Five Features of the New Progressive Foreign Policy

, a law professor at Vanderbilt, says the 2020 Democratic candidates are offering a new U.S. foreign policy that is distinct from the liberal internationalism (typified by President’s Clinton and Obama) and aggressive neoconservativism (exemplified by President Bush).

In speeches and articles, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders have taken the lead in defining the role of the U.S. government in world affairs. Representatives Seth Moulton and Tulsi Gabbard have, in very different ways,  made national security issues the centerpiece of their campaign. On the other had, Mayor Pete Buttigieg did not talk about foreign policy issues in announcing his candidacy.

The new progressive foreign policy has five distinctive features, Sitarman notes. 

First, progressive foreign policy breaks the silos between domestic and foreign policy and between international economic policy and foreign policy. It places far greater emphasis on how foreign policy impacts the United States at home — and particularly on how foreign policy (including international economic policy) has impacted the domestic economy. To be sure, there have always been analysts and commentators who recognized these interrelationships. But progressive foreign policy places this at the center.

Sitarman doesn’t say it, but in this regard, progressive foreign policy has something in common with Trump’s foreign policy: foreign policy is about jobs and the economy. Sanders and Warren are most explicit about this. Rep. John Delaney, as a free trader, also shares this perspective but from a more traditional neoliberal orientation.

Second, progressive foreign policy holds that one of the important threats to American democracy at home is nationalist oligarchy (or, alternatively, authoritarian capitalism) abroad.

In this regard, the progressive foreign policy is grounded in democratic ideals, which gives it something in common with neoconservatism. Neoconservatives also see the undemocratic governments as a threat and call for “democracy promotion.”

The two big differences: the progressives add an economic/class interpretation to the threat of anti-democratic regimes. Neoconservatives see anti-democratic governments as a threat to U.S. power. Progessives see anti-democratic governments as a threat to a more egalitarian world order.

Neoconservative propose war or coercive diplomacy, like economic sanctions, to advance U.S. interests.  Progressive propose shunning autocracies in favor of more reliable allies.

Third, the new progressive foreign policy values America’s alliances and international agreements, but not because it thinks that such alliances and rules can convert nationalist oligarchies into liberal democracies.

Progressive foreign policymakers would spurn–not reform–autocratic allies like Saudi Arabia. They would embrace the countries, like Japan , Germany, and the United Kingdom that share our values, i.e. a well-regulated market, with progressive taxation, civil liberties and equal opportunity to serve as a check on inequality.

Fourth, the new progressive foreign policy is highly skeptical of military interventions, and opposed to democracy promotion by force.

The views of the Democratic candidates are diverse, but this is a common denominator of all of them: military intervention is a bad idea. Gabbard is the most vehement candidate on the point. Kristen Gillibrand is also explicit: end the endless wars.

Fifth, the new progressive foreign policy seeks to reshape the military budget by both cutting the budget overall and reallocating military spending.

This is a key issue. Budgets set policies. Big military budget is likely to lead to big military actions. Cutting the budget inevitably means curbing military action. How would and why the next Democratic presidential candidate cut the defense budget?

That’s a key issue of the 2020 race taht the Democrats have only begung to address. 

Source: The Emergence of Progressive Foreign Policy


Insiders’ guide to the 2020 Democratic candidates on issues of war and peace, like Venezuela, Yemen, Iran and Russia.


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