What is the Foreign Policy for All?

Remarks presented at the Foreign Policy for All conference, November 8, 2014, by Cole Harrison

rsz_coleIt’s time for a change.

U.S. foreign policy is mired in an unsustainable paradigm of worldwide military dominance, with force as an option of first resort.  Washington seeks to act as the world’s policeman – but the world did not choose the U.S. as its policeman, and so this strategy causes insecurity and resentment towards the United States.   A more restrained foreign policy would be more democratic and would cost less.

The peace movement has spent the last 13 years resisting the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now opposing the next Mideast war. We’ve exposed nuclear weapons’ threat to human survival.  We’ve organized against US support for the occupation of Palestine.  We’ve opposed secret drone warfare.

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But to turn around US foreign policy we need a far broader movement.  The traditional peace movement cannot do it alone.  In fact, foreign policy is everyone’s problem and the issues go far beyond simple questions of war and peace.   Why?

  • Neoliberal globalization is a problem for the labor movement – it’s a key driver of economic inequality. 
  • US resistance to global climate negotiations is a huge problem for the climate justice movement. 
  • Neoliberalism’s destruction of Third World living standards causes mass immigration. 
  • Our government’s resistance to human rights treaties and failure to support the UN is a problem for the women’s movement and for human rights advocates.  
  • The medical community needs a foreign policy if it is going to deal with problems like the Ebola outbreak. 
  • The national security state we constructed to police the world is now resorting to torture, surveillance of American citizens, and militarization of the domestic police. 
  • Our huge military budgets, at over $1 trillion a year, are sucking the resources all of these movements need to address the needs of our people.

The Foreign Policy for All is based on five basic values.

Democracy: We don’t want a foreign policy made by elites. We need democratic control of our policy.

Peace & International Cooperation: we need to respect other nations and build collective security with them.

Justice: we have to overturn unjust power structures and we must respect international law.

Human Rights: we uphold the full range of human rights and apply them to our own society as well as join in promoting human rights worldwide

Sustainability: we need to live in harmony with the earth.  We must promote climate justice and build a sustainable economy.


The policy agenda of the Foreign Policy for All includes:

Nuclear Disarmament: Immediately start multilateral negotiations leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention

Climate Justice: Urgent national effort to reverse climate change; support green economic development in less developed countries

Strengthen international law and international organizations: Reform UN, sign on to international courts, ratify treaties

Five principles:  Sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference, equality and mutual benefit, peaceful coexistence

Non-intervention: Renounce pre-emption; humanitarian interventions must be led by a reformed UN

Peacebuilding Abroad and at Home:  Support international grassroots efforts

Protect the global commons: Protect and demilitarize oceans, atmosphere, outer space, polar zones

Demilitarization: Reduce military spending by 50% or more; close overseas bases; refocus mission of military on defense of national territory and participation in UN missions

Arms Trade: Ratify Arms Trade Treaty and shut down the international arms trade

Development: Contribute generously to world green economic and social development

Just Transition: Companies, not workers now employed in the military and fossil fuel sectors, must pay for transition

Trade Justice: Base trade policy on cooperation, solidarity, sustainable development, democratic scrutiny

Priority Regional Issues: New approaches to China, Korea, Middle East and Persian Gulf, Israel/Palestine, Africa, Cuba, Venezuela, Marshall Islands, NATO and more

To implement the Foreign Policy for All we will have to confront corporate control.  Corporate control of foreign policy means that all nations of the world belong to a single market system, and nations that do not fall into line face economic ostracism, and in some cases, military threats or attacks.

The other big obstacle is the national security state. The Pentagon, National Security Council, State Department, CIA, NSA, and Congressional leadership, as well as the military industrial complex, key think tanks, and academic allies, make policy in secret and are hardly at all accountable to the democratic institutions that supposedly control our government.   The media plays a key role in shaping the narrative and selling the policy to the public. We will have to overturn the grip of these entrenched institutions on foreign policy if we are to implement a Foreign Policy for All.

The Foreign Policy for All is only one part of a people’s agenda that is bringing together labor, people of color, immigrants, women, LGBT people, ex-prisoners, environmentalists, community activists, civil libertarians, and more in a broad progressive coalition.  Popular struggles against corporate abuses, extreme inequality, cutbacks, social injustice, and money in politics are joining with campaigns against unpopular wars, killer drones, nuclear pollution, surveillance, wiretapping, militarization of police, mass incarceration, and racial profiling. These combined movements will rise or fall together because all are ultimately struggling against the same corporate interests that control our economy and politics for the benefit of the 1%. To win a Foreign Policy for All will take the united power of these progressive social movements.

Please go to bit.ly/FP4A-Survey to give us your feedback on these ideas.  In the winter, we’ll hold local discussion meetings in several parts of Massachusetts to get more input on the Foreign Policy for All.  Massachusetts Peace Action will debate and hopefully pass the Foreign Policy for All at our annual meeting on February 7 as an organizational framework document.   After that, we hope to take these ideas national and present them at movement conferences in 2015.