For more information about this campaign in the Illinois 5th District, which has been endorsed by the Illinois Berniecrats:
Beyond Liberal Internationalism
Samuel Moyn’s fine article, “ Beyond Liberal Internationalism ,” in the Winter 2017 issue of Dissent, is a good starting point for a reexamination of the traditional foreign policy of the Democratic Party and what most needs to be changed about it. Unfortunately, beyond recognizing that we must not simply hunker down in opposition with neoliberals and neoconservatives to Trump’s recklessness—important as such opposition is—Moyn doesn’t sketch much of an alternative.

My scholarly career has been dedicated to learning from the past to build such an alternative for the future: a foreign policy concerned with the global common good that seeks to acknowledge the rights and interests of others and pursue American interests through an approach that combines democratic solidarity with respect for the national autonomy of other peoples. In a book on American policy and the struggle for democracy in Latin America during the Truman Years, I showed how an approximation of such an approach had done Latin America’s democrats more good than harm during the immediate aftermath of WWII and could have done more if not for the ascendancy of a group of conservative cold warriors in Washington. My article on American policy toward Venezuela during these years, “ Rómulo Betancourt: From a Communist Anti-Imperialist to a Social Democrat with US Support ,” is available for free download. My article on American wartime planning to assist the Japanese people in building a postwar democracy, “ The ‘Soft Peace Boys’: Presurrender Planning and Japanese Land Reform ,” is available for free download as well. The common thread running through American foreign policy during the years I studied was a measure of civility—a measure of concern for the common good. Our country and the rest of the world benefited from such civility in the past and will need it in the future.

That said, I think it is important to stress where we have gone wrong in recent decades. I have sought to do so in a speech on my webpage on “ America and the Kingdom .” I also want to quote here three excellent paragraphs from Moyn’s article:

“The overarching and worst mistake liberal internationalists have made is to believe that hegemonic ascendancy and military intervention by their own country could create a freer world. British liberals, especially in the age of William Gladstone, made that error in the nineteenth century, blithely assuming that the cause of humanity was served by the geopolitical advancement of a single nation (and empire). American liberals have repeated it in our time, never breaking with the exceptionalist outlook that cast the United States as uniquely virtuous, even though Trump will show just how terrifyingly normal a nation we are, with our populist jingoism and hawkish foreign policy. Democrats’ foundational blunder of idealizing America’s role in the world became especially poisonous when it enhanced the powers of a presidency, which is now in the hands of a charlatan.”

“Equally significantly, liberal internationalists have failed to mount a serious challenge to American militarism, leaving a Cold War baseline in funding defense and security intact, as if it were normal for one country to so far outspend all others on war preparations and institutionalized spying. They have ignored that, as critics of the ‘military-industrial complex’ from Dwight Eisenhower on have rued, those who benefit from constant military buildup will not leave the trough of government funding easily. This is to say nothing of the United States’ support for a staggering global arms trade and broader security and surveillance cooperation. It has become hard to hear the slogans of liberal internationalism above the din of hardware changing hands, and now the hum of software and data shared among ‘friends.’”

“And of course, the tools of violence have hardly remained idle. Liberal internationalists have tended not merely to look the other way as the United States has militarized the world in the name of keeping itself safe, but have also apologized for too many wars in the deluded hope that they might serve freedom and equality in the short or long run. The global War on Terror, however, has not only involved a horrendous ethical price—achieving the opposite of its declared aims, breeding the insurgencies it was supposed to suppress, and failing to address the root causes of global violence—it has served to delegitimize liberals around the world.”
Carl Nyberg, of Northside Democracy for America, recently asked me on Twitter (a medium on which I plan to become active), the following questions: “How should Democrats in Congress respond to #GOPTaxBillScam?” “Is the #GOPTaxBill bad policy? How is it bad policy?” “Is the #GOPTaxBill bad politics? How so? If the bill is bad politics, why is the GOP pushing for it now?” “If the #GOPTaxBill is worth GOP risking the party's majorities in Congress, what should Democrats do with their majorities in 2019-2020?” Since Carl was kind enough to also ask in an email, I offered this reply:

Dear Carl,

I have a twitter account, but am not yet active on twitter. I am drafting a newsletter on infrastructure investment that will probably go out next week and stress the destructive consequences of the GOP tax bill scam for our nation's infrastructure. In general, I think we should have a three pronged attack stressing the consequences of the tax bill for infrastructure investment and for healthcare and championing a restoration of Eisenhower era tax rates as being compatible with a growing economy and one much less warped by economic inequality. The political logic of the Republican bill, which the Democrats have yet to begin to come to terms with, is to seek to turn blue states like Illinois red by launching statewide tax revolts in these states after the tax increases brought about by the end of state deductions hits them with what is, in effect, a massive Republican tax increase. Assuming the Democrats win majorities in 2018, the most important thing they can do is start the campaign for 2020 around a social democratic program for the country that includes Medicare for All, a Marshall Plan for America that involves massive infrastructure investment and a national plan to "decarbonize" our economy, and a 21st century Freedom Budget that looks to eliminate poverty primarily through investments in education and housing while also benefiting the working class and the middle class with guaranteed paid family and medical leave and a Montessori-style pre-K for All. The language for detailed bills for these endeavors should be developed in 2019-2020 and presented to the public for commentary and critique at town hall meetings around the country. To do this in a concerted fashion will require progress in the political revolution that Bernie Sanders has launched. A friend of mine, Jeffrey Ballinger, is running for Congress in the Massachusetts 3rd District and I would expect that we (and hopefully others) would form a social democratic caucus to advance such a strategy.  

All the Best,