…This one by my friend Duff Beach, who agreed to share the vision statement he sent to the Obama-Biden Transition Team at Change.gov. Are you inspired to write one, yet? Thanks, Duff!
Something has been stuck in my craw for, well, 7 unfortunate years, almost on the nose. September 11, 2001 was supposed to be a wake-up call for the U.S. Both on the security front and on the international relations front. It was supposed to shift the paradigm and allow us to critically review our foreign policy. But what happened?
Instead of shifting the paradigm, instead of re-thinking our foreign policy, we fell back on the same mistakes. President Bush’s second term ensured that no critical thinking would pierce the White House, State Department, or Department of Defense.
Now is our opportunity. It is time to learn the lessons of September 11.
(1) Oil is not our friend. I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor a one-issue voter. I do not hold oil responsible for all evil in the world, or even in the Middle East. However, any person who doesn’t believe oil is our primary interest in the Middle East is kidding themselves. Independence from oil will make us safer.
Imagine if we spent all the money we have spent (so far) in Iraq on developing sustainable energy. Would we be free of foreign oil? Probably not yet, but you can bet we’d be a lot closer to it.
Involve the private sector. Bolster research by our own energy companies, our domestic auto manufacturers, our airline industry, our colleges and universities. There is talk of a second New Deal. Make this the New Energy and Security Deal. No military industrial complex, or credit industrial complex; we need a sustainable energy industrial complex.
(2) Dictators and Zealots are not our friends. I understand the Cold War. I know there was a big, bad, nasty government, with a nuclear stockpile, actively trying to expand its footprint. In the interests of holding back that big, bad, nasty government and its nuclear stockpile, we entered into a lot of agreements with people we didn’t really like. Name one that hasn’t come back to haunt us.
It is time to rethink our alliances and make our priorities clear. In this day and age, there is no big, bad, nasty government with a nuclear stockpile. We need to keep it that way. One way to do so is to end our relationships with dictators and zealots. Now, I’m not stupid. I know we can’t give Saudi Arabia the back of our hand today. But we can at least let them know we’re thinking about it.
Our friends are democracies with the rule of law and protection for fundamental human rights. Want to remain (or become) our friends? Move in that direction. Again, I’m not stupid. This doesn’t have to happen overnight, but it does have to happen. Move in that direction, or we will move in the other direction. China, Pakistan, do you hear that? We have a lot more in common with India than with you.
And we need to atone for our mistakes. Step one: apologize to Tehran for supporting the Shah and Saddam Hussein. Don’t cave, don’t give into their demands, don’t let up on the pressure regarding their nuclear ambitions, but apologize — publicly — for past errors in judgment.
(3) It is our ideals that make us strong. We need to live up to them. And on that note, close Guantanamo. Do not support torture by anyone, anytime, for any reason. If we have to think about whether it is torture, it is. Stop it. Now.