Policy Brief: Rethinking Security

No matter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, the years to come will be crucial in setting the left foreign policy agenda. Activists and progressive representatives in Congress are faced with either reining in the worst tendencies of a second Trump term or ensuring that a first Biden term does not revert to the Obama-era status quo on military spending, drone strikes, counter-terrorism operations and turning a blind eye to human rights violations by security partners or the United States itself.

Fellow Travelers Blog is therefore pleased to bring you the first in a series of policy briefs laying out clear steps to re-think and re-orient US foreign policy. Whether you’re an activist lobbying your representative’s office, a staffer lobbying your boss, or a Congressperson lobbying your colleagues, these policy briefs will lay out actionable steps to rein in military spending, reduce our country’s role in instigating and exacerbating conflicts the world over, and re-orient our foreign policy to addressing critical global challenges like climate change.    

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A Grain New Deal

By Yong Kwon

In the face of a worldwide food crisis, U.S. Department of Agriculture leadership in the establishment of a wide network of food reserve swaps would help minimize harm to vulnerable people in the Global South today and Americans in the near future. The UN estimates that as many as 45 million people may have been pushed into acute food insecurity by the COVID-19 pandemic between February and June 2020. The World Food Programme foresees an additional 130 million people falling into this category by the end of the year. Without a collaborative intervention, the human toll may worsen. 

This crisis is not rooted in a global reduction of agricultural output, but caused by people’s inability to afford food in their local markets. Most countermeasures have been domestic policies focused on redistributing incomes to workers furloughed amid the pandemic-induced recession. But policies aimed at ensuring the people’s ability to afford food does not yet take into account the real possibility of food prices spiking in response to panic purchases as people anticipate conditions to worsen. To preclude this insecurity, there is a vital foreign policy approach: making public commitments to open countries’ food reserves to emergency exchanges.

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How Wars Find Their Way Home

By Michael Youhana

When, at the end of May, President Donald Trump threatened to gun down looters in the streets of Minneapolis, some heard echoes of Paul Bremer. The top civilian administrator presiding over the occupation of Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004, Bremer is usually remembered for his decisions to disband the country’s military and fire countless state employees under the imperatives of de-Baathification. Because the viceroy’s reckless policies kicked off an insurgency, it’s often forgotten that the Bush administration dispatched him to restore law and order to the Middle East. Upon arriving he sought to build a muscular Iraqi police force in collaboration with former New York Police Department Commissioner Bernie Kerik. Bremer also tried to change the military’s rules of engagement to allow American soldiers to fire on looters drifting through Baghdad’s debris-peppered streets. 

Read against current events, anecdotes of Bremer’s first days in Iraq bring to mind Stuart Schrader’s observation that “the history of US empire is the history of policing experts teaching indigenous cops how to patrol and investigate like Americans… But the flow is not one-way: these institutions also return home transformed.” The crises of the past few years reveal that this dialectic extends beyond law enforcement to encompass the entire metropole. The Pentagon’s growing transfers of military surplus left over from the Iraq War to police departments correlate with a coarsening of the United States’s political culture. And it is with an eye towards this broader embrace of brutality and impunity that Brendan James argues that the Iraq War is “a skeleton key for where we are now.”  Continue reading “How Wars Find Their Way Home”

November Revolution: In Formation for Real Change or Get Out of the Way

By Pam Campos-Palma

On May 25th, millions witnessed the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, triggering uprisings across the country that were met with an eruption of even more brutalizing police violence. Watching the systematic violence carried out against protesters made me feel like I was once again watching the coordinated, complex terrorist attacks the military trained me to analyze — only this time I was watching it being carried out by local police against citizens and journalists. The mobilization of the National Guard, then President Trump’s abuse of the military and his threats to unleash America’s troops against their fellow citizens has had me in the most intense organizing sprint of my life. Between responding to messages from concerned active duty and National Guard troops in fear, organizing the military and veteran community at large, partnering with the Movement for Black Lives, tracking and analyzing ethno-nationalist threats, and continuing to engage with national security/foreign policy colleagues, the last month has been life-changing and surreal. I hope to find some time to write more about it but for now I’ll be catching back up where I left off. 

In the midst of this revolutionary moment, there is a very strange disconnect between the wave of political energy unleashed by the hurricane of multiple, simultaneous crises the US currently faces and the tepid, inert feeling surrounding the presidential election. At a time when a mass popular movement and grassroots mutual aid networks are setting the pace for resistance to rising anti-democratic, white supremacist forces, the Biden campaign has not come close to matching the energy in the streets. 

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Amidst a global pandemic, Trump’s sanctions are already as destructive as a war

By Ryan Wentz

On May 6th, President Trump vetoed the Iran War Powers resolution, a bipartisan attempt that would have required him to seek congressional authorization before using military force against Iran. The next day, despite bipartisan support for the resolution, the Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto. Thus, a conventional war on Iran remains a frightening possibility. Yet to Iranians, current US sanctions are a form of war that have come with a significant human cost.

Enacted long before the coronavirus pandemic, US economic sanctions were already crippling foreign economies from Venezuela to Iran. Now, however, the devastating impact of these unilateral sanctions regimes is even more apparent: ordinary Venezuelans and Iranians are unable to receive medical treatment for both coronavirus and non-coronavirus-related conditions.

These sanctions are part of a longstanding bipartisan foreign policy consensus.

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Our Statement

Fellow Travelers Blog was founded on the guiding principle that a better world is possible, one in which people all over the world no longer have to live in fear and misery as a result of war and inequity. Foreign policy and domestic policy are inescapably intertwined, especially when it comes to policing. 

When it comes to policing, not only do Americans go abroad to learn repressive tactics from nations like Israel, we export police violence all over the world. The militarization of American police departments after the illegal invasion of Iraq means that millions of people are terrorized at home and abroad through military spending. And American policing grew out of one of the earliest projects of American imperialism: slavery. The murder of George Floyd is just one example of countless evil acts in four hundred years of terror against Black people in America. 

We must defund the police and build structures that actually protect people from racism, capitalist exploitation, and all the forces that threaten Black lives. 

Alex Vitale’s The End of Policing is available free in ebook form from Verso. 

There are 60+ community bail funds and groups aiding activists that can be donated to here


The Case Against Larry Summers

By Yong Kwon

Since the news broke that Larry Summers is advising the Biden campaign, several progressive commentators and organizations have called out the former Treasury Secretary’s regressive politics on income inequality and environmental regulation. And, of course, his past sexist remarks on women, science, and math will haunt him forever.

Adding to this growing list of reasons that disqualify him from shaping the Democratic Party’s policy platform, Summers’ approach to international economic policy compromises the welfare of workers. He also lacks the vision to coordinate a much-needed international response to recurring global crises. His actions during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis showed remarkable apathy toward marginalized communities, especially women. Moreover, his poor stewardship of that financial maelstrom directly contributed to the 2007 global financial crisis. It is time for Democrats to move on to thinkers who rightly focus on international solidarity and economic justice everywhere.

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Policy from the People: Seizing Agency

This is the second installment in our Policy from the People series, in partnership with Win Without War. Each month, Policy from the People will feature thoughts on foreign policy challenges from activists at the leading edge of the progressive movement.

By Tristan Guyette

As an organizer with Beyond the Bomb, a people-powered campaign to mitigate the threat of another global catastrophe — nuclear war — I feel an inescapable sense of futile rage with the COVID-19 crisis. I suspect most of us do, no matter where we work or what we do. How do we protect against a virus many of us are unable to avoid contracting? How do we continue our own work in the face of a virus that cares not for borders, laws, or social contracts? How do we fight against a system that devalues the lives of so many  when our usual tactics — rallies, demonstrations, marches — are off the table?

For many in America, this is a familiar feeling.  It is the feeling of powerlessness. It is the feeling of railing against a system that seems never to budge. It is the feeling of having something essential stripped from us: our agency.

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