Democrats Must Adopt a Foreign Policy of Restraint
In a post-George Floyd America, Democrats must put up a robust anti-war agenda
In a post-George Floyd America, where many are now calling to “defund the police” and focus on community-based investment, Democrats must listen to those who have been a victim of police brutality and racism. Beyond being a conversation about race, it is also a conversation about unbridled power and the brutality of draconian law. If we are to request massive reassessments that divest from punitive criminal authority to more holistic public safety standards, we have to be honest about America’s defense spending. Section 1033 of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act allows the federal government to direct local police department militarization.
Americans are witnessing various forms of militarization — from over-policing, facial recognition, to mass unlawful surveillance — which disproportionately targets communities of color. Not to mention, many Black Lives Matter protests are being met with military-style police presence in order to discourage and quell demonstrators. With a recorded expenditure of over $732 billion on the military itself, the federal government spends $115 billion on ensuring the militarization of precincts across the country. That number is higher when accounting for the expenditures of the State Department and CIA, equaling over $950 billion in worldwide affairs that harm millions.
With bloating expenditures from the continuing COVID-19 crisis, there will be a reevaluation of public spending across the board. Many states (even liberal states such as New York) are already placing crucial programs such as education, Medicaid, and social services that help the special needs community on the chopping block. The Federal Government under the current administration, will likely do the same. Trump’s current approach to slashing key safeguards of the Affordable Care Act is just one small example of what we are likely to see.
As Democrats launch 2020 criminal justice initiatives to demand higher standards and reevaluate police funding to states, the “defund the police” movement may actually also point to the need to do the same globally. The US has spent $6.4 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001. On top of that, approximately 480,000 people have been killed in these US-led wars. Therefore, Americans must demand justice not just domestically, but also on an international level.
With the recent revelation of the Afghanistan Papers, it is proven that US officials misled the public over an 18 year period of time. Since 2001, more than 700,000 troops have been deployed in Afghanistan alone, many of which are poor and working-class Americans, who put their lives at great risk, all in the name of a costly and bungled conflict.
Today, America deals with a massive mental health crisis amongst returning veterans. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2.1 million veterans requested mental health treatment from 2006 through 2010. Only 50% have been able to access effective aid.
Since the 1980s, innocent civilians in the global south have been the victim of American intervention indirectly and directly. Many in Central America, for instance, have been forced to leave their homes and risk their lives trying to escape to the United States. Even more abhorrent, in Guatemala alone, over 200,000 of the indigenous population were murdered by the Washington-backed Árbenz government between 1960 and 1996. Besides direct intervention, much of the weapons used to terrorize innocent civilians are provided by the US, and funded by American taxpayers.
The current trajectory of US intervention in foreign affairs remains unclear. While ISIS has experienced significant reduction and defeat, much of America’s foreign policy continues to put many vulnerable people worldwide at risk. The assassination of Iran’s Qasem Soleimani that took place last year put the lives of the American people in danger and threatened regional stability in the Middle East — something not so surprising. Notwithstanding, western allies in Britain and Canada even expressed their displeasure with the move. Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada remarked on the shootdown of PS-752, which had 57 Canadians on board, would not have happened if the increased tensions between the US and Iran did not reach an escalation.
The US sanctions placed on countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea put more harm on vulnerable cohorts within those countries who are already suffering under brutal regimes. Provisions such as medicine and food are barred from entry, facing significant barriers to aiding those most in need, thus, amplifying the humanitarian crisis. And now with the COVID-19 pandemic, the health of the people in those countries are even at greater risk with the United States’ position on sanctions.
Even more troubling, there are legal implications that are likely to follow. The United Nations is investigating the United States on a number of counts of war crimes. The US seems to haven broken International Law with the 2017 strike on Syria. Also, the International Court of Justice claims the US is breaking the Treaty of Amity of 1955 with its current posture with Iran.
Democrats in 2020 must craft an anti-war agenda that puts ‘restraint’ at the helm of its decision-making process. The far-right under the Bush and Trump Administrations have proven to take usurping positions that disengage Congress on foreign policy matters, granting to the Executive branch greater authority over these policies. Right now, Democrats are considering a number of proposals that will slash these projects of war. However, it will require a much more introspective moment to get all Democrats on board, and a broad social movement of activists to demand greater justice.
I am reminded of a time when the war-hawks called on President Obama to draw the so-called “red line” in Syria. Instead of rushing to judgment and getting America involved in another war, he encouraged Congress to debate. He argued: “Unless we were all in and willing to take over Syria, we were going to have problems…”
If we’ve learned anything over the past decade between the unfettered war machine and unjust policing, Americans do not want to have more blood on their hands. It’s time that we lead with peace.