Toward a New Foreign Policy

By Lindsay-Poland, John | Foreign Policy in Focus, August 2004 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


Lindsay-Poland, John, Foreign Policy in Focus


Key Recommendations

* The United States should adopt a doctrine of hemispheric relations that redirects resources from military installations toward social programs.

* Short of such a foundational shift, base agreements should require specific missions, fixed periods, discussion by civil society, and approval by U.S. and host-nation legislatures.

* Environmental justice requires assuming responsibility and dedicating funding for cleanup of contamination on U.S. bases abroad.

To live up to its democratic ideals, the United States should adopt a new security doctrine for relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. Such a doctrine would value ties with civilians more than ties with the military and would promote civil society as the sphere where democratic decisionmaking must occur. This approach would dedicate more resources to addressing the economic causes of conflict rather than building installations designed for the use of force. It would also commit the United States to transparency about the purposes, activities, and effects of existing U.S. military bases in the region.

U.S. military facilities represent tangible commitments to underlying policies that are either outmoded, as in the case of Cuba, or perniciously expansionist. According to SouthCom, the command briefing guiding the Army's military presence in the region highlights access to strategic resources in South America--especially oil--as well as other issues with social and political roots, such as immigration and narcotics. A rational U.S. security doctrine would redirect resources invested in military bases to civilian agencies whose mandate is to address such social and political problems, including nongovernmental organizations, local and regional agencies of the hemisphere's governments, and programs of the United Nations. Such a focus shift would imply changes in U.S. drug policy and would redirect military and police assistance both toward alternative crop and other development projects in the Andes and toward drug treatment and health programs in the United States.

Short of such a re-examination of the policy foundations for military bases in the region, the United States should review existing agreements for foreign bases using democratic criteria. Bases should not be maintained or established without broad consultation with and agreement of the civil societies and legislatures of the countries in which the bases are located. Without such consultation and agreement, these bases represent a usurpation of democratic control within the host society. …

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