Foreign policy is complicated. There are a lot of moving parts and because human beings are making the policy, and feelings and egos are at stake, it’s that much more difficult. Some policymakers take a long-term view, others are myopic. Couple all that with the problem that I witnessed countless times over the course of my career at the C.I.A. and at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — the insistence of American diplomats, intelligence professionals and White House staff members that they are literally the smartest people in the world and that they know best. Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser once famously said, “The genius of you Americans is that you never make a clear-cut stupid move. You always make complicated stupid moves, which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.” He was right.
Bruce Gagnon is the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, and was a co-founder of the Global Network when it was created in 1992. He was an early member of the Anti-Defense Lobby in the 1970s challenging the U.S. space program. Between 1983–1998, he was the State Coordinator of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and has worked on space issues for 31 years. We focus on the realities of the international power struggle unfolding in real time, specifically addressing the role of the U.S. in the tensions and its capacity to reduce them. We are looking for paradigm-shift ideas for improving the prospects for peace. His responses below of are exactly as he provided.
I had a letter in the mail the other week from someone named Barry Klein, who resides in Houston. I filed it knowing I would write about it, and now I shall. Klein runs a group called ForeignPolicyAlliance.org. “Wars without end?” read the accordion brochure Klein sent. “Americans on the left and right are uniting to ask, Why? A call to reform U.S. foreign policy.” This guy has endorsements that glow in the dark. Dan Ellsberg, Andy Bacevich, Sharon Tennison, Gordon Adams, Larry Wilkerson and Peter Kuznick: These are big names in the alternative foreign policy business. Klein included a one-sheet flier with the Foreign Policy Alliance prospectus. “How to immediately spur a movement to stop the proxy war in Ukraine,” is the headline. Good enough, but what stopped me cold was a Post–It note Klein stuck in the right-hand corner.
Over the last months I have written little about other U.S. foreign policy issues than the war in Ukraine. A short review shows that there is little that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken or his president could count as a success. Last month Biden traveled to Asia where he had meetings with the QUAD (Australia, Japan, India and the U.S.) as well as with South Asian leaders. The QUAD meeting was a failure as India showed no sign of joining the other three in their condemnation of Russia. Instead of sanctioning Russia it is buying more oil from Russia which offers decent rebates. Such disunity does not look good for a U.S. designed anti-China coalition. Most noted though was that Biden came to Asia with empty hands.
This is the first project to focus on AFL-CIO operations around the globe since efforts to pass the “Build Unity and Trust Among Workers World-wide” Resolution at the 2005 National Convention in Chicago. This new project, LEPAIO, is hoping to build support for the 2022 national conference in Philadelphia this June 12-15. Speakers at the educational conference spoke on a number of issues, noting that the education conference on April 9th came on the 20th anniversary of the attempted (but failed) coup against democratically-elected President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. Speakers Margaret Flowers, William Camacaro, and James Patrick Jordan spoke of the on-going US attacks on Venezuela that continue today, particularly through economic sanctions supported by the AFL-CIO.
As the death toll in Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine continues to rise, there have only been a handful of Westerners publicly questioning NATO and the West’s role in the conflict. These voices are becoming fewer and further between as a wave of feverish backlash engulfs any dissent on the subject. One of these voices belongs to Professor Michael J. Brenner, a lifelong academic, Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a Fellow of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS/Johns Hopkins, as well as former Director of the International Relations & Global Studies Program at the University of Texas. Brenner’s credentials also include having worked at the Foreign Service Institute, the U.S. Department of Defense and Westinghouse, and written several books on American foreign policy. From the vantage point of decades of experience and studies, the intellectual regularly shared his thoughts on topics of interest through a mailing list sent to thousands of readers—that is until the response to his Ukraine analysis made him question why he bothered in the first place.
On April 11, 2002, Venezuela’s democratically elected government, headed by Hugo Chávez Frías, was ousted in a military coup d’etat. Then, dramatically, two days later, the coup was overturned by a mass mobilization of Venezuelans. They demanded the restoration of democracy and the return of a government that appeared to be making good on its commitment to redistribute Venezuela’s oil wealth to benefit the country’s most marginalized sectors. These events led to lasting ramifications not just for Venezuela, but for Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, paving the way for a “pink tide” of progressive movements that took power democratically throughout the region.
By now everyone knows that Ukraine’s flag is blue and yellow. It is impossible to miss as the Empire State Building in New York, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris have all been bathed in those colors. Nearly every city and town across the United States has followed suit and politicians ranging from local legislators to members of congress shout “Stand with Ukraine!” at every opportunity. Yet it must be pointed out that those blue and yellow motifs and pleas for solidarity are all about white supremacy. Ukraine is upheld as a bastion of “civilization” which is supposed to put it off limits for war and suffering. The quiet part is now being spoken out loud. We are told that Ukrainians are more deserving of concern because they are Europeans.
President Biden and the Democrats were highly critical of President Trump’s foreign policy, so it was reasonable to expect that Biden would quickly remedy its worst impacts. As a senior member of the Obama administration, Biden surely needed no schooling on Obama’s diplomatic agreements with Cuba and Iran, both of which began to resolve long-standing foreign policy problems and provided models for the renewed emphasis on diplomacy that Biden was promising. Tragically for America and the world, Biden has failed to restore Obama’s progressive initiatives, and has instead doubled down on many of Trump’s most dangerous and destabilizing policies. It is especially ironic and sad that a president who ran so stridently on being different from Trump has been so reluctant to reverse his regressive policies.
US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean continued in a seamless transition from Trump to Biden, but the terrain over which it operated shifted left. The balance between the US drive to dominate its “backyard” and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, continued to tip portside in 2021 with major popular electoral victories in Chile, Honduras, and Peru. These follow the previous year’s reversal of the coup in Bolivia. Central has been the struggle of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) countries – particularly Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua – against the asphyxiating US blockade and other regime-change measures. Presidential candidate Biden pledged to review Trump’s policy of US sanctions against a third of humanity.
Despite President Joe Biden having claimed earlier this year that “diplomacy is back” and that he would end the war in Yemen, revive the Iran Nuclear Deal and settle several other issues, in reality his Middle East foreign policy has been just as detrimental to the region as was that of his predecessor. “This war has to end…we’re ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales,” Biden said in early February during his first address to the U.S. public on his administration’s foreign policy approach. It was a speech that saw him showered with the praise of his supporters, yet we are now in late December and the war has only intensified, with UN experts estimating that the total death toll by the end of the year will be 377,000.
Chuck Kaufman, presente! A great comrade and friend to the peoples and just causes of Latin America and the Caribbean has passed on the torch. Chuck Kaufman died on Tuesday, December 28th, and is being remembered for the tremendous impact he made during his decades of anti-imperialist work, organizing to change US-Latin American foreign policy. Chuck was known for his leadership among North American solidarity organizing with Latin American grassroots movements. It all began when he joined the staff of the Nicaragua Network in 1987, which in 1998 became the Alliance for Global Justice, for which he served as National Co-Coordinator until the time of his passing.
The New York Times reported this week that Russia is preparing its public for potential war with the United States. Moscow is “promoting patriotism” by training high school students in history and military history, according to the Times, and that Russian media outlets are saying that the country considers itself to be “surrounded by enemies” and may be forced to defend itself “as it did against the Nazis.” Going even further, the Times added that Russia had already “massed troops on the border with Ukraine,” a lie that has been perpetuated in the mainstream media all across the United States. Where do we even begin to pick this story apart? I’m not a Russia expert.
If anything, Washington’s neoconservatives have an unerring instinct for survival. Having brought about multiple disasters in the two decades since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, from the Iraq war to the twin debacles in Libya and Syria, the neocons seem to have perfected the art of failing up. Harvard University’s Stephen Walt once quipped that “Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.” And in this regard, the story of the Kagan family is instructive. Robert Kagan, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of pseudo-histories such as The Jungle Grows Back, has for years been a leading advocate of American militarism.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's official visit to Africa had the typical hallmarks of paternalism and hypocrisy the U.S. exhibits toward Africa but this time with a subtle difference. Blinken’s trip to meet with heads of state in Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal was ostensibly to address the COVID-19 pandemic, “building back” to a more inclusive global economy, combating the climate crisis, revitalizing democracies, and advancing peace and security. The U.S.’s poor performance in all of these areas is now notorious, making it difficult to be as condescending as it tends to be toward Africa. Even though this predicament hasn’t been lost on Blinken who admitted to a group of human rights activists in Nairobi, Kenya “[t]he United States is hardly immune from this challenge” of being vulnerable to misinformation, corruption, political violence and voter intimidation. He was making an apparent reference to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capital.