US foreign policy : Appeal for “Just Security” approach

Insisting that US foreign policy of the past six years has clearly failed, a left-leaning Washington think tank is calling for the adoption of a comprehensive new approach to international relations called “Just Security” in which the US would act “as a global partner, not a global boss.” Among other features, “Just Security” calls for reducing US military spending by a third, or some $213 billion; carrying out a “rapid” withdrawal of US forces from Iraq; and seeking sharp cuts in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals as a first step toward realising the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s goal of banning nuclear weapons.

The new approach, laid out in a report by the Institute for Policy Studies’ Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) programme, also calls for sustained US engagement in multilateral institutions, particularly those aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and enhance the abilities of poor countries to curb the spread of deadly diseases. “This new foreign policy approach is more in line with public opinion than the US Congress, which recently backed additional money for the Iraq War,” said John Feffer, who led a team of 14 contributors affiliated with the programme.

“Leading presidential candidates and the foreign policy establishment are being overly cautious. There’s virtually no debate about freezing, let alone reducing, military spending, which has soared to unprecedented levels,” he said, pointing to recent opinion polls by the University of Maryland’s Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that suggest strong public support for sharply cutting defence budgets and increasing foreign assistance.

Indeed, since George W Bush became president in 2001, US military spending has increased to over $600 billion, an amount that is roughly equivalent to the combined military budgets of the rest of the world’s countries. At the same time, US has used its “global war on terror” to increase its military presence around the world and its sales of arms to other countries.

Yet, according to the report, “Just Security: An Alternative Foreign Policy Framework”, these measures have actually undermined, rather than enhanced, global security. “US military interventions, directly or through proxies, have thrown entire regions into a downward spiral

of conflict,” the report asserts. “In the Middle East and Africa, in particular, the US emphasis on military rather than diplomatic solutions has prevented regional peacemaking from moving forward.”

“With its emphasis on fighting wars, the Bush administration has insisted on focusing just on security,” according to the report. “We must focus instead on a just security, because there can be no real security without justice.” In that respect, it calls for Washington to pay far more respect to international law by abiding by the Geneva Conventions and other human rights treaties, upholding the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation, and supporting new international institutions, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Kyoto Protocol that have been rejected by the Bush administration. Similarly, the notion that Washington needs to spend more than $600 billion a year to keep the peace is also faulty, according to the report.

“The US has taken on the role of the world’s policeman, but the world is not calling 911 for our services,” it notes, adding that Washington “is currently spending more now on an annual basis than at any time since World War II” despite the absence of a credible rival.

The report, which is clearly aimed at influencing the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, in particular, calls for a return by the party and the country to the “principled internationalism” of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as opposed to his more-hawkish successor, Harry Truman, who presided over the birth of the Cold War and the doctrine of “containment” of Soviet and later Chinese influence.

A “new and improved” containment to be deployed against transnational terrorism, threatening regimes and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, as promoted by “liberal hawks” who identify themselves with Truman’s legacy — while an improvement “on the schoolyard bully stance of the Bush administration” — fails to recognise new global realities, according to the report, particularly the necessity to build multilateral mechanisms needed to confront critical global problems.

“This rehabilitation of Henry Truman’s foreign policy record is an attempt to pump up the Democratic Party with steroids lest it appear weak on the military or terrorism,” according to the report. “It is close to the same Bush foreign policy, minus the more flagrant human rights violations.” “As President Roosevelt realised more than 60 years ago, the future of the US depends on our becoming a more responsible member of the global neighbourhood... We will not feel secure until we all feel secure.” — IPS