Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton: A Common Foreign Policy Strategy

Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean took two dramatic steps in foreign policy Monday that suggest he is switching tactics and seeking to encompass the "right", or Bill Clinton wing of the Democratic Party on foreign policy.

Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean took two dramatic steps in foreign policy Monday that suggest he is switching tactics and seeking to encompass the "right", or Bill Clinton wing of the Democratic Party on foreign policy. And in a speech the same day, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton took a very similar position, heralding a new consensus among Democrats on these issues.

On Monday of last week, Dean gave a speech on foreign policy in Los Angeles that reiterated his continuity with traditional Democratic foreign policy as practiced by the Carter and Clinton administrations. And the very same day, to hammer the point home, he announced an inner circle of foreign policy advisers that drew heavily from the Clinton team.

The move was particularly striking as Dean partisans have lambasted his most formidable rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, for having imported a whole host of Clinton political tacticians and strategists on to his team. But now Dean himself has done the same thing on the foreign policy front.

Indeed, his move appeared calculated not merely to make his peace with the old Clinton Democratic establishment on foreign policy issues,  but also to position himself as the candidate of American internationalist tradition as opposed to the revolutionary new unilateralist policies of President George W. Bush.

Dean even included in his inner circle of foreign policy and national security advisers Ivo H. Daalder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who served as President Bill Clinton's director for European affairs on the National Security Council. Daalder, with James M. Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations, has just published "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy", a well-reviewed book criticizing Bush precisely for abandoning the cautious internationalism that Republican, as well as Democratic presidents, have followed on all major foreign issues for the past six decades.

Indeed, Dean's new foreign policy inner circle is a litany of Clinton foreign policy veterans, Benjamin J. Barber, author of "Jihad vs McWorld" was an informal Clinton advisor. Ashton B. Carter was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in the Clinton administration.

Dean's team even includes Clinton's first and highly effective national security advisor, Anthony Lake, and Morton Halperin, who ran policy planning at the State Department under Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Other prominent figures from the Clinton era include Elisa D. Harris of the Center for Strategic and International and Security Studies who was Clinton's director for nonproliferation and export controls on the National Security Council; Franklin D. Kramer, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under Clinton; Susan E. Rice who was Clinton's special assistant for national security affairs and assistant secretary of state for African affairs; and prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City.

None of these figures can in any way be described as isolationists or foreign policy revolutionaries. Indeed, all of them fit easily in the post World War II internationalist tradition of U.S. foreign policy as practiced by previous Republican presidents like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush

 Indeed, Dean even included on his team Clyde Prestowitz, who was counsel to the secretary of commerce during the Reagan administration and U.S. Air Force Gen. Merrill McPeak, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff under the first President Bush during the 1991 Gulf War.

Dean's move -- even giant leap -- towards the reassuring center on foreign policy clearly reflects his success last week in winning the endorsement for the Dems' presidential nomination by the party's 2000 standard-bearer, former Vice President Al Gore. This reinforced Dean's already clear determination to embrace and absorb as much of the Democratic Party establishment into his camp as he can.

Further, Dean's announcement of his new foreign policy team helmed by the Clinton veterans came the same day Sen. Hillary Clinton gave an important speech on foreign affairs to the Council on Foreign Relations on the other side of the continent in Washington. Her speech and his were like complimentary bookends. For Sen. Clinton too stressed the need to re-embrace internationalism and partnership with America's traditional allies.

"We stand at a point in time where we are now in the process of redefining … American internationalism and American interests," she told the CFR.  "... We could, if the (Bush) administration were to be so inclined, open the door to a stronger and wider coalition that would help us rebuild and safeguard Iraq."

Sen. Clinton said that the "overriding lesson" she took away from her recent visit to Afghanistan was "the need for international support." In Iraq too, she said, "NATO support" and efforts to "broaden the international involvement" were "the right thing to do … (and) the smart thing to do."

For 40 years, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to the first President Bush during the collapse of communism and the 1991 Gulf War, Republican presidents successfully presented themselves as stable figures restoring America's warm and close ties with traditional allies. But now, Sen. Clinton argued, it was the current Republican president who was putting those ties at risk.

"We already have a profound problem with how we are perceived in the world, including among many of our traditional allies," she said.