A Peace Agreement in Korea Can Model US Commitment to Human Security

By Hyun Lee

In the wake of North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches, President Biden was asked about his “red line” on dealing with Kim Jong Un and the North Korean government. Biden responded that any diplomacy between his administration and Kim’s “has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.” Demanding North Korean denuclearization as a prerequisite for talks is a road the US has been down before, and it only leads to increased tensions. If the US continues pursuing this failed framework, it is doomed to repeat the sins of the past.

There is, however, another way forward. Rather than continue with the failed policy of demanding North Korea’s unilateral denuclearization, the Biden administration should first pursue a peace agreement that replaces the fragile Korean War armistice and formally ends the 70-year-old conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Replacing the armistice with a peace agreement would allow all parties to the ongoing conflict — the US, North and South Korea — and possibly China, which had fought alongside North Korea in the war, to begin building trust. It would also address other detrimental costs associated with maintaining a large military presence on the Korean Peninsula. 

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How the Blob Maintains its Grip

By Blaise Malley

On Friday, March 5, two scholars at the Atlantic Council, Emma Ashford and Matthew Burrows outlined a US approach to Russia with a striking headline: — “Focus on interests, not on human rights with Russia.” Still, the ideas put forth in the piece were hardly explosive — “perfectly anodyne” in the words of Dan Drezner. 

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Scaling Back Sanctions

#8 in a series of policy briefs laying out clear steps to re-think and re-orient US foreign policy.

By Andrew Leber

Key takeaway: Progressive foreign policy should demote sanctions as a policy option, favoring diplomatic coalition-building and policies that strengthen, rather than warp, rules governing the global financial system.

One of the most welcome shifts in US foreign policy debates is the mounting criticism of the US sanctions regime, which all too often takes the form of expressive cruelty rather than forming a part of purposeful policy. Decades after conventional foreign-policy thinking turned against comprehensive sanctions (such as those placed on Iraq in the 1990s), commentators and policymakers have begun to raise questions about the effectiveness and basic morality of supposedly “targeted” financial sanctions. 

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A Progressive Win in the NDAA

By Ashley Pratt

Buried amid end-of-the-year wrangling over then-President Trump’s threats to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over Section 230 (protecting social media companies from liability for posts on their sites), it was easy to miss several articles covering modifications to banking regulations that made it into the bill. Yet there was actually a significant progressive foreign policy win among the new banking rules.

In short, this legislation requires that companies in the US report ultimate beneficial owners, the natural person or persons who ultimately benefit from the commercial activity of the company due to their overall ownership stake, to the Department of the Treasury. While that may seem like an arcane bureaucratic change, it hands progressives the tools they need to press for global financial transparency – if they choose to do so.

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Immigration Policy for Decarceration and Global Justice

By Jacob Hamburger

#7 in a series of policy briefs laying out clear steps to re-think and re-orient US foreign policy.

Key takeaway: It is ultimately up to Congress to reform the underlying structure of the immigration statutes. But if the Biden Administration acts decisively to expand humanitarian protection and dismantle the carceral immigration system, it will lay the groundwork for lasting reform.

Over the past four years, Trump has enacted hundreds of policies aimed at preventing migrants from entering the United States, and punishing non-citizens already present. His administration has used fear-mongering over “caravans” of asylum seekers, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, to effectively halt US refugee and asylum systems, while also stranding tens of thousands of migrants in dangerous situations in Mexican border cities. In the meantime, it has sought to make securing legal status as difficult as possible for many other groups of would-be immigrants. 

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Forging an Internationalist Green New Deal

By Taylor Hynes

#6 in a series of policy briefs laying out clear steps to re-think and re-orient US foreign policy.

Key Takeaway: Commit to financing global climate initiatives through the Green Climate Fund, prioritize labor and environmental standards in all trade agreements, and scale down and defund military operations

The incoming Biden administration is poised to be the most vocal cabinet on climate change the nation has seen yet, despite it strongly resembling Obama’s. However, Biden himself has sent mixed signals on his support of the Green New Deal – a House resolution that has become the shorthand for massive government action on climate justice. 

The GND has shifted the broader conversation from responding to disasters as apolitical forces to using this climate crisis as a starting point to build a just society. There have been valid critiques of the GND from both the left and right, but above all, GND-inspired legislation must be an internationalist endeavor if it is to have a meaningful impact for our global future.

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Climate Justice, not “Energy Security”

Fourth in a series of policy briefs laying out clear steps to re-think and re-orient US foreign policy.

By Sam Ratner

Key takeaway: Get “energy security” off the Democratic agenda and change the Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources’ job description to focus on achieving climate justice.

“Energy security” has been a buzz-phrase of US foreign policy for decades. In the last Congress, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Elliot Engel allowed a group of Republicans and centrist Democrats to add a provision to the 2019 State Department authorization bill requiring the president to appoint an Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources. The position already exists — it is held currently by the ironically-named Francis Fannon, a former oil lobbyist — but Engel’s bill would have formalized the role for future administrations. In the text of the bill, the Assistant Secretary’s job description doubles as a summary of how the bill’s authors view the purpose of US energy policy: “protecting and advancing United States energy security interests.”

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The Great American Oil Graft

By Zack Kopplin

On December 9, the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing to question Joel Rayburn, a State Department official, about America’s intervention in Syria’s civil war. Rayburn talked a good game about rebuilding the country, but President Trump has blown past bromides about humanitarian aid to emphasize that troops are deployed in Syria for one reason: to guard oil wells for exploitation.

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Democratizing Defense: Toward a More Responsive and Transparent US Security Policy

By Katya Abazajian and Tyler McBrien

US foreign policy decisions are guarded by a precious few. Decision-makers work in secret in the name of national security. Congress, which is constitutionally mandated to reflect the will of the people in foreign policy, has increasingly ceded its powers to the executive branch. Think tanks and the media reinforce the perception that Americans don’t care about security policy issues, despite unanimous public sentiment on overarching themes of our involvement abroad. This has created a democracy deficit in US foreign policy.

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