Thursday, June 21, 2007

Progressive Foreign Policy Points... or Attitudes

Max Sawicky, in the context of a discussion of the recent "Take Back America" (and a remark by Digby), outlines some basic considerations for progressives regarding US foreign policy.

1. There is no 'we.' Never was. Policy is of, by, and for elites.

2. Morality is not the policy. U.S. policy is always justified on humanitarian grounds, but never motivated by such considerations.

3. "Get a life." Genuine 'existential' threats to U.S. interests justifying the use of mass violence are rare. A nuclear Iran is not such a threat.

4. Let's look at the record. The practice of U.S. foreign policy (as for most great powers) is soaked with the blood of innocents. Blowback is the result, and the setting in which foreign policy should be evaluated.

5. It wasn't a mistake, it was on purpose. Characterizing Iraq or, say, Vietnam, as a 'mistake' glosses over the actual intents of policy-makers, as opposed to their public apologetics. Because the use of force is padded with phony justifications, the failure to achieve purported objectives is seen as the result of error, rather than the fact that such objectives were never seriously entertained to begin with.

6. Good stuff can happen. Positive outcomes from U.S. policy are possible and have been observed, but they are typically fortuitous, rather than the fruits of intelligent design.

I humbly suggest that failure to appreciate these points weakens our ability to forestall the next criminal war.
Unfortunately, I think - at least today - that this is basically right. Even non-governmental policy on the part of American-operated organizations addressing, say, international development issues is often formed by an eternal quest for funding which relies ultimately upon some of those same elites. This often undercuts any original humanitarian rationale, which remains as much a rhetorical gesture as it does any sort of problem-solving reality. Thus, because recipients are not stupid, even much of the best-intentioned policy can result in "blowback."

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