Reviving democratic internationalism?

Reviving democratic internationalism?

The incoming U.S. Administration will not be short of foreign policy advice, not least on the question of promoting democracy.

Some analysts, drawing on fformer U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower advice – “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it” – advocate a Global Grand Bargain covering several dimension of foreign policy. On development, for example, they suggest that the U.S. could expect poor countries to make a stronger commitment to a more democratic agenda and human rights emergencies in exchange for a more forceful U.S. commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, and more funding for food, energy, and environmental security.

Others offer more practical advice, suggesting that President-Elect Barack Obama should be wary of appointing too many academic foreign policy wonks. “Pragmatic, well-schooled politicians often have a feel for what will fly that surpasses the most brilliant theorists,” suggests one analysts. “So, although there are clear benefits to be gained from consulting with social scientists, Obama will do well to follow his own counsel. The making of foreign policy requires a cognitive flexibility that too often eludes academics with theories to prove.

Another detects an opening for a new, progressive internationalism to “recapture the spirit of tough liberalism exemplified by Presidents Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy”. It “makes sense to strengthen the Community of Democracies,” argues the Progressive Policy Institute’s Will Marshall.

“A strategic priority for the democracies,” he suggests, “should be to promote economic opportunity and reform throughout the Muslim world” through a tariff-reduction scheme to encourage Western trade and investment and integrate Muslim states into the global economy.

The new Administration faces a list of foreign policy challenges substantially larger than the problems confronting its predecessor, argues Stratfor, “in breadth if not in intensity.” The administration will also face severe limits on the available military, political and economic resources for the first year at least.

“The tremendous diversity of international challenges would make holding the defense budget in check difficult,” it argues. This, allied with the “difficulty of coalition building and multilateral action with the Europeans”, means that the new Administration will likely “lack both the force and the coalition” to fulfill an ambitious foreign policy agenda.