Now You Do What They Told Ya

By Kate Kohn

The military in the time of coronavirus has put strip-mall recruiting centers on the back burner. With handshakes now the equivalent to launching plague corpses over the city walls, virtual recruiting is taking over the task of enlistment. But this recent shift does not send the Pentagon into uncharted territory. Rather, it vindicates the US Military’s decades-long dabbling in online games. 

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Restoring Momentum Toward Nuclear Zero

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

By John Carl Baker

Takeaway: Pass the No First Use Act, cancel the new ICBM, and begin negotiating with Russia toward deep reductions in both countries’ outsized arsenals.

The world faces a renewed nuclear arms race. All nine nuclear-armed states–China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US—are modernizing their arsenals and adding new capabilities. Nuclear superpowers the US and Russia control 91% of the world’s 13,000 nuclear warheads and together keep well over 3,000 deployed – more than enough to end human civilization.

The US nuclear posture needlessly inflames this volatile international situation. The president holds unilateral launch authority and the US still reserves the right to launch a nuclear first strike. The US possesses hundreds of ground-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that are kept on alert in anticipation of a completely unrealistic surprise attack. These ICBMs drastically reduce presidential decision time (approximately ten minutes) and increase the chance of a mistaken launch. Close calls have happened in the past.

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“We Don’t Need a Smoking Gun”: U.S. Provocations and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

By Gunar Olsen

During the Cold War, U.S. interventions in the Global South often transformed local issues into geopolitical pieces on the grand chessboard with grave humanitarian consequences for those in targeted states, whether Vietnam or El Salvador. The same remains true in the post-Cold War world, as Washington’s crusades into the Balkans, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have uprooted societies and made a new cold war more likely.

One string of U.S. interventions has outlived the passing of the Cold War like no other: Afghanistan. For critics of U.S. global supremacy, Jimmy Carter’s decision to initiate a CIA program of nonlethal aid to the mujahedin in July 1979 ranks among Washington’s most disastrous and consequential gambits in modern history. They argue that the CIA program provoked the Soviet invasion six months later, making the United States significantly responsible the humanitarian catastrophe that unfolded during the next nine years of war, the constant instability in Afghanistan for the past four decades, and the proliferation of Islamic extremism.

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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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