Behind the Bipartisan Drive Toward War

The Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. invasion of Iraq

by Laurence H. Shoup

Z magazine, March 2003


AIthough not a well-known organization, and only occasionally mentioned in the media, the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has been prominent in behind-the-scenes foreign policy formation in the U.S. for over three quarters of a century. The CFR is the publisher of Foreign Affairs, which calls itself "the most influential periodical in print." But the Council is much more important than that. In the words of Council members Marvin and Bernard Kalb, the CFR is "an extremely influential private group that is sometimes called the real State Department." Richard J. Barnet, another Council member, stated that membership in the organization could be considered "a rite of passage for an aspiring national security manager."

The importance of the Council stems from its role as the central link that binds the capitalist upper class and its most important financial and multinational corporations, think tanks, and foundations to academic experts in leading (mainly eastern) universities, and government policy formulation and execution. The CFR's goals are to continuously work out the general framework for American foreign policy and to keep public debate within "respectable" bounds, that is, acceptable to the corporate power structure and the wealthy upper class it serves.

Through its financing, leadership, and membership, the Council is close to the largest multinational and blue chip corporations, including big oil companies, industrials, life insurance companies, law firms, and investment and commercial banks. In recent years, for example, leading corporate benefactors of

the Council have included ABC, AOL Time Warner, American Express, Aramco, ATT, British Petroleum, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chevron Texaco, Citigroup, Corning, Deutsche Bank AG, Exxon Mobil, Federal Express, J.P. Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Metropolitan Life Insurance, Morgan Stanley, Nike, Pfizer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Prudential Financial, Shell Oil, Sony, Toyota, UBS PaineWebber, Verizon Cornmunications, and Xerox.

The leadership and membership of the CFR includes corporate leaders like David Rockefeller, Peter G. Peterson, and Douglas Dillon, as well as key government leaders from both major parties past and present. Its 4,075 members (64 percent from New York and Washington, DC) pay as much as $2,600 a year as dues (less depending upon age, place of residence, and business status) and become members only after being approved by the Council Board of Directors. The CFR calls itself "nonpartisan" but the correct word is bipartisan; it has a large representation from both major parties. There are many members from current and past Administrations and Congress. Except where otherwise noted, the following are all listed as current CFR members or leaders in the Council's 2002 Annual Report:

* Presidents: George H.W. Bush (former member), James Earl Carter, Bill Clinton, Gerald R. Ford

* Vice Presidents: Richard B. Cheney, Walter F. Mondale

* Secretaries of State: Madeleine Albright, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Henry A. Kissinger, Colin L. Powell, William D. Rogers, George P. Shultz

* National Security Advisors: Richard V. Allen, Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry A. Kissinger, W. Anthony Lake, Robert C. McFarlane, Condoleezza Rice, W.W. Rostow, Brent Scowcroft

* Secretaries of Defense: Harold Brown, Frank C. Carlucci, Richard B. Cheney, William S. Cohen, Robert S. McNamara, Casper W. Weinberger

* CIA Directors: Richard Helms, George Tenet, Stansfield Turner, William Webster, Frank G. Wisner II, R. James Woolsey

* U.S. Senators and Congresspersons: Howard H. Baker Jr., Alfonse M. D'Amato, William H. Danforth, Christopher J. Dodd, Richard A. Gephardt, Newton L. Gingrich, Barney Frank, Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, Geraldine A. Ferraro, Bob Graham, Chuck Hagel, Jane Harman, Gary Hart, Bob Kerrey, John F. Kerry, Joseph I. Lieberman, George S. McGovern, Daniel P. Moynihan, Claiborne Pell, Charles H. Percy, Warren B. Rudman, Charles E. Schumer, Steven J. Solarz, Adlai E. Stevenson, Robert G. Torricelli, John William Warner

A final source of Council influence is its Studies and Publications program. The Studies Program is the CFR's think tank, where strategic medium and long term foreign policy planning is conducted and the challenges of crisis situations aggressively faced. A number of Study Groups, Roundtables, and Forums are continuously in operation at the CFR New York headquarters, groups which bring together members to focus on a key issue, nation, or part of the world under the leadership of one of the Council staff (which now includes over 100 scholars). The purpose of these studies is to influence both government and wider publics. The studies program is scholarship at the service of corporate interests, bringing together business and government leaders with leading academics, as well as a smaller representation from foundations, think tanks, and leading media. After extensive study and discussion, a consensus is usually reached and an article for Foreign Affairs or a full length Council on Foreign Relations book is produced. The article or book represents the views of the author, but it is widely and correctly understood to result largely from the efforts and thinking of the entire group. The CFR has dealt with crisis situations such as World War II and the post Vietnam War period by setting up an expanded set of special study groups. For example, the Council established the War and Peace Studies Program in 1939 to plan for United States involvement in the war and to set out the war aims and type of post war world for which the U.S. should be fighting. The 1980's Project was set up in the mid 1970s to plan for and create the current neoliberal world system we now have.

The terrorism on September 11, 2002 resulted in a new burst of CFR activity to plan yet another "new world order." The Studies Program since 9/11 has had as a central focus "America's Response to Terrorism," consisting of 14 Roundtables headed by 12 Council Fellows. One of these was the Henry A. Kissinger Roundtable on Terrorism, directed by Kenneth M. Pollack, the CFR's Olin Senior Fellow and Director National Security Studies. In the months after September 11, Pollack and other CFR scholars wrote a total of 10 books, 20 major journal articles, about 100 op-ed articles in major national and international newspapers, made over 1,000 appearances as commentators on radio and TV shows, testified before Congress, and gave briefings to key governmental officials, including, in the words of the CFR Annual Report, special briefings for "members of President Bush's inner circle." With day-to-day foreign policy largely in the hands of Council members Condoleezza Rice (National Security Adviser), Colin Powell (Secretary of State), Dick Cheney (Vice President), Paul Wolfowitz (Undersecretary of Defense), George Tenet (CIA head), and John D. Negroponte (United Nations Representative), the CFR has undoubtedly had a warm reception for its views.

The "Next Stop Baghdad?" article by Kenneth M. Pollack appeared in the March/April 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs. As mentioned above, Pollack was at the time the Council's Olin Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies, directing a CFR Roundtable on Terrorism and America's response. An expert on Iraq, Iran, and the Persian Gulf, Pollack is a Yale and MIT graduate who has worked for the CIA, the National Security Council under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and has also been a research professor at the National Defense University. An expanded version of the "Next Stop Baghdad?" article was published in October 2002 by Random House as a Council on Foreign Relations book entitled The Threatening Storm. A review of the book in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs called it "...exceptionally thoughtful. If any book can shape the current thinking on Iraq, this one will assuredly be it." Pollack's blunt conclusion in both the article and book is, "The United States should invade Iraq, eliminate the present regime, and pave the way for a successor..."

Pollack admits that Iraq has little to do with terrorism or al Qaeda and goes on to argue that the containment and deterrence policy, which was mutually successful for 45 years during the conflict between the U.S.-led NATO powers and Soviet Russia, will not work in the case of Iraq because of the nature of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Pollack's argument against containment and deterrence is thus based on the assumption of Saddam Hussein's supposed "pathologies," and the belief that he cannot be deterred, a problem that becomes more serious if he gets nuclear weapons. Therefore, due to the threat that Saddam

The CFR's Drive for a War on Iraq might destabilize oil supplies from the Middle East, he has to be overthrown and a friendly government installed. This is where the argument about weapons of mass destruction comes in and why Iraq is seen as different than North Korea, in the view of ruling circles. Saddam can impact the western world through impacting the world's access to oil, North Korea cannot.

Pollack concludes that other nations, regional and European powers, might join the U.S. attack in order to "...retain political and economic influence in Iraq later on." He sees a possible major problem once Hussein has been driven from power: "...the United States would be left 'owning' a country of 22 million people ravaged by more than two decades of war, totalitarian misrule, and severe deprivation. The invaders would get to decide the composition and form of a future Iraqi government-both an opportunity and a burden. Some form of unitary but federalized state would probably best suit the bewildering array of local and foreign interest involved, but ideally this decision would be a collective one: as in Afghanistan, the United States should try to turn the question of future Iraqi political arrangements over to the U.N., or possibly the Arab League, thus shedding and spreading some responsibility for the outcome.... In the end, of course, it would be up to the United States to make sure that a post-Saddam Iraq did not slip into chaos like Lebanon in the 1980s or Afghanistan in the 1990s, creating spillover effects in the region and raising the possibility of a new terrorist haven. "

Finally, Pollack asks and answers the question of when to attack Iraq. He argues on the one hand that it would be an error to launch an attack before al Qaeda is made "innocuous," adding that: " would be a mistake to jeopardize success by risking a major break with U.S. allies-something that a serious campaign against Iraq might well make necessary."

On the other hand, too long a delay in going to war could make it very hard to muster necessary domestic and international support.

Pollack's views are supported by other Council leaders, who clearly want a preemptive war on Iraq sooner rather than later. In a December 2002 interview, Council member Rachel Bronson, who is the CFR's Director of Middle East Studies and an Olin Senior Fellow, made the following pro-war comments: " my mind, in a war of our choosing, we should choose the most advantageous period for fighting and the summer is not that. I am more optimistic now than I was earlier because the inspectors got in early. That completely changes the calculus.... The chances for a military action are probably about 75 percent. There's about a ten percent chance of a coup, and a fifteen percent chance that Washington still doesn't get the diplomacy right and an attack gets pushed off to the fall.

"Q. That's been your view all along? Not only that war is inevitable, but that we should launch it?

"A. Yes. It is strategically sound and morally just. The Middle East is a strategic region for us. It is where oil does play into all this.... It is about stability in the region. Saddam has been very destabilizing.... Strategically trying to get rid of one of the most destabilizing forces in the Middle East is a good idea. But the moral aspect doesn't get as much play as it should.... When Secretary Albright said it was not us causing the suffering of the Iraqi people, but Saddam, technically she was right. And everyone in the region agreed; but what they couldn't understand was why we pursued a policy knowing that Saddam would use it to his advantage to torture his people. We were complicit. We have to get rid of this monster. He is our Frankenstein."

Another CFR leader sanguine about the prospects for war is CFR Vice President and Director of Studies Lawrence J. Korb, who likes to point out that the U. S. actually made a profit on the last war on Iraq. In a recent interview Korb made the following comments:

"Q. Everyone remembers the allied land invasion in 1991 to liberate Kuwait that lasted three days. What kind of military action will we have this time? Will it also be a quick one?

"A. I think if there is a military action and it occurs during the winter and you get support from countries in the region it will be over in less than a month. What you will have this time is simultaneous air and ground operations....

"Q. Can the United States afford this? How much will this cost?

"A. If you talk about cost, you have the incremental cost of the operation. We have a $400 billion annual defense budget. You won't have to buy much new equipment. For a one month war, counting the buildup underway, you are talking about an incremental cost of about $50 billion.... The Persian Gulf campaign in today's dollars cost $80 billion.

"Q. That was essentially paid by the Saudis, right?

"A. The last war was actually paid for by the Saudis, the Germans, and the Japanese. We actually made a profit on that war.... What we did after the war was over was make the books come out even... we actually collected more than we actually spent."

CFR's Twin War Aims

In mid-2002 the CFR, together with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University, established a 23 member planning group to formulate the U.S. war aims and the political and economic rules for a post-war Iraq. One of the project directors was Rachel Bronson and members included Kenneth Pollack, as well as corporate leaders (Boeing, PFC Energy), university professors (Princeton, Yale, Vermont) a Naval War College professor, a Senate on Foreign Relations staffer, and representatives from the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, the Brookings Institution, the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy, and nine staffers from the CFR. A report, Guiding Principles for U.S. Post -Conflict Policy in Iraq, was produced by the Council in late 2002.

In his introduction to the report, Council President Leslie H. Gelb points out that two essential matters must be put in order prior to going to war: "...preparing the nation for the increased likelihood of a terrorist response on American soil; and pulling together realistic plans for what America and others-above all the Iraqis themselves-will do the day after the fighting ends... It is to meet the second concern, the day after the battle subsides, that the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University join intellectual forces.... What these working group leaders, working group participants, and experts who addressed them have done is to create the first intellectual road map for thinking our way through a post-war Iraq. The document is comprehensive, most thoughtful, and above all, practical and useful. It should be used to engage the administration, Congress, the media, and the wider public on this critical and pressing foreign policy issue, namely thinking about the dangers and opportunities that lie ahead in the gulf, and the Arab and Islamic worlds. "

The report begins by pointing out that it is based on the "...assumption that full-scale military operations will be necessary and of relatively short duration" and stresses that the U.S. could win the war and easily lose the peace, creating serious long term problems. A three-phase approach is proposed to create a post-war Iraq friendly to U.S. interests. It includes a short term period of U.S. military rule, a middle period of UN supervision, and finally a sovereign Iraqi government. One of the key early problems will be "finding the right Iraqi allies...making possible an early exit." In addition, a "vigorous public diplomacy campaign" is seen as necessary to convince skeptical publics at home and abroad that U.S. objectives and intentions are just. In this regard the Guiding Principles report states: "One of the most important issues to address is the widely held view that the campaign against Iraq is driven by an American wish to 'steal' or at least control Iraqi oil. U.S. statements and behavior must refute this.... A heavy American hand will only convince them and the world that the operation against Iraq was undertaken for imperialist, rather than disarmament, reasons."

Yet the body of the report has a section called "The Lure of Oil: Realities and Constraints," as well as an addendum called "Oil and Iraq: Opportunities and Challenges," which is almost as long as all of the rest of the report text. In the sections focusing on oil, lip service is given to Iraq's control of its own oil, while, in fact, the report argues that national control of Iraqi oil must be scrapped and an "economy based on free market principles" and a "level playing field for all international players to participate" be created. The report goes on to point out: "Paragraph 30 of UNSCR 1284 already authorizes the UN secretary-general to investigate ways that oil companies could be allowed to invest in Iraq. Thus, the legal basis for the UN to authorize and oversee foreign investment...already exists. "

The report also makes clear that the Iraqi oil contracts that French and Russian companies now have will be challenged: "Finally, the legality of postsanctions contracts awarded in recent years will have to be evaluated. Prolonged legal conflicts over contracts could delay the development of important fields in Iraq.... It may be advisable to pre-establish a legitimate (preferably UN mandated) legal framework for vetting pre-hostility exploration agreements. "

If the "right" Iraqi allies are installed under U.S. military and political control, it is obvious that the large American multinational oil corporations will soon be in charge of and will immensely benefit from Iraq's giant oil resources, which are second only to Saudi Arabia's in the world. This is obviously imperialism, despite the fact that CFR leaders are anxious to avoid the term. OPEC's bargaining power could also be destroyed by such "free market," "level playing field" policies, harming the interests of many poor countries.

If control of oil is one strategic aim of this war, another goal is "modernizing the Arab world." Fouad Ajami, an active Council member, discussed this issue in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs. Early in his piece, Ajami comments on why the reformation of the Arab world should now be a concern of the U.S.: "Above and beyond toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein and dismantling its deadly weapons, the driving motivation of a new American endeavor in Iraq and in neighboring Arab lands should be modernizing the Arab world. The great indulgence granted to the ways and phobias of Arabs has reaped a terrible harvest-for the Arabs themselves, and for an America implicated in their affairs. It is cruel and unfair but true: the fight between Arab rulers and insurgents is for now an American concern.... It was September 11 and its shattering surprise, in turn, that tipped the balance on Iraq away from containment and toward regime change and rollback.... Thus far, the United States...power has invariably been on the side of political reaction and a stagnant status quo. A new war should come with the promise that the United States is now on the side of reform. "

Fleshing out his theme, Ajami argues that U.S. control of Iraq can be a base for a pro-U.S. transformation of the entire Arab world, including Egypt, by a new Pax Americana: "The case for war must rest in part on the kind of vision the United States has for Iraq. The dread of 'nation-building' must be cast aside...there will have to be a sustained American presence if the new order is to hold and take root. Iraq is a society with substantial social capital and the region's second largest reserves of oil.... For Pax Americana, Iraq may be worth the effort and the risks. America has been on the ground in Saudi Arabia for nearly six decades now, in Egypt for three. In both realms, there is wrath and estrangement toward America. What has been built in Arabia appears in serious jeopardy. The aid and help granted to Egypt has begotten nothing other than ingratitude and a deep suspicion among frustrated middle-class Egyptians that the United States wishes for them subjugation and dependence. There is an unfathomable anti-Americanism in Egypt-even among those professionals who have done well by the American connection. There appears to be no liberal option for Egypt...Iraq may offer a contrast, a base in the Arab world free of the poison of anti-Americanism. "

Ajami further develops his argument by focusing on what he believes that America must do to transform Iraq: "Saddam did not descend from the sky; he emerged out of his world's sins of omission and commission. The murderous zeal with which he went about subduing the Kurds and Shites was a reflection of the deep atavisms of Arab life. There, on the eastern flank of the Arab world, Iraq and its "maximum leader" offered the fake promise of a pan-Arab Bismarck who would check the Persians to the east and, in time, head west to take up Israel's challenge.... It has often seemed in recent years that the Arab political tradition is immune to democratic stirrings. The sacking of a terrible regime with such a pervasive cult of terror may offer Iraqis and Arabs a break with the false gifts of despotism.... If and when it comes, that task of repairing-or detoxifying-Iraq will be a major undertaking. The remarkable rehabilitation of Japan between its surrender in 1945 and the restoration of its sovereignty in 1952 offers a historical the space of a decade, imperial Japan gave way to a more egalitarian society."

Finally, the future implications of this American imperial burden-the domination of the Arab world- are outlined by Ajami: "The Arab world could whittle down, even devour, an American victory. This is a difficult, perhaps impossible, political landscape. It may reject the message of reform by dwelling on the sins of the American messenger.... It can throw up its defenses and wait for the United States to weary of its expedition. It is with sobering caution...that a war will have to be waged. But it should be recognized that the Rubicon has been crossed. Any fallout of war is certain to be dwarfed by the terrible consequences of America's walking right up to the edge of war and then stepping back, letting the Iraqi dictator work out the terms of another reprieve. It is the fate of great powers that provide order to do so against the background of a world that takes the protection while it bemoans the heavy hand of the protector. This new expedition to Mesopotamia would be no exception to that rule. "

The Arrogance of a Super Power

Given the close interlocks of personnel between the CFR and the U.S. government and the bipartisan nature of the Council, it should come as no surprise that CFR views are clearly reflected both in the Bush administration's foreign policies and the policy positions taken by leading Democrats in Congress. Democratic Party leaders in the House and Senate, a number of them also members of the Council (for example Gephardt, Kerry, Graham, Lieberman, Dodd), have generally supported the Republican foreign policy agenda and most Democratic Senators voted for authorizing President Bush to go to war preemptively against Iraq at his own discretion. As of early January 2003, the current Democratic presidential candidates are almost all pro-war. As mentioned above, key members of Bush's own foreign policy team (Powell, Rice, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Tenet, Negroponte) are also members of the CFR and are actively planning the military and diplomatic aspects of a war on Iraq.

The animating vision for the CFR/Bush administration's foreign policy is for a global empire/Pax Americana, extending the existing policing of the world role to becoming hegemon as well. This view is reflected in the September 2002 Bush administration document "National Security Strategy of the United States." This official document discounts the importance of a variety of international treaties, including nuclear nonproliferation, in favor of unilateral U.S. actions under the doctrine of "counter-proliferation," meaning missile | defense and preemptive attacks on countries perceived to be a threat to the United States. Containment, deterrence, and building an international architecture of treaties, alliances, and agreements, key aspects of U.S. policy for five decades, are now largely dead. The words of the document follow the Council ideas on pre-emptive attacks discussed above: "We will I not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively...[including] convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities." The result is that the United States is on the verge of starting a major war as the aggressor.

Injustice and Dangers of U.S. Strategy

In the 1940s the CFR's War and Peace Studies Project laid the groundwork for a new U.S.-dominated world order. In the 1970s the CFR helped refine and modify this global order with a series of study groups collectively labeled the "1980s Project." Both of these projects were influential in creating the current neoliberal, corporate world order and the overwhelming military, economic, and cultural dominance of the U.S. The terrorism we have recently experienced at the hands of quasi-feudal and reactionary fundamentalist forces is a direct and poisonous outgrowth of this corporate globalization. Corporate globalization dissolves old ways and existing communities without adequately replacing them. It aims at forcing billions of people in the global south to serve the profit and accumulation needs of rich corporations located in North America, Western Europe, and Japan. Some of the aims of corporate globalization are unfettered capital mobility; open markets so that even fragile economies can be dominated by outside corporations; exploitation of low wages and weak environmental standards; use of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to constrict public spending and eliminate needed services; and the privatization of well-functioning public enterprises resulting in further corporate control, layoffs of workers and higher prices for the people. The results have been catastrophic: corrupt, dictatorial, uncaring governments; a huge and widening gap between the rich and the poor; 1.3 billion people in the Global South living in absolute poverty, another almost 2 billion living on $2/day; 50 million deaths each year from malnutrition alone; and pandemics-the Ebola virus, sleeping sickness, TB, AIDS to name just a few-caused by poverty and rotting public health infrastructures.

The injustice of the current order has created massive suffering for billions of people, while the rich become still richer. By its very nature the system of corporate globalization economically colonizes nations in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, undermining their sovereignty, and helping to create the chaos of failed states. Giant corporations whose only concern is profit have become more powerful than governments. The International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment and forced privatization programs severely hamper the ability of many governments to maintain social safety nets or deliver needed services to the people. This not only uproots people and creates poverty, it also destroys the glue that holds a given society together.

U.S. government-sponsored actions in the last 55 years have resulted in the mostly successful destruction of the worldwide left and progressive/populist forces creating a fertile ground for fundamentalist forces like al Queda. The weak and failed states of our era are thus one product of an imposed corporate globalization. Fundamentalism and terrorism arises in the disintegrating peripheral societies created by this process. It is a way of trying to restore the integrity of ravaged communities and the powerless people within them.

Beyond the injustice, suffering, and terrorism that corporate globalization creates in the Third World, there is the question of the dangers posed by the new preemptive imperialism of the CFR, Bush administration, and its supporters in the Republican and Democratic parties. In the past, when one nation unilaterally seized the role of setting international norms and standards, determined what threats existed, preemptively made war, and claimed absolute sovereignty for itself, even as it imposed conditional sovereignty on others, sooner or later that nation has had a serious price to pay. Any nation deciding upon such a perilous course is likely to be heading for a fall because its actions tend to trigger antagonism and resistance, eventually creating a hostile world united against it. Thus encirclement awaits any nation, which consistently ignores the interests of others.

Imperial overreach can also become a serious problem, because failed states have to be invaded, occupied, and rehabilitated at great expense. At the same time, the "great power" depreciates and undermines the international rules, treaties, security partnerships, and organizations, which not only preserve and protect everyone's rights, but are needed to put nations back together. Other countries begin to feel that they must have weapons of mass destruction in order to protect their own sovereignty, so such weapons proliferate. This creates more instability, which then has to be controlled. The unconstrained preemptive actions of the "great power" also destroy the rules and norms regarding self defense (Article 51 of the UN Charter becomes meaningless), encouraging others to preemptively attack their neighbors should a problem arise. Lacking any norms justifying force, the basis for such preemptive attacks becomes less and less clear, hunch or inference can then be enough to set off a war using nuclear weapons with potentially catastrophic consequences for the earth and its life forms. The bipartisan CFR/Bush imperial policy is unsustainable and extremely dangerous. Unchecked power exercised outside any international norms or rules is a prescription for disaster. Bush's hubris and planned long march through Iraq and other so called "rogue" states is indeed a situation that will not only result in the disaster of endless war, it will assure that this war can never be won.

Another Foreign Policy Is Possible

What then would a non-imperial, peaceful, coherent and sustainable United States foreign policy look like? The United States should take the lead in creating a world of peace, democracy and social justice by:

* Supporting the right of self-determination for all peoples in the Middle East, including the Kurds, Palestinians and Israeli Jews; withdrawing U.S. troops from the region; ending both the sanctions on Iraq and support for corrupt and authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Egypt

* Renouncing the use of unilateral U.S. military interventions, making confidence building steps toward renouncing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and strongly promote international disarmament treaties

* Ending complicity in all forms of terrorism worldwide

* Abandoning IMF/World Bank/World Trade Organization/NAFTA economic policies that enforce the mass misery of corporate globalization and beginning a major foreign aid program directed at popular rather than corporate needs

* Ratifying the Kyoto protocols on global warming and promoting even stronger international agreements to protect the ecosystems upon which all life depends

* Supporting a strengthened United Nations and a renewed regime of international law

* Closing all military bases on foreign soil and cleaning up any toxic wastes left behind

* Creating economic security by replacing oil dependence with reliance on renewable energy and ending corporate domination of American political and economic life

* Adhering to U.S. and international laws

To have a chance to implement such a foreign policy the struggle for a real democracy at home must be intensified. Today there is no real national dialogue about our foreign policy. The American media largely reflects the views of the corporate upper class. Current U.S. foreign policy is very undemocratic. The term "national interest" is based on the interests of the powerful only, not the interests of the American people. Our political system is controlled by corporate campaign cash. Our Congress is composed of people selected in gerrymandered winner take-all legislative districts. American politics needs serious reform, including public financing of all elections, Instant Runoff Voting, Proportional Representation, free media access for all ballot qualified candidates on an equal basis, and an end to the Electoral College. Once these reforms are in place, a real dialogue about our future can more fruitfully take place.

Meanwhile, it is hypocritical for George W. Bush and his Administration to impose their version of "democracy" on anyone anywhere, since Al Gore received more votes than he did in the 2000 election, and that Bush achieved power only through fraud in Florida and manipulation by a Republican dominated Supreme Court. The Bush administration, with the help from both major parties, has, using the excuse of fighting terrorism, also seriously undermined the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, with the misnamed PATRIOT Act, other laws, and new bureaucracies. It has detained immigrants without trial, even denying two arrested American citizens their constitutional right to an attorney. These anti-democratic measures, which allow secret warrentless searches of people's homes and other violations of civil liberties, take the U.S. even further from being any kind of model to emulate and should be repealed.

In the long term it is only through democratic, collective decision-making in both the public and private spheres that we can avoid the disasters that we are now facing. That decision making must confront root causes, central among them capitalism and empire. The grip of oil imperialism, or any other kind of imperialism, cannot be broken within the framework of the current order. Thus we must build a world apart from corporate capital and one that does not require a fossil fuel economy. It is the solidarity, courage, and resistance of the people at all levels, especially at the workplace and in the streets, that appears to be the only way we have a chance stop the barbarism we now face. We as citizens have never faced a more urgent duty.


Lawrence Shoup is co-author of Imperial Brain Trust: the Council on Foreign Relations and U.S. Foreign Policy (with William Minter) published in 1977 by Monthly Review Press.

Foreign Policy Institutions page

Index of Website

Home Page