Tue 24 Feb 2009
by Ron Forthofer, Ph.D.
The ideas presented below may appear to be quite a departure from current U.S. foreign policy. However, they are consistent with the ideas expressed in two of the most insightful speeches delivered by U.S. leaders during the 20th century. The first is the “Cross of Iron” speech delivered by President Dwight David Eisenhower on April 16, 1953, and the second is “Beyond Vietnam” by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967. Surprisingly, there is a sizable overlap in the ideas spelled out in these two remarkable speeches, one by a military icon and the other by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Two lengthy excerpts from Eisenhower’s speech along with Dr. King’s ideas and the Green Party’s 10 Key Values provide the basis for these positions.
President Eisenhower said:
“The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.
No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.
No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
Any nation’s right to form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.
Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.
A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.”
Later in this speech, Eisenhower stated:
“This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of the savings achieved by disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes of this great work would be to help other peoples to develop the underdeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate profitability and fair world trade, to assist all peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom.
The monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health. We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world. We are ready, by these and all such actions, to make of the United Nations an institution that can effectively guard the peace and security of all peoples.”
Imagine the difference had President Eisenhower been able to follow through on these words.
This article is not meant to be exhaustive. Instead it demonstrates how the ideas put forward by President Eisenhower and Dr. King apply to some issues today. The 2004 Green Party platform provides more details on a number of issues. This approach to a new foreign policy, echoing President Eisenhower, recognizes that our security and well-being, as well as that of all people on the planet, come through cooperation, not through competition. Once we understand this point, the necessary policies become clearer. President Eisenhower also stressed the need to make the U.N. stronger, strongly opposed a forced change in regimes or economic systems, called for military disarmament and supported world aid and reconstruction.
Strengthen the United Nations
Following Eisenhower’s words, the U.S. needs to support the U.N., the greatest hope for achieving a just, peaceful and prosperous world. Unfortunately the U.S. has not provided consistent support and, along with other permanent Security Council members, has often used the veto to thwart effective Security Council action. A simple change in the veto policy would greatly improve the operation of the U.N. For example, in the U.S. a presidential veto may be overridden by a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress. Therefore, to improve the functioning of the U.N., the U.S. should push for the implementation of a similar or slightly more stringent policy in the Security Council. Perhaps require that if 2/3 + 1 of the members of the Security Council vote to override a veto, the veto would be overridden.
The U.S., as one of the founders of the U.N., should set a positive example for other nations. Thus the U.S. should comply with the U.N. Charter and international law. In particular, the U.S. must end its aggressive and illegal attacks on nations that do not represent an imminent threat. The U.S. should also live up to the Geneva Conventions and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), other vitally important cornerstones of international law.
Two other changes are also required. First, the U.S. must pay its debts to the U.N. and provide ample support for U.N. operations. Second, to enhance the Security Council’s credibility and to make it more representative of the world, there should be an increase in the number of permanent members. Some possible candidates for permanent membership include Brazil, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and Nigeria
Disband the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)*
NATO has outlived its original purpose of defending member nations against attack, and it is past time to disband this organization. NATO, under U.S. pressure, has on numerous occasions needlessly raised international tension by provoking Russia. In addition, many perceive that the U.S. uses NATO to advance its own interests around the globe. Instead of this military alliance, we should follow President Eisenhower’s recommendation and rely on a reformed U.N. for collective security. Articles from diverse sources such as Forbes Magazine, The Nation and the Cato Institute as well as articles by Jonathan Steele and Adrian Hamilton in the British press question the need for NATO. Scholars such as Immanual Wallerstein and Sebastian Rosato provide additional backing for this position.
Shrink the Military Budget by Eliminating Unnecessary Weapons Programs
The U.S. spends almost as much for its military as the rest of the world combined spend on their militaries. Clearly our spending goes well beyond what is necessary for defense. It is as if we are in an arms race with ourselves. The congressional-military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about is totally out of control. The money being wasted on the problematic missile defense system is one prime example of a horribly costly program that must be cut. The report of the task force on A Unified Security Budget for the U.S., 2007 provides examples of programs that should be cut and also provides suggestions how the money could be used to improve security here. In addition, briefings of the Defense Business Board, a senior Pentagon advisory group, also provide support for cutting weapons programs.
Close Military Bases Worldwide
In 2004 Chalmers Johnson wrote about our over 700 military bases outside the U.S. as well as our thirteen naval task forces. This level of U.S. military presence around the globe is clearly not necessary for our nation’s defense. Johnson claimed that these bases are key components of an U.S. empire. Thomas Friedman earlier discussed this idea when he wrote: “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” Unless there are pressing reasons for maintaining these bases, the U.S. should quickly phase out all bases not specifically functioning under a U.N. peacekeeping resolution. It should also bring home all other troops stationed abroad, except for the military assigned to protect U.S. embassies. This return would also include all private contractors involved in military or security missions. Our military is supposed to be used for defense of the nation, not for intimidation or aggression.
Reform the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The U.S. should push for two major changes in the World Bank and the IMF. First, the structural adjustment policies must be eliminated. These policies work to protect the lenders while, at the same time, they also advance the interests of transnational corporations and banks at the expense of the borrowing country’s sovereignty and people. These two organizations must first and foremost protect the interests of the borrowing nation’s people, not the interests of transnational corporations and banks. Paulos Dos Santos of the University of London recently examined the role played by these two organizations in exposing the developing world to the current financial crisis.
The second change is to democratize both of these organizations. Currently the U.S. owns enough shares in them to block any action that it opposes. The allocation of shares must be modified to make these institutions more representative. The governance of these institutions must also be changed to lessen political influence. James Vreeland of Yale University provided a good overview of some of the IMF’s problems in a 2006 paper, and Hossein Akari of George Washington University addressed some of the problems of both institutions in a 2008 article.
President Eisenhower called for fair trade, not free trade. Unsurprisingly, the main beneficiaries of trade policies pushed by the U.S., the European Union and Japan are essentially the same groups – transnational corporations and the financial sector – that benefited from World Bank and IMF policies. A key problem with the WTO and NAFTA is that they both involve much more than trade. They override democracy, national sovereignty and the people’s interest. They also put poorer nations at a disadvantage in setting policies and settling disputes. The promised benefits of NAFTA have proved to be huge exaggerations. Despite the clear damages caused by these agreements, some still claim very small benefits for NAFTA.
Relations with Other Nations
We need to talk to nations perceived to be our enemies, and the talks must be without any preconditions. Three examples of perceived enemies are Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. In conducting these negotiations, we need to remember Eisenhower’s words: “Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.”
In addition, we must end the counterproductive and incredibly costly ‘war on terror’. This is a ‘war’ that should have never been started. Instead, the 9/11 attacks should have been dealt with as crimes. It is not too late to stop this insanity. In fact, it is urgent that the U.S. stops its attacks on the Taliban in Pakistan, otherwise Pakistan may turn out to be an unwilling suicide victim of U.S. policy.
If we wish to undercut support for al-Qaeda, it is imperative that we work for a just resolution in the Middle East. This requires engaging with Hamas and supporting human rights and international law in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It also requires that the U.S. negotiates with Iran, and for the U.S. to obey the NPT. Under the NPT, Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy while the U.S. is supposed to make a good faith effort for nuclear disarmament. The U.S. must also end its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and work with the U.N., the surrounding nations including Iran, and the indigenous populations on plans to stabilize these two nations. The U.S. must also pay huge reparations to both Iraq and Afghanistan for the devastation it has caused.
It is essential for world stability that we improve relations with Russia. Instead of provoking crises with Russia through acts that do little to enhance our security, the U.S. should work to reduce tensions. Among other things, this means that the U.S. should push for the disbanding of NATO and also cancel plans for establishing tracking radars in the Czech Republic and placing missiles in Poland.
U.S. foreign policy must recognize that it is better to work with China than to view China through the lens of a trade enemy. In a recent column, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor under President Carter, stated: “we need to widen and deepen our geostrategic co-operation, beyond the immediate need for close collaboration in coping with the economic crisis.” This cooperation is also crucial if we are to lessen the impact of global climate change.
The U.S. needs to convince the world that it wishes to rejoin the community of nations as a member in good standing. Among other things, this requires that the U.S. join the International Criminal Court, ratify and live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and ratify numerous other treaties including the rights of children, the rights of women, the landmine treaty and the cluster bomb treaty.
The U.S. also must play a leadership role in combating global warming. Without U.S. participation, any worldwide effort is likely to fail with dire consequences for coming generations. We already know ways to ameliorate the situation, but the political will to implement these programs is lacking.
Lastly, the U.S. needs to lead an international effort to work through the current greed caused financial disaster. The U.S. should be calling for tight international regulation of all financial sectors, the imposition of a Tobin tax on currency deals, the elimination of international tax havens, and fees on all stock transactions. Given the ‘flight to safety’ to U.S. Treasury debt, there also needs to be an international effort to ensure that developing nations are able to obtain credit. Otherwise these nations will be devastated due to the greed and failure of the international financial sector. Instead of these limited but important steps, author David Korten calls for an entirely new approach to the economy, putting the interests of Main Street over that of Wall Street. His approach holds out the promise of a true solution instead of more bailouts of Wall Street.
The above changes are but a few of the necessary policies to improve relations among nations and conditions for the peoples of this world. If the global warming issue is not addressed soon though, it will be hard to bring about these improvements.
*The Green Party has not taken a position on disbanding NATO.