Of America’s Dunkirk, Napoleon’s Winter, and FDR’s Third Freedom. Roger Morris and Steve Schmidt evoke history, envision political alternatives and offer a provocative reappraisal of national security policy in a swiftly changing world
Strategic Demands of the 21st Century:
A New Vision for a New World
In the spring of 2005, America faces unprecedented challenges in national security.
The war on Iraq is a strategic disaster. Unilateral invasion and a bloody, profiteering, open-ended occupation have torn our alliances, cost unparalleled international hostility and distrust, heightened a still-misread, thus still-undeterred threat of terrorist vengeance, further swollen a malignant budget deficit, strained US ground forces as never before, and altogether drained and diverted the nation amid a host of other grave problems. Added to America’s unremitting complicity with Arab dictatorships and with an Israeli regime gone from self-defense to colonization, subjugation and Berlin-wall apartheid vis-à-vis the Palestinians, the debacle in Iraq compounds an escalating crisis. The contrast between our declared anti-colonial, democratic ideals and our conquest of Iraq is seen as flaunted hypocrisy in our centuries-old image of standing for freedom and the downtrodden. We risk an epochal change in the cultural belief systems of hundreds of millions, an alienation from and hatred of America for generations to come with incalculable consequences.
At the same moment, we must deal with further threats to national security that can no longer be denied. With Washington’s continuing countenance of a destabilizing nuclear arsenal in Israel, thereby provoking one in Iran, playing geo-political Russian roulette with another in a precarious Pakistan, and toying with yet another in North Korea, the world confronts the most volatile arrays of nuclear danger since Hiroshima. As if that were not enough, we also face the planetary havoc of looming environmental disasters from advancing or already irreversible global warming and resource depletion, the prolonged crisis of peaking oil production and worldwide energy scarcity, and the concurrent international instability igniting from inequities and abuses of a rampant, exploitative globalism. These multiple crises come, as never before, at a time of our own deepening economic vulnerability, with enormous foreign-held debt, a record trade deficit, and an irretrievably waning dollar altogether threatening a major loss of jobs, income, productivity, national wealth, and standard of living.
All this also overtakes the United States in a world where power is inexorably more plural and subtle, where Washington’s hoary concept and means of national security, vested and clung to at the expense of crucial pertinent needs, are obsolete and counter-productive. Conventional military might marshaled for a bygone era is ineffectual in most of today’s tests, symbolized so graphically by the eight high-tech US divisions in Iraq unable to keep the electricity and water on, or secure the road to the Baghdad airport, much less the country from lightly armed insurgents whose forces and supporters only multiply with the occupation. Over seven hundred post-cold war US military bases dotting the earth—our camo-archipelago carrying all the pretense and opprobrium of empire—are ironic emblems of extraneous power and paradoxical impotence, in 21st-century strategic terms, an American Maginot Line outflanked by political, environmental and economic threats to national security.
As unprecedented as the crises we face, the epic blindness and blunder of the current Republican Presidency and Congressional regime—abetted by the political default of the Democratic opposition—create and aggravate some dangers and negligently ignore others. As proverbial generals in the grip of irrelevant experience, swaggering into the next war preparing for the last, both relic parties have rendered our foreign policy a reckless anachronism, leaving America effectively disarmed before grim menaces to peace and security.
No rescue will come within the usual exchange of White House or Congress. The failure is widely bipartisan, if especially jarring in the mythology and crudity of a neo-conservative cabal. Even if Democratic national security advisors magically acquired more foresight and courage, they would be unlikely to effect significant change in policy, so captive are politicians of both parties to narrow, serve-at-any-price interests of corporate and wealthy contributors and lobbies, the bottom-line politics and bondage that trump ideology and all else. America remains so unresponsive to the new challenges—the politics of foreign policy so corrupted and stifled, the public so misled—that a great national debate on national security is itself an urgent strategic imperative.
The moment requires bold innovative approaches to our interests and responsibilities on a drastically changed, swiftly changing planet. What we see as essential to a wide-ranging democratic discussion and debate is a new strategic discourse, addressing causes as well as effects. We must look ahead, envision and plan without illusion or compromising influence, recognize new realities, tell unpopular truths, put the national interest ahead of office, educate and act.
This paper, the first in a series outlining an alternative and comprehensive ‘national security’ vision, offers practical, constructive policies along with essential changes in the democratic politics and governance of national security that must accompany such an authentic, and historic, policy change.
Recognizing the necessity of the first genuine reformulation of national security policy in over half a century, we find ourselves “present at the creation” of the next era in world affairs with the historic task of shaping the future with a new vision for a new world.
The New National Security Agenda
America’s strategic challenges are three-fold: Geo-political, -environmental and -economic. All have equal priority. All demand a renewal of government—independent new thinking with far greater knowledge and sensibility vis-à-vis the world at large, relevant new missions for diplomacy, intelligence and the military, and an indispensable democratization of decision-making in national security and related policy.
Geo-political: The immediate necessity to break free of the pyrrhic war in Iraq and the mutually ruinous complicity with Israel’s expansionist tragedy, and at the same time to defuse sectarian terrorism at its source, stem clear and present nuclear dangers, end our addiction to peaking foreign oil already intolerably ransomed by lives as well as treasure, and altogether restore the integrity of American foreign policy and the loss of international respect for our word and purposes, a loss as lethal as any threat we face.
Geo-environmental: Urgent planetary mobilization to meet the crises upon us from climate change, ecosystem degradation, and resource exhaustion. In ice and thaw, flood and drought, famine and disease, the predictable collapses and social-economic disruptions from environmental reckonings will plague continents with domestic upheavals and international armed confrontations, what a Pentagon study calls “a world of warring states,” as threatening and likely as any military or terrorist strike. As with those other attacks, environmental blows may come abruptly, or over time. However, unlike human threats, which statesmanship may avert, some ecological onslaught is now inevitable. We must cope immediately with attacks already underway, as well as reversing the reversible, preventing or defending against future assaults.
Geo-Economic: To deal with twin curses of the recent decades’ strategically obtuse corporate globalism and Washington’s suborned trade policies—the turmoil inherent within and among nations the global economy has left so deeply and dangerously divided between rich and poor, and the debility and distortions of America’s once-dominant middle class economy. Strategically, America must re-secure its equitable economic future among richer, more competitive, yet mutually dependent nations, in a new world where economic democracy and sustainability are as vital as growth, where no future is secure when six billion people crowd smoking slums around shrinking walled enclaves of wealth.
The national security actions outlined below combine the most effective, still-relevant elements of America’s traditional policies with creative responses to unique new challenges. The underlying commitment to idealism is the hardheaded realism of the new era—the understanding that principle and national interest are no longer at odds, as it seemed so often the case during the Cold War, and that the realities of the 21st century make principles pragmatic, ideals not only affordable but essential.
Broadly, alternative policy rests on three tenets of political, military, and economic security:
Political security through a policy of mutual respect, rights under law, and political accommodation aimed at international relations free of dominance, manipulation or unilateralism by any power, a world in which no nation or group needs or turns to violent redress.
Military security through the proven practice of collective security in which nations share the burdens of peacekeeping, and America is protected as much by the reciprocal loyalty of its alliances, the creativity of its diplomacy, the strength of its ideals and the integrity of its international practices, as by any arms or resort to military means it may reserve.
Economic security through dedication to a shared prosperity with economic justice in which all nations have a stake and none seeks dominance, unfair advantage or exploitation.
It bears repeating that the threats to national security require a thorough reexamination and redefining of our international role and responsibilities, including comprehensive new approaches in the executive, Congress, bureaucracy, journalism, policy research, and among
the public at large. This demands an unprecedented educational effort and genuine ‘Great Debate’ among the American people about the realities of the new century, about authentic democracy abroad and in policy-making at home, and a global perspective and sensibility informed in the first instance by a searching look at ourselves, particularly as others see us.
We must face up honestly and courageously to the concerted actions and impact of the United States in the Middle East, Latin and South America, Asia and elsewhere over past decades, an often shadowy history many in the world live with and understand all too well, yet one that few Americans know or feel.
To secure America’s future means coming to terms with the past as well as the present.
The new policies in summary:
I. America’s Dunkirk
In the spring of 1940, in a feat of political-military leadership and national effort, an Allied army of more than 300,000 escaped a deadly trap on the English Channel coast of France, and went on to regroup for battles that won the war. Meeting today’s national security challenges begins with a 21st-century Dunkirk, America’s breaking out of entrapment in Iraq, alliance with Saudi Arabia and imbalance with Israel—strategic flanking moves necessary for the crucial struggles ahead.
Freeing us from the trap of Iraq. At once to drain the Iraqi insurgency of legitimate nationalist support, prevent civil war and preserve national unity, restore Iraq’s sovereignty and self-government and bring America back into compliance with international law, all first steps to reclaim our standing among nations, the US would:
- Begin immediate withdrawal, to be completed within months by a date certain, of all 150,000+ US troops along with some 20,000 civilian contractors, including closure of the fourteen or more permanent US military bases planned—the occupation to be replaced by a temporary multinational peacekeeping and support force under the auspices of the United Nations in collaboration with the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
- Renounce all post-invasion US corporate acquisitions of Iraq’s oil and other property, including any enabling occupation regime edicts, with control of all national assets reverting to Iraqis.
- Recognizing that January 2005 elections under US and insurgent guns were fatally flawed, link our withdrawal with new free and fair post-occupation Iraqi elections under international supervision, aimed at the authentic self-governance and workable balance of constituent interests missing in the truncated, occupation-tainted regime.
- Lead an international consortium of reconstruction aid for Iraq, repairing the gaping wounds from the US war and prior sanctions, and from Saddam Hussein’s pillaging tyranny, itself instigated and enabled in part by more than three decades of covert and overt US support.
- Face realistically the strategic toll of the Bush regime debacle in Iraq—that our occupation has fed the creation of at least some highly trained, strongly motivated cadres in Iraq who may well endure elsewhere as a hostile, anti-American force regardless of the country’s liberation, that despite our departure and international diplomatic and economic efforts, Iraq may become a failed state and center of resurgent anti-American hostility in the Middle East, and that our calamitous policy has eroded the credibility and capacity of the United States to deal multilaterally with those and other potential threats. A new national security policy repairing the enormous damage of past policy would pursue creative new diplomatic and multilateral military planning to deal with these contingencies.
Breaking out of the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian tragedy. America would urgently pursue the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces and colonists from the West Bank and Gaza and establishment there of a viable sovereign Palestine, guaranteeing the security of the borders of both Israel and Palestine, and with Jerusalem’s multicultural status and the full civil rights of Arab citizens of Israel and Jewish citizens of Palestine assured by both states and an international monitoring presence.
- To Israel - we would pledge, by treaty and a joint resolution of Congress, that any invasion of its pre-1967 territory would be equivalent to an attack on the US, obliging our full defense. We would urge other powers to join that guarantee. With or without others, however, America’s commitment to a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace would be unequivocal. If Israel failed to withdraw forces and provide for colonists to return, it would be the US position that dispossession of the Palestinians is a multiple threat to the peace, our principled support since 1947 does not extend to a geo-political mutual suicide pact, and in refusing to act responsibly, Israel will be sanctioned like any other international obstructor.
- To Palestine - America would pledge our matching commitment to the establishment and integrity of a viable independent state, in return for an immediate end to terrorism and all other violence against Israel and Israelis. As with Israel’s failure to withdraw, continued Palestinian hostilities would bring US sanctions.
- America would lead an international consortium to build a new Middle East commonwealth—adama tziburit in Hebrew, al-tharwa al-oumoumiya in Arabic, the ancient concept of a shared land and resources, economic and spiritual. Our aim is not only to provide essential aid to Palestine, enabling the small crowded state to move from bitter dispossession to a stake in peace. The commonwealth concept also recognizes an emerging strategic-demographic reality of the region—that the Jewish population of Israel is in relative decline, and that its long-term security and prosperity lies in an internationally backed peaceful economic integration rather than as a dwindling master minority holed up in some doomed, walled apartheid.
- The US would convoke through the UN a Middle East demilitarization conference, nuclear and conventional, beginning with our honest acknowledgement of Israeli nuclear weapons. On the precept of "trust but verify" and with deep transparency, the aim is to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran or any regional nation—albeit recognizing that this security can only be assured in the end by the statesmanship of Israel, on the South African model, in relinquishing for the cause of peace its ever-destabilizing Samsonesque nuclear arsenal.
Meeting the now-neglected challenges of terrorist vengeance, other nuclear dangers, and our hostage energy supply.
Following from breakthroughs in Iraq, Israel and Palestine, a new national security policy would also:
- Address repressive Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere. In policy consistent with principle worldwide as well as in the Middle East, we would cease all military, political and economic support of regimes deemed undemocratic by universal standards, including all intelligence aid and collusion, and while accepting trade and investment of direct benefit to the mass of people in those nations, actively discourage corporate and other private complicity with tyrannical governments. Scrupulously avoiding overt or covert intervention in any country, the US would clearly declare and observe moral support of democratic movements and developments. While understanding that we have neither the right nor wisdom to interfere in the politics of another nation, that its destiny is the affair only of its own people, our foreign policy with respect to democracy and tyranny would follow as much as possible the simple ancient ethic of medicine—do no harm.
With the freeing from entrapment in Iraq, Israel-Palestine and repressive Arab regimes, and complementary energy and economic strategies outlined below, we would begin at last to contest forces such as al-Qaeda at the source of their impetus by dramatically ceasing US participation, direct or indirect, in the torment of their people by regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. In cultural terms, we would start to retell the story of who we are in the world, changing that narrative by acts as well as words—from a hypocritical, profit- and consumption-driven, interventionist, militarist America, the people the 9/11 hijackers and others believe they are counter-attacking, to the anti-colonial champion of freedom America once represented around the globe. We would retell that story not because we were forced to, or because it was expedient, but because it was right, because it was who we are, if given the chance to make and conduct a truly democratic foreign policy.
- In breaking out of Iraq, we turn to a less visible snare in Afghanistan, where smaller but ever-vulnerable Pentagon and CIA forces battle in a Great Game entanglement with an untenable regime seen as our puppet, a still potent Taliban resistance, the ever-hovering Pakistanis furtively supporting all sides with the aim of the permanent weakness if not full subservience of Afghanistan, and Afghan drug lord-warlords who hold the balance of power in that tragic narco-colony. New policy would stop all collusion and temporizing with the local mafias and drug trade, replace US forces with peacekeeping from countries genuinely neutral in the area’s tortuous politics, muster international support to end Pakistani interference, renounce all interest in corporate exploitation of Afghan resources or territory for oil transit, and fulfill the unmet promise of decisive international aid to enable an independent, non-sectarian Afghan regime to survive, and eventually to break the hold of the opium warlords.
- Deal comprehensively and with unprecedented seriousness with nuclear dangers in Pakistan and North Korea as well as in Israel and Iran, and give nuclear arms reductions and control the compelling priority it must have in America’s policy toward its own and other great power arsenals.
In Pakistan, we face the toll of a half-century of our heedless patronage and evasion that has left a now ungoverned, now ungovernable state whose corrupt “black” economy dominated by the drug trade rivals or surpasses its open one, and where a military regime with notoriously insecure nuclear technology and weaponry sits uncertainly atop a seething sectarian atavism. Among its highest priorities, a new national security policy would: organize international action to begin to deal with Pakistan’s virulence, bring some balance to the country’s economy, aggressively pursue regional arms control measures with India, shore up Pakistani strategic command and control and export controls over nuclear technology, make any future cooperation with Pakistan contingent on rigorous transparency, and encourage democratic elements in the country in every legitimate and open manner. A crisis waiting to happen, what many knowledgeable observers have called “the most dangerous nation state in the world,” there is no more chilling example than Pakistan of the mistaken priorities and diversion suffered in the war on Iraq.
With North Korea—an impasse produced by serio-quixotic efforts by the Bush regime to overthrow the Pyongyang government and to use North Korea, like Taiwan, as a pawn in a dangerous playing-off of a rearmed Japan against an emerging China—a new policy would fulfill long-standing US trade and international aid promises to North Korea in return for verified abandonment of its nuclear weapons program and ending of all further exports of missile technology to Pakistan, Iran and other countries, an exchange the North Koreans have repeatedly pledged, and a bargain by any measure.
These initiatives would come as well with urgent new approaches to our own nuclear arsenal that would maintain the necessary level of deterrence against organized regimes—an adequate minimum of 250 to 500 warheads—while reinvigorating an international movement to completely eliminate nuclear weapons, these anachronistic, apocalyptic relics of a vanished era. Placing nonproliferation and disarmament on top of the international agenda, including urgent support of UN efforts to revive expiring non-proliferation treaty obligations, US would forge ahead of Russia and other powers in reducing both strategic and conventional arms and setting a timetable for verified demilitarization. Among the first acts of a new strategic policy would be to remove America’s nuclear deterrent from the hair trigger status that still, incredibly, more than a decade after the fall of the USSR and end of the cold war, leaves us 20 minutes from nuclear holocaust by chance or craze. We would also recognize that our commitment toward nuclear disarmament, not proliferation of new generation of nuclear weapons, would act as a powerful incentive for nations such as Pakistan and North Korea, Israel and Iran, to adopt the sane strategic policies we seek of them. As part of that commitment, we would also pledge to the international community that there would be no new deployment of the next generation of America’s ominous new “useable” nuclear weaponry or space-based delivery systems, which the world rightly deplores and fears, especially in light of the Bush regime’s reckless posturing of unilateral preemptive war. Security in the 21st century begins with the understanding that nuclear arms carry the inevitability of eventual catastrophe, and that America will never be truly safe until we move beyond these suicidal weapons and the fear and ignorance behind them.
We would recognize that conventional arms also consume our common future. With reconversion provision for affected industries, the US would cease trafficking in more than fifty percent of the world's munitions—America in 2005 the world’s leading merchant of death. We would stop giving or loaning more than $100 billion in a vast munitions industry subsidy for poor countries’ military purchases, and press Russia to embargo its share of the two-thirds of the arms trade we conduct together. On a planet where poorer countries squander tens of billions a year on weapons, America would shed old military clients and quarantine arms merchants as we once checked fascist and Communist aggressors, conducting an all-out collective effort to demilitarize worldwide by agreements with developing nations to forgive debt in return for substantial conversion of military sectors to peaceful development along with strict inspection of arms reductions.
- Not least, essential to any new national security strategy would be a public acknowledgment of the extent of politicization of America’s intelligence. “Intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy,” MI-6 head Richard Dearlove reported on the CIA and other US intelligence agencies to Prime Minister Tony Blair in a recently leaked secret document from the July 2002 run-up to the war on Iraq. The outrage of national intelligence, the very lifeblood of national security, being suborned by the bullying pressures of politicians and ideological zealots, and by the bureaucrats’ willful complicity or supine surrender, have shocked many watching the Bush foreign policy disasters. This corruption and disgrace is only the latest in a history of compromises of the CIA and its lesser Washington rivals, increasingly inept, misadventured and anachronistic since the 1980s. A new national security policy must address a larger “treason of the clerks” embodied in manipulation of intelligence for political purpose.
To begin that reform, a new strategy would include a presidential executive order that intelligence officials of all agencies are to maintain the integrity of their work product scrupulously free of any interference by political appointees, and to report any apparent pressure or suborning to a joint Executive-Congressional oversight body on Intelligence Ethics established to preserve and protect their substantive independence. New policy would also pursue strict statutory protections for the independence of the intelligence community, with criminal penalties for attempted corruptions.
At the same time, we would recognize that no structural safeguards can adequately address deeper flaws of institutions or the culture of bureaucracy, and new, relevant, effective national security would depend on a sweeping reinvigoration of the ranks and leadership of national intelligence, including much wider collaboration and transparency with academic and other independent sectors (in a field in which the necessary secrets are minimal), and the adoption of institutional rules within the CIA and other agencies allowing and rewarding dissent, policing retaliations, and generally nurturing a culture of intellectual integrity and excellence. Finally, a new strategy would dismiss the bogus reforms of a national intelligence Tsar and encourage instead the healthy open competition and collaboration of disparate if sometimes repetitive agencies and missions, realizing that the range of views and coverage in intelligence is far more important than any bureaucratic efficiency. The CIA’s role as the chief clearinghouse of national intelligence—with espionage and certainly covert action functions severely circumscribed for special interest-special pleading bureaucratic domains like the Defense Intelligence Agency—would be reestablished under Congressional oversight and active scrutiny.
Accompanying all these policies would be an urgent mobilization to end our vastly fraught dependence on foreign oil—not alone because its ransoming is politically and militarily disastrous, or its fuel environmentally ruinous, but to recognize and act on the now imminent peaking of oil production and an inevitable global energy scarcity, already visible in oil industry data showing the relentless depletion of existing reserves and a worldwide decline in new discoveries, already felt in rising US gas prices and a fall in consumer spending. With little prospect that under current conditions and priorities alternative sources of energy—hydrogen, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal or other systems—will develop rapidly or plentifully enough to replace emptying oil, we face the prospect of a devastating global energy shortage in decades if not sooner. To meet the emergency, a new policy would institute a comprehensive new national crash program of energy conservation, including much higher fuel efficiency standards for all vehicles, on the Norwegian model significant new taxes on gas guzzling vehicles, and massive funding of research, development, and full-scale production of alternative, largely renewable energy sources with no net carbon emissions. Beyond domestic realignment, we would pursue worldwide conservation, conversion, and coordinated management of scarcities and imbalances that threaten international instability and pose an obvious collateral danger to our national security.
Even with these steps, however, we would recognize that the nation and world face significant economic hardship and hazardous international turmoil because of the compromise and myopia of political leadership on this issue. Of all the past and current folly in national security policy, none is more blatant—nowhere is the political bankruptcy of both old parties plainer—than in the failure to confront vested interests to prepare for the crisis of peaking oil that has been predicted with bleak accuracy for over three decades.
II. Napoleon’s Winter
On a gray September dawn in 1815, commanding his Grand Armée of a half million that had defeated every martial foe, Napoleon rode in triumph to the gate of the Kremlin. Three months later, overcome by ravages of a startlingly severe winter and an unexpected loss of stores in the burning of Moscow, the Emperor and the ragged remnant of his force, many reduced to eating their own frozen, cut-off fingers, staggered back across Europe in historic defeat. It was not the only time, of course, that physical conditions and lack of strategic foresight doomed a great power, and the lesson is clear. Today, America faces a 21st-century version of Napoleon’s winter: the still largely unplanned-for imminence of environmental upheaval.
At the end of March 2005, the prestigious Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, drawing on twenty-two national science academies and echoing the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, confirmed authoritative scientific findings of the widespread environmental degradation at hand and the prospect of local and regional ecological and economic-social collapses in the decades immediately ahead. As the world’s scientists have warned for some time, the study foresaw not only gradual, relentless change, but also sudden and irreversible decline, with a half dozen potential “tipping points” into conditions beyond recovery on a human timescale. “We can reverse the degradation of many ecosystems over the next fifty years,” the Assessment observed hopefully, and then added, “but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently underway.”
For national security, it is no longer a question of whether climate change and a host of other human abuses and “re-engineering” of the earth will take a life-changing toll on ours and future generations—only where, when, in what form, at what cost, and with what permanence. In terms of Napoleon’s winter, the cold has already descended and Moscow begun to burn. Unlike the folly of 1812, however, we know in advance what we face. It is as if Napoleon had seen the snow and flames, and his retreat, before he crossed into Russia.
In meeting the Geo-environmental challenge, the US would no longer be a scofflaw or laggard in environmental action, so largely the captive to narrow special interests putting ephemeral short-term profits, personal enrichment and career advance ahead of the well-being and security of generations. America would see through the old fraud of posing the policy question as the environment versus business, protecting nature vs. keeping jobs. We would recognize that we must serve both or we will have neither, that we cannot maintain our own way of life without caring for the life of the earth. “The overriding conclusion of this assessment is that it lies within the power of human societies to ease the strains we are putting on the nature services of the planet, while continuing to use them to bring better living standards to all,” the Millennium Assessment concluded. “Achieving this, however, will require radical changes in the way nature is treated at every level of decision-making.” Understanding that the interests of our planet, our prosperity, our national security, are indivisible, we would be dedicated to reversing the reversible in ecological degradation, and minimizing the effects of ecological wounds inflicted, including:
- Concerted national policy to plan for the economic, social, and other dislocations from changes in climate, ocean levels, and the collapse of ecosystems; requirements that natural costs/true cost pricing be taken into account in economic decisions at every level; new methods and intensity of cooperation on environmental policy between government, business, and civil society; significant new investments public and private in technologies relevant to problems of degradation; by statute and persuasion, sustained changes in behavior aimed at increased production in some fields, decreased consumption in others, but all guided by a fundamental reappraisal of the vulnerability of the world’s resources. Beyond the conservation central to the new strategic energy policy, overriding national priorities would include stricter emission controls and decisive reduction of carbon dioxide (in which the US is by far the world’s leading polluter) altogether to reduce greenhouse gases as never before, adopting bold new technologies for hazardous-waste clean-up, aggressive policies of resource replenishment, and myriad other measures.
Internationally, while joining and building on the Kyoto Protocol, the US would go well beyond to institute and lead a Global Environmental Alliance, a representative world organization to draft the necessary new treaty agreements, and monitor national and international environmental action with a planetary perspective on crisis and response, politics and technology, including dangerous imbalances in resources, strengthening of UN-assisted environmental standards enforcement in developing countries and significant international fines to stop lax enforcement-shopping corporations from polluting and poisonous exploitation of poor nations. Following on initiatives for sustainable living in which Europe far surpasses the US, the Alliance would plan coordinated policies decades ahead to deal with economic, social, and potential political effects of environmental change already likely, as well as to counter probable threats. Moreover, this new environmental collective security would serve US interests generally. Abroad and at home, American technology would enjoy a natural advantage in the intensive mobilization to defend against ecological degradation, opening major new avenues for science and business, redressing our malignant trade imbalance, and coping with natural disasters, as shown so dramatically in the Indian Ocean Tsunami. An environmental Alliance defending security on a broad front also offers a rejuvenating and relevant new mission to a US military, whose trillion-dollar structural dysfunctions have been so graphically exposed by its misuse in the war in Iraq, and whose dedicated ranks could then bring their esprit de corps, training and technology to heal and to build in true defense of their nation.
In a larger sense, a new vision for a new world would see Geo-environmental strategy intimately related to meeting other crises. Respecting the limits imposed by nature and at the same time ensuring continued, sustainable economic progress that fortifies and sustains peace, US policy would build a far more equitable economy domestically and globally.
III. The Third Freedom
Over the past six decades, the US wielded power and economic dominance to erect a structure of world trade and finance while proffering billions in aid and loans to developing nations, all in the name of ensuring our international economic future. As in much else, however, policy and leadership went tragically wrong. As profiteering corporate globalism seized power in Washington and swept American jobs and productivity abroad to the cheapest bidder, the same forces set off an international race to the bottom in environmental and labor standards, enriching the few at the expense of the many both in the US and around the world.
After a half century of America’s global economic dominance, we live on a planet where there persists an immense exploitation and exclusion of the poor by the rich; where there is still a vast transfer of wealth from developing nations to the affluent; where babies of the destitute are grown on farms to provide organ transplants for the wealthy, eleven million children die every year, and there are two hundred new corpses each minute in what the World Health Organization calls a "silent genocide" of preventable famine and disease; where six billion people still lack what President Roosevelt called “a healthy peacetime life” and thus a stake in peace itself; where poverty and privilege, injustice, corruption and economic as well as political oppression store up the ultimate sure harvest of hatred, hopelessness, demagoguery, terrorism and war.
We live in an era, too, when America’s unchallenged economic dominance is over, when by some measures of wealth other nations and regions will soon be our peers, China and India grow to surpass us at mid-century, all while a $600 billion trade deficit and a $7.7 trillion budget deficit grow voraciously to devour the hopes of millions of Americans. If much of globalism’s recent boom has been on the backs of the old poor, its unchecked future threatens to ride as well on the backs of a new poor among America’s former middle class.
To secure our economic progress and place in the new world of national economic equals we must deal urgently and comprehensively with economic inequities that mock democracy at home and stability abroad. We would understand that security depends not only on a dynamic domestic economy but on the well-being of all nations. America cannot address domestic needs and then later turn to the world's anguish. Either we begin to heal both, just as we must reconcile the interests of environment and business, or it may well not matter for our grandchildren if we keep ourselves prosperous. In meeting the Geo-economic challenge:
- America would promote at every turn worldwide reinvestment in human capital, in education, jobs and land reform in developing nations, including a reversal of the crude, corporate interest-driven policies and practices of the World Bank and other international financial organizations, an encouragement of small-scale development programs and banks under local democratic control and tailored to authentic local needs apart from propagating globalism’s exploitive markets and, not least, the major turn from our $66 billion weapons trade and the channeling the fortunes now spent on world arms to the high dividend investment in international economic justice and thus the lasting peace that justice alone can bring.
- Where national security policy merges most visibly with the domestic agenda, we would respond to a multipolar world with international trade and domestic industrial policies as concerted as was our commitment in the Cold War, settling for neither belligerent blocs nor politely masked inequity but rather will seek an equitable, politically sustainable world commerce of shared sacrifice, responsibility and opportunity for capital and labor.
- Gauging the mercantilist policies of our partner-competitors, their discipline of capital as well as labor, we would mount a comprehensive new public investment strategy in the United States, promoting a new preparedness economically, educationally and fiscally. Adding an essential new word to the old formula, America’s international commercial policy for the 21st century would be Fair Free Trade, with a new political-strategic sensibility brought to the management of domestic markets and international businesses, preventing the exploitation of people and the environment at home and abroad as a matter of indivisible national interest.
- We would renegotiate, as necessary, America's international economic future with trade policies not merely to serve multinational business
profits but the nation as a whole, including prudent tariffs to protect US workers and jobs no less than financial interests, active economic diplomacy to ensure that China and other Asian nations allow their currencies to appreciate to reduce the ominous US trade deficit and avert a worldwide financial crisis, and urgently needed changes in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico, and similar pacts compromised and corrupted by corporate interests, allowing supranational trade agreements to erode US labor and environmental standards. We would not exploit the false specter of a trade war only to inflict a class war on American and foreign workers.
There are all these challenges and still others: The potential for a new Sino-Japanese power rivalry the Bush regime has recklessly sought to exploit; The danger of America’s own renewed hostility toward both a surging China and inevitably recovering Russia; Washington’s old entanglement in drug wars and reactionary resistance to nascent democratic regimes in Latin America; Embroilment with dubious new oil clients in Africa and Central Asia; And not least, the disarray of a Pentagon straining with inadequate manpower and equipment to fight Iraqi and Afghan insurgents at $500 billion a year (a budget, even adjusted to inflation, far more than at the height of Vietnam and the Cold War) while sclerotic service baronies cling to antique systems and spent missions irrelevant to 21st-century conflicts and unfunded future procurement liabilities run to more than a trillion dollars. In all these new approaches to national security, we should be under no illusion about the breadth and depth of the task of changing policy, or the powerful resistance politically and bureaucratically.
IV. Great Debate
American foreign policy has lost its way, and America and her friends are losing the historic opportunity for lasting security in the new century. The blatant militarism, unilateralism and post-9/11 demagoguery and deceptions of the Bush regime—flouting law, alliances and treaties, defying democracy and long-established principles of the country’s international conduct—comprise altogether the most acute crisis the nation has ever faced in the politics of foreign policy. The toll is not only embroilment in two misguided wars of incalculable cost and the unprecedented distrust and hostility of most of the world, but also the fostering of an authoritarian garrison state at home and a predatory proto-imperialism abroad—leading to a politically and ultimately militarily ruinous isolation, growing economic inequity and instability threatening US interests on every continent, and, not least, a moral disaster for an America that was once, and might still be again, Jefferson’s “last best hope of mankind.”
Yet the crude abuses of the Bush Presidency—the usurping of power by a small cabal of fanatic right-wing extremists—are only the most dramatic manifestations of a deeper crisis. The veritable Bush coup d’etat in foreign policy is part of a continuing bipartisan decline since the end of the Cold War in 1991, a growing conceptual and political vacuum in the foreign policy approach of both major parties that will not be remedied by the succeeding of George W. Bush by any of the potential 2008 Democratic candidates, whose policies and policy-makers are only marginally different. A first, most basic demand of new strategy goes to the heart of policy-making in a democracy. Americans must engage at last the Great Debate that both Republicans and Democrats and their too largely interchangeable foreign affairs “experts” have so negligently evaded since 9/11, beginning with that fateful emblematic event itself. The planes of that stark morning came screaming out of history. In the day’s ruins was much of American foreign policy. Yet the conventional, preponderant political dialogue has cravenly failed even to discuss that reality, much less come to grips with how much the past holds hostage the present. Crude partisan exploitation of 9/11 has not only dangerously distorted the issue of dealing with terrorism, but also eclipsed the far graver risks arising at the same time. At every level, local to national, serious democratic discussion and debate should now probe the origin and meaning of the attacks, weigh the history of American policy that has shaped so much of our world, and go on to the new challenges before us.
Among much else, that debate would enable us to see clearly that our national security policy is no longer relevant abroad because it has long since ceased to be informed or remotely democratic at home. It would be difficult enough to overcome purely conceptual failures or ignorance of civilian and military bureaucrats and the clan of foreign policy advisors whose sham authority has filled the vacuum left by Congressional, media and public abdications in policy-making. Like old-fashioned courthouse reporters, those who would understand and reform American national security policy in the 21st century must more than ever also follow the money, to the multiple corruptions of profit and career that hold conviction hostage.
To take one of the more relevant examples, rescuing US policy from the Israeli-Palestinian trap would mean not simply or even mainly “persuading” the overwhelming bipartisan majority in the executive and Congress now so bound to backing Israel’s disastrous course, but breaking the grip of the pro-Israel lobby with its formidable financial and other power, more persuasive than any substantive analysis, to punish and reward its captive politicians at the polls and in the vital give-and-take, go-along to get-along, of Washington politics. A decisive majority in Congress must not only know the right course in national security and foreign policy; it must be able to afford supporting it. Democratizing national security policy means democratizing American politics as never before, a task required to ensure not only the survival of our system of government, but also, in the new national security challenges of the 21st century, our survival as a nation.
A New Vision
In a field known for its arcane and complex concepts, a new vision of America’s national security is unconventionally simple:
An America secure and prosperous because it understands and cares for the world around it. An America that faces its own part in a painful past and trying present, as well as its responsibility for a more just, peaceful and equitable future.
An America that values its friends and knows its enemies, including their impermanence.
An America that entrusts policy-making to the widest public, knowing that the nation’s deepest ideals of freedom are also the principles that must govern its relationship with other nations.
This brief paper only begins to outline, of course, some of the issues that must be addressed in a new, thoroughly democratic dialogue on national security that America must now commence. The policy changes summarized above encompass and raise a host of other urgent questions:
- How would the new approaches specifically reapportion a newly integrated trillion-dollar national security budget?
- How would old missions be revised, forces made leaner and more relevant, and a military establishment retrained politically as well as militarily, both to meet the real security challenges of a changed world and to stem the professional military's increasingly evident and ominous alienation from American society and traditional values of military subordination to civilian authority?
- What are the Constitutional dimensions of a new vision of national security and foreign relations, in which no other nation would have a veto over America's national defense, but no President would have the power to commit US forces to any hostile military action without full disclosure of the justifying intelligence and full and open public and Congressional debate leading to a formal Declaration of War? And how must the public dialogue, the media, and Congress itself be reformed to fulfill that responsibility?
- Not least, how would a redefined national security define its own terms—the conditions to be met by what is deemed a clear and present danger to the national security, the truly vital interests of the nation affecting the safety and survival of its people at large, as apart from lesser advantages of the few and their narrow interests?
All these issues and many more must now enter the national dialogue in a deep, deliberative, sustained democratic debate.
A new vision for a new world will require the most comprehensive rethinking of foreign policy and national security, of America and its role in the world, we have ever undertaken as a people. If we are to be a free and secure society in the 21st century, the moment demands nothing less.
Green Institute / GP360
Roger Morris, who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, is a Senior Fellow of the Green Institute and an investigative journalist and historian whose work has won the National Book Award Silver Medal and numerous other honors. He is just completing Shadows of the Eagle, a history of US policy and covert interventions in the Middle East and South Asia over the past half-century, forthcoming from Alfred Knopf.
Steven Schmidt was a key drafter of the founding platform of the US Green Party. He served as a chair of the national platform committee from 1995 to 2001 and co-drafted the first “Common Ground” platform between the Association of State Green Parties and European Federation of Green Parties. An emeritus member of the Writers Guild of America, he edits GP360 online and is author of American Twilight.