Foreign policy of the United States
national foreign policy
- We have effectively given up on trying to block the president's criticisms of our friends. It can't be helped. He wants to say whatever he wants to say, as he does on any other issue. If anything, when he's told not to say something- to avoid criticizing a leader directly, for instance, or to keep himself from breaking a promise we've made- Trump will say it louder. After these outbursts, it's embarrassing for Trump lieutenants who need to ask the same foreign partners for help on something, whether it is to catch a wanted criminal or to support the United States in an important vote at the United Nations. Imagine someone announced to a crowd that you were a "pompous fool" and then rang you up for a favor. That's the sort of cool reception American officials receive all the time in foreign meetings. President Trump does more than humiliate America's friends. He takes actions or threatens to take actions that will damage them in the long run. For example, Trump has hit Western partners with trade penalties, invoking "national security" provisions of US law to counter what he says are unfair economic practices in places such as Europe. He was on the brink of pulling out of a trade deal with South Korea in the midst of tense discussions on North Korea, putting the US ally in an awkward position. He threatened to scrap a longstanding US defense treaty with Japan, speculating that if America was attacked, the Japanese would not come to our aid but would instead "watch it on a Sony television." And he regularly threatens to discard existing or pending international agreements with our friends in order to get them to do what he wants, including displaying personal fealty towards him.
- You can't overstate how damaging these presidential whims are to US security. Has it caused us to take a major credibility hit overseas? You bet. We see it all the time. Our closest partners are more guarded toward us than ever before, and it causes dissension within our own team. Every time he back-hands an ally, top officials complain it's not worth bringing up foreign policy developments anymore with the president, for fear that he'll kick over the LEGO structures diplomats have patiently built alongside our partners. "There's no way I'm raising that in the oval office with him," someone might say. "You know it will set him off." This isn't helpful either. The president shouldn't be kept in the dark, yet people worry informing him will cause more harm than good. Others have just decided to resign, unwilling to be party to the dissolution of America's alliances.
- President Trump has repeatedly astounded advisors by saying he wants to exit our biggest alliance of them all: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This would be a huge gift to the Russians, who have long opposed the twenty-nine-nation group. NATO has been the backbone of international security for more than a half century, but the president tells us we are "getting raped" because other countries are spending far less than the United States to be a part of it, adding that the organization is "obsolete." The president is correct that a number of nations aren't spending enough on defense and that America has carried the overwhelming military burden. But the United States is also the most powerful nation on earth, and the investments we make in the NATO alliance allow us to project our influence globally to stop danger before it comes our way. Leaving the alliance would not only be foolish but suicidal- an advertisement to foreign enemies that it's open season against Western countries, each left to fend for themselves.
- I suppose some Americans don't care about foreign policy until a threat reaches our shores. They should care, because the actions we take abroad- or don't take- determine whether the United States is safe in the long run. Our friends are among the best stockades against foreign hostility. We;re talking about countries that come to our aid when disaster strikes; that stand up for us in contentious international disputes; that protect our ships, planes, and people; and that are willing to fight and die alongside our troops in remote deserts. They are not, as Trump will tell anyone who cares to listen, out to screw us. We need them. Will Durant argued that the laws of nature- including "the survival of the fittest"- apply to global politics. In nature, cooperation is one of the keys to winning any competition. We cooperate within our families, our communities, and societies in order to overcome threats. We must do the same on the world stage, sticking close to our allies so the United States not only survives, but thrives. But they no longer trust us. Why should they? Like anyone else, they can't predict the president's erratic behavior, and they find his attitude toward them demeaning. I know he lies to their faces (or on the phone) by offering false assurances of his support. He exposes sensitive discussions we have with them, and he tries to bully them into submission. Consequently, many are planning for life without the United States or, worse, how to deal with us as a competitor. The president of the European Council tweeted a viewpoint shared by many of his colleagues in May 2018, writing, "Looking at the latest decisions of @realDonaldTrump someone could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies."
- As we have seen, in the years 1945-1990, a loose network of US-backed anti-communist extermination programs emerged around the world, and they carried out mass murder in at least 22 countries. There was no central plan, no master control room where the whole thing was orchestrated, but I think that the extermination programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Korea, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Vietnam should be seen as interconnected, and a crucial part of the US victory in the Cold War. (I am not including direct military engagements or even innocent people killed as "collateral damage" in war.) The men carrying out purposeful executions of dissidents and unarmed civilians learned from each other. They adopted methods that were developed in other countries. Sometimes, they even named their operations after other programs they sought to emulate. I found evidence indirectly linking the metaphor "Jakarta," taken from the largest and most important of these programs, to at least eleven countries. But even the regimes that never influenced by that specific language would have been able to see, very clearly, what the Indonesian military had done and the success and prestige it enjoyed in the West afterward. And though some of these programs were wildly misdirected, and also swept up bystanders who posed no threat whatsoever, they did eliminate real opponents of the global project led by the United States.
- The USA is the world's foremost economic and military power, with global interests and an unmatched global reach. America's gross domestic product accounts for close to a quarter of the world total, and its military budget is reckoned to be almost as much as the rest of the world's defence spending put together... U.S. foreign policy has often mixed the idealism of its 'mission' to spread democracy with the pursuit of national self-interest. Given America's leading role on the international stage, its foreign policy aims and actions are likely to remain the subject of heated debate and criticism, as well as praise.
- In March 2003, Pat Buchanan wrote a groundbreaking article entitled “Whose War?” in opposition to the Bush Administration fueled growing hysteria over Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction which was producing demands for an armed intervention to disarm him. Buchanan rightly identified a number of prominent Jewish officials and journalists closely tied to the Israel Lobby as the principal driving force behind the rush to go to war.
- Lest there be any confusion, the same country keeps surfacing as a central player in the lead-up to America’s regime-change wars, which now have included an illegal attack on Syria, the second such intervention in the past year. That nation is Israel.
- Syria is only part of a much larger problem. It is remarkable the extent to which Israeli concerns dominate those of the United States, which now has a foreign policy that often is not even remotely connected to actual U.S. interests. Congress and the Special Counsel are investigating Russia’s alleged interference in America’s political system while looking the other way when Israel operates aggressively in the open and does much more damage. Netanyahu and his crew of unsavory cutthroats are hardly ever cited for their malignant influence over America’s political class and media. Bomb Syria? Sure. After all, it’s good for Israel.
- A freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar has let the proverbial cat out of the bag by alluding to American-Jewish money buying uncritical support for a foreign country which is Israel without any regard to broader U.S. interests, something that everyone in Washington knows is true and has been the case for decades but is afraid to discuss due to inevitable punishment by the Israel Lobby...
- Omar has defended herself without abandoning her core arguments and she has further established her bona fides as a credible critic of what passes for U.S. foreign policy by virtue of an astonishing attack on former President Barack Obama, whom she criticized obliquely in an interview Friday, saying “We can’t be only upset with Trump. His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was. That’s not what we should be looking for anymore. We don’t want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.” Presumably Omar was referring to Obama’s death by drone program and his destruction of Libya, among his other crimes. Everything she said about the smooth talking but feckless Obama is true and could be cast in even worse terms, but to hear the truth from out of the mouth of a liberal Democrat is something like a revelation that all progressives are not ideologically fossilized and fundamentally brain dead.
- Denying medicines to Iran and Venezuela is a crime against humanity... One of the most truly despicable aspects of the coronavirus is how it is being exploited by Washington to punish countries like Iran and Venezuela, currently the enemy-designates of the inside the Beltway crowd... Waging war on innocent people should not in any event be what the United States of America is all about. A shift in policies that actually demonstrates that Washington might be interested in saving lives rather than destroying them would be welcomed by most of the world and also by many Americans.
- In sum, the post-World War II foreign policy of the U.S. — independent of its massive human rights violations committed over and over around the world — has been predicated on overthrowing democratically elected governments and, even more so, supporting, aligning with, and propping up brutal dictators. This policy has been applied all over the world, on multiple continents and by every administration. It is impossible to understand even the most basic aspects of the U.S. role in the world without knowing that.
- Terror, intimidation and violence are the glue that holds empire together. Aerial bombardment, drone and missile attacks, artillery and mortar strikes, targeted assassinations, massacres, the detention of tens of thousands, death squad killings, torture, wholesale surveillance, extraordinary renditions, curfews, propaganda, a loss of civil liberties and pliant political puppets are the grist of our wars and proxy wars.
- Countries we seek to dominate, from Indonesia and Guatemala to Iraq and Afghanistan, are intimately familiar with these brutal mechanisms of control. But the reality of empire rarely reaches the American public. The few atrocities that come to light are dismissed as isolated aberrations. The public is assured what has been uncovered will be investigated and will not take place again. The goals of empire, we are told by a subservient media and our ruling elites, are virtuous and noble. And the vast killing machine grinds forward, feeding, as it has always done, the swollen bank accounts of defense contractors and corporations that exploit natural resources and cheap labor around the globe.
- If we dig behind the rhetoric, it becomes clear that Western support for right-wing coups had little to do with Cold War ideology, and certainly nothing to do with promoting democracy (quite the opposite!); the goal, rather, was to defend Western economic interests. The veil of the Cold War has obscured this blunt fact from view.
- In April, Brown University’s Cost of War Project calculated the total cost of the Afghanistan war at more than two trillion dollars. That means millions of Americans have been made poorer for a predictably failed project. It also means that thousands of the well-connected contractors and companies that lurk around the US Capitol Beltway pushing war have become much, much richer. That’s US foreign policy in a nutshell: taking money from middle-class Americans and transferring it to the elites of the US military and foreign policy establishment. It’s welfare for the rich.
- Rep. Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick, is trying to prolong her father's endless war in Afghanistan. You would think that every Democrat would be united in opposing such a policy, right? Well, you would be wrong. It’s not every day that you wake up in your blue state and learn that one of your newly elected Democratic congresspeople is joining with a Cheney to try to prolong the longest war in American history. But that's what happened this week, when Colorado's freshman Democratic Rep. Jason Crow teamed up with Republican Rep. Liz Cheney to advance legislation that would make it more difficult for any president to draw down troop deployments in Afghanistan. [...] The first rule for every incoming freshman Democrat in Congress should be that you never work with a Cheney on war policy. The second rule for every freshman Democrat should be: re-read the first rule and make damn sure to follow it. [...] Cheney initiatives that may seem superficially reasonable when calmly uttered by a Cheney usually have an insane ulterior motive. In this case, that truism applies: The Crow-Cheney legislation may sound like it includes reasonable requests, but they are designed to make the Afghanistan deployment permanent. In practice, nobody can predict with 100 percent certainty what will ensue once a nineteen-year military occupation ends. What we can know is that it’s a bad idea to continue a policy that isn’t working — and there’s plenty of evidence that it isn’t.
- After Kennedy was killed, and nobody asked, you know, what was Kennedy's real policy on Vietnam? Well... he was going to pull out of Vietnam. He was very clear about it, and that's what people get confused. Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, who took over the office went right to war quickly... this is... where we went to a war on a false basis. It was a lie, another lie, and that war was a disaster... Unfortunately, the same forces that made that war happen continued in our life, and they controlled us and pushed us into another war and another war and another war. And soon it was in Iraq... and on and on. We're still stuck in this. We're stuck in a military industrial syndrome where a lot of money, trillions of dollars, are spent fighting wars abroad against forces that we call "darkness" and "evil," but we don't really know who the enemy is. I think we propagandize an enemy, make him far bigger than he is, and I don't know what we're fighting. We're just fighting because the military needs to keep going and needs to be funded, as though the intelligence agencies which have enormous amount of budget...
- If you look at the reporting from all of our major networks, it's very hostile when it comes to people who we deem to be enemies, whether it's Chávez or whether it's Castro or Putin... It's not necessary to be their enemy.
- There's been a campaign, a war against Russia going on for a long time. It started again in the United States around 2006... there's no evidence really of the aggressiveness of Russia. The aggressiveness is truly coming from the NATO forces that have encircled Russia and that are also, by the way, encircling China. You know, this is a big policy point, huge, of huge importance...
We have to have people in the United States who speak up for the peace point of view... Let's get along with China. Let's get along with Russia, Iran, and so forth. We have to change our point of view because we are seeking to still be the only power in the world that is in control of the world. We cannot continue on this path; it's a suicidal path. And I think many Americans agree with me, but it's never been allowed to be stated politically. People who say this type of stuff never win elections because they're ridiculed or marginalized in the press, to be honest.
- The Trump administration is repeating the collective punishment strategy in Venezuela with a crippling financial embargo since August 2017 and, since January, a trade embargo. The financial embargo has prevented any measures that the government might use to get rid of hyperinflation or bring about an economic recovery, while knocking out billions of dollars of oil production. The trade embargo is projected to cut off about 60 percent of the country’s remaining meager foreign exchange earnings, which are needed to buy medicine, food, medical supplies, and other goods essential to many Venezuelans’ survival.
- Seeking to foment a military coup, a popular rebellion, or civil war, the Trump administration has made it clear that the punishment will continue until the current government is ousted. “Maduro must go,” said U.S. Vice President Mike Pence yet again in early March.
- All of this is illegal under numerous treaties that the U.S. has signed, including the charter of the United Nations, the charter of the Organization of American States, and other international law and conventions. To legitimize this brutality, which has likely already killed thousands of Venezuelans by reducing access to life-saving goods and services, the Trump administration has presented the sanctions as a consensus of the “international community”—similar to what George W. Bush did when he put together a “coalition of the willing” of 48 countries to support his disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq.
- The cast of characters supporting this regime-change effort, whether in Washington or among some of its closest allies, should underline what is already obvious: The United States’ attempt to oust Maduro has nothing to do with democracy or human rights.
- When people think of the damage that wealthy countries – typically led by the US and its allies – cause to people in the rest of the world, they probably think of warfare. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died from the 2003 invasion, and then many more as the region became inflamed. But rich countries also have considerable power over the lives of billions of people through their control over institutions of global governance. One of these is the International Monetary Fund. It has 189 member countries, but the US and its rich-country allies have a solid majority of the votes... the US has enough votes to veto many major decisions by itself – although the rich countries almost never vote against each other.... Consider a recent IMF loan. In March, Ecuador signed an agreement to borrow $4.2bn from the IMF over three years, provided that the government would adhere to a certain economic program spelled out in the arrangement... The program calls for an enormous tightening of the country’s national budget – about 6% of GDP over the next three years. (For comparison, imagine tightening the US federal budget by $1.4 trillion, through some combination of cutting spending and raising taxes). In Ecuador, this will include firing tens of thousands of public sector employees, raising taxes that fall disproportionately on poor people, and making cuts to public investment.
- Mark Weisbrot, in The IMF is hurting countries it claims to help, The Guardian (27 August 2019)
- All this [in Ecuador] is taking place under a government – elected in 2017 on a platform of continuity – that seeks to reverse a prior decade of political reforms. These reforms were, by measures of economic and social indicators, successful. Poverty was reduced by 38% and extreme poverty by 47%; public investment – including hospitals, schools, roads, and electricity – more than doubled as a percent of the economy. But the prior government was a leftwing government that was more independent of the US (by, for example, closing down the US military base there). One can imagine what this looks like, as the Trump administration now gains enormous power in Ecuador... Lenín Moreno, has aligned himself with Trump’s foreign and economic policy... his government is persecuting his presidential predecessor, Rafael Correa, with false charges filed last year that even Interpol won’t honor with an international warrant.... Since Washington controls IMF decision-making for this hemisphere, the Trump administration and the fund are implicated in the political repression as well as the broader attempt to reconvert Ecuador into the kind of economy and politics that Trump and Pompeo would like to see, but most Ecuadorians clearly did not vote for.
- Mark Weisbrot, in The IMF is hurting countries it claims to help, The Guardian (27 August 2019)
- Economic sanctions, as the U.S. is applying against Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries, cause immense harm... there is no doubt that Iran's capacity to respond to the novel coronavirus has been hampered by the Trump administration's economic sanctions, and the death toll is likely much higher than it would have been as a result... There can... be no question that the sanctions have affected Iran's ability to contain the outbreak leading in turn to more infections, and possibly to the virus' spread beyond Iran's borders... If the U.S. government is going to assist other countries, let alone provide some kind of leadership role during this global crisis, the first thing it should do is 'cause no harm, "Economic sanctions, as the U.S. is applying against Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and other countries, cause immense harm.
- Why do Trump & co. have crippling sanctions on Iran, making sure that many more people die from coronovirus than otherwise would? Its collective punishment, this piece from Human Rights Watch shows what monsters Trump and Pompeo and gang are...
- Bolivia has descended into a nightmare of political repression and racist state violence since the democratically elected government of Evo Morales was overthrown by the military on 10 November last year. That month was the second-deadliest in terms of civilian deaths caused by state forces since Bolivia became a democracy nearly 40 years ago... Morales' government was able to reduce poverty by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%... What has received even less attention is the role of the Organization of American States (OAS) (with headquarters in Washington, D.C.) in the destruction of Bolivia’s democracy last November. The wheels of justice grind much too slowly in the aftermath of US-backed coups. And the Trump administration’s support has been overt: the White House promoted the “fraud” narrative, and its Orwellian statement following the coup praised it: “Morales’s departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard.” According to the Los Angeles Times: “Carlos Trujillo, the US ambassador to the OAS, had steered the group’s election-monitoring team to report widespread fraud and pushed the Trump administration to support the ouster of Morales.”
- If you had the opportunity to save a million people from preventable death, would you do it? … This is not merely a rhetorical question, but one that members of the Congress will have to answer in the present. … Right now, legislation has already passed the House of Representatives that would do just that. And it was included in the newly released COVID relief bill that is being negotiated between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It would require the Treasury Department, which represents our government at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to support a multi-trillion dollar relief package from the Fund. These funds are not loans and therefore will not have to be repaid. They have no conditions attached to them. And they do not cost the U.S. government anything at all — not now, and not at any time in the future.
- Mark Weisbrot, If you could save a million lives, would you do it?, The Hill (1 October 2020)
- The IMF leadership, and almost all of the 189 member countries — including U.S. allies such as Germany and Canada — are ready to allocate the aid that Congress is considering. The reason it hasn’t already been approved at the IMF is that the U.S. Treasury has said no, and the U.S. — alone — has a veto at the IMF on this matter. .. [I]t’s not at all clear why the Treasury is blocking this desperately needed aid. … Nor is there any reason that it should be a partisan issue … Of course the Congress has a lot on its plate, and is having trouble passing further relief that millions of Americans need to pay their bills and for many, even have enough to eat. But all indications are that Congress will pass major spending bills before the end of the year, including funding to avoid a government shutdown. It would take almost no effort to include the House or Senate bill that would unblock Treasury’s hold on the IMF funding…
- Mark Weisbrot, If you could save a million lives, would you do it?, The Hill (1 October 2020)