“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.

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

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”

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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The Kids Are Alright

By Andrew Leber

As Millennials and Gen-Z become the largest segments of the US voting age population, their views on a host of issues present new opportunities for progressive politicians and activists seeking to remake US politics – including foreign policy.

Now and again, a few commentators have noted that younger US generations seem more skeptical than their elders about a foreign-policy establishment that, in their lifetimes, did little to stop (and largely cheered on) a disastrous war in Iraq, signed off on an ever-expanding set of covert military engagements in the name of waging the War on Terror, and has trumpeted the mutual benefits of trade while overlooking the stark rise of inequality at home.   

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