Voices for an Alternative U.S.

Voices for an Alternative U.S.

Voices for an Alternative U.S.

The U.S. public and policymakers face a fateful choice: will our government be a global leader or a global cop? The Bush administration says there’s no alternative: our homeland security, international peace, and our standard of living depend on the United States policing the world. According to this doctrine, spelled out by the White House in its National Security Strategy, the United States must maintain global military dominance and the right of preemptive military attack against any country it regards as a current or even a potential threat. Under this radical foreign policy doctrine, U.S. national security and interests require that we deploy our forces around the world. We find this a dangerous and alarming concept of peace and security, and we believe that this radical foreign policy doctrine is not America’s only option. It is alarming because the first-strike doctrine ignores international law, dismisses the precepts and procedures of collective security established by the UN Charter, and establishes the United States as an international vigilante—acting at once as cop, judge, and executioner.

It is dangerous not only because it will rush the United States into unnecessary wars but also because it provides a precedent for extraterritorial operations by other nations and nonstate actors. There is another choice—a foreign and military agenda in which our power is exercised responsibly, our leadership fosters respect, and our goals are commonly shared among our partners. At the beginning of the 21st century, our nation and our world face stark and growing threats. These include terrorists with global reach, the worst pandemic in human history (AIDS), the spread of weapons of mass destruction, unprecedented global environmental crises, and a global economy that is generating greater instability and inequality. None of these deepening problems can be addressed by U.S. military prowess alone. None can be addressed by any one country alone, even a country as powerful as the United States. Yet in the face of these threats, the Bush administration has launched a new foreign policy based on U.S. supremacy and exceptionalism.

Despite the passionate opposition of its closest allies and the international community, the Bush administration has set our country on a dangerous and alarming course. It has: Abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty while squandering billions in chasing the chimera of national missile defense.

Undermined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty while expressing support for testing new nuclear weapons and refusing to rule out a nuclear first strike against nonnuclear nations. Derailed negotiations to improve international inspection systems to monitor and prevent the production of biological and chemical weapons. Repudiated an international scientific consensus and withdrawn from global efforts to curb global warming. Renounced the U.S. signature on the treaty to create an International Criminal Court and campaigned aggressively to exempt all U.S. personnel from its jurisdiction, even threatening to veto UN peacekeeping operations if it does not get its way. Dismissed the need for broad international cooperation in its war on terrorism, preferring to act alone or with selected allies. Treated human rights as an obstacle to—rather than an essential component of—civic security at home and abroad. Undermined the Oslo peace process, condoned the Israeli reoccupation of Palestinian territory, and rejected UN Security Council resolutions supported by previous administrations that provide a framework for conflict resolution containing strict security guarantees for both Israel and the Palestinians.

Slighted global efforts to mobilize an offensive against the spread of AIDS, instead privileging the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies over the need for affordable life-saving medicines. Suspended U.S. support for the UN’s family planning programs and balked at supporting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Continued to pursue a global economic agenda that is of, by, and for transnational corporations and blocked efforts to build international rules to enforce labor and consumer rights and environmental protections.

U.S. Military Policy

U.S. Military Policy

U.S. Military Policy

In the waning days of World War II, a key turning point in global affairs
occurred. The United States, as the dominant power, committed itself to a new international system whose aim was to bring the world’s nations together within a system of agreed rules and norms for collective security. The United Nations and the other global agencies that it spawned were, of course, imperfect, as are all human creations. Power imbalances, wealth gaps, and cold war rivalries often mocked the ideals on which these institutions were founded.

Nonetheless, this new framework of multilateralism marked a significant step toward genuine international cooperation as an alternative to a past dominated by nationalism, empire, and militarism. This framework is now in danger of being irretrievably undermined. There is no mandate in the United States for this radical departure. After all, candidate Bush promised in 2000 “more humility” in foreign policy, close cooperation with our traditional allies, and a commitment to the pursuit of national interests, narrowly defined. Yet since the September 11th terrorist attacks, the language of consultation and diplomacy has given way to one of command and unilateralism. The U.S. government must act resolutely to protect itself from terrorism and to bring to justice those responsible for the September 11th attacks. But the Bush policy has done more to isolate the United States than to isolate the terrorists.

By demanding the right to act unilaterally, by changing the target from the perpetrators of 9-11 to a purported “axis of evil,” by scorning both multilateral alliances and the UN system, and by refusing to comply with international law in its treatment of prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Bush administration is undermining the very cause it claims to serve. World peace depends on strong collective security mechanisms. The new threat of international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the existence of repressive, militaristic states like Iraq underscore the continuing need for multilateral responses to security threats. The U.S. military must be prepared to protect the nation against external threats.

But U.S. military might is an insufficient guarantor of national and international security. Well-funded international institutions and international cooperation in intelligence gathering, peacekeeping, and arms control are essential components to any real security. The United States should adopt a real security agenda—one that addresses the actual dangers that Americans now face—by using its leadership to mobilize international action against these global threats. Such an alternative approach would include: Renewing efforts to mobilize a global consensus and global action against all forms of terrorism at home and abroad.

Increasing our commitment to the UN security system and international law, while urging UN action against threats to the peace. Committing the United States to the fundamental principle of international justice—that no country is above international law.

 Strengthening multilateral, verifiable arms control regimes that aim to curb weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, while at the same time promoting nuclear disarmament and international demilitarization. Exercising leadership for protection of the environment through the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and other international environmental agreements while protecting existing multilateral environmental agreements from challenges by free trade agreements. Increasing support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as other international efforts to respond to the AIDS pandemic.

Foreign policy of the United States

Foreign policy of the United States

Foreign policy of the United States

Supporting efforts to promote corporate accountability at home and abroad while working to insure that the global governance mechanisms of the international economy—including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO)—are embedded within a framework that effectively addresses the poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and social disintegration that are among the greatest threats to security in the world today. In the past several decades, the international community has made progress in reaching effective agreements in the areas of human rights, environmental protection, arms control, and collective security. We turn our backs on this progress at grave risk to ourselves and humankind.

This framework of international cooperation can help us address current threats such as international terrorism, arms proliferation, and deepening global poverty. Rather than spurning multilateralism, U.S. leaders should dedicate themselves to reforming and reinvigorating the processes and structures of international problem solving. As a world power with national interests around the globe, the United States has the greatest stake in building international institutions, fostering international cooperation, and instituting the international rule of law. Voices for an Alternative U.S. Foreign and Military Policy Our Fateful Choice Toward a Real Security Agenda A good-faith effort in this regard would include: Remitting all unpaid UN dues and making regular and timely payments of future assessments to UN programs, including those for peacekeeping operations. Committing to help reform UN decisionmaking to reflect the new realities of world power and population distribution in the 21st century.

Strengthening international justice by ratifying the International Criminal Court. Expanding the international human rights regime by ratifying such key international human rights covenants as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; the International Labor Organization’s core labor rights conventions; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Now, more than ever before, U.S. foreign policy should draw inspiration from the deep but often suppressed democratic and internationalist foundations of this nation. Borrowing a phrase from the Declaration of Independence, this administration needs to show “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” We are compelled—both by our consciences and our hopes for future generations—to call for a new foreign policy that successfully meets the new challenges that threaten global security, peace, and development. Threats to our common security need multilateral responses.

Not in our name can the U.S. government ignore world opinion, reject international treaties, adopt first-strike prerogatives, and put power before reason. We stand behind a foreign and military policy that uses U.S. power responsibly—one that wins respect at home and abroad through its commitment to global partnerships and prudent international leadership. It is precisely such a policy that will best ensure America’s own well-being and protect our own security. Signed December 11, 2002 by the FPIF staff and members of the FPIF Advisory Committee listed on the first page.

Add your voice to those supporting an alternative foreign policy online at Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF), a joint project of the Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC) and Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), initiated this statement for a new foreign and military policy. We offer it for consideration by policymakers, other policy reform organizations, and constituency groups that share similar concerns. We believe that a unified response is needed to oppose the administration’s radical policies and to propose principled and effective alternatives. Individuals and organizations that would like to add their voice in support of an alternative foreign and military policy, send a message to <fpif@fpif.org> or visit to fill out an official endorsement form.