Looking back at the opening years of this century, progressives can’t be blamed for being angry. Rising inequality, dwindling economic opportunity, and a growing disregard for civil liberties and due process are just a few of the consequences of the Bush Administration’s conservative policies. Yet the invasion and botched occupation of Iraq may be the president’s biggest failure. Regardless of where one stood on the initial decision to invade, it’s hard not to be incensed by this war, whose costs and casualties are so grievous and were so clearly avoidable. Justifiable anger, however, should not lead progressives from their historic mission to find the best possible solution. Outrage alone does not constitute a foreign policy.
While it was neoconservative thinking that got the United
States into Iraq, it is now clear that it will take progressive
responses to clean up the mess. The current debate in Washington is
centered on how many troops should be in Iraq and for how long. In
fact, there is a growing consensus, mirroring the sentiment of a
majority of Americans, that the troops need to come home as soon as
possible. Yet progressives cannot simply argue that the war should end
and then look no further. Fingers can be pointed and blame can be
placed at the feet of the Bush Administration, but the war in Iraq is
America’s problem, and determining the way forward is everyone’s
responsibility. So once there is a significant drawdown of American
troops, what happens next?
In this issue, Democracy starts to answer that question. For
the first time, a dozen of the brightest progressive foreign policy
thinkers have been assembled to explore what American strategy in the
Middle East should be in the months and years after the troops start
coming home. Since the Iraq invasion, this critically important region
has been turned upside down with the removal of one of its largest
powers (Saddam Hussein), the occupation of a central country by the
United States, and the apparent failure of the United States to turn
Iraq into a stable nation, much less a liberal democracy. In such a
world, new thinking is mandatory, and this distinguished group offers
their take on the priorities we face and the strategies we must follow.
The debate over Iraq has also driven economic issues from the forefront
of our political discussion with an urgency unseen for almost a
generation. Deepening inequality widens the gulf between American
citizens, and the lack of long-term investment widens the gap between
America and its economic competitors. In response, President Bill
Clinton’s chief economic adviser, Gene Sperling,
proposes that progressives adopt “Rising-Tide Economics,” a reminder
that if supply-side policies create growth in the absence of equity,
neo-populist policies that focus exclusively on equity are
unsustainable without growth. And, building on a panel discussion that
Democracy sponsored in Washington in June, Bernard Schwartz and Sherle
Schwenninger–the former an accomplished business leader and the latter
a fellow at the New America Foundation–argue that continuing to hold
onto balanced budgets as a holy grail for progressives is an outdated
and ineffective economic strategy. This is an important concern, and it
is one that will be revisited in future issues of Democracy.
Helping us with that work will be our new associate editor, Ethan
Porter. Ethan is a recent graduate of Bard College, where he not only
edited the school’s newspaper but also revived its political journal.
In his spare time, Ethan served as a national officer of College
Democrats of America and interned at Newsweek, the Forward, and the International Crisis Group. The associate editor position, as well as our internship program, is part of Democracy’s commitment to grooming the next generation of progressive thought-leaders. Ethan fits that mold perfectly.
–Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny