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Author Peter Beinart Says Conservatives Do Not Have A Monopoly on US National Security Policy

Peter Beinart, author of the newly published book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals and Only Liberals Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, says it is the liberal – not the conservative – tradition that holds the key to America’s strength at home and abroad. Mr. Beinart is editor-at-large of the New Republic magazine.

Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Press Conference USA, Peter Beinart says that the only way that America can defeat the “jihadist threat” is to live up to the ideal it preaches to others. He suggests that since 9/11, Americans have become “very stringent” about other countries’ human rights records but “remarkably complacent” about their own. According to Mr. Beinart, the U.S. prisons at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and at Abu Ghraib in Iraq have done “devastating damage” to America’s moral legitimacy in the world. Furthermore, U.S. policy regarding the Kyoto Treaty, the International Criminal Court, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been extremely damaging, he says, to America’s good name in the world.

In recent years, Peter Beinart observes, liberals have failed to remember their own intellectual history. Echoing American historian Arthur Schlesinger, Mr. Beinart argues that liberals differ with conservatives on many social issues, but liberals – like conservatives – strongly oppose totalitarianism. Mr. Beinart criticizes those liberals who have seen the “liberal project” since 9/11 purely as a struggle against President Bush.

According to Peter Beinart, the Democratic Party is likely to have a “great opportunity” in this year’s congressional elections and in the 2008 presidential elections because the public is “so dissatisfied with George W. Bush and the Republican Congress.” But he questions whether they will be able to “do anything with their victory.” So, he says, the first thing to do is to convince liberals that the anti-jihadist struggle is “their fight.” Liberals need to realize that in those things they care about the most – for example, individual rights of women and oppression of religious minorities – civil liberties are “vitally in play.” But he argues that, “unless we are able to defeat jihadism,” civil liberties will never be safe in America.

Mr. Beinart says he believes in democracy promotion, a cornerstone of President Bush’s foreign policy, because America can “never be neutral.” However, he says a liberal approach to promoting democracy would include greater economic and technical assistance than current U.S. policy does. Peter Beinart argues that the struggle for democracy and human rights is also a struggle for economic opportunity, and he contrasts that with authoritarian governments in the Middle East that offer their people not hope, but economic despair. Mr. Beinart says part of “what led Iraq to be such a disaster” was the administration’s naïve belief that in six months that country could be transformed from a dictatorship into a democracy without the long and arduous work of nation building.

For full audio of the program Press Conference USA click here.