Hilary Clinton’s answer during the Democrat’s most recent debate and an article in the most recent edition of Foreign Affairs got me thinking- What do I want the next President to do with American foreign policy? Well, here are the 10 things that Yao, Gary, and I are looking for:

1) Engage Foreign Leaders- As our policy stands now, we ignore countries that are ‘bad’ until we need them to do something for us. Well, we’ve usually ‘ignored’ (alienated) them for so long that they are usually more than hesitant to cooperate. The next President needs to keep the line of communication open with countries, not use negotiations as a bonus for nations that appease us.

2) Increase Foreign Aid- The next President needs to push Congress to increasing financial and humanitarian aid to the developing world. As we throw away money on the Conflict in Iraq, China and other competing nations are developing relationships with smaller nations. Foreign aid helps us develop spheres of influence around the world that will come in handy the next time we need help. The best thing for America right now would be a paradigm shift away from unilateral wars and towards common, consensus-building endeavors.

3) Diversify Our Energy Supplies- This isn’t a strictly foreign policy issue, but it would have a profound effect on our foreign policy. The next president needs to provide funding for alternative energies. Regardless when we reap the benefits from the investment, the foreign nations that have oil-inflated egos are going to find themselves in a precarious position with America on the path to energy independence.

4) Pull Out of Iraq (Mostly)- The War in Iraq is not going to get better with more troops. If the next President can’t pass legislation that would remove us from Iraq in the first year of his presidency (meaning a withdrawl the next year, or 2010), I would say that his legacy will be mired by Iraq the same way the current President’s has. Other nations are becoming more and more openly hostile to the notion of an Imperial Empire taking over the Middle East and if the President can’t get support domestically, how can we expect any potential to do the same in their country? I would expect the next President to the troop level in Iraq by at least 75% in order to achieve any level of success on the Iraqi issue. Pulling out of Iraq is the first step towards pressing other countries on issues that are important to us.

5) Re-engage the UN- International Organizations may or may not be effective, but our participation in them is an important indication of our standing amongst the international community. The first step in improving our relationship with the UN would be to appoint a nominee that can get strong support domestically (ie. not another Bolton-esque hack). The next step is to increase our activity outside the hallowed-halls of the Security Council. This is a daunting task for any administration, but we need ignore the War in Iraq and forge a coalition with other nations in the broader war against poverty and disease.

6) Ratify the Kyoto Protocol- It’s irrelevant whether the United States’ economy can handle joining Kyoto (which it probably can). The US economy has proven itself resilient time and time again, and arguments against Kyoto are all tainted with the bias of big business. The act of signing on to Kyoto would be a huge win for the global environmental protection movement. Seeing as how the United States is the only major developed country not to have signed Kyoto, it’s rather embarassing that we can even talk about countering global warming.

7) Repeal the Mexico City Policy- Quick synopsis: the Mexico City Policy is known as the Global Gag Rule, and outlaws US foreign aid to any international family planning organizations that condone (or even don’t speak out about) abortion. This policy is the centerpiece of the New Right’s campaign to export its twisted conservative Christian agenda and impose it on the developing world. Ironically, the Global Gag Rule increases abortion, and especially unsafe abortion, as women have no access to family planning counseling and contraceptives. As long as the Global Gag Rule is in place, the United States will be seen as a country willing to play games with women’s lives in order to climb on its moral pedestal.

8) Ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court- The ICC was created to prosecute war criminals. This may be why President Bush seems particularly hesitant to join the ICC. The Bush Administration argues that joining the ICC would open the legal floodgates to thousands of charges against US soldiers and military officials. One must ask, though, why the US would resort to such an excuse: perhaps it already knows its own guilt? As long as the US remains outside the jurisdiction of the ICC, the preemptive strike doctrine, torture, and other Bush Administration hobbies will stay legitimate, and the international community will continue to question our leadership.

9) Stop Being Complicit in Torture – Call it “enhanced”, “invasive”, or just downright human-rights violating, but the current interrogation tactics legitimated by the US military/intelligence services are not only immoral but also impractical. On ethical grounds, it’s hypocritical and counterintuitive for the President to claim that everyone deserves human rights precisely because they’re human, and at the same time, designate captured terror suspects as “enemy combatants” not prisoners of war. As a result, the Bush Administration attempts to rhetorically side step the Geneva Conventions by literally denigrating terror suspects to subhuman status. So, on moral grounds, we violate the universalizing ethic of human rights by excluding who can be fully human and therefore claim full human rights. On practical grounds, torturing suspects in Gitmo/Abu Grahib/Eastern European Prison, or handing them over for Jordan/Syria/Egypt to torture them undermines our ability to project our soft power into the Muslim world. After all, a pyramid of naked prisoners cowering in fear at an attack dog doesn’t exactly project benevolent intentions.

10) Rethink the Free Trade Mantra – Basic macroeconomic theory tells us that if two nations specialize in different goods such as guns and butter, and they trade with each other, the result is mutually beneficial. Too bad the US and China don’t just make guns and butter. What’s happening today is that US manufacturing companies are outsourcing manufacturing jobs to the rest of the world where labor costs are minimal and tax breaks and investment opportunities are provided by the foreign government. As a result, unfettered free trade is exerting downward pressure on US living standards and wages. The next administration needs to include labor rights concerns and environmental guarantees into its future trade agreements with other countries in an effort to equalize the disparities in manufacturing conditions from Flint, Michigan, and Bangalore, India.

Kedar wrote the first five suggestions, Yao wrote the next three, and Gary wrote the last two. Gary very specifically wanted me, Kedar, to remind everyone that he totally disagrees with suggestion #4 regarding our pullout from Iraq. Gary wrote at great length about his views here but I totally disagree. We’ll discuss this later.


5 Responses to “10 Ways the Next President Can Fix American Foreign Policy”

  1. 1 Yao Yao

    #5 doesn’t quite go far enough. The United States doesn’t need to just suck up to the UN and pay their fees; they need to use the UN as a tool for humanitarian interventions. I’m not talking about “let’s discuss this with the Sudanese government, hold hands, and sing happy songs” approach to Darfur. The UN, with the overwhelming support of the US, needs to go in and get its hands dirty. The only good argument for why humanitarian interventions are bad is that they “hurt American hegemony by overstretching the military.” But international relations aren’t only dictated by hard power, and given how outrageously low American soft power is at the moment, humanitarian interventions can only increase positive perceptions of the United States.

  2. 2 Kedar

    I couldn’t agree more.

  3. 3 Lester

    Seems to me point ten is critical for the US to be viewed with any credibility by other nations. The paranoia surrounding US relations with for example, Venezuela which is putting oil dollars into hospitals and schools, makes the US look imperialistic and shows that its aid is based solely on the basis of spreading an unfair free trade system that only benefits its self.

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