Thursday, April 12, 2007

For a foreign policy promoting democracy, human rights and social welfare

Oxfam, the international relief organization based in London, has issued a report warning against disillusionment over the “misadventure” in Iraq and advocates a foreign policy focusing on protecting civilians and challenging human rights abuses around the world. The discussion is about British policy but the same argument applies to American foreign policy.

This is from the BBC yesterday regarding the Oxfam report:
The UK must not shy away from trying to resolve international crises despite the "terrible misadventure" in Iraq, a report from charity Oxfam argues.

It warns that it would be disastrous if the country was put off sending troops to future humanitarian crises like those seen in Sierra Leone and Kosovo.

But Oxfam says the UK's power to be an international force for good has been undermined by foreign policy errors.

The government said its actions abroad in the past decade had been effective.

Meanwhile, a separate report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG) has warned that UK and US policy towards Iraq has "spawned new terror in the region".

The International Committee of the Red Cross also published a report on Wednesday which said every aspect of life was getting worse for ordinary Iraqis.

Four years after the US-led invasion, the ICRC says the conflict is inflicting immense suffering, and calls for greater protection of civilians.

The Oxfam report, A Fair Foreign Policy, argues that the positive effect of interventions in Sierra Leone and Kosovo should not be forgotten amid debate about Iraq.

"The Iraq war was a terrible misadventure, but it must not cause future prime ministers to return to the caution of the previous Conservative government.

"That administration stood by while the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda unfolded. We must say 'never again' as much to our failure to stop these atrocities, as to repeating Iraq."

Meanwhile, the ORG study argues that by including Iraq in the "war on terror", Britain and the US have "created a combat training zone for jihadists".

The strategy has also "emboldened" Iran, Syria and North Korea and led to a resurgence of the Taleban in Afghanistan, it said.

And it added that the continuing military action has increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11.
You can read the entire BBC piece here and a summary of the Oxfam report here.

The report speaks to the people of the United Kingdom regarding their government but the same case can (and should) be made for American policy. While not forgetting the damage done, it is important to look beyond the current floundering by the Bush administration in Iraq. Americans seem always prone to want to withdraw from the world after bad experiences abroad. However, right-wing isolationism and its left-wing counterpart disguised under the banner of anti-imperialism are no longer realistic options in a global economy.

The neo-conservative interventionism to use American power to promote American power is little better – basically they are isolationists with guns. While they use much of the same rhetoric of liberal internationalists regarding the promotion of democracy they believe what is good for the United States is good for the rest of the world and use military force to enforce that position. They eschew international concerns and commitments. To them, multilateralism is a dirty word.

Realism has been the dominant school of foreign policy under Democratic and Republican administrations for decades. The realists believe the United States should only do what is in its interest. They do not believe in values, only interests. There are no friends, only temporary allies. Thus support for Saddam Hussein during the war with Iran (which he started), then turning around and going to war against Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait, then leaving him in power when he is defeated in that war, then encouraging the Iraqi people to rise up against him and doing absolutely nothing to support the Iraqi people when he crushes this rebellion reflects no contradictions to the realists but simple adjustments to policy made to maintain the balance of power which is perceived to be in American interests. This, of course, results in no small amount of cynicism towards Americans – just ask the Kurds.

It is liberal internationalism (a.k.a. progressive realism) that holds the best hope for the future of the United States. Liberal Internationalists generally believe American foreign policy should be promoting democracy, human rights and social welfare in conjunction with the international community. It is through this promotion of the well being of all and stability of the rest of the world that American interests are best served. They believe the sheer extent of American power carries with it a universal obligation. If innocent people are victimized, particularly in cases of genocide, and the United States has the means to protect them, then there is no escaping the responsibility – military action is not only justified but a moral requirement.


Will said...

So what does a progressive realist say the U.S. should do now re. Iraq? Leave? Withdrawal ("redeployment") certainly will not bring about the end of that "combat training zone for jihadists". And if there's no international will to stop what's going on in Darfur, I wouldn't count on that community to fill the vacuum we as peacekeepers would leave behind.

There's no good answer.


Sisyphus said...

Just a few thoughts in response:
1. To keep foreign fighters out there needs to be control of borders. Unless the U.S. wants to put additional thousands of troops in just on the borders it needs to talk to Iraq’s neighbors – i.e., Syria and Iran – and come to agreements. A U.S. victory is not in their interest but neither is a U.S. defeat if it means chaos in the region.
2. Iraq is flying apart in three different directions. This wasn’t the case a couple of years ago when there was the opportunity to control events on the ground but that opportunity is now gone because this administration refused to acknowledge the reality of what was happening under its nose and insisted we were winning a war we weren’t at the time. Partition is an admission of defeat of sorts but that’s the obvious solution of the situation we find ourselves in today (Kurdistan is already quasi-independent). If the Malaki government cannot pull it together then there needs to be a renegotiation of power in Iraq. Otherwise, the administration needs to be honest with the American people about how many American service-people will likely die to keep this country together.
3. Six years after the 9-11 attacks and four years after the invasion of Iraq, this nation is still not on war footing. Either this nation is at war or it’s not. Everything this administration says is we are at war and everything this administration does indicate we are not at war. If this administration was serious about a “war against terrorism” it would have focused the nation’s energy to deal with these bastards with a military build-up but we got tax cuts instead. Six years ago this nation should have engaged on a radical energy conservation program directed at our dependence on oil. Nothing happened except the war in Iraq drove up the price of oil and thus we, the American taxpayers, are now putting more money in the pockets of the very people who are working against us.
4. Either this nation is at war or it’s not – part 2. The administration has been floundering for four years. The “surge” is floundering by another name. If this administration wants to do what it claims it wants to do then it needs to build a bigger armed services real fast and be honest with the American people that this war there are very real sacrifices required of all Americans – not just the military personnel.
5. They teach you in War 101 that one of the goals you seek is to unite your friends and divide your enemies. The opposite has happened under this administration. Our allies are drifting off in different directions – even the British are pulling out of Iraq while the U.S. is putting more troops in and NATO is in disarray in Afghanistan. On the other hand, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, according to Time magazine a couple of weeks ago, are in control of a substantial region overlapping the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan – they called it Talistan.. Al Qaeda has been establishing itself in Northern Africa while the Americans are bogged down in Iraq. The monomania of Iraq has allowed Al Qaeda to regroup and spread.
6. Darfur? What can I say? Leadership, leadership, leadership. There are only two nations of global stature that can put together what needs to be done in Darfur – China and the United States. The Chinese have sold their soul to the devil – i.e., Sudan – for access to oil. The U.S., of course, is all talk, talk, talk and no action. In the meantime, tens of thousands die
The bottom line is if you care at all for this nation you cannot put credence in what this administration says – you have to consider what it does and the results.