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A New Foreign Policy?

Wednesday 5 November 2008, by CONN HALLINAN

Over the next four years the U.S. will confront several key foreign policy decisions. While the President and the executive branch—in particular the Departments of State and Defense—will play an important role in this, Congress has abrogated its constitutional responsibilities in the making of foreign policy. Here is a wish list for the coming administration.


Put a halt to North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) expansion. The recent Georgia-Russia War was a direct outcome of the misguided and provocative strategy of recruiting former members of the Soviet bloc into NATO. The Russians quite rightly see this as a potentially threatening military alliance and are justly angry with the Americans for breaking their promise not to recruit former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO.

The U.S. Congress must halt the deployment of U.S. anti-missile ballistic systems (ABM) in Poland and the Czech Republic. ABM’s will increase tensions in the region and put thousands of nuclear weapons on hair trigger alert. ABMs were not designed to stop attacks, but to absorb an enemy’s counterstrike following a first strike. First use of nuclear weapons is current U.S. military policy, so it is understandable why the Russians are deeply concerned. While the anti-missile system is supposedly aimed at Iran, Teheran has neither the delivery systems nor the weapons that could pose a threat to Europe. A group of American physicists recently concluded that the ABM’s are indeed aimed at the Russians.

A corollary to halting deployment the ABMs is to reverse the Bush Administration’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and to dismantle the current U.S. ABM system deployed in Alaska. These moves would not only reduce tensions in Europe, but with China as well.

The Middle East

The absolute chaos the Bush Administration has inflicted on this region of the world will take decades to repair, and the hostility that those policies have engendered will take decades to dissipate. But there are some immediate things that can be done to start the process:

A rapid withdrawal from Iraq. The argument that such a withdrawal would create chaos misses the point that the U.S. is the cause of the chaos. Current U.S. policy is to support the Shiite government of Noui al Maliki against the Sunnis and nationalist Shiites (who make up the majority of Shiites in Iraq) led by Muqtada al Sadr. As long as the U.S. remains, tensions between Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds will simmer without resolution. Might it explode into civil war? It might, but all the players have reasons to avoid one. In any case, the current occupation is no longer sustainable and the Iraqis want us out.

A nationwide ceasefire in Afghanistan—including ending cross-border attacks into Pakistan—and immediate negotiations with the Taliban. Tentative talks have already begun, but they must be expanded to include regional players, in particular Pakistan, Iran, China and Russia, all which border Afghanistan. The U.S. and NATO will have to recognize that there is no military solution to the Afghan War, a point France and Britain have already made. A “surge” of troops into Afghanistan will do nothing more than increase the number of civilian casualties and continue propping up a government that has no authority outside of Kabul’s city limits.

Indeed, the entire concept of the “war on terrorism” must be jettisoned. “Terror” is a tactic of the powerless against the powerful, it is not a vast worldwide conspiracy by a disciplined group with a common ideology. Elevating “terror” to the same level as a state-to-state conflict means fighting a forever war, with all of the vast expense, suffering, and erosion of rights that such an endeavor entails.

Justice for the Palestinian people, which must include an immediate renunciation of the Bush Administration’s support for West Bank settlements. Such settlements are a violation of international law and insure a never-ending battle between Palestinians and Israelis. The settlements must go and Jerusalem should be divided. Both sides have a legitimate claim to the city.

A new administration could begin by condemning the current wave of right-wing settler-instigated violence aimed at driving Palestinians out of Hebron, Acre, and other towns. The U.S. should publicly condemn the Israeli plan to build more than 1300 houses in East Jerusalem and the drive to dominate the West Bank. From 2006 to 2008, the settler population has grown from 250,000 to 300,000, not counting those in East Jerusalem.

There are a number of other initiatives the U.S. could take, from ending its political and economic blockades of Syria and Iran, to refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of Lebanon.


Current U.S. policy has created the single greatest humanitarian crisis on the continent: Somalia. While Sudan gets all the attention, according to the United Nations conditions in Somalia are far worse, because in 2006 the U.S. and its client, Ethiopia, overthrew the Islamic Courts Union (ISU), the umbrella organization that had finally brought peace to that war-torn country. Sudan is a long-term crisis with complex roots, but the Somalia crisis was made in the USA. The U.S. should end its support of Ethiopia’s occupation and call for an all-Somali peace conference with a prominent role for the ISU.

The U.S. should roll back the militarization of its African policies, including dissolving Africom, the military command recently created to fight “terrorism” and “insecurity” on the continent. No African country will host Africom, because they quite rightly see it as an extension of U.S. military power in the region. The U.S. is also currently training the armed forces of more than a dozen African countries, as well as selling arms on the continent. It also has a significant military presence in Djibouti. Africa needs aid, it does not need U.S. troops and more weapons.

Latin America

While it is doubtful the U.S. will renounce the 1823 Monroe Doctrine—which in any case is increasingly a dead letter— Washington must declare that it will no longer intervene in the internal affairs of Latin America.

To this end it must end its illegal blockade of Cuba, curb its hostility toward Venezuela and terminate its meddling in Bolivia. The U.S. should release CIA and U.S. Defense Department documents on the 2001 coup against President Hugo Chavez, so that all Americans can see what role the U.S. played in that debacle. The new administration might also want to read investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood’s “New Discoveries Reveal U.S. Intervention in Bolivia” at for an update on what the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and the American Embassy have been up to in the restive eastern provinces of that country.

Rather than reactivating its Latin American Fourth Fleet and building a new military base in Colombia, the U.S. should de-militarize its approach to the region. The Colombian government must be held accountable for the fact that it has done nothing to halt the murder of over 3,000 trade unionists, and for its documented ties to right-wing death squads. Support for land reform and a war on poverty in Latin America would do far more to curb the drug trade than U.S.-sponsored aerial spraying and counterinsurgency warfare.

The U.S. must realize that while it will always play a significant role in Latin America, it is no longer the only game in town. India, China, Russia, South Africa, and Iran are the new kids on the block, and south-south relationships are becoming as important for the continent as its traditional north-south ties.

Asia and the Pacific

The U.S. should recognize that the Pacific Ocean is no longer an “American lake.” To this end it needs to recognize that countries like China have legitimate economic, political and security interests in their own backyard. The push to ring China with military bases and sign countries like Japan, Australia and India onto the U.S. ABM system should stop. China is not a threat to the U.S., or to other nations in the region. For all its bombast aimed at Taiwan, Beijing has no intention of fighting a war with one of its major trade partners. It is far too busy making money.

The U.S. should immediately terminate the so-called 1-2-3 Agreement with India, which not only violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but also will ignite a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, two countries that came perilously close to a nuclear war in 1999.

The push to bring NATO into the Pacific Basin should be halt forthwith. NATO, originally created for Europe, has now metastasized into an international military alliance. The history of alliances is that they cause far more wars than they prevent, and the U.S., Canada and Europe have no business injecting their militaries into a region that is just beginning to come into its own.

There are any number of other areas that Dispatches cannot address here given space availability. Among these are whether the U.S. will strengthen the United Nations, join the war on global warming, recognize the International War Crimes Tribunal and close the illegal and immoral prison camp at Guantanamo.

It is time for the U.S. to end its adherence to the concept of the national security state. This is the claim that the U.S. reserves the right to intervene politically, economically and militarily into the affairs of other nations if we decide U.S. interests are at stake. Challenging the national security state will be a long fight, but in the end, ending it is central to everything listed above.

And Nov. 5 is a good time to begin.