Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Perhaps the low point (or the high point, depending your perspective) came in April, when Dean conceded that "[w]e won't always have the strongest military" on the planet. A Kerry spokesman promptly pointed out that such an utterance "raises serious questions about [Dean's] capacity to serve as Commander-in-Chief."
That may have been a bit dramatic. But the question is worth asking: Can Howard Dean be a credible foreign policy leader?
Still, some of these attacks have been unfair. Kerry's team was adroit in morphing Dean's worry about a decline in America's relative power into an accusation that Dean would approve of such a decline as president. Taken in context, it's clear that Dean's comment referred to the inexorable tides of demographics and economic development--hardly matters under presidential control. And the point underlying it--that the United States should play by the current set of global rules to ensure those rules are still around in an uncertain future--has a respectable intellectual pedigree. As for flunking Tim Russert's pop quiz, the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would attest that such exams are hardly the best format for gauging a candidate's foreign policy mettle.
More importantly, Dean's foreign policy views--laid out most clearly in a June 25 speech before the Council on Foreign Relations--bear a marked similarity to the mainstream Democratic candidates. All, including Dean, support some variant of liberal institutionalism--i.e., working closely with democratic allies, strengthening multilateral institutions, opposing preventive wars, and investing more in homeland defense. And Dean, like the rest of the candidates, extols Harry S Truman and John F. Kennedy as his guiding stars on foreign policy matters. In his speeches, he emphasizes the combination of their hawkishness in the face of illiberal threats and multilateralism as the preferred method for combating such threats. Dean's emphasis on Kennedy's prudence during the Cuban missile crisis was a constant refrain of leading Democrats in late 2002.
Furthermore, Dean's opposition on Iraq does not mean he is opposed to the overseas deployment of U.S. forces. He has been refreshingly candid in advocating a more active nation-building role for the United States, and has advocated sending more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan for that purpose. This week he strongly supported the deployment of U.S. peacekeeping forces to Liberia as part of a multilateral intervention.
Dean's specific criticisms of the Bush administration are also similar to the rest of the field's. Like Kerry, Dean has pounced on the administration for neglecting North Korea's nuclear program while obsessing over Iraq. Dean's attacks on Bush's arrogance plainly echo John Edwards's description of the administration as "gratuitously unilateralist." Echoing Bob Graham, Dean argues that the war on Al Qaeda has suffered because of a misplaced focus on Saddam Hussein.
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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.