Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Global Good Neighbor Ethic for International Relations

The following report by the International Relations Center is one that should be required reading for everyone in the nation; Especially those in Washington, D.C. who have the temerity to call themselves the nation’s leaders. It is a long one, 13,500 words, and that is why I am only posting part of it, but with the link to the full report and analysis highlighted at the end of this. One of the authors, Salih Booker, at one time worked for the Council of Foreign Relations, has written a report that exposes that organization. His report/interview/commentary may be read HERE. Salih zeros in on those elusive terms, “national security” and “national interests” and is a must read in my opinion.

From the first days of the George W. Bush administration, the talk in Washington shifted away from “international cooperation,” “constructive engagement,” and “international community” to “regime change,” “preventive war,” “coalitions of the willing,” and “American supremacy.” International treaties, norms, and conventions were rejected, violated, and dismissed because they purportedly undermined U.S. power and foiled America’s “mission.”

The following IRC report articulates a set of seven basic principles for a Global Good Neighbor ethic of international relations. There is much stated in it for us to give heed too. It is even more important today as now the Bush & Co cabal is pointing its collective finger at China in much the same way the finger was pointed at Russia in the illusionary and contrived “Cold War” which purpose was to simply justify an expanding military budget—but that is for another essay. For now, read and study the following report. -- Jack

A Global Good Neighbor Ethic for International Relations
By Tom Barry, Salih Booker, Laura Carlsen, Marie Dennis, and John Gershman
International Relations Center

U.S. Imperialism, Then and Now
A History to Make Us Proud
Good Neighbor Deeds

What in the world are we doing?

Seldom, if ever, has U.S. foreign policy been as confusing or as divisive as it is today. The occupation of Iraq, the deepening trade deficit, saber-rattling abroad, and disdain for international cooperation have left the American public uncertain about what exactly the U.S. government is doing overseas, and why.

The George W. Bush administration has reoriented the nation’s foreign policy through its doctrine of preventive war and its ideological mission to export “freedom.” Rather than building broad consensus after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the administration has polarized the citizenry.

Cold War Evolution of U.S. Foreign Policy

The bold idea that the United States should conduct its foreign policy as if it were a good neighbor living in a global neighborhood of diverse cultures and politics was never resurrected after the FDR era. Shortly after World War II, the Cold War logic of permanent confrontation set in. Even during lulls in the Cold War or in its peacetime aftermath, the model of the Good Neighbor policy remained forgotten.

Over nearly five decades of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy elites mobilized public and government support for international intervention by stirring up fear and hatred of the Soviet Union and communism. Much of this was alarmist propaganda. Exaggerated “threat assessments” of the security risks posed by communist countries and organizations became the tool of choice for justifying a series of massive increases in the postwar military budget.

All members of the foreign policy community, regardless of political inclinations, found the sudden loss of the Cold War backdrop disorienting. Both those who had urged the government to adopt even stronger anti-communist measures and those who rallied against Cold War policies of U.S. intervention abroad were forced to abruptly readjust their lenses.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, it wasn’t just a skeptical public but the entire foreign policy establishment that was asking, “What in the world are we doing?” Without the “evil empire” as an enemy, foreign policy analysts, think tanks, pundits, and government officials were left confused and seeking a new point of departure for U.S. foreign policy.

Strategists and theorists across the political spectrum searched for a new framework to guide post-Cold War foreign and military policy. In their search, the legacy of FDR’s common-sense approach--embodying mutual respect and good neighbor values as a framework for international relations--was once again passed over.

In the 1990s, the dominant sector of the foreign policy elite regarded the global neighborhood as a mutually beneficial mix of producers, traders, investors, and consumers. Progressives talked enthusiastically of a “peace dividend” to channel funds from defense to social programs. However, others began casting about for a new bogeyman to justify a high military budget and to rally public support for U.S. military deployments in various parts of the world. The threat of “rogue states” became a common refrain.

Different ways of understanding the world--and the U.S. role in it--competed for prominence in Washington. One tendency emerging from the Pentagon and the State Department advocated expanding the definition of U.S. national security to include so-called “nontraditional threats” such as climate change, drug trafficking, failed states, and global health pandemics. Many liberals and progressives praised the new strategy for what they perceived as its proactive role in international affairs and supported more multilateral and U.S. responses to nontraditional threats, humanitarian intervention in internal conflicts, and trade liberalization. Others, mainly on the right, charged that the expanded definition led the nation into foolishly involving U.S. troops in civil conflicts abroad.

Within the Republican Party, a coalition of hawks, social conservatives, and neoconservatives set about fashioning a new foreign policy based on the concept of U.S. supremacy. They asserted that what the world needed for peace and stability was an arbiter with the overwhelming military power and the necessary political will to enforce order. The United States, with its military superiority and historic precedents of global leadership, was the Leviathan that could and would lay the foundations for a “new American century.”

In the late 1990s, the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute proposed a foreign policy blueprint for the post-Cold War era. Their plan stipulates that the United States should use its supreme military power in the service of its “moral clarity.” These groups contend that Washington has a moral responsibility to use U.S. power to maintain global order by crushing challenges to that order, and by taming tumultuous regions such as the Middle East by fostering democratic and economic transitions.

The adherents of this Pax Americana vision, who later would occupy the highest levels of the Bush administration, dismissed the “liberal” and “naive” notions that international cooperation and mutual respect were the best way to guarantee a safe and healthy global neighborhood. They argued that such views were tantamount to appeasement, and held the United States hostage to the opinions of an unreliable and envious international community. In their view, the forces of evil and social anarchy always preyed on hapless good neighbors and “appeasers.”

From the first days of the George W. Bush administration, the talk in Washington shifted away from “international cooperation,” “constructive engagement,” and “international community” to “regime change,” “preventive war,” “coalitions of the willing,” and “American supremacy.” International treaties, norms, and conventions were rejected, violated, and dismissed because they purportedly undermined U.S. power and foiled America’s “mission.”

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government fervently donned the mantle of righteousness. Washington knows best, administration officials argued, not only for U.S. society but for other nations and global society as well. At home, policies included the suppression of civil liberties in the name of security, as embodied in the U.S. Patriot Act, and social policy reforms overtly driven by fundamentalist religious precepts. Abroad, preventive war, global policing, and political restructuring became the operative concepts for a harmonic world order--a Pax Americana that would benefit everyone but the “evildoers.”

However, the actions spawned by this vision have not led to world order or a new domestic consensus. The U.S. “mission” to recreate the world in its image has led to animosity and resentment among foreign governments and populations. Where once there was a broad domestic consensus to fight terrorism and defend the nation, now there are deepening questions and doubts about the “global war on terror.”

Global Good Neighbor Principles

What is needed is a new approach that makes sense to the U.S. public, not just to foreign policy elites. It must be an approach that draws on the best of America’s values and traditions. As such, it must be based not on arrogance and materialism but on civic pride and generosity; not on a unilateral sense of “mission” but on a collaborative role as global partner.

The U.S. citizenry needs and deserves a new foreign policy that clarifies rather than confounds values--one that breaks through the barricades established by outdated political labels of conservative vs. liberal, realist vs. idealist, or isolationist vs. internationalist.

An effective policy will be neither strictly self-serving nor purely altruistic. In adopting Global Good Neighbor principles to guide our relations with other nations and peoples, we reject the false dichotomy between what’s good for the United States and what’s good for the world. As Roosevelt underscored in his inaugural address, good foreign relations are based on self-respect. No matter how well-intentioned the motives, no matter how inspiring the rhetoric, a foreign policy that lacks firm footings at home is flawed.

We have moved beyond the age when international relations were the exclusive domain of governments. The global neighborhood we live in is shaped by flows of people, ideas, germs, trade, and investment--exchanges in which states are sometimes marginal actors at most. Although critical aspects of foreign policy are still the primary purview of states, we are all active stakeholders.

Foreign policy is enacted by governments, but the ethic of a Global Good Neighbor extends beyond the realm of government. In this increasingly interconnected world, individuals, communities, churches, organizations, and corporations have a role to play in forging international relations. Good neighbor practices apply whether we operate a business, purchase goods, travel, or share the planet’s resources.

What follows is a set of seven basic principles for a Global Good Neighbor ethic of international relations: (Read the Full Report Here)


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