It has been an interesting week. President Barack Obama is about to approve a strategy of holding urban centers in Afghanistan while surrendering the rest of the country to the Taliban. Someone should tell him that something like that called "strategic hamlets" was tried and failed in Vietnam. Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu tells Obama to go to hell on freezing settlements so Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rewards him by praising his "unprecedented concessions" and blames the Palestinians for not talking peace. Congress also demonstrated that it knows who to blame by overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the UN’s Goldstone report which documented Israeli atrocities in Gaza last January. And there have also been more harsh words and resolutions coming out of Washington about Iran from numerous parties, heightening concerns that another war is coming.
It’s not exactly the change that we Americans voted for a year ago, is it? What this country needs is a new direction, possibly driven by a new foreign policy lobby that recognizes that while all nations have an inalienable right to be treated fairly by the United States, Washington has a clear and compelling responsibility to avoid involvement in other countries’ quarrels so it can put its own people and interests first. Though "America First" might sound like a crude reversion to some forms of 1930s nationalism, in reality the lobby could spearhead a withdrawal from empire in reaction to the American people’s having been sold down the river by a succession of politicians of both parties who have adhered to an agenda that is completely hypocritical, blindly globalist, and persistently interventionist. The inside-the-beltway political class has grown fat on empire, shielded from the consequences of its own folly and never held accountable for its sins, largely because both parties adhere to the same basic policies, albeit with slightly different packaging. The sorry result has not benefited the American people in any way unless one is a defense contractor or a Wall Street banker or a politician writing a self-exculpatory book.
Following the example of the currently fashionable pro-Israel group J Street, which chose a Washington DC letter street that does not actually exist for the name of its lobby, I would like to propose a new lobby that would also be based on a non-address, X Street. Membership in X Street will be open to all American citizens of every race, national origin, and religious belief. It will be guided by a unifying principle, that preservation of the liberties defined in the constitution and support of the national interest of the United States should be the sole objectives of any and all foreign policy. It would be the modern embodiment of George Washington’s warning to steer clear of foreign involvements and to be a friend to all.
X Street recognizes that the wars fought by the United States since 2001 have brought no benefit to the American people and have only resulted in financial ruin, the deaths and maiming of thousands of Americans, and the killing of hundreds of thousands of foreigners. To make going to war more difficult, X Street demands that American soldiers only be allowed to engage in combat overseas if there has been an act of war by the US Congress as required by the constitution, something that has not taken place since December 8, 1941. Any act of war should be preceded by a full debate in the House and Senate. Though not explicitly required by the constitution, we the people should demand that Congress detail the nature and imminence of the foreign threat requiring an act of war, should explain clearly the objectives of the fighting and their achievability, and should submit as part of its declaration an end strategy and timetable to return America’s soldiers home. Congress should further be required to fully fund any overseas conflict that it enters into.
X Street understands that the United States has no abiding national interest in staying in either Afghanistan or Iraq, but it recognizes that Washington has done a great deal of damage to both countries and their people. The US will arrange for a staged withdrawal from both nations after first convoking a conference of all countries in both regions to discuss mutual security issues in a bid to create a workable and sustainable regional security environment that will benefit everyone. The current bilateral security agreements dictated by Washington will be replaced by multilateral arrangements in which neighboring countries work together to combat international terrorism, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses. The United States will support such efforts but will commit itself to strict non-intervention in both the Middle East and Central Asia.
X Street believes that there is no security justification for maintaining hundreds of US military bases worldwide at an annual cost of hundreds of billions dollars. Many countries in Asia and Europe have become wealthy due to the US security umbrella that has been in place since 1945. They should now take over responsibility for their own security with the United States reverting to the role of good friend and trading partner. NATO no longer has any raison d’etre and is needlessly provoking the Russians through its expansion. X Street calls on the United States to dissolve the alliance.
X Street recognizes that America’s lopsided support of the state of Israel has made the United States a target of terrorism, has weakened the US’s international standing and damaged its reputation, and has negatively impacted on the American economy. The United States will advise Israel that its settlement policy is in violation of numerous UN resolutions and that it opposes on principle the continuing denial of any rights to West Bank and Gazan Palestinians. Washington will no longer use its veto power to protect Israeli interests in the UN and other international bodies. As Israel is now the twenty-ninth wealthiest nation in the world per capita, all US economic and military assistance will cease immediately. The United States will publicly declare its knowledge that Israel has a nuclear arsenal and will ask the Israeli government to join the NPT regime and subject its program to IAEA inspection. The purpose is not to punish Israel but to make it like every other country vis-à-vis the United States – a friend and a trading partner, but there will be no free ride and no presumption of a "special relationship." There will be no special relationships with anyone.
X Street understands that the Islamic Republic of Iran has security concerns based on the presence of 200,000 US troops in the Persian Gulf region. It also has legitimate regional interests due to unstable conditions in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. The US government should confirm that Iran is, however, no threat to the United States, has a right to peaceful nuclear power, and does not currently have a nuclear weapons program. Washington should pledge that it will no longer interfere in internal Iranian affairs through support of insurgencies or dissident groups as Tehran’s domestic politics are not our business. The US should state its willingness to engage in open ended negotiations with Tehran without preconditions to resolve all outstanding issues.
X Street further recognizes that the actions of various foreign national lobbies operating with relative freedom in the United States have corrupted our congress and media and have skewed our policies. X Street demands that all agents of foreign countries or representatives of foreign country interests should be registered, strictly monitored, and have their funding and disbursements made public record. There will be no exceptions to foreign lobby registration.
X Street believes that nation building and democracy promotion by the United States have been little more than CIA covert actions by another name that have harmed America’s reputation and international standing. Neither should be a component of US foreign policy and the United States should further clearly state its intention not to interfere in the internal politics of any sovereign nation. The National Endowment for Democracy should be abolished immediately.
X Street calls for the elimination of all foreign aid programs. Such programs bring no benefit to the United States and no benefit to the recipients who frequently rely on the aid to shore up failing economies, enabling them to defer having to initiate needed economic and political reforms. Often the aid goes directly into the pockets of corrupt officials.
X Street recognizes that the poor reputation that the US enjoys internationally is largely deserved. It demands that Congress and the President immediately close Guantánamo Prison and any other secret or semi-secret prisons maintained by the Defense Department or CIA to hold foreign or American prisoners without the due process guaranteed by the US constitution and bill of rights. No one shall be detained by the United States in any jurisdiction without the protections afforded by the constitution.
X Street recognizes that torture committed by any government official is, has been, and should be illegal under both international agreements and US law. Anyone who either engages or has engaged in torture or authorizes the same should be investigated by the Attorney General and Justice Department and charged with a crime. Any government official who knew that torture was taking place and did not report it should be similarly charged.
X Street realizes that there are powerful constituencies that will resist every measure proposed above but every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It is time to return power to the American people and also time to begin disarming the United States and restoring some measure of accountability to the US political and foreign policy process. It is also time to hold the Obama Administration’s feet to the fire on the policies that it is embracing. They do not serve the national interest and differ little from those of George W. Bush.