I want to enter here my comment at Tom Friedman’s review of Samantha Powers’ The Education of an Idealist because it encapsulates my sense of politics.
Friedman’s review provides a fine excursion into what progressive pragmatism is.
We commonly counterpose “Progressivism” with “Conservatism,” but the basic dyad is idealism and realism that remains highly aspirational. That is a hallmark of America: progressive pragmatism.
A fault of rank-and-file Conservatism is that it’s not yet realistic enough: Potential for enabling the mature autonomy of others—nations, groups, individuals—is integral to good government, as much as is securing shared traditions. Democracy is an always-unfinished project which requires educational leadership for constructive futures, in light of which valuable pasts are re-framed. Futures do not originate from pasts.
A keynote of leadership is exemplarity. Obama’s Cairo speech was integral to the Arab Spring which led to the Tunisian example.
Would an early U.S. intervention into Syria have caused U.S. blame for the flood of refugees into Europe, as well as becoming a proxy war with Putinism? A strong case can be made for Obama’s choice of battles. The menace of Putinism is stark.
We should realize that democracy is a learning process that its people have to learn to sustain. Iraq is better off now than otherwise. It can become a model for Iran's maturity beyond theocracy.