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Security strategy { October 21 2002 }

"The National Security Strategy of the United States."
"freedom, democracy, free enterprise, and free markets." The very first sentence calls this the "single sustainable model for national success."

Austerity Measures for the World: Our Foreign Policy (fwd)

Mother Jones

Beyond Left: The Principles of Democracy
Why progressives should reject knee-jerk ideology, and organize along
real-politik lines.

Geov Parrish
October 21, 2002
Perhaps most significant, however, were the common threads in that
criticism. With very few exceptions, public opposition to the Bush
Administration's plans for "regime change" has not been colored by any
concern for Saddam Hussein or his job prospects. The Iraqi dictator is a
profoundly unappealing figure, as almost every opponent has taken pains to
acknowledge. The war's probable cost, and its impact on a fragile economy,
hasn't figured prominently, either.

Rather, this debate is about how a US invasion would be received globally --
especially in the Islamic world and among Washington's closest allies -- and
about the precedent of "preemptive" (i.e., unprovoked) military attack. And,
while most people haven't read the document, public concerns about war with
Iraq are squarely based on the principles laid out in a recent Bush
Administration report to Congress entitled "The National Security Strategy
of the United States."

The Dubya Doctrine represents, on several fronts, a radical departure from
past stated US foreign policy. It is based, at least rhetorically, on the
promotion of four pillars: "freedom, democracy, free enterprise, and free
markets." The very first sentence calls this the "single sustainable model
for national success."

Thus, in the first sentence, we already have two clues that something is
seriously amiss: the promotion of free enterprise -- an economic system --
and free markets -- a trade policy -- as equally fundamental to the human
condition as freedom or democracy; and the notion that the United States
should care about imposing any model, let alone a single one, for another
country's "national success." Another warning sign can be found in the
absence of an equally critical right of all peoples and nations: the right
to self- determination.

While the advocacy of preemptive attack has attracted the most notice in
this report, for good reasons, these other elements should also strike
terror into anyone committed to the idea of a world of greater peace,
freedom, democracy, and economic opportunity. Over 30 pages, the White House
lays out in astonishing detail how, exactly, we expect countries to toe our

On page 15, for example, we learn that America wants everyone to practice
"pro-growth legal and regulatory policies to encourage business investment,
innovation, and entrepreneurial activity; Tax policies -- particularly lower
marginal tax rates -- that improve incentives for work and
investment;...Strong financial systems that allow capital to be put to its
most efficient use; Sound fiscal policies to support business
activity;...and free trade that provides new avenues for growth and fosters
the diffusion of technologies and ideas that increase productivity and

Strike those regulations! Slash taxes! Tie your currency to ours! And don't
you dare sidetrack a factory to preserve that wetland!

Are you ready to have your son or daughter die for lower marginal tax rates
in Zimbabwe?

Countries are also to play ball by handing over their resources --
especially, and not surprisingly, oil. Page 18: "We will strengthen our own
energy security and the shared prosperity of the global economy by working
with our allies, trading partners, and energy producers to expand the
sources and types of global energy supplied, especially in the Western
Hemisphere, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caspian region." (They left out

Democracy, of course, rests not on the presence of more than one
Washington-approved name on the ballot, but on the ability of ordinary
citizens to influence public policy. How can citizens have a say in their
government, if that government itself is not permitted, upon threat of
"regime change," control over basic domestic policy? Bush's foreign policy
is, by definition, profoundly anti-democratic.

If its rhetoric is to be taken seriously, Bush's report is the source of
countless contradictions like this. But the rhetoric is an afterthought;
this is the policy template of an empire. The report reassures us that
America "does not use [its] strength to press for unilateral advantage," and
technically, this might be true; these security policies may enrich the
wealthiest among us, but they will make most Americans and the country
itself notably less safe. Still, many in the Bush camp genuinely believe
that America's iron boot is used only to better the world; that America
does, in fact, better the world; and that the world is correspondingly

That's wrong on all counts. If US policy were genuinely based on such
ideals, our past failings would have been inconceivable: The widening gap,
at home and globally, between rich and poor; America's persistent alliances
with and support for some of the world's most brutal and dictatorial
regimes; the multifaceted harm caused by the War on Drugs; and on, and on.
But far from being examined, let alone disavowed, the policies behind such
failures are being redoubled.

Oddly, for what is advertised as a comprehensive overview of policy, Bush's
policy document omits the single most obvious threat to our national
security -- the kind of small terrorist band that struck last September.
Instead, aside from a nod toward cracking down on the financing of terror
networks, almost the entire document focuses on nation-states -- a peculiar
sort of Cold War-era thinking for a document that purports to address a
radically new security environment. A war against terror -- or any long-term
attempt to prevent terrorism -- must necessarily focus on people, not
nation-states, and therefore on persuasion, not conquest.

Finally, Bush's foreign policy fails because its means aren't consistent
with its ends, which is the source of much of the instinctive public
discomfort over how this administration has handled global affairs during
the past 20 months. Whatever America's failings (and triumphs), most of us
believe very deeply in the ideals that make us a mythological place for much
of the world. The yawning gap between America's stated ideals and its actual
behavior has long incited charges of arrogance and hypocrisy around the
world. Now, the Bush administration's bluntness about its intentions is
provoking the same sort of ambivalence at home. Put simply, "The National
Security Strategy of the United States" does not describe the country we
want to be.

For nearly a half-century, abusive American behavior was excused by the
urgency of containing the Soviets. In their absence, America's established
penchant for installing dictators, training and arming secret police,
exacerbating global poverty, and treating other countries' resources like
our own is no longer being tolerated -- abroad or at home. The use of war as
a first resort is a tactic of conquest, antithetical to dearly held American
values like freedom and democracy. Ultimately, most of us sense, if such
principles can be discarded in how we treat the rest of the world, they can
also be discarded at home.

For progressives opposing invasion, such concerns should be paramount. This
is not a time to trot out decades' worth of policy complaints in the hope
that "they'll finally get it." (Most people got it -- they just didn't agree
or didn't care.) The current upsurge in public concern isn't based on past
foreign policy sins; it's about where the country is going now.

Any broad-based opposition must start with an alternative vision of what we
stand for. Many progressives have forgotten that public policy doesn't have
to inexorably get worse; it can actually create good things, too. In this
case, the best of what we can work toward requires not isolationism (an
option that is both irresponsible and no longer possible) or a reflexive
criticism of America or of war. Instead, it means embracing this country's
ideals and proposing policies based on mutual international respect,
interdependence, and the good America could accomplish if it tried.

Across the ideological spectrum, people sense that Bush's policies are
dangerous, to us and to America. Progressives have an opportunity to name
those dangers and to help provide leadership. This is not a time for
sneering about racist wars and redneck patriotism and monstrous SUVs. This
is a time for finding common ground, and then organizing, quickly, to make
the world a better, safer, and more just place. And to save lives.

Geov Parrish is a Seattle-based columnist and reporter for Seattle Weekly,
In These Times and Eat the State!

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