Michael Lind: The American Way of Strategy

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Thanks to Steve for giving me a chance to blog about (flog?) my new book The American Way of Strategy — which, if you’re interested, I’ll be discussing with Lou Dobbs this evening on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on CNN, 6 pm EST.
At the moment there’s an avalanche of books trying to name a new “ism” in foreign policy. I think that’s a parlor game. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I argue for renovating the version of American liberal internationalism that took shape between World War I and the Cold War. To oversimplify a complicated subject, the liberal internationalism identified most closely with FDR sought to end the cycle of great-power wars by enshrining national self-determination as the basic norm of world politics and by promoting a concert of great powers including the U.S. to deter or punish aggressive states.
The church of Rooseveltian liberal internationalism has faced two heresies since the Cold War ended. One is the heresy of “hegemonism” — the idea that a hegemonic U.S. will effectively police the world on its own (even if it disguises this by acting through multilateral institutions). The other liberal internationalist heresy is “democratism” — the idea that only democratic states are legitimate and that the U.S. should work directly or indirectly to subvert or topple all nondemocratic regimes. In the 1950s that great liberal internationalist Dean Acheson used the phrase “messianic globaloney” to dismiss similar utopian ideas. The alternative is not a revival of Morgenthau/Kissinger-style Germanic Realpolitik, but the vision of the two Roosevelts, Wilson, Lansing, House, Acheson and Nitze of a post-imperial world secured by cooperating great powers.
Next time: the truth about “rogue states.”
— Michael Lind

Comments

29 comments on “Michael Lind: The American Way of Strategy

  1. MP says:

    “AND it is PREDICATED on the assumption that patriotic citizens will remain civil, remain docile,…”
    I think what some here don’t get is that “civil” doesn’t equate to being “docile.”

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  2. Pissed Off American says:

    “BTW, almost every leader who retains power does SOME good things for their people.”
    Bush seems to have missed that boat.

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  3. Pissed Off American says:

    Thanks Rich. Obviously you get it.

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  4. RichF says:

    “I thank beth and John Wilson for their comments of yesterday afternoon, and would add only that it was nice while it lasted.
    Posted by Zathras at October 18, 2006 12:12 AM”
    Zathras wrote: “Actually, I only meant to express my appreciation for some nice comments..”
    beth and John Wilson referenced intelligent and civil comments.
    Both of which referenced intelligent and civil comments. Contrary to your mistaken reference to “boozy rants,” even those late-night comments with a strong point of view are sober and factually accurate.
    Civility is a great thing. However, civility as a means of ignoring, not responding to, or papering over a legitimate issue is the antithesis of civility.
    A Totalitarianism of Nicety functions as the antithesis of the civility it purports to champion.
    You see this all the time in public forums. A citizen asks a valid question about the Constitution, and a politician, newsman, or policy analyst offers a weasel-worded, nonresponse that either elides the issue entirely or just doesn’t plain answer it at all.
    IF the citizen-questioner tries to follow up, or insists the point be addressed, or rightly expresses anger at that profoundly unAmerican attitude–they’re accused (erroneously) of being “uncivil,” or “out of line.”
    What is being enforced is docility. Offensive speech is free speech, and NO speaker has a right to demand a docile citizenry.
    I was raised to be civil. Civility is a great thing. At the same time, nothing about free speech guarantees civility or legitimates punishment of the uncivil. The baseless notion that folks can be tossed out on their ear for being angry or uncivil simply has no merit.
    Gosh, why do you suppose that is?
    Civil disobedience could never work in Nazi Germany or the Third Reich. CIVILITY can NEVER work where the overarching rule is the Big Lie, wholesale dishonesty, unresponsive politicians, and an administration that Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies. Nor can civility be required in those circumstances.
    The betrayal, the breach of trust–is too great. AND it is PREDICATED on the assumption that patriotic citizens will remain civil, remain docile, and have no reasonable expectation of democratic, responsive governance. BUT THEY DO.
    First they came for the 2nd Amendment. And I said nothing.
    Then they came for the 4th Amendment. And I said nothing.
    Then they outlawed the rule of law. Nacht und Nebel–Bush has already done this–as the third reich did exactly the same thing. YET our Declaration of Independence and Constitution defiantly forbid the President or Congress from having ANY capacity to do any such thing. These are unalienable rights, and NO mortal man may presume to suspend them. It’s not just illegal: it’s physically impossible.
    The Bill of Rights is not a fuzzy concept; it is not to be “interpreted” out of existence. Because this is where it leads.
    Lawyers who lean on poor excuses, ugly betrayals, and bad precedents are nothing more than Vichy Attorneys. They know not what they do.

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  5. MP says:

    “Sorry, MP, but yes, Saddam was ten times the leader this two-bit addict Bush is. You might not like that fact, but a fact it is. Say what you may, but Saddam was the real deal.”
    My point was not a comparison between Saddam and Bush. My argument was with calling Saddam a “real leader.” In a way, of course, he was. So were Hitler, Stalin, Tito, Mao, Pol Pot–it’s just not a model worthy of emulation or adoration.
    There are any number of real leaders I could point without ever coming near Bush. Let’s see Tutu, Mandela, King (when he was alive), Havel, Gorby (in his own way), Rabin, Sadat, Begin, Carter–people who took real risks for the good of their people or worked for the genuine good of their people. These people are real leaders, not Saddam.
    BTW, almost every leader who retains power does SOME good things for their people. Mussolini famously made the trains run on time. Saddam was a secularist–but in his later years, I believe he took on the trappings of religion to save himself.

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  6. Zathras says:

    Actually, I only meant to express my appreciation for some nice comments directed at a few on-topic posts early in this thread.
    There are, unfortunately, some excellent bloggers whose comment sections too often get overrun by folks who have convinced themselves that posting boozy rants late at night on any thread regardless of topic is their great service to humanity. Steve’s is one of them, which considering the amount of time and effort he puts into beginning discussions here is too bad.

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  7. Pissed Off American says:

    Yes, there IS something very comforting about denial, Zathras. And, obviously it is not only the right that engages in the practice. And I apologize that the discourse has taken a turn away from your poor injured sensibilities. Perhaps you can take a lesson from Bush, and write the script for us, a script that more closely adheres to the way YOU think debate should be waged.
    Or hey, you can take a cue from the masses, and say…”Hey, who gives a shit about dead Iraqis when we can gloat over Foley’s hard-on for young men”?
    Just another script, eh, Zathras?
    Sorry man. Intellectual masturbation bores me. My country is torturing and murdering. On a grand scale. WE have become the evil empire. If you want to discuss that kind of horror with people that CONDONE and ABET such practices, with civility, more power to you. But don’t be suprized when your civility finds you a home in one of Cheney’s gulags, with the rest of the bloody cowards that went down mumbling “It can’t happen here”.

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  8. Pissed Off American says:

    Well of course. And those Iraqis that were not sympathetic to Islamic radicalism are now being told, by the radicals, “See, we warned you about those Americans. Your sons, your daughters, your mothers, and your uncles, are dying because of George Bush and America. Look what America has done to your country”.
    And we cannot point to the days of Saddam and say…”But he TORTURED your fathers”. Because WE are now torturing their fathers. And we cannot point to the days of Saddam and say “But he gassed your people.” Because WE have dropped Willie Pete on the citizens of Fallujah, and Iraqis elswhere. WE are raining death on Iraq in numbers FAR surpassing Saddam’s. And it is the gift that just keeps giving. How many generations of Iraqis will reap the sinister rewards of a lifetime, (a SHORTENED lifetime), of breathing DU dust?
    But hey, doncha know? They hate us for our freedoms.
    Right now, at this very moment, an Iraqi citizen is undoubtedly dying. Because of OUR government’s criminal invasion of their country. Who do you think that Iraqi is cursing with their last breath? Saddam, or George? And who will the bereaved hate? Saddam, or America?

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  9. Zathras says:

    I thank beth and John Wilson for their comments of yesterday afternoon, and would add only that it was nice while it lasted.

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  10. Paul says:

    PoA: Perhaps this latest drooler will gift us with a list of how this criminal Bush has improved the quality of life, in Iraq, OR here?
    Life in Iraq?
    Life for the Shiite fundamentalists who are pro-Iranian, pro-Hezbollah, anti-Israeli, and anti-US greatly improved thanks to Bush.
    For over twenty years, the Al Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (sic!) have been try to forcefully make a secular Iraq (under SH) a fundamentalist Islamic republic.
    By deposing Saddam Hussein and holding elections, the Bush admin directly forced the reins of power into the hands of the Shiite fundamentalists who are pro-Iranian, pro-Hezbollah, anti-Israeli, and anti-US.
    What is truly puzzling is that the Bush admin inadvertently fathered this Shiite fundamentalist republic, which is by the way pro-Iranian, pro-Hezbollah, anti-Israeli, and anti-US, in direct reponse to the 9/11 attacks.
    9/11 + Iraq = Bush’s Shiite Fundamentalist Republic?
    [keywords: Al Dawa; Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq; Al Maliki; Bush; 9/11]

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  11. Pissed Off American says:

    BTW, MP, and Rove. Saddam is deposed and on trial. And Iraq is a sea of blood and a breeding ground for terrorism and further hatred of all things American. Does that constitute “mission accomplished” in your twisted minds, or are you willing to do the right thing, and ADMIT that Saddams’s Iraq was far friendlier to the average Iraqi than this bloodbath Bush has created is?
    Well, perhaps over six hundred thousand dead Iraqis would like to have Saddam back, if the Hopkins’ study is to be believed. (If the number is one SIXTH of that, the tragedy is far from diminished.)
    Go ahead, Rove, tell us how much better off the average Iraqi is. After all, you DO live in Bushworld, doncha?

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  12. Pissed Off American says:

    Funny how so many RW asses think that they can post rebuttals to comments, yet they offer absolutely NOTHING of substance to rebut with.
    So, pretend you are an Iraqi baker living in Bagdad. Tell me, whose leadership do you pine for, Bush’s, or Saddam’s?
    Perhaps this latest drooler will gift us with a list of how this criminal Bush has improved the quality of life, in Iraq, OR here?
    One thing is for sure, Bush supporters seem to be lost in the same Twilight Zone that Bush is. They sure don’t like reality, do they?

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  13. Karl Rove says:

    “I had a bit of an epiphany tonight about “leadership”, and what actually makes a “great leader”. Look at Iraq, and consider all of the rival factions now murdering each other in great numbers. Then take a moment to ponder Iraq as it was prior to 1991. Then consider the state of Iraq during the sanctions, and up until Bush’s lies and illegal invasion. Good lord, can you imagine, how in God’s name did Saddam keep these rival factions in check through all that difficult time? Now THATS leadership.”
    “Sorry, MP, but yes, Saddam was ten times the leader this two-bit addict Bush is. You might not like that fact, but a fact it is. Say what you may, but Saddam was the real deal.”
    With “progressive” wackos like the Pissed Off American running around, we may still yet hold on to Congress!!
    Would you mind filming this stuff so that we can air it tommorrow around the country?? we’ll pay you handsomely for it… and I’ll even throw in a weekend of brush clearing in Crawford. think about it. PLEEEAAASSEEE!!!!!!

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  14. Pissed Off American says:

    Gee, MP, pre ’91 Iraq enjoyed the most liberal mores, attitudes, and opportunites extended towards women in all of the Arab world, except perhaps Jordan. The quality of life for the Iraqi people was improving. Educational opportunities were abundant, for both men and women. Health care was accessible and of reasonable quality. And Saddam did not allow religious extremism. In fact, such malcontents were dealt with forcefully, and finally. They were shot.
    Compare that to our own leader’s management of our own domestic affairs. Is American quality of life improving? Does Bush disallow religious fanaticism, or does he in fact pander to the far religious right? Tell me, MP, what aspects of American life have improved under the auspices of this asshole currently soiling the White House carpets???
    You cannot honestly look at this fucking bloody mess that Bush has created in Iraq, and tell me it is an improvement over Saddam’s Iraq, can you?
    Saddam was creating, pre ’91, the very model of Islamic society that Bush claims is acceptable and desirable. What’s up with that, MP?
    Did Saddam torture people? DO WE TORTURE PEOPLE, MP? Did Saddam gas people??? DO WE GAS PEOPLE, MP?
    Sorry, MP, but yes, Saddam was ten times the leader this two-bit addict Bush is. You might not like that fact, but a fact it is. Say what you may, but Saddam was the real deal. And Bush? Don’t make me laugh. He’s a joke. Mark my words, history is going to be veeeeeeery unkind to George Bush. And if we are what we once claimed to be, part of that “history” will be the chapter about Bush’s demise due to old age, in a federal penetentiary.

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  15. MP says:

    POA: Saddam…a great leader? Hmm. You MIGHT want to rethink that one ole boy. Lots of dictators have sat on powder kegs and kept them from exploding. Great leadership that does not make.
    BTW, my wife and I will be poll watching this November in the Allen-Webb race.

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  16. serial catowner says:

    A most interesting little book is People On Our Side by Edgar Snow, who toured the world and interviewed what we would call today ‘third-world leaders’ to publish his book in 1944. The world of prospective democracies in 1944 was much different from the world that emerged in 1965, after much ‘tidying up’ and making the world safe for big oil by first-world diplomats and the CIA.
    In any event, with the world now facing the sort of unifying crisis that might have been the subject of a sci-fi movie in the mid-50s, it seems pretty obvious that solutions will have to come from outside the US.
    We may now regret having deposed or assassinated so many democratic leaders who offended us by their excessive nationalism, but, like it or lump it, the third-worlders as we know them today are about to have greatness thrust upon them.
    The book, incidentally, can be purchased used for about the cost of a latte-with-make-everyone-
    else-wait-in-line-while-I-decide.

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  17. God says:

    PoA: What we thought was great leadership, post 9/11,
    We?
    Speak for yourself.
    I have always thought GW Bush was a loser of the first rank who has deep seated psych. problems.
    How so?
    He is a N’Easterner with very blue blood.
    Despite this, he tries to be something else, i.e. a good ole boy from TX, as evidenced by his fake Texas accent.
    Just as a high school girl may imitate Beyonce in order to improve her sense of security and idenity, so does Bush try to imitate a good ole boy from Texas.
    This is the POTUS?
    God help us

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  18. Pissed Off American says:

    Whenever I look to discern my own character defects and flaws, it is of great assistance to look at the motives that propel my goals and actions. I think we forget to apply that exercise when discussing world events and our own government’s actions. I have ceased believing the stated motives that drive the actions of my government. These bastards in power seemingly have neither the welfare of our own citizenry in mind, nor any intended altruism towards the rest of the world community in mind, when determining domestic or foreign policy. The sort of impressive intellectual masturbation we see above is great for stimulating the brain cells, but the simple truth is that we are giving credit where none is due. We are led by megalomaniacs whose sole motive is the accumulation of wealth and power, and world affairs and government policy are driven by those pursuits. These pricks like Cheney or Bush hold no allegience to the altruistic high ideals that the founding fathers invisioned as our driving force.
    One never knows what great leadership is until history reveals it. What we thought was great leadership, post 9/11, ended up being little more than a charade designed to sell a predetermined foreign policy. What we perceived as “great leadership” was one of the most damaging deceptions ever commited against modern man. Watch the news tonight, and see for yourself the seas of blood that this AWOL coward Bush’s “great leadership” has spilled.
    I had a bit of an epiphany tonight about “leadership”, and what actually makes a “great leader”. Look at Iraq, and consider all of the rival factions now murdering each other in great numbers. Then take a moment to ponder Iraq as it was prior to 1991. Then consider the state of Iraq during the sanctions, and up until Bush’s lies and illegal invasion. Good lord, can you imagine, how in God’s name did Saddam keep these rival factions in check through all that difficult time? Now THATS leadership. Say what you may about Saddam, but he was sitting on a powder keg, and while he was in power, that powder keg never exploded. It took the ineptitude and immoral motives and actions of the Bush Administration to blow it sky-high. Now WHO in this scenario proved themselves to be the most capable “leader”?
    “Superpower”, my ass. We are simply the world community’s current bully. And, like all of history’s bullies, we are about to recieve our just reward.
    Who knows, maybe Bush and Cheney ARE our just reward.
    God help us.

    Reply

  19. beth says:

    What John Wilson said at 3:49. Also–What a civil discussion. A refreshing drink of cool, deep thought.

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  20. John Wilson says:

    What an intelligent discussion!
    Just a note of appreciation to ALL posters.
    Y’all have actually given my brain a jump start. tnx!

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  21. David Billington says:

    The problem is what to do if the great powers don’t cooperate. It may be agreed that the US should be less unilateral but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the world will then embrace the measures needed in the interest of planetary survival.
    The late 1940s generation in the State Department just below Marshall and Acheson (eg. Clayton, Hickerson, Achilles) was imbued with the notion of sharing power with other nations, not just cooperating. It was these people who really pushed for the NATO alliance. If Democrats are going to improve on the late 1940s, they need to think out how institutional ties might be taken to a new level. This may require America to give up more control over the institutions to which it belongs in exchange for other countries agreeing to new commitments that they might otherwise be reluctant to make.

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  22. Craig says:

    “At some level, the first thing we need to do is to become comfortable with our extraordinary relative strength.”
    SomeCallMeTim makes a good point. Being comfortable with our strength means first of all not giving in to fear mongering.
    But tied to the issue of understanding our strength is being comfortable enough to use our foreign policy leverage without the stupidity of tying ourselves down with two wars and not much leverage to accomplish anything else.
    As I recall, we had considerable leverage between the events of 9/11 and late 2002, though Bush’s strange June 2002 speech about unilateralism began to undermine that leverage before we invaded Iraq.
    Lind makes a good point that we had a reasonably functioning bipartisan foreign policy, particularly in the era after World War Two. Our foreign policy was far from perfect but there was a real framework that was improveable. Bush has allowed a radical change that will take years to repair. But we can’t lose sight of what worked reasonably well for so long.
    As the most powerful nation in the world, we can’t avoid having responsibilities. It is a reality that other nations turn to us from time to time for help whether it’s for help for an earthquake or an epidemic or grievances against a neighbor. Clearly, we also have a certain amount of self interest to consider. But a prudent exercise of our responsibilities can largely converge with our self interest, as long as we show a certain amount of restraint in imposing our ‘solutions.’

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  23. Zathras says:

    I wonder if Mr. Lind could take a moment to discuss:
    What is so sacred about self-determination? Why are not the former Baathist regime in Iraq or the current SLORC government of Burma as representative of that concept as democratic governments?
    Bearing in mind that Franklin Roosevelt’s conception of a postwar world policed by the four great powers of his day rested on badly mistaken conceptions of the internal stability of one (China), the staying power of another (Britain) and the motivations of a third (the Soviet Union), is that really the model we want to be following now? Do we — or can we — follow it with the qualification Acheson would have made, that not all problems everywhere need policing (Acheson, for example, thought South Africa and Rhodesia should be left alone)?
    Does Lind really think the way he looks at foreign policy is closer to the way Acheson did than Kissinger’s? Would Acheson have taken that view?

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  24. Carroll says:

    I think I agree with this…” by enshrining national self-determination as the basic norm of world politics”…if that means that nations have the right to decided their own business, government and identity, even non democratic states.
    And I would agree with this and think it is necessary for a peaceful world…”a concert of great powers including the U.S. to deter or punish aggressive states”…if this “concert” can stick strictly to preventing agression and not meddle in other countries simply for their own economic or other interest.
    I can see that the threat of a force of great powers descending on a really rouge country would be a great deterrent, but I also see that smaller countries left out of the process with their gripes could ally to defeat a concert of powers as in Vietnam and Iraq unless the concert was willing to totally blast them off the planet.
    So as I said before, my concern is leaving out the lesser countries…why not take the UN and NATO and give them some teeth. The UN Security council is already a concert of powers in some respects and we see how they “get along” with one memeber trying to bend the others to their will.
    Anyway the main problem right now is the US…to do a concert of powers we have to have a 180 in the next adm or either have another great power(s) take the lead to form a concert and put the US in the position of joining or being left out in the cold.
    What is to prevent the concert from giving into one power member on some agenda, like for instance the US support of Israeli agression in Palestine or support of Russia against their rebels and so on?….
    Maybe the concert of powers would work only if it had as it’s purpose and rules the War and Crimes guidelines laid out after WWII.

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  25. John says:

    With FDR in mind, please expound on `democratically elected’ nondemocratic regimes.
    E.g. the fundamentalist Shiite democratic republic of Iraq.
    Will the US now, after having spilled ocean after ocean of blood and treasure, need to topple the Iraq regime under the Al dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (sic!) since it is in fact a `democratically elected’ nondemocratic regime.
    Thx!

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  26. Anwar al-Insurgent says:

    The “truth” about rogue states is a cold slap in the face for cringing Americans. America is our world’s sole remaining “rogue state” and the Bush insanity about “preemptive war” and the “fires of democracy” are the subtle hues of fascism. However, it is a given that the U.K. knee puppets are in lock step with Bush and therefore fall into that “rogue” category. Sadness is therfore the somber realization that all is lost in America and our democratic experiment has failed. The right to torture goes to those firmly in control of power and dissent is repressed and the “institution” reigns supreme. All hail the corporate-special interest and their victory came without hardly a shot being fired. Unless of course one is Muslim.

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  27. John Robert BEHRMAN says:

    I am comfortable with international political and economic doctrines derived from the period Michael Lind proposes to renovate — the heritage of E. M. HOUSE, Will CLAYTON, and Jubal R. PARTEN, for instance, — from my ‘hood, here in HOUSTON.
    Update the admiralty law of common carriage, and apply it to all digital media, and I think one could project much of that then to what we have to deal with today.
    However, the period LIND refers to was the end of a post-Civil War bi-partisan coalition that begin to erode in 1952 and vanished in 1994 (2002, here in Texas).
    Liberal Democrats and progressive Republicans did what they did on the basis of some Victorian or Edwardian military, political, and economic doctrines that seemed to provide a better foundation than previous attempts to perpetute slavery by judicial fiat or to engineer democracy through military occupation or coup d’etat from the right or left.
    Those white men limited the influence of the extremists and ideologues on the bench or in the streets who seemed to exploit the vanity of the rich, fears of the middle-class, or desperation of the working classes.
    They were principled, patriotic, and practical men who respected learning but patronized rather than either embraced or demonized, say, suffrage for women and all manner of schemes to improve what seemed like the sordid lives of non-white or just very poor people.
    There is no such domestic coalition of the two main parties today or any one patriotic-progressive party in prospect. Michael LIND and John JUDIS seem to have such a party in mind, but are not even close to realizing it top-down, nor am I bottom-up. Maybe we should talk.
    So, what is this new “-ism” going to rest on?
    Secondly, how could such a party — even with a coherent perspective on international affairs and institutions — sustain itself on national military, economic, financial, and legal institutions that are reactionary or radical — not even antique — and respectable only among religious cultists, high-dollar crooks, self-serving academics, or self-perpetuating office-squatters?
    It seems to me that an American way of strategy must be grounded in institutions of republican democracy, — not just shallow anglophilia, much less Trotskyism. These should include a robust civil society, responsible two-party goverment, and a commercial, industrial, technology-based economy resting on something besides inidrect taxation, government concesseion-tending, capital imports, arms barter, and petroleum commodity-money.
    I do not see why we cannot go back over some of the same ground that Federalist and Whigs used to argue with Republicans and Democrats over, even immigration/slavery, once again, re-cast as indentured servitude and defined-benefit social insurance.
    But, I suspect that at least one party needs to stand for the Bill of Rights, including the 2nd and 3rd Amendments. These are the foundations of our Swiss and Roman institutions of universal military obligation and suffrage.
    They are not British Constitutionalism or Common Law or anything like the Anglo-Confederate mix of a long-term hire military, supplemented by emergency conscription non-voters or hiring of mercenaries.
    So, what is American or Strategic about the armies of Cornwallis or Packenham. I thought we beat them!

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  28. SomeCallMeTim says:

    Wilson, Lansing, House, Acheson and Nitze of a post-imperial world secured by cooperating great powers
    On the basis of lay readings, I think the concern (or my concern) is that we’ll follow Nitze and Acheson rather than Kennan, and thereby reinforce and extend identified conflicts longer than necessary. At some level, the first thing we need to do is to become comfortable with our extraordinary relative strength.

    Reply

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