Behind the Bipartisan Drive
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
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
* National Security Advisors: Richard
V. Allen, Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry A. Kissinger,
W. Anthony Lake, Robert C. McFarlane, Condoleezza Rice, W.W. Rostow,
* 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
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
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: "...it 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:
"...in 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,
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
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
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 precedent...in 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
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
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
* 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
Policy Institutions page