeling that Boxer and others would rather abdicate our foreign policy to a weak and ineffective UN than promote democracy around the world. And I emphasize the words "weak and ineffective" because I wonder if a strong UN, which to me would be ideal, would make them uncomfortable too.

To me this ignores the global realities of the 21st century world. Freedom and justice need to be promoted throughout the world by progressives. What good are progressive policies and ideas ultimately if we don't much care about helping the rest of the world achieve them too? Without a global perspective, such as the ideology of worldwide revolution had in the 20th century, our ideas are bankrupt and meaningless.

If this post seems confusing and maybe even inconsistent, it's because I lately find myself in a difficult position on foreign policy issues. I despise what Bush and the boys have done with US foreign policy, particularly using the rhetoric of democracy overthrowing tyranny to get rid of governments that they don't like in areas of strategic interest for America while not giving a damn about other parts of the world, i.e. Africa. But I am not comfortable at all with progressive Democrats defining themselves as the opposite of Bush, i.e. theoretically committed to working within traditional diplomatic circles to solve problems but in reality unable or unwilling to even think about using US troops to ensure peace, freedom, or even safety from genocidal practices.

I'm really not sure where to stand here.