allies should organize an intervention. I'm not talking about a military
intervention, though some neighborhoods in the United States might welcome UN
peacekeepers to replace the local constabulary. I'm talking about one of those
interventions that friends organize when one of their buddies has become a drug
addict or keeps driving when drunk or is maxing out a dozen credit cards on the
Home Shopping Network.
buddies have watched the U.S. military budget go through the roof and have
largely remained silent. It's certainly difficult to know how and when to
intervene. Less charitably, though, several of them—England, Japan—are
big-time enablers. Like the lower-status members of an entourage, they score
some military-industrial swag just by being our friends.
our military addiction threatens the global economy. Virtually
everyone agrees that ballooning U.S. debt pushes up global interest rates
and slows economic growth. So it's in our allies' best interest to get us to
stop. The first step is to identify a social-worker-type as a mediator. I
propose Rodrigo de Rato, the managing director of the International Monetary
Fund (IMF). The IMF is all about these kinds of interventions, which it calls
"structural adjustment." It's a strange quirk of the global economy
that the country that spends the most on its military, even as it digs itself
further and further into debt, attracts no house call from the IMF.
is what makes America so exceptional. I don't mean "sea to shining
sea" exceptional. Nor am I invoking the historians' argument that the
United States, by dint of geography and a measure of luck, has never suffered
the kind of large-scale attack and devastation that has soaked the histories of
other countries in so much blood (if you don't count the attacks and devastation
visited upon Native Americans).
the exceptional gets to establish the rules and then declare itself the
exception that proves the rule. No international monitoring team evaluates the
validity of our elections. No international court drags U.S. soldiers or
politicians before it on charges of war crimes.
no IMF representative insists that Washington swallow a dose of its own medicine
and structurally adjust the economy away from the military and toward human
if our friends decide to hold an intervention, FPIF has the perfect discussion
guide. Our fourth Unified Security
Budget (USB), which FPIF's Miriam Pemberton prepared with Lawrence Korb, of
the Center for American Progress, and a prominent task force, shows exactly how
the United States can cut the military budget and redirect the money toward
programs that will build real security.
Bush is now asking Congress to spend over $600 billion on the military in fiscal
2008, including the costs of our misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. That sum
will get us lots of Cold War-style weapons that we don't really need as well as
some newfangled systems of dubious feasibility. As the USB details, the
president's plan devotes more than 90% of the military budget to engaging the
world with military force. The USB proposes instead $56 billion in cuts for
spending on offense and $50 billion increase in spending on such critically
needed programs as infrastructure protection, alternative energy,
non-proliferation, peace building, and development assistance.
USB is full of concrete recommendations couched in terms that those outside the
Beltway can understand and those on Capitol Hill can support. Here's one
example. "Canceling the administration's initiative to build offensive
space-weapons, which threatens to create a whole new arms race, could provide
the $800 million needed to double the originally requested annual budget for the
State Department's Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization," the USB
urges. "This corps of civilian experts in post-conflict rebuilding,
envisioned for Iraq and other locations such as Haiti and Sudan, has been an
unfunded political football since it was proposed in 2003. The Pentagon supports
can also read Miriam Pemberton's op-ed
in TomPaine on the USB and the story of the V-22 Osprey.
many years, the U.S. peace movement has tried to wean Washington of its
dangerous addiction to war. It has long tried to organize an intervention to
counter America's peculiar exceptionalism. It has argued for some version of a
unified security budget. And it has opposed specific wars, both current (Iraq)
and potential (Iran).
some notable successes—pushing for several arms control treaties, eventually
ending the Vietnam War, preventing direct U.S. military intervention in Central
America—the peace movement has not achieved its potential. The peace movement
is like the smart kid who participates a lot in class but still scores poorly on
and FPIF contributor Lawrence Wittner, who has written several books on the U.S.
and global peace movements, has a bold
proposal. The peace movement, he argues, should learn from other causes. The
labor movement, the women's movement, and the civil rights movement all have
strong, national organizations. The peace movement remains decentralized, ad
hoc, almost anarchic in its organization.
peace activists are serious about reining in the forces of militarism, they
should recognize that a movement composed of small, independent peace groups and
large numbers of unaffiliated individuals is simply not up to that task,"
Wittner writes. "To attain organizational cohesion, strength, and
programmatic direction, the movement needs a powerful national peace
organization, with a mass membership. Only then will it be in a position to
effectively challenge the masters of war, impress the politicians, and set the
United States on a new, peaceful course in world affairs."
the peace movement were a stronger national presence, then perhaps we wouldn't
be facing the current showdown between Congress and the president over the Iraq
spending bill. As FPIF's policy director Erik Leaver writes in an AlterNet
commentary, if the president vetoes the quite moderate Iraq Supplemental
Bill, neither the Senate nor the House will have enough votes to override.
Bush's veto, progressives in Congress need to remind their colleagues of the
failed policies and push for stronger legislation," Leaver writes. "If
the president is unwilling to take the moderate compromise on the table now, it
is clear that more drastic measures will be needed. As each vote on the war
happens, those opposed to the occupation of Iraq need to push for a full
withdrawal of troops, closing the permanent bases, setting aside funds for
reconstruction, and a commitment to real regional diplomacy."
strong, national peace movement could deliver such a message to Congress.
the administration is chastising peacemaking as "bad behavior." When
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Syria in early April, Vice President
Dick Cheney called her out.
FPIF contributors Michael Shank and Marwan Kabalan point out in Bad
Behavior Brings Good Results, however, America's foreign policy mandarins
and the U.S. public side with Pelosi. The Iraq Study Group recommended talking
with Syria; the polls say that 70% of the public concurs. "Pelosi's visit
to Damascus may not have produced breakthroughs, but that was not the point.
Diplomatic engagement was the point," Shank and Kabalan write. "There
were no threats, no orders, and no ultimatums. Soft power of this sort will
salvage what remains of American credibility in an environment where
anti-Americanism runs high. Hard power, meanwhile, has no chance of recovering
dwindling U.S. prestige in the Middle East."
its eagerness to curry favor with Morocco, the Bush administration has failed to
advance the negotiations around independence for Western Sahara. As FPIF
contributor Jacob Mundy points out in a new
policy report, autonomy has emerged as the compromise du jour. The
problem is there is little support for an autonomy option that would leave
Western Sahara as part of Morocco. Even James Baker, the former U.S. point
person on Western Sahara, backed a referendum that would have given the
inhabitants of Western Sahara a chance to exercise their right of
self-determination and choose independence if they wanted it.
the George W. Bush administration, Morocco's role in the 'war on terror' was
more important than supporting Baker in Western Sahara," Mundy writes.
"The same month Baker resigned, Morocco won major non-NATO ally status and
a free trade agreement from Washington. Elliott Abrams, head of Middle Eastern
affairs in the National Security Council, is most likely the lead cheerleader in
the White House for Western Saharan autonomy. Indeed, Moroccan expectations that
the United States would support a unilaterally implemented autonomy had echoes
of U.S. support for Israeli unilateralism in the occupied Palestinian
territories." A 60-Second Expert
version of Mundy's piece is also available.
FPIF looks at the threats to and resistance by small farmers around the world.
In an AlterNet commentary, IPS's
Daphne Wysham describes how farmers in the Indian coastal city of Jagatsinghpur
are resisting the strong-arm tactics of a South Korean investor with World Bank
in his FPIF column for this week,
Walden Bello shows how free trade has been devastating to small farmers around
the world, especially in Asia.
economists, technocrats, policymakers, and urban intellectuals have long viewed
small farmers as a doomed class. Once regarded as passive objects to be
manipulated by elites, they are now resisting the capitalist, socialist, and
developmentalist paradigms that would consign them to ruin," Bello writes.
"And even as peasants refuse to 'go gently into that good night,' to borrow
a line from Dylan Thomas, developments in the 21st century are revealing
traditional pro-development visions to be deeply flawed. The escalating protests
of peasant groups such as Via Campesina are not a return to the past. As
environmental crises multiply and the social dysfunctions of urban-industrial
life pile up, the farmers' movement has relevance not only to peasants but to
everyone who is threatened by the catastrophic consequences of obsolete
modernist paradigms for organizing production, community, and life."
Elizabeth Becker, "IMF Says U.S. Debts Threaten the World Economy," The New York Times, January 8, 2004, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/08/business/08FUND.html?ex=1178078400&en=792ff1684c0f7892&ei=5070.
Miriam Pemberton and Lawrence Korb, "A Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2008" (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4175); Congress is debating the war. But it also needs to debate the Pentagon's plans for a permanently expanded military with matching budget. This new report shows how to demilitarize our overall security budget.
Miriam Pemberton, "The Plane that Won't Die ... Or Fly" (http://www.fpif.org/fpifoped/4181)
Lawrence Wittner, "How the Peace Movement Can Win" (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4177); Peace activists helped swing the elections in November. Most Americans want out of Iraq. So why hasn't the peace movement won already?
Leaver, "What Happens After Bush Vetoes the Iraq Spending Bill?" (http://www.fpif.org/fpifoped/4182);
The Democratic leadership doesn't have the votes to override a veto, but the
Dems are reluctant to sign another blank check for the war.
Shank and Marwan Kabalan, "Bad Behavior Brings Good Results" (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4184);
While Cheney deemed Pelosi's Syria trip to be "bad behavior," she was
actually following a practice prudently exercised by previous presidents, often
bringing good results.
Mundy, "Western Sahara: Against Autonomy" (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4172);
Autonomy for this former colony looks good on paper. But true self-determination
works better in both principle and reality for the people of Western Sahara.
Mundy, "Sixty-Second Expert: Western Sahara" (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4176)
Wysham, "Blood Money" (http://www.fpif.org/fpifoped/4183)
Bello, "Free Trade vs. Small Farmers" (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4179);
Small farmers in Asia are leading the struggle against the free trade policies
robbing them of land and income.