This article appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of the Massachusetts Peace Action newsletter
Some 300 peace activists, students and others came together at MIT November 8 for Foreign Policy for All: Re-Thinking U.S. Foreign Policy for the 21st Century, a one-day conference organized by Massachusetts Peace Action and allies. Attendees debated the fundamental issues of U.S. foreign policy and considered a policy framework developed by a working group (see page 2).
MIT Institute Prof. Noam Chomsky pointed out that throughout U.S. history, elites have cultivated fear of “them” – outsiders who are allegedly threatening us – when the reality was often that U.S. power was decimating their societies.
Author and activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. called for a paradigm shift in the peace movement’s and left’s view of international solidarity. Not all social movements are progressive, as we have recently seen in Venezuela and Thailand. We must uphold human rights and non-intervention, and we must be willing to push for reforms in the U.S. state’s foreign policy.
Middle East analyst Phyllis Bennis argued that the U.S. is functioning as an empire in an age when empires are no longer sustainable. Though much of the opposition to U.S. manipulation in the Middle East is led by Islamists, we cannot choose the leadership of the forces that are opposing U.S. hegemony.
Journalist and author Stephen Kinzer agreed that the U.S. cannot dictate the solutions to conflicts currently raging in the Middle East. “The U.S. needs to learn to compromise,” he commented.
Videos of the talks by Harrison, Chomsky, Fletcher, Bennis and Kinzer are posted at bit.ly/FP4A-video.
Participants joined 15 workshops covering topics ranging from nuclear disarmament, international law, and 21st century warfare, to climate change, the struggle against inequality, budgets, and the media. Others looked at food, campus and high school peace organizing, peacebuilding, the Middle East, Asia/Pacific, and Eastern Europe. A third of conference attendees were students, including large groups from Northeastern University, UMass Lowell, and Bowdoin.
Massachusetts Peace Action is asking its members and allies to discuss the Foreign Policy for All at workshops this winter in several locations (see page 6 for dates). The feedback we receive at the conference, at the local meetings, and via the online response form (bit.ly/FP4A-Survey) will be collated by the working group and used to write an improved draft. On February 7, members will discuss the Foreign Policy for All at our annual meeting.