"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Friday, November 7, 2008

A "Just Foreign Policy"

Even as we bask in the afterglow of a truly monumental election, the current resident of the Oval Office has signed (with a big grin) the largest military budget in history (for fiscal year 2009). It weighs in at a paltry $512 billion (and that's just for starters); you can see what the extras will probably cost us in my October 22nd blog posting, Our Runaway "Defense" Budget. In the past eight years the Bush administration has taken decades of foreign policy already designed with the National Security State in mind and has raised it to unimaginable heights (or perhaps taken it to new lows).

Our current foreign policy is centered on a perpetual War On Terror that has sucked the life out of the remains of our nation's diplomatic service as it pumped vast amounts of money and human resources into military “solutions” and interventions around the world. It was once said that “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” And so, with over 700 U.S. military bases encircling the globe, the sun now never sets on the American Empire.

However, the signs are clear (just as they were with the British Empire) that the days of the American Empire are on the wane. It is all about power, and the balance (or imbalance) thereof. For decades the two Superpowers wielded immense power that affected every corner of the globe, and today America still attempts to wield (hard) power in an unbridled fashion without a thought of engaging in meaningful dialogue with other nations (except in token ways or after the fact).

We can either adjust to our waning of Empire in a sensible way or continue on the current track, exerting military might until we eventually collapse under the shear weight of it. We need to come to the realization that meaningful foreign policy is not wrought with guns and bombs. We can learn that we are just one nation among many, and that we do not have all the answers and that we must learn to live together under the rule of law (not the rule of might).

In a previous blog posting I wrote about Dr. Martin Luther King's concept of The World House, "in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.” Dr. King was right on the mark. We are, as he said, like a dysfunctional family that has been thrust into a situation where we all live under the same roof and must learn to live together. Diplomacy (first) and just foreign policy are at the top of my list for learning together in this World House of ours, and speaking of just foreign policy:

The people at Just Foreign Policy are dedicated to “achieving a just foreign policy based on cooperation, law, and diplomacy.” Aside from joining their Action Network, they are currently asking people to send a message to President-elect Obama asking him to reform U.S. foreign policy. You can send an email from their Website, and they have a number of common sense talking points that you can use in addition to any of your own.

If we took even a fraction of what we currently spend on the military - deep sixing one Cold War relic like the F22 Raptor jet would save a few billion - and increased spending on just foreign policy efforts, we could change our standing on the world stage, significantly reduce the threat of terrorism and soften the inevitable decline of the American Empire. And just think; without a bunch of wars to fight, maybe we could even give our troops a well deserved vacation.



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