F.D.R.'S ALTERNATIVE TO U.S. IMPERIALISM: Progressives in U.S. Launch Global Good Neighbour Initiative

By Barry, Tom; Booker, Salih et al. | CCPA Monitor, December/January 2005 | Go to article overview
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F.D.R.'S ALTERNATIVE TO U.S. IMPERIALISM: Progressives in U.S. Launch Global Good Neighbour Initiative


Barry, Tom, Booker, Salih, Carlsen, Laura, Dennis, Marie, Gershman, John, CCPA Monitor


Dismayed by the aggressive and divisive foreign policy of the Bush administration, the U.S. International Relations Center (IRC), a non-profit think-tank, together with a sister agency, Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF), recently launched a Global Good Neighbour initiative aimed at forging a more civilized and constructive foreign policy for the U.S., based largely on a similar policy proposed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. In the following article, the authors of a joint IRC/FPIF report on this initiative explain its objectives-ED

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, sabre-rattling abroad, and disdain for international cooperation have left the American public uncertain about what the U.S. government is doing overseas, and why.

Public uncertainty about U.S. actions overseas is not a new phenomenon, certainly not one that's distinctive to the George W. Bush era. Citizens have frequently questioned whether Washington's foreign policy really serves U.S. interests and truly makes everyone more secure. Especially since the 1980s-when our revolutionary republic began thinking more about expanding its dominion abroad and less about its own democracy and freedom-civic apprehensions have shadowed official foreign policy.

Today the "global war on terror" and talk of "regime change" in other countries have sparked criticism from both the political left and right, and many voices have risen to protest these initiatives and demand a change in foreign policy. President Bush says we should "stay the course," but the high costs, scant results, and increasing dangers of the current U.S. foreign policy course indicate the need for a sharp change of direction.

But can the present course of U.S. foreign policy be altered? Has there ever been a model for a dramatic shift away from militarism and unilateralism toward international cooperation and peace?

The answer is Yes. Fortunately, U.S. foreign policy has another legacy-one that can serve as a model and inspiration for ourselves and others. It is the Good Neighbour policy that President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed in the 1930s as a fresh perspective on international relations and U.S. foreign affairs. His presidency (1933-45) marked a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign relations and was characterized by a public repudiation of three decades of imperialism, cultural and racial stereotyping, and military intervention.

F.D.R. is remembered in the United States mostly for his social democratic policies at home (the New Deal)and his strong leadership as a wartime president. But his pre-war foreign policy was equally outstanding and quite relevant to today's economic, security, and cultural conflicts.

In his March 1993 inaugural address, Roosevelt announced a new approach to international relations that would become known as his Good Neighbour policy: "I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbour-the neighbour who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others."

The Good Neighbour policy of the 1930s provides a contrast to the current approach toward international relations-not an anomaly, but a perspective deeply rooted in U.S. history. The Good Neighbour period was a time when the United States took a firm stand as a global leader, not a global bully-a time when America actively sought to build multilateral cooperation rather than assert global dominance.

Our world has seen major transformations unimagined in the days of the Great Depression and the New Deal. As national and global conditions change, political agendas must also evolve. RD.R.'s Good Neighbour policy cannot be applied as a blueprint for foreign policy today, but the basic principles behind it offer keys to building new international relations that are socially, politically, and environmentally sustainable.

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