That’s my takeaway from the Netroots Nation panel Intervention, Isolation, and the Future of Progressive Security Policy (watch the full panel in that link), which was moderated by Adam Weinstein of Mother Jones; and featured Tom Perriello (fmr. U.S. Representative for VA-5 and now president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund), Dr. Kristin Lord (here on her own behalf, but from the Center for a New American Security), Ali Gharib (of ThinkProgress), and Michael Hastings (a reporter for BuzzFeed and contributing editor for Rolling Stone whose coverage of Afghanistan forced the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal). Like the Occupy Our Homes panel, this was a last-minute decision
Mr. Weinstein opened up with a question about what a progressive foreign policy looks like if President Obama wins a second term. To which nearly all the panelists argued that the President had not pursued a foreign policy based on progressive grounds but on realist grounds. However, they mainly argued for intervention on humanitarian grounds. At which point Mr. Hastings was given a chance to speak, and said: “I didn’t know there was a progressive security policy.” He made the point that to be included in the national security conversation, you have to be either a neocon or a liberal hawk, and folks like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich see their views sidelined by establishment thinking.
There was quite a lot of talk about “humane intervention”. When do we do it, when don’t we. Mr. Gharib pointed out that the Libyan intervention, and the pursuit of such wars via air strike avoid the responsibility for post-war order. Dr. Lord thought that the Libyan intervention had turned out to be the right call, though she was opposed at the time. Mr. Hastings said that the problem with “humane intervention” is that it’s only deployed when the principles align with strategic interests; witness the reluctance with Syria versus the active response against Libya. Mr. Perriello said that ultimately a large military interest will always trump a humanitarian interest.
The problem to me with the “humane intervention” argument is that it essentially ignores the views of the American people: 76% of Americans would cut the national defense budget. It’s pretty clear that Americans are consistently tired of focusing on military intervention. And yet, even as we have claimed that our military is advancing democracy around the world, our own government has been hesitant to advance democracy through other means: the Arab Spring caught us almost completely by surprise. I can think of no statement about Tunisia. I do remember the pathetic response to crackdown on the Egyptian Revolution by Hosni Mubarak. Instead of threatening to remove military support, the United States called for cellphone and internet service to be turned back on. Instead of saying we supported democracy, we said we supported “stability.”
Progressives have been incredibly acquiescent to the whims of a president who has a kill list, has assassinated American citizens while expanding the definition of “militant” to include anyone who happens to be shot, expanded a secret drone war, and who threw more troops into Afghanistan with no real purpose. When Mr. Hastings says he wasn’t aware there was a progressive security policy, it’s not because he hasn’t looked hard enough. It’s because when you scratch the surface, there’s nothing there.