Researchers and investigative reporters are fascinated with the neoconservatives, that group of American empire peddlers who turned George W. Bush into a junkie war criminal. A similar group, the New Democrats, has been pushing its own dangerous brand of U.S. hegemony but with much less fanfare.
The leading mouthpiece for the New Democrats’ radical interventionist program could be our next president. John Kerry, the frontrunner in the quest for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, has been promoting a foreign policy perspective called “progressive internationalism.” It’s a concept concocted by establishment Democrats seeking to convince potential backers in the corporate and political world that, if installed in the White House, they would seek to preserve U.S. power and influence around the world, but in a kinder, gentler fashion than the current administration.
In the battle to control the American empire, the neocons have in their corner the Project for a New American Century while the New Democrats have the Progressive Policy Institute. Come November, who will get your vote? Coke or Pepsi?
In fall 2000, PNAC released Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century. It’s a blueprint for “maintaining global U.S. preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.”
In fall 2003, members of PPI joined with other tough-minded Democrats to unveil Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy, a 19-page manifesto that calls for “the bold exercise of American power, not to dominate but to shape alliances and international institutions that share a common commitment to liberal values.”
The New Democrats don’t begrudge the Bush administration for invading Iraq. They take issue with the Bush administration’s strategy of refusing to invite key members of the international community to the invasion of Iraq until it was too late. The neocons’ unilateralist approach, the New Democrats believe, will do ultimately harm U.S. political and economic dominance around the world.
“We are confident that a new Democratic strategy, grounded in the party’s tradition of muscular internationalism, can keep Americans safer than the Republicans’ go-it-alone policy, which has alienated our natural allies and overstretched our resources,” the New Democrats say in their foreign policy manifesto. “We aim to rebuild the moral foundation of U.S. global leadership by harnessing America’s awesome power to universal values of liberal democracy. A new progressive internationalism can point the way.”
Proponents of “progressive internationalism” are a lock to control leadership positions at the State Department and key civilian posts at the Pentagon in a John Kerry administration. How do we know this? Because these New Democrats obviously ghostwrote Kerry’s campaign book, A Call to Service: My Vision for A Better America. Place the Progressive Internationalism manifesto and Kerry’s chapter on foreign policy side by side and you’ll immediately notice the similarities.
On page 40 of In A Call to Service, Kerry writes: “The time has come to renew that tradition and revive a bold vision of progressive internationalism.” What is this tradition to which Kerry refers? As he describes it, Democrats need to honor “the tough-minded strategy of international engagement and leadership forged by Wilson and Roosevelt in the two world wars and championed by Truman and Kennedy in the cold war.”
Now, turn to page 3 of the New Democrats’ manifesto. It reads:
“As Democrats, we are proud of our party’s tradition of tough-minded internationalism and strong record in defending America. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman led the United States to victory in two world wars and designed the post-war international institutions that have been a cornerstone of global security and prosperity ever since. President Truman forged democratic alliances such as NATO that eventually triumphed in the Cold War. President Kennedy epitomized America’s commitment to “the survival and success of liberty.”
Like the neocons, Kerry was not impressed by France’s stance against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On page 51 of his book, he writes:
“I hope by the time you read this book that the UN has been usefully employed as a partner in the reconstruction of Iraq and that Jacque Chirac has ceased his foolish rebellion against the very idea of the Atlantic Alliance. America, which has always shown magnanimity in victory, should in turn meet repentant Europeans halfway, not ratchet up the badgering unilateralism that fed European fears in the first place.”
There’s much to digest in this paragraph. Perhaps the most interesting nugget is Kerry’s statement that the United States should “meet repentant Europeans halfway.” Hmmm, John, could you elaborate on what sins the Europeans committed for which they must repent?
On page 50, Kerry details his beef with Old Europe:
“The Bush administration is by no means the only culprit in the breakdown in U.S.-UN relations over Iraq. France, Germany and Russia never supported or offered a feasible policy to verify that UN resolutions on Iraq were actually being carried out. Our British, Spanish and Eastern European coalition allies are eager to rebuild European unity.”
Throughout the foreign policy sections of the book, Kerry does his best to convince the reader that he would not run from his role as war criminal in chief if elected president.
Perhaps the most repulsive section of the book is where Kerry discusses the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement. On page 42, Kerry writes:
“I could never agree with those in the antiwar movement who dismissed our troops as war criminals or our country as the villain in the drama. That’s one reason, in fact, that I eventually parted ways with the VVAW [Vietnam Veterans Against the War] organizations and instead helped found the Vietnam Veterans of America.”
If the United States was not a villain in the “drama” of the Vietnam war, then who is to blame for the million-plus Vietnamese who were killed during the 20-year period of U.S. aggression that ended 1975? Surely, John, you don’t wish to blame certain communist dead-enders in Vietnam for the carnage?
On the next page, Kerry informs his reader that it’s time we stop questioning U.S. foreign policy intentions:
“As a veteran of both the Vietnam War and the Vietnam protest movement, I say to both conservative and liberal misinterpretations of that war that it’s time to get over it and recognize it as an exception, not as a ruling example, of the U.S. military engagements of the twentieth century. If those of us who carried the physical and emotional burdens of that conflict can regain perspective and move on, so can those whose involvement was vicarious or who knew nothing of the war other than ideology and legend.”
This last passage is probably the most unsettling part of Kerry’s book and one that every advocate of the Anyone-But-Bush 2004 election strategy should read before heading to the polling station in November.
In this one passage, Kerry seeks to justify the millions of people slaughtered by the U.S. military and its surrogates during the twentieth century, suggests that concern about U.S. war crimes in Vietnam is no longer necessary, and dismisses the antiwar movement as the work of know-nothings.
Kerry and his comrades in the progressive internationalist movement are as gung-ho about U.S. military action as their counterparts in the White House. The only noteworthy difference between the two groups battling for power in Washington is that the neocons are willing to pursue their imperial ambitions in full view of the international community, while the progressive internationalists prefer to keep their imperial agenda hidden behind the cloak of multilateralism.