The Next Generation of Democrat Foreign Policymakers
The Truman National Security Project appears to have assembled a remarkably well-credentialed network of young (as in 20- and 30-something) foreign policy experts to devise an alternative among Democrats to neocons on the one hand (to the extent that any remain Democrat) and Vietnam-era leftists on the other. The group articulates a foreign-policy vision that couples strength, including the willingness to use military action (the website’s main page prominently features a photo of fighter planes), with a strategy “to use free trade, democratization from within, liberalization, and well-deployed aid to spread hope, build middle classes, expand economies, foster dignity, and end the repression that breeds extremism.”
The group’s advisory board of relative elders includes Madeleine Albright, Leslie Gelb, and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Fellows include New Republic editor-in-chief Peter Beinart, Brookings fellow Ivo Daalder, and former Clinton administration officials Ronald Klain and Jeremy Rosner. The organizing directors and principals, the 20-somethings, are mostly people you probably haven’t heard of (with the exception of bloggers Philip Carter and Rachel Kleinfeld) but almost certainly someday will. (There’s a whiff of a secret society in noting that some principals wish to remain anonymous by virtue of their service as judicial clerks, congressional staff, or because they “are involved in and knowledgeable about the armed forces and intelligence issues.”) Although a surprising number have law degrees, there’s only one law professor among them for now – William Burke-White at Penn – but others (such as Ariel Lavinbuk) will make terrific international law scholars if that’s the path they choose.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see which candidates they fall in behind for 2008, and if they come to power what they can do about executing their agenda. Whoever succeeds the current administration will be playing with a pretty bad hand, and one might wonder how much of a difference the party choice will necessarily make, especially when “strength” is a necessary part of the Democrat message. The Truman Project doesn’t appear to center international law in any particular way, which is savvy politics; and once installed, as Bill Clinton discovered, there’s only so much one can do in the face of a sovereigntist Congress. One might also wonder if the old-shadow government/Council of Foreign Relations model of agenda-setting still works in an era of less centralized power. On the other hand, it can’t hurt to get one’s ducks in line beforehand (in a way that didn’t happen before the 2004 elections), and whoever comes next can’t help but be friendlier to international institutions than the current crowd is.