Scaling Back Sanctions

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

By Andrew Leber

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. 

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Immigration Policy for Decarceration and Global Justice

By Jacob Hamburger

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

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. 

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Forging an Internationalist Green New Deal

By Taylor Hynes

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

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.

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Climate Justice, not “Energy Security”

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

By Sam Ratner

Key takeaway: Get “energy security” off the Democratic agenda and change the Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources’ job description to focus on achieving climate justice.

“Energy security” has been a buzz-phrase of US foreign policy for decades. In the last Congress, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Elliot Engel allowed a group of Republicans and centrist Democrats to add a provision to the 2019 State Department authorization bill requiring the president to appoint an Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources. The position already exists — it is held currently by the ironically-named Francis Fannon, a former oil lobbyist — but Engel’s bill would have formalized the role for future administrations. In the text of the bill, the Assistant Secretary’s job description doubles as a summary of how the bill’s authors view the purpose of US energy policy: “protecting and advancing United States energy security interests.”

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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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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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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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