Dem Foreign Policy

DEM FOREIGN POLICY….A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post suggesting that after years of disarray and vacillation, the mainstream of the Democratic Party has actually achieved a fairly substantial consensus about what our foreign policy should look like in the age of terror. I’m not going to repeat my arguments here, but if you want to brush up on what I said, the original post is here.

I’m revisiting this because last night I spoke to a local group of Democratic activists and pitched this idea to them. The feedback I got was this: in a general sense I might be right, but there’s one specific issue that’s so divisive within the party that it really doesn’t matter if there’s a consensus on everything else.

That issue, of course, is Iraq. As I said in my earlier post, “Nearly everyone in Democratic circles agrees that the war in Iraq was a mistake, though there’s still a fair amount of disagreement about what to do about this now.” However, if the people I talked to last night are right, that’s a wild understatement. These are the folks who walk precincts, participate in party conventions, and help write position statements, and what they told me is that party activists in California are practically at war with each other over the question of whether we should withdraw from Iraq “immediately” or merely “as soon as we can.” It blots out nearly everything else.

This is only one data point, and it’s from a single state. I don’t know how widely true it is. But it’s discouraging anyway, if for no other reason than that it’s so pointless. If we really do have a rough consensus on what our foreign policy should look like, it’s nuts to tear ourselves apart over an issue that we have no control over in any case.

I’m still digesting this, but thought I’d toss it out and see what people thought. On the broader issue of whether Dems are anywhere close to consensus, Shadi Hamid critiques my thesis here and here.