President Biden has inherited a terribly flawed US foreign policy. For the past few decades, the pro-corporate US foreign policy has been a catastrophic failure, especially in the Middle East.
Our criminal military interventions there have resulted in the devastation of much of that area, impoverished millions, created millions of refugees, and injured or killed millions more. Moreover, this criminal policy has wasted trillions of US taxpayer dollars, injured or killed thousands of US forces, and has badly damaged US strategic interests.
The illegal US use of aggressive sanctions against nations that don’t follow its dictates has also harmed tens of millions of people worldwide. In addition, US pro-corporate trade policies, as well as the US-influenced International Monetary Fund and World Bank, have impoverished tens of millions in the Third World. Perhaps of even greater importance, the US-led opposition to enforceable policies that ameliorate the effects of climate chaos threatens billions of people.
Clearly, these ruinous policies need to be changed. The Biden administration must seize this opportunity and implement a sane foreign policy. Below are some excellent principles that provide a guideline for such a foreign policy.
These principles were laid out in the “ Cross of Iron” speech delivered by President Dwight Eisenhower on April 16, 1953. Two lengthy excerpts from this speech are shown next. He said:
“The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs. First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice. Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations. Third: Any nation’s right to form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable. Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible. And fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.”
Later in this speech, Eisenhower added:
“This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of the savings achieved by disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes of this great work would be to help other peoples to develop the underdeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate profitability and fair world trade, to assist all peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom. The monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health. We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world. We are ready, by these and all such actions, to make of the United Nations an institution that can effectively guard the peace and security of all peoples.”
Eisenhower also pointed out the implications of spending huge amounts on military weapons in terms of homes, schools, hospitals, etc. that weren’t built.
President Eisenhower plainly recognized that our security and well-being, as well as that of all people on the planet, come from cooperation, not competition. Once we understand this point, the necessary policies become clear.
In summary, President Eisenhower, a military icon who knew well the horrors of war, specifically stressed respect for the sovereignty of nations, the need to make the UN stronger, spoke against forced changes in regimes or economic systems, called for military disarmament and supported world aid and reconstruction. Even though he wasn’t correct in describing what the US was willing to do or its path, imagine the difference had Eisenhower or any of his successors followed through on his words.
President Biden now has the opportunity to follow Eisenhower’s counsel in a world where US actions have destroyed the myth of its moral authority or of being the exceptional nation. The US must work to rejoin the community of nations by complying with international law instead of running roughshod over it. This means among other things that the US must stop threatening other nations as well as ending its illegal sanctions.
In particular, possible steps the Biden administration could take in collaboration with the international community are:
- share covid-19 vaccines with all nations at an affordable cost; may require the temporary suspension of patents;
- create enforceable steps for dealing with climate chaos including a large and increasing carbon tax; and fulfill funding climate change commitments to Third World nations;
- drastically reduce weapons spending, disband NATO and rely on the UN and diplomacy for settling conflicts; may require the ability to override a veto in the Security Council;
- strongly support international law and human rights for Palestinians; also support enforcement of the Right of Return for Palestinians;
- rejoin weapons treaties including the JCPOA (aka, the Iran Nuclear Deal) and ratify the Ban Nuclear Weapons Treaty;
- pay reparations for their rebuilding to nations the US has devastated;
- close overseas military bases;
- end unilateral sanctions, especially those against Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and North Korea; and
- strongly support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Disappointingly, it appears as if President Biden will continue to pursue the disastrous US foreign policy. It is up to us, we the people, to convince President Biden and Congress to put the public interest over corporate profits.
– Ron Forthofer is a retired Professor and a volunteer for peace and social justice. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.