US needs a new direction in foreign policy

Howard Zinn:

Since the war in Iraq, the rest of the world has fallen away from the United States, and if American foreign policy continues in the way it has been – that is aggressive and violent and uncaring about the feelings and thoughts of other people – then the influence of the United States is going to decline more and more.

This is an empire which is on the one hand the most powerful empire that ever existed; on the other hand an empire that is crumbling – an empire that has no future … because the rest of the world is alienated and simply because this empire is top-heavy with military commitments, with bases around the world, with the exhaustion of its own resources at home.

For our own good, we need to drastically alter our foreign policy and obliterate the premises that underlie its current state. We simply can’t afford to spend money we don’t technically have (thanks China) pissing off the entire world with our military.

Our adventure in Iraq hasn’t made the world safer, its made Iran more powerful. Our overambitious goals in Afghanistan are looking near impossible to attain. It seems our military is incapable of imposing Washington’s will through occupation. As a result, we’ve alienated allies and provided the impetus for an escalation of terror attacks against us.

This counterproductive use of resources is occurring at the same time that our currency is plummeting to the value of Monopoly money. Our infrastructure is in bad need of repair and upgrading to face the realities of an oil starved world (think augmented power grids and better public transportation). Our businesses are being crushed under the skyrocketing cost of health care, not to mention the effect it has on our fellow citizens health. And let’s not forget that higher education is quickly pricing itself out of the range of many Americans.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the connections, but government can only focus its resources in so many ways effectively. Right now, an inordinate amount of our energy is being expended overseeing a disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan. That policy has costs, and we’d be wise to recognize them before it’s too late, if it isn’t already.

7 Comments

  1. Ian

    I think I can say I agree with the “spirit” of what you are saying. I agree that we should become more agreeable to the world community. I disagree with a few minor points you make though.

    You say higher education is quickly pricing itself out of the range of many Americans. Yes, college costs are rising disconcertingly fast, but college admissions are also increasing. More and more people are going to school. When I was choosing a college, I took arguably a bad stance towards finances. The way I saw it, I was going to go wherever I wanted and the financial part would sort its way out from there. My family was unable to pay anything out of pocket for my eduction; it was all done on loans. Still, I think its important to remember that colleges find ways to finance students that are good enough to get in. I was given basically all of my tuition in need based grants and merit based scholarships. While you may get accepted because of it, you never get rejected based on your financial status. Its important that the government continue to make college loans obtainable and keep the interest rates reasonable. Bush hasn’t exactly been a friendly President in this regard, but the Democratic Congress did pass a large rate drop recently which certainly is helping out.

    I sort of disagree with you about our military being unable to assert Washington’s will. Iraq, while its still not the greatest place in the world, has been improving over the past year or so. You kind of have to let go of that “Iraq has gone to Hell” argument. Afghanistan is going downhill though because we have left things unfinished and neglected it. It sounds like a page out of the GOP talking points, and I am not calling you out on this specifically, but to me it does sound like many Democrats want us to fail in Iraq. They want to use the “Oh its just all gone downhill” mentality to justify winning elections in the future and turning the public against the GOP. I wish we could all just be realistic about it. The GOP certainly sucks and we don’t need to exaggerate or mislead to make that point.

    Also, you know I don’t like this whole, “…provided the impetus for an escalation of terror attacks against us,” but I don’t see the need to beat a dead horse.

  2. Chris

    Ian,
    Check out Michael Ware’s progress report on Iraq: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/09/10/ware-mccain-iraq-no-idea/

    Also, I’d like to know what effect massive college dept has on our economy.

  3. Ian

    Chris, before you can answer what effect the debt has, you would need real numbers on how large it actually is. Sure, the cost of tuition is rising annually, but that number isn’t a good indicator of what people actually pay because of things like grants and scholarships. Harvard and a couple other schools have programs where if your families net income is below a certain amount ($40,000 I think), you tuition is waived. Its difficult to say if the actual average final cost is rising as significantly as the sticker price.

    I also have the mentality that college debt, similar to mortgage debt, is in general “good” debt and likely not detrimental to the economy. I mean, I personally see $40,000 in college debt to a much wiser investment than $40,000 in debt on a car. The real debt that gets you in trouble is credit card debt and other small loan debt. That’s the debt that hurts people’s credit ratings and gets them in over their heads. To be sure, the mortgage crisis wouldn’t have happened if A) Banks didn’t lend to people who couldn’t afford the mortgage or didn’t have sufficient credit and B) Consumers were more responsible with their debt.

    I never said anything about the “surge” being a cause for turn around in Iraq. I think the surge was a purely political move and not intelligent strategy. McCain probably doesn’t give a damn if the surge worked or not. He’s just using it because it makes him look good to people who don’t know any better.

  4. Clint

    Ian,

    “You kind of have to let go of that “Iraq has gone to Hell” argument.”

    Don’t be fooled into thinking violence is the only measure by which we should analyze Iraq. Aside from perhaps 1 million dead from the invasion and occupation, and aside from the 2 million that have fled, consider these:

    – According to the Baghdad government: “Unemployment in Iraq has been between 60-70 percent over the last two years”
    – Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity – 1 to 2 hours, per Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (Per Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007)
    -Iraqi Children Suffering from Chronic Malnutrition – 28% in June 2007
    – Number of Iraqi Homes Connected to Sewer Systems – 37%
    – Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies – 70% (Per CNN.com, July 30, 2007)

    Sounds like hell to me.

  5. Ian

    I never said it was good. I said it was getting better. I didn’t claim we didn’t wreck the country. I just said progress was being made.

  6. Chris

    Ian,
    You know what they say about lipstick on a pig…

  7. Ian

    That would be funny if it were relavent to this situation. Nice try though.