Toward a New Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy in Focus, October 7, 2002 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


The Bush administration must drop its illegal doctrines of "preemptive strike" and "regime change," support the return of UN weapons inspectors, and work to build genuine multilateral coalitions and decisionmaking. The most effective means of preventing any potential deployment or use of WMDs is to support unfettered access for UNMOVIC inspectors in Iraq, which would be impossible during a military attack.

Washington must pledge to enforce other outstanding UN Security Council resolutions and not simply single out Iraq. As long as the United States allows allied regimes to flout UN Security Council resolutions, any sanctimonious insistence for strict compliance by the Iraqi government will simply be dismissed as hypocritical and mean-spirited, whatever the merit of the actual charges.

In a similar vein, the United States must support a comprehensive arms control plan for the region, including the establishment of a zone in the Middle East where all weapons of mass destruction are banned. Such an agreement would halt the U.S. practice of transporting nuclear weapons into the region on its planes and ships and would force Israel to dismantle its sizable nuclear arsenal. This more holistic approach to nonproliferation might include, for example, a five-year program affecting not just Iraqi missiles but phasing out Syrian, Israeli, and other countries' missiles as well.

As with its highly selective insistence on the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions, the double standards in U.S. policy render even the most legitimate concerns about Iraqi weapons development virtually impossible to successfully pursue. If Iraq is truly a threat to regional security, there must be a comprehensive regional security regime worked out between the eight littoral states of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. should support such efforts and not allow its quest for arms sales and oil resources to unnecessarily exacerbate regional tensions. In addition, the United States should withdraw its ground forces from the Persian Gulf, since the U.S. military presence--aimed largely at Iraq--has not contributed to the security of the region and has led to an anti-American backlash, most dramatically in the form of the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Washington should continue to support a strict UN arms embargo on Iraq and closely monitor potential dual-use technologies. However, the U.S. should join the growing number of countries in the Middle East and around the world calling for a lifting of the economic sanctions that have brought so much suffering to Iraqi civilians. The Bush administration should promise to no longer block the lifting of economic sanctions once the UN secretary-general recognizes that Baghdad is in effective compliance with Security Council resolutions. The United States, in consultation with other members of the Security Council, needs to clarify the positive responses that Iraq can expect in return for specific improvements in its behavior. …

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