Policy from the People: Cooperation in the Face of COVID-19

This is the first 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 Tobita Chow

Last week, Trump started using the term “Chinese virus” to describe the novel coronavirus. By identifying the pandemic with China and with Chinese people, he hopes to redirect the mounting anger around the impact of the crisis – away from his tremendous failure to prepare the country for the COVID-19 crisis. The White House is now “launching a communications plan across multiple federal agencies to deflect all criticism of the Trump administration and scapegoat China even as Trump fails to recognize the virus as a critical threat to all of US society. Even here, though, the Trump White House is a latecomer, as right-wing media have been using this tactic to shield the President from blame for weeks.

Most criticism of Trump has centered on the individual racism he encourages: that Trump is racist, that he is happy to label COVID-19 the “China virus,” and that he is stoking racism against Chinese people and other Asians. As the COVID-19 crisis worsens, Trump will no doubt go to greater and greater extremes to shift the blame away from himself and onto China and Chinese people. We should be ready for the possibility of a severe re-escalation of the US-China trade war and a dangerous increase in US-China military tensions. Anti-Asian racism will continue to rise. This certainly matters to me as a person of Chinese descent, having witnessed and experienced incidents of harassment and assault against Asians. 

But this is not just about individual racism. This is a moment of crisis in the political and social order stands to be remade. Two main forces contend to determine the course of the radical changes that follow: the right wing nationalist movement behind Trump, and the rising progressive movement. The contest between these two sides will be determined by which side can frame the crisis – and necessary solutions – in terms the public can best understand. And the most crucial question in framing the mounting impact of the crisis is: who is to blame?

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November Revolution: A Global Pandemic Proves We Need Revolution for Results

By Pam Campos-Palma

In less than one month, the Democratic presidential field and our global security have simultaneously collapsed in what feels like an eerie manifestation of our political realities in the United States. We’re now down to two candidates for the Democratic nomination who could not be more different in their political visions and approach, and we face a growing pandemic that is forcing everyone to confront how interconnected we are across borders and how dangerous the systemic failures progressives have long been decrying really are. Progressive foreign and security policies are often falsely portrayed as distinct from traditional approaches only in overall philosophy, but COVID-19 offers a broad-based and alarming example of the vast differences between the two in nitty-gritty, ground-level policy implementation.

In this crisis, progressive approaches seek to care for people first at every opportunity, while traditional approaches focus first on preserving the broken structures that endangered us in the first place.

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Reflection on the Grassroots Movement to Stop the War in Yemen

By Isaac Evans-Frantz

This week marks the fifth anniversary of US and Saudi entry into the war in Yemen, a war that has taken over 100,000 lives and left 24 million people in immediate need of humanitarian assistance. Today, between Houthi interference in aid delivery, resulting US government plans to recklessly suspend assistance, Saudi restrictions on goods and people entering Yemen, intensified Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, and the looming threat of COVID-19 to a Yemeni healthcare system that’s already operating at only 50% capacity, it is easy to feel discouraged about the situation in Yemen. Yet there are reasons for optimism. Grassroots peace activism by Yemeni Americans and others in the US has produced real results, both in Congress and on the ground in Yemen. Last year, those activists set a new high water mark for peace advocacy in Congress by securing passage of a historic War Powers Resolution on Yemen. As the war enters its sixth year, taking a deep dive into how that victory was produced can point a way forward for efforts to end the war in Yemen and stop other unconstitutional wars. 

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Drop the Damn Sanctions

By Lawrence Philby

Let me be brief: drop the damn sanctions (in part or in whole). 

Drop the trade embargo with Cuba that is draining the country of cash and goods. Slash the sanctions on Iran that have choked the supply of masks and pharmaceuticals. For the love of all, suspend the sanctions on Venezuela and channel aid to the country instead.

This is an absolute no-brainer – it’s rare that a foreign policy idea unites the “don’t ask me about 2003” neoconservative right with the left

The United States should not be holding fast to dead-end sanctions in the middle of a global pandemic, harpoon raised in an Ahab-like pursuit of regime change abroad even as the US ship of state comes apart under the strain of the crisis.

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Disarm to Democratize

By Emma Claire Foley

Nuclear weapons are a crisis masquerading as a settled issue. While policy experts warn that the possibility of a nuclear weapon being used again is higher than ever, the relative absence of any discussion of that risk from the presidential debates is an indication of how far down the list of priorities nukes have slipped outside the small circle of the initiated. Worse, when they do come up, the nuclear discourse among Democratic presidential candidates reflects a commitment to holding humanity hostage in the name of security that is fundamentally incompatible with the larger left foreign policy project. Far from a side issue that must be wedged in among more pressing concerns, a renewed push for nuclear disarmament can and should form the center of a foreign policy that extends and serves the priorities of the left’s domestic demands.

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No Arms for Modi

By Sean McGuffin

President Trump’s trip to India showcased his, at best, disregard for mass violence against Muslims. While Trump lauded Indian Prime Minister Modi for his religious tolerance and the ink dried on a new US-India arms deal, the ashes of burned out homes cooled after an anti-Muslim pogrom scorched North Delhi, leaving at least 53 dead. Members of Congress should fight to block Trump’s arms deal with Modi, using the same tools they deployed in an attempt to staunch the flow of American weapons to Saudi Arabia last summer. These riots are only the latest chapter in a string of policies discriminating against Muslims enacted by the Modi government, and the US Congress has a moral responsibility to stand up to violent religious repression. 

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Policy from the People: Introductions

Next month, Fellow Travelers Blog will join with Win Without War to launch a project on grassroots movements for progressive foreign policy. A core priority of progressive foreign policy is democratizing US foreign policy. As such, the new series will bring voices from across the US progressive movement to the blog to discuss the role foreign policy plays in their activism. More than anything, this series will help debunk the Washington myth that everyday people in the United States don’t care about issues of foreign policy and national security. 

Win Without War’s friends and partners, representing many of the activist groups that form the beating heart of the progressive movement, will publish a new essay each month exploring the deep connections between issues that have too long been siloed as “foreign” and “domestic” and detailing the benefits and challenges their organizations experience engaging with the foreign policy world. Whether a consideration of American gun violence in the context of the global arms trade or a reflection on how environmentalists engage with military pollution, the essays will give readers a sense of where the progressive movement actually stands in their foreign policy work, and what we can do to continue to build an internationalist perspective into our advocacy for a more just and equitable policies here at home.

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