And here’s where the Obama administration’s embrace of guys like John Brennan and Jim Jones and Robert Gates and David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal really does make a near/medium-term difference. I’m not really out to catalogue all manner of sectarian divisions, but I think it’s fair to say that none of them are progressives. Yet they’ve got a place at the highest echelons of the most progressive administration in 30 years, an administration that has made national security and foreign policy a top priority, which Democratic administrations tend not to do. Combine that with Obama’s consistent-ever-since-he-was-a-senator contentions that the Iraq war must end and the Afghanistan war must be waged, and you don’t have a significant aggrieved element within the military that views progressive governance as a betrayal, which was anything but preordained.
This hasn’t been cost-free for a progressive agenda. I wrote a piece for The National a couple months back about what it meant for Afghanistan. But combined with the security-borne incompetence of the Bush administration, it has placed what was once a core or natural constituency of the Republican Party significantly up for grabs. (Call it the CNAS Project, even if CNAS 2.0 itself may no longer be a part of it.) Whether they’ll become a core progressive constituency, I don’t know, that’ll take work on both sides, but progressives get a hearing now. And sometimes you get surprising results: if you take the worst possible view of John Brennan’s CIA tenure, for instance, it becomes all the more significant that he blasted the military commissions. (That Obama supports…) What was since, arguably, MacArthur was the natural bench for the Republican Party is now either weighing its draft options or suiting up for the other team.
Update: Adam Serwer has an excellent related post.