As Robert Borosage, co-Director of the Campaign for America’sFuture, argues in The Nation‘s current issue, "the current rage in center-right Democratic circles is to resuscitate Harry Truman, substitute bin Laden for Stalin andjihadism for Communism, and summon America to a new global struggle."

Peter Beinart, for example, who was a supporter of the Iraqdisaster (and has joined New Dems like Al From in urging Democratsto prove their resolve by purging the left from the Democraticparty) is a leading proponent of the misleading and wrong analogybetween Soviet totalitarianism and Islamic fundamentalism. For thisstance, Beinart has been celebrated by leading members of thecommentariat axis –Tom Friedman, Joe Klein and David Brooks amongothers. More are sure to follow.

But Beinart and his inside-the-beltway crusaders are out of touchwith an America that seeks a principled foreign policy that willmake them secure–not a messianic crusade that will deplete thenation’s blood and treasure. His fighting faith pledge to "rallythe American people" to sustain an "extended and robust" occupationin Iraq, his calls for America to intervene aggressively in theMiddle East with a "sweeping program of economic, political andsocial reform" are more likely to create chaos and, perhaps, breedmore terrorism than advance the cause of democracy. It is importantto remember that this kind of "fighting faith" has more in commonwith the least successful periods of US foreign policy–the crusadethat led us into Vietnam, our support for the Afghan Muhajedin andBush’s disastrous war in Iraq. It would be difficult to find asecurity consensus that is more wrongheaded for the challenges theUnited States now faces, or more at odds with the best traditionsof the Democratic Party.

As Robert Borosage, co-Director of the Campaign for America’sFuture, argues in The Nation‘s current issue, "the current rage in center-right Democratic circles is to resuscitate Harry Truman, substitute bin Laden for Stalin andjihadism for Communism, and summon America to a new global struggle."

Peter Beinart, for example, who was a supporter of the Iraqdisaster (and has joined New Dems like Al From in urging Democratsto prove their resolve by purging the left from the Democraticparty) is a leading proponent of the misleading and wrong analogybetween Soviet totalitarianism and Islamic fundamentalism. For thisstance, Beinart has been celebrated by leading members of thecommentariat axis –Tom Friedman, Joe Klein and David Brooks amongothers. More are sure to follow.

But Beinart and his inside-the-beltway crusaders are out of touchwith an America that seeks a principled foreign policy that willmake them secure–not a messianic crusade that will deplete thenation’s blood and treasure. His fighting faith pledge to "rallythe American people" to sustain an "extended and robust" occupationin Iraq, his calls for America to intervene aggressively in theMiddle East with a "sweeping program of economic, political andsocial reform" are more likely to create chaos and, perhaps, breedmore terrorism than advance the cause of democracy. It is importantto remember that this kind of "fighting faith" has more in commonwith the least successful periods of US foreign policy–the crusadethat led us into Vietnam, our support for the Afghan Muhajedin andBush’s disastrous war in Iraq. It would be difficult to find asecurity consensus that is more wrongheaded for the challenges theUnited States now faces, or more at odds with the best traditionsof the Democratic Party.

Of course, liberals need an effective national security strategy.But can we please stop with all the hurrahs about Harry Truman and his liberal national securityachievements? What we need to do is reclaim another liberal,internationalist and eminently (as well as ethically) "realist"foreign policy tradition. It is the "Good Neighbor" policy craftedand championed by Franklin Roosevelt.

A "Good Neighbor" policy stresses the need for a community of nations to keep the peace and to promote economic dignity andprosperity for people in the developing as well as developedworlds. This liberal internationalist tradition rejects unilateraldominance and favors developing a "community of power" to keep thepeace; It gives priority to a system of international law andgovernance over "preemptive" wars and unilateralism; It understandsthat to be effective, our foreign policy must work in tandem withreforms at home–to improve security, quality of life and basicrights; It considers military power to be a complement to, not asubstitute for, economic power and diplomacy; and it gives a morecentral role to spreading economic prosperity to ensure peace andstability and environmental sustainability.

It is time to reclaim this proud tradition, update it, and usethe Good Neighbor frame to advance a new set of policy goals andprinciples for a rational security policy.That also meansredefining strength to mean smart and strong–not strong and wrong.

What’s encouraging is that recent polls show there is a mandate forsuch an approach. Polls taken by the Program in InternationalPolicy Attitudes (PIPA) find large majorities support "deep cuts indefense spending" and support for using the money to increasespending on education, job training, energy independence andveterans’ benefits. Powerful support also exists for a strongUnited Nations, reducing nuclear weapon stockpiles, strengtheninginternational treaties and negotiating trade agreements thatprotect labor and environmental rights.

(In a short piece in Sunday’s Washington Post, Beinart nods to the value of interdependence and international institutions. But it seems slightly opportunistic at this stage– as if part of an effort to distinguish himself from the neocons and to rehabilitate himself with genuine liberal internationalists.)

At the core of this alternative to Beinart and other beltwayinsiders’ messianic crusade is a belief that we spread our valuesand model chiefly by force of successful example. That does notmean retreat or isolationism. It means challenging thisadministration –and too many Democratic leaders– who have boughtinto an over-militarized approach to terrorism, including theestablishment of military bases in the Middle East and CentralAsia. This policy has been disastrously counter-productive–transforming a limited terrorist threat into a breeding ground fora new wave of more radical Islamic jihadism.

A better approach –and one consistent with a "Good Neighbor"foreign policy–would address the legitimate political grievancesof the Arab and Islamic world, lower America’s military profile inthe region and put an international face on US policy. Our goalsshould be to change the conversation from religious and culturalconflict to jobs and human development, and to stress theimportance of strengthening the legitimacy and internal capacity oflocal governments to deal with Islamic militants.

Sadly, it will be difficult to undertake any of these new andhopeful directions as long as we remain mired in Iraq. Withvirtually no political leadership, Americans have turned againstthe war. Yet its human and economic costs are spiraling out ofcontrol, with no end in sight. We near the day when 2500 men andwomen will have died in this war and more than 16,000 wounded ormaimed. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz hasestimated that the costs of war, occupation and relatedexpenditures may reach two trillion dollars.

The best way to support the men and women who are serving in Iraqis to bring them home by the end of this year, as Rep. Jack Murtha,Senators Kerry, Kennedy and Feingold, among the few, have argued.(And as a recent Zogby poll showed, 72 percent of US troops servingin Iraq believe US forces should leave in the next year.)

It will not be easy, but our continued presence, as occupiers,inside the sectarian carnage of an unraveling civil war, and amidstrevelations about Haditha, Ishaqi, Abu Ghraib, works against effortsto build stability or any modicum of sovereignty. As liberals weare clear that we do not intend to abandon Iraq or its beleagueredpeople. But our assistance should come not through military effortsbut through international peacekeeping and humanitarian ones–torebuild the war-torn economic and physical infrastructure.

These are perilous times–ones that raise large and fatefulquestions: what kind of country does the US want to be? Empire orrepublic? Global leader or global cop? Where is the America that,as Sherle Schwenninger observed in an important Nation article inJuly 2005, "is less one of warrior and preacher/proselytizer andmore one of architect and builder., less one of imperial cop andmore one of community leader. " American foreign policy should be bedemocratically accountable and guided by the nation’s republicanprinciples–and a belief that the US should not only oppose empiresbut eschew imperial policies.

I believe there are always alternatives in history and politics.But we must retrieve and fight for those traditionsthat counter the dangerous fantasies and follies of Beltwaycrusaders like Peter Beinart.