Friday, August 01, 2008

Democrats, transgendered

Foreign policy expert Samantha Power may have thrown herself under the Barack Obama bus after being caught calling Hillary Clinton a "monster" during the primaries, but if Obama is reading the New York Review of Books, he can still take her counsel.

Powers's piece in NYRB argues that the Democrats are on the verge of transforming themselves from the Mommy party to the Daddy party.

Between Obama's miraculous foreign policy trifecta (Maliki pseudo-endorses his Iraq plan, McCain finally endorses a troop increase in Afghanistan, and the Bush administration starts talking to Iran--oh, and didn't he go abroad or something?), John Kerry's "New Strategy Against Extremism and Terrorism," and Power's review of two books chronicling what 50 years of Republican national security leadership have wrought, it looks like the Democrats have a chance to end the war on abstract nouns.

Power's resignation was a real loss for Obama's campaign. But her article, ostensibly a book review and essay, reads plainly like campaign advice by the end. It even ends on talking points for the party:

• The New versus the Old. Democrats should argue that their foreign policy is particularly well suited to meeting today's unconventional threats —those that cross borders. Meeting such threats will sometimes entail using military force, but it will almost always require mustering global cooperation...Democrats...will be more effective in securing the cooperation of intelligence and law enforcement officials in the eighty countries in which al-Qaeda is now active.

• Deeds versus Words...The gulf between America's rights rhetoric and the abuses carried out against detainees in American custody has been fatal to American credibility...The United States should invest in a long-term "rule of law" initiative that takes up the burden of helping other countries and international organizations to build workable legal systems in the developing world.

• Law versus Lawlessness. In arguing for closing down Guantánamo, ending extraordinary rendition, and returning to the Geneva Conventions, Democrats must remind voters of the national security consequences of being perceived as a lawbreaker...As a constitutional lawyer, Obama is in a unique position to argue that as commander in chief, he will never hold himself or his advisers above the law.

Is this, at long last, a Democratic plan to combat stateless terrorism?

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