I mean no disrespect to the editors of The National Interest in suggesting that they certainly appear to struggle mightily to muster a critique of the progressive grand strategy that I recently laid out in Democracy. And I would venture a guess that they seem to struggle because they probably could not find a great deal to disagree with. Whether they would admit it or not, liberal realists on the center-left (myself included) and traditional realists on the center-right share a great deal of common ground when it comes to foreign policy. Indeed, a coalition of moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans provided a critical foundation for U.S. foreign policy throughout the long decades of the Cold War. That coalition is today under threat—and more from the Republicans than from the Democrats. As the editors of the TNI seem to accept, Republicans have offered no foreign policy outside the extremes of Tea Party isolationism and neoconservatism. The ideological complexion of the Democratic Party has changed as well. But the Democrats are still home to at least a remnant of the centrist wing that favors a realist blend of power and partnership to advance the nation’s interests.
One of the main complaints of the editors of TNI is that “Kupchan co-opts realism’s central theme.” Guilty as charged. My view of the world is heavily colored by realism. But rather than protest that a progressive writes things with which they fundamentally agree, why don’t they state their concurrence—or perhaps even trumpet it? At a time in American history when the nation is polarized to the point of paralysis, Democrats and Republicans should be zealously pocketing areas of common ground. That is especially true on foreign policy; centrists from both sides of the aisle need to lock arms to make sure that the national interest prevails against those who lead the nation toward unsustainable excess as well as those who counsel dangerous retreat.