Toward a New Foreign Policy

By Goodman, Melvin A. | Foreign Policy in Focus, March 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


Goodman, Melvin A., Foreign Policy in Focus


U.S. foreign policy under the stewardship of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld has been based on unilateralism and militarism. The condition of continuous, worldwide war has created an operational tempo for the military that the U.S. cannot afford and the Pentagon cannot endure. With so many "boots on the ground," the U.S. has triggered a series of diplomatic and political problems with both allies and adversaries. Moreover, the U.S. doctrine of preemptive war has set a dangerous precedent for other nations, validating the first Israeli attack against Syria in thirty years in October 2003 and perhaps justifying an Indian attack against Pakistan in the not-too-distant future. The radicalism of this doctrine is indicated by the spectrum of its opponents; in August 2002, for example, Henry Kissinger pointed out that "It is not in the American national interest to establish pre-emption as a universal principle available to every nation."

The major international problems that the U.S. faces today, particularly international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) cannot be addressed unilaterally and cannot be resolved by the use of force. The same can be said for nontraditional security issues dealing with demographics, the environment, and AIDS. All of these problems require multilateral involvement and solutions.

In both Afghanistan and Iraq, nation-building and peacemaking must be internationalized under civilian--not military control--as quickly as possible. The Bush administration has commandeered more than half of America's ground forces to pacify Afghanistan and Iraq, and the U.S. is spending $5 billion a month in this effort with no end in sight. Neither the U.S. government nor the American people are prepared for the burdens of empire; U.S. military forces are overextended and are in no position to deal with emergencies that may arise, such as the a genuine crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

The United Nations and non-government organizations (NGOs) must be involved far more extensively in order to share the burden of governance and elicit collective resources for the job of reconstruction. Many countries most experienced in the field of peacemaking are prepared to commit troops and treasure, but only if Washington is willing to yield its domination of the transition process. The U.S. must participate with both the UN and NATO as group member--not hegemonic power. As Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) put it: "America needs more humility than hubris in the applications of American military power and the recognition that our interests are best served through alliances and consensus."

International diplomacy, not military action, must be the first option in crisis management. The Bush administration has down-played the role of international diplomacy in all crisis situations, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the North Korean and Iranian nuclear challenges. In the Middle East, our aim should be the creation of a viable Palestinian state and security for Israel. This is probably best pursued by insisting that Israel abandon settlements in the occupied territories and by fostering Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. …

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