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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Restoring Confidence in International Trade

By Yong Kwon

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

Key Takeaway: Build a durable political coalition around trade by promoting profit sharing in domestic industries; ending global tax avoidance through international cooperation; and rolling back austerity measures imposed on heavily indebted countries.

The period of growing international trade, punctuated by the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, coincided with the accelerated displacement of manufacturing jobs in the United States. Although U.S. export of goods and services grew during this period, many people began associating U.S. participation in trade agreements with rising economic insecurity at home. As a consequence, ratification of agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership became politically untenable.

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De-escalation on the Korean Peninsula

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

By Catherine Killough

Takeaway: The US government should abandon its demand for the unilateral disarmament of North Korea, and instead pursue the formal conclusion of the Korean War. Halting the deployment of nuclear-capable assets, suspending military exercises, and adopting No First Use will further deescalate tensions.

The United States and North Korea are still at war, even if seven decades of ceasefire obfuscates this fact. Today, this long-delayed peace plays out in the nuclear crises that routinely aggravate US-North Korean relations, such as the 2017 “fire and fury” standoff. 

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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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