Sunday, February 15, 2004

Fareed Zakaria is eager for the first presidential campaign in a generation to be fought over foreign policy. The old campaign to which Zakaria refers ended in the Reagan Revolution. Democrats are off to a decent start, but they'll need all the momentum they can muster. They're in for a hard and perhaps demoralizing struggle. The Zarkawi letter says so much for Bush's foreign policy that it will be hard for Democrats to muster an argument against it. Zakaria's advice to the Dems is to avoid being anti-Bush (Howard Dean) and Bush-lite (Joe Lieberman). But it's difficult to understand how a coherent alternative can be hewn in a matter of months. If this election is strictly about foreign policy, it will be a landslide. Democrats look as suspect as ever on national security.

The end of the Cold War has demanded new thinking about foreign policy. Neverthless, some important things remain the same. Aggressivenss rather than pacifism is required in our new struggle. This means that old Cold Warriors have been able to adapt more easily to the new circumstances and that the Republicans are in better shape electorally.

In a few days (if it hasn't happened already), the brouhaha over Bush's National Guard service will be over. The "news cycle" will be onto something else. Then the Democrats will be forced into the uncomfortable position of having to discuss their past political record and future proposals on national security.

Zakaria is hoping for the Dems to reclaim the legacies of FDR, Truman, and Scoop Jackson in the next few months. It's possible, but not likely.


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