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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Standing Principled for a World of Liberty under Law

By Anne-Marie Slaughter
The Truman Project is a shot in the arm for the Democratic Party: a group of super-smart, ambitious, and savvy young people challenging all of us to articulate why it is that we are Democrats, what we stand for, and how we would actually govern. Let me begin by agreeing with the basic distinction that Grinberg, Kleinfeld, and Spence make between foreign policy and national security and with the point that Americans care far more about national security — what keeps themselves and their families safe — than foreign policy more generally. This is the same message that Kurt Campbell and Michael O’Hanlon are sending in their new book HARD POWER. That said, it is equally important that we define national security broadly enough to address all the major threats we face as a nation, as opposed to seeing all national security issues through the lens of terrorism, even nuclear terrorism.
On 9/11 many in the Administration were focused on China as the next enemy; al Qaeda came out of a clear blue sky. While we have been focusing on Iraq, we neglected the threats brewing in both North Korea and Iran. Last winter avian flu suddenly hit the headlines, a threat that could kill many more millions of Americans than even the detonation of a nuclear weapon in a major city. And responding to the challenges to the international system created by the rise of China and India as major powers on the one hand, and the widening inequality between haves and have-nots fueled by globalization on the other, are both major issues for any national security strategist monitoring global trends.
In the Princeton Project on National Security final report, written by John Ikenberry and me and released on September 27th, we defined national security in George Kennan’s terms, as “the continued ability of the country to pursue the development of its internal life without serious interference, or threat of interference, from foreign powers.” We argued that presenting Islamo-Fascism as the heir to Naziism and Communism is addressing a 21st century world with a 20th century mindset — trying to return to a simpler age with one big enemy and one big response. Keeping America safe in the 21st century absolutely requires countering the threat posed by global terrorist networks — a global insurgency with a criminal core that must be countered not by a “war on terror” that dignifies terrorists as holy warriors, but rather by a sophisticated counter-insurgency strategy combining intelligence, law enforcement and special operations. But it also requires having an affirmative, proactive strategy to counter nuclear proliferation, to bring peace between Israel and Palestine and stabilize the entire Middle East, to prevent and protect against a global pandemic, and to safeguard America’s energy supplies. These are not issues of foreign policy, but of national security — of our day-to-day ability to live our lives.
The challenge of selling this vision is the challenge of countering one big idea — the war on terror — with what might first appear to be a number of smaller ideas. That is where Grinberg, Kleinfeld, and Spence’s recommendation about “Standing Principled” comes in. Americans must be reminded that focusing our national security strategy on one issue is simply not going to make us safe, but that neither can we run in every direction at once. We instead need a positive agenda, a plan for how to build an infrastructure of capacity and cooperation that will give us the ability and the partners to turn on a dime and address whatever threat is most menacing at any given point while at the same time working on long-term effective strategies to resolve outstanding conflicts, lock down nuclear weapons and provide states with incentives not to pursue nuclear capacity, offer a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East, etc.
That agenda couples long-standing American principles with partners who share them and are willing to work with us to advance them. The Princeton Project report advocates a vision of a world of liberty under law — a world in which we would promote democracy effectively over the long term not simply as a answer to terrorism but as the realization of the universal values this country was founded on; in which we would reform old institutions and create new ones to ensure that we have rules, procedures, and capacity to address crises regionally and globally, not alone as a global policeman; and in which we would build our security together with like-minded countries who are willing to integrate their militaries with ours and rethink the international rules governing the use of force together with other nations.
Finally, standing on America’s principles, and promoting them not as our values, but as universal values, is the best long-term answer to the terrorists’ message. We will not accept a world divided along religious, geographic, or civilizational lines. We should stand tall for our principles and ensure that we live up to them at home as well as abroad. If we do that, we will find friends again to help us counter our enemies; we will be able to draw on the full spectrum of American power — hard and soft, public and private; and we will have both might and right on our side.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and co-convener, with John Ikenberry, of the Princeton Project on National Security

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