In foreign policy, progressives are adrift, caught between dated paradigms that have not yet come to terms with the current geopolitical moment. Although American progressives—who include left-liberals, social democrats, and democratic socialists—enjoy a rough consensus on many broad domestic policy aims, if not always the means by which to achieve them, recent months have seen an uptick in concern (usually focused on the left) about the lack of a progressive vision for foreign policy. Indeed, the coalition seems divided between two depressingly familiar alternatives: liberal internationalists of the kind associated with the Democratic establishment, and anti-hegemonists, who want to see the United States drastically reduce its pretensions to global leadership. The latter question the desirability of so-called liberal order, which they see as, at best, serving the interests of global capital at the expense of democratic economic governance, and, at worst, a fig leaf for imperialism.
During the 2016 primary and general election, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton often appeared to represent a Democratic foreign policy establishment whose views might have been ripped from 2003, when the United States could still claim to be, in the words of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “the indispensable nation”; and a number of luminaries released a blueprint for “progressive internationalism” that staked out a position between the “neo-imperialist right” and the “non-interventionist left.” Clinton, of course, voted for the 2003 Iraq War and supported the 2011 intervention in Libya. But her primary challenger from the left, Senator Bernie Sanders, delayed articulating such an alternative foreign policy agenda until his 2017 speech at Westminster College.
All of this is particularly unfortunate. The new gilded age—of corporate power, concentrated wealth, environmental dangers, corruption—demands a strong progressive movement. But that movement also faces challenges reminiscent of the era of New Deal liberalism: a rising tide of right-wing extremism, post-fascism, and neofascism, at home and abroad. These threats are simultaneously national and transnational in character. Their solutions require a combination of domestic and
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