A Democrat Looks at Foreign Policy

Michael Dukakis For President pin, 1988.

This brace of articles revives a venerable custom. Sixty years ago Foreign Affairs published a similar exchange in which Ogden Mills, later Herbert Hoover’s secretary of the treasury, spoke for the Republicans and Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Democrats. Such eminent precedent should establish the proposition that foreign policy is a legitimate party issue—though this proposition hardly needs legitimation in a republic where foreign relations have been a subject of vehement debate ever since Hamilton and Madison disagreed over George Washington’s neutrality program. Still the old saw "politics stops at the water’s edge" expresses a familiar misconception. The impression occasionally arises—and is always encouraged by whatever administration is in office—that debating the conduct of foreign policy is indecent or unpatriotic. Yet clearly nothing in a democracy is more entitled to uninhibited discussion than decisions of peace and war.

What follows is not a party statement. "I belong to no organized party," as Will Rogers said. "I am Democrat." No one can speak for the Democratic Party until a candidate is nominated and a platform adopted in the summer of 1988; the consequent mandate runs to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and the ticket will be good for that journey only.


In the judgment of this free-lance Democrat, the foreign policy of the United States has been on a radically misconceived course since President Reagan took office in January 1981. This is not to lay all blame for foreign policy failure on the Reagan Administration nor to reject everything that Administration has done in its conduct of foreign relations. The continuities of U.S. foreign policy are greater than European critics of the United States (and American critics of democracy) understand. Geopolitical imperatives fall impartially on Republican and Democrat alike. All American administrations, no matter how much they differ, will act to preserve a balance of power in Europe and to prevent extracontinental annexations in the Americas.

Even in the shorter run, the

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