What Is A ‘Progressive Foreign Policy,’ Anyway?

What is The Dreyfuss Report all about?

For progressives — especially left-leaning Democrats and ‘democratic socialists’ — it’s not hard to imagine what the elements of a progressive foreign policy would look like. The purpose of The Dreyfuss Report is to develop, on an ongoing basis, some ideas about reinventing American foreign policy, and to use that as a yardstick of sorts against which to measure the views of the Democratic candidates for president in 2020.

In other words, here and elsewhere (including a number of magazines and other publications that I write for) I’m planning to keep track of what the growing contingent of 2020 would-be Democratic presidential hopefuls say and do when it comes to national security, defense, and global affairs. I’ll look at what they’ve already done: their track records, if they have one; their financial backers, from the military-industrial complex to lobbyists and other interested parties that represent foreign countries; what they’ve already said on critical issues, from the Global War on Terror (GWOT), Iraq, and Afghanistan to North Korea, China, Russia, and Israel-Palestine. And, as they assemble their own campaign foreign policy teams, I’ll look at those, too.

So what elements would add up to a ‘progressive, 21st Century foreign policy’? In no particular order, I’d suggest: significant downsizing of the $700 billion-plus Defense Department budget, shrinking America’s overseas presence, withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and prioritizing diplomacy over force. The United States should adopt strict conditions in regard to so-called ‘humanitarian intervention,’ in coordination with the United Nations, and revisit the seemingly all-too-easy application of economic sanctions as a substitute for military action. A new foreign policy would elevate an intense effort, in concert with the rest of the world, to deal with the urgent threat of climate change. It would focus attention on the rise of right-wing, authoritarian and ultra-nationalist leaders and political parties, from Europe to Asia. It would avoid confrontation with Russia, especially in Ukraine and Georgia, and with China, especially in South China Sea and over Taiwan. And, working through the United Nations and other international organizations, the United States should lead a worldwide effort to ameliorate poverty, hunger, disease, and inequality, especially in developing countries.

Over the last few months, both Bernie Sanders (in an October 9, 2018 speech to the School of Advanced International Affairs at Johns Hopkins) and Elizabeth Warren (in an essay in the January/February 2019 issue of Foreign Affairs) have laid down important markers for the rest of the Democratic field, and both of them made important breaks with what’s passed as Foreign Policy 101 among mainstream Democrats. It’s no secret that in 2016, Sanders was criticized for being weak on foreign policy, and that he’s had little or no experience in global affairs. So, too, Warren isn’t exactly known for her expertise in foreign policy. But both of them have made important strides in the area lately. Except for Joe Biden, who’s yet to decide whether or not he’ll run in 2020, very few of the declared candidates (including the senators, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and potentially Sherrod Brown) are known for their knowledge of world affairs. (And, of course, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all had virtually zero experience in foreign policy when they decided to run for president.

For most voters, of course, foreign policy comes in low when they’re asked about their priorities. (That wasn’t true, in 2006, when the glaring failure of the Iraq war was one of the major election issues leading to the Democrats’ sweeping victory in congressional elections that year.) Still, here at The Dreyfuss Report, I plan to be a watchdog of sorts in regard to foreign policy during the 2020 campaign. Please stay tuned.