Monday, February 11, 2008

Beyond Empire: A Just U.S. Foreign Policy

Here's what we are thinking about for the summer issue of YES! Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

In the latter part of the 20th century, the U.S. moved into an increasingly powerful empire role. After the fall of the USSR, it became the sole superpower, the largest military spender, by far, with close to 800 foreign bases and a mammoth stockpile of nuclear weapons. We also have among the highest per capita rates of consumption of the world's resources, and the U.S. is increasingly placing itself above international law.

In the presidential debates, the candidates and parties differ about foreign policy. But none of them is questioning that the U.S. will continue its imperial course.

This issue of YES! begins with the premise that the American empire cannot last much longer:
  • It is fast moving beyond the means of the American people. The U.S. can no longer sustain the massive drain on its resources of maintaining two foreign wars, pork-barrel weapons systems, hundreds of foreign bases. The under-investment in human, social, capital and infrastructure at home is undermining our security.
  • The rising oil prices (and limited supply), coupled with the rapidly expanding reach of the Chinese economy and competition for energy and raw materials, are constraining our economic dominance.
  • The loss of stature of the U.S. in the wake of the Iraq occupation has undermined the international legitimacy of the U.S. empire.

If the U.S. empire can't be sustained, what comes next? An economic collapse as overreach comes home to roost? A hand-off to other power-centers (China/India/Russia or the E.U.)? All-out war as we attempt to protect our global dominance?

Can we imagine instead that the U.S. leads the way to a post-empire world?

What would it mean to voluntarily step back from empire and join the community of nations? In particular:

  • What is our real source of security? Multi-million dollar jet fighters designed for air battles with the USSR? Or sustainable energy technologies widely shared and locally controlled? A generation of veterans and civilians traumatized by the occupation of Iraq? Or populations with reliable access to education and health care, food and water? Garrison states, with secrecy as official policy and limited civil liberties? Or transparency, rule of law, rights for all?
  • Can we be secure with a military that is at the same scale as those of other wealthy regions, such as the E.U.? What will it take to unlearn what we've been taught about being under siege?
  • Can we dismantle our nuclear stockpile, as recently proposed by Kissinger, Shultz, and other former cold warriors (and by peace advocates for many years), and keep our promises in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to rid ourselves and the world of the existential threat of nuclear weapons?
  • How can our economy thrive without the economic stimulus of massive military spending and without the privileged access to the world's resources that comes with super-power status? What resources would be released, and how might that build the foundations of a strong, sustainable domestic economy?
  • How can we change our trade policies so migration is less driven by the economic disruptions brought about by NAFTA, CAFTA, the IMF, World Bank, and corporate domination? What is our fair share of the world's resources, and might living within our means reduce the impetus for a global military presence?
  • How do climate change, peak oil, and other signs of a "full planet" affect the future of international relations?
  • How can our policies help unlock the Israel-Palestinian stalemate, instead of perpetuating it? What can we do to under-cut the causes of terrorism, rather than spending billions and compromising democracy at home and abroad to counter a relatively small group of violent criminals?
  • How can we end the occupation of Iraq and prevent an attack on Iran?
  • How can we support nonviolent grassroots power to counter tyranny (in other words, how can we support real democracy), rather than supporting despots friendly to the U.S. to counter leaders who aren't? When is outside assistance constructive?
  • How can the diversity of cultures complement each other and enrich everyone's lives rather than set the stage for violent misunderstandings.
  • How does the trauma of one war set the stage for the next round of violent conflict, and are there ways to interrupt and heal this deadly cycle of trauma?
  • How can ordinary people get involved in creating foreign policy through their cities, states, or tribal governments and through citizen-to-citizen diplomacy?

We are especially interested in creative responses, diverse voices, and a variety of forms of articles (essays, profiles, stories, poems, info-graphics).

Please query asap, and before sending submissions: editors [at] yesmagazine.org. Include the number 46 in the subject line.

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