This November, nations will come together for the international climate summit in Glasgow. The summit is the most significant since the 2015 conference that produced the Paris Agreement, and the recent wave of climate disasters only underlines the extreme urgency of global action to fight climate change. The US, now back in the Paris Agreement after the Trump Administration withdrew, aims to play a leading role in the negotiations. But as the US attempts to return to the head of the table, one key question will be in other countries’ minds: why should we believe what the US says?
In a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Representative Ilhan Omar asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken an obvious question. She first reflected on the fact that the United States opposes International Criminal Court (ICC) probes into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and Palestine because such investigations would include examining US and Israeli actions, respectively. She also noted that neither Israel nor the United States have utilized their domestic justice systems to hold their own officials accountable for these atrocities. And so she posed this query: if both domestic and international courts are unavailable to victims of atrocities in Afghanistan and Palestine – whether committed by Hamas, the Taliban, Israel, or the United States – where are those victims supposed to go for justice?
(TLDR: Help fund our briefing booklet to circulate lefty FP ideas in Congress, greater DC, and beyond)
Is a left-wing foreign policy possible? This site is an ongoing project to prove the answer is yes.
Over the past few months, we’ve published a series of policy briefs aimed at building a substantive (but hardly exhaustive) agenda for progressive foreign policymaking. These briefs all aim at reducing the harm that results from “business as usual” US foreign policy and expanding democratic participation and buy-in for US foreign policymaking writ large.
We are thrilled to announce that we will be releasing updated versions of these 9 policy briefs as part of an edited booklet on June 17th, entitled “Foreign Policy is Possible.” It will look something like this:
We will have some kind of virtual launch event (again on June 17th) – for an invite (probably next week), follow the site by putting in your email to the right (if you don’t already!).
While we have been a labor of love for some time, we are reaching out to ask for your support in publishing in printing physical copies of the booklet. Printed copies will help us get these ideas in front of more eyeballs among activists, analysts, and Congressional staff – we have set up a GoFundMe for this purpose (managed by Andrew Leber).
We know times are difficult, but anything you can spare goes towards:
Publication of the booklet as a physical document. We’ve been quoted printing costs (environmentally friend, U.S. printer) of around $1300 for 100 copies – enough to distribute among Congressional offices and peer organizations in left-wing foreign policy spaces
Providing a modest honorarium to our authors and designer (specifics tbd, but at least ensuring they can each get a physical copy of the booklet)
Secure seed funding towards setting up a system to pay modest compensation for contributions to the Fellow Travelers blog (with whatever funds remain)
And of course, your generosity will not go unnoticed:
Donate any amount and you have our undying thanks + high probability one of us buys you a beverage of your choice in-person some day
Donate $25 and we will thank you by name (if desired) on the booklet page once it goes live (or update thereafter)
Donate $50 and we will mail you a physical copy of the booklet once printed (again, if desired)
The pdf of the briefing book will go live on our website either way for free download.
We hope you find the ideas within – and more generally, on this site – both useful thoughts on what should change in US foreign policy as well as a pragmatic agenda for what can change in US foreign policy through pressure from activists, academics, commentators and Congressional reps. And of course, contact us with any pitch ideas or other comments.
Kelsey Atherton, Andy Facini, Yong Kwon, Andrew Leber, Sam Ratner, Emma Steiner & the rest of the FTB crew
Key Takeaway: Have a real national conversation about remote targeted killing and end the unlawful, secret, and unaccountable use of lethal force.
Our lives are made up of habits and routines. Some are boring, but necessary, like unloading the dishwasher or flossing. Some keep us going, like that monthly book club or Taco Tuesday. Others hold us back. In the aftermath of 9/11, the US government developed a lot of bad habits, but few as damaging – and hard to break – as its addiction to the use of lethal force to solve problems. With a new administration in power and the twenty year mark of our wars just around the corner, policymakers have another chance to break one of America’s worst foreign policy habits.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.