By Michael Youhana
There is a lively discussion underway on the American left over foreign policy. A burgeoning socialist movement is imagining positive alternatives to the Obama administration’s Scowcroftian Realism. The most high profile intervention in this dialogue to date comes from Bernie Sanders, who wrote an essay on the need for a new progressive internationalism in The Guardian last month.
Sanders’s piece is thought-provoking and reminiscent of some of David Klion’s writing on Russiagate. There’s an emphasis on a world order marred by massive inequality and a call to close tax havens and rein in oligarchs. But his essay is also marked by a sort of nostalgia that one would sooner expect from an inveterate Cold Warrior, like David Frum, than from a twenty-first century leftist. The former presidential candidate rallies progressives to combat the rise of “a new authoritarian axis” comprised of Xi Jingping’s People’s Republic of China, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Viktor Orban’s Hungary, and assortment of other despotic governments. Sanders writes:
“While these regimes may differ in some respects, they share key attributes… We must understand that these authoritarians are part of a common front… committed to tearing down a post-second world war global order that they see as limiting their access to power and wealth.”
This Manichean portrait of the world might arouse a new internationalism, but there’s a danger that it will be a fighting-internationalism that’s a poor match for our era. Of course, the American left should not condone the misdeeds of authoritarian governments. But neither should it dismiss the need to cooperate with great powers, like China and Russia, to address transnational challenges. You cannot stop climate change with an International Brigade.
Continue reading “Imagining a Reparative Internationalism”