"The long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the economic crisis at home, have soured many progressives on foreign policy ideals long held dear by liberals: human rights, multilateral interventions, nationbuilding and support for democracy abroad. Recent debates over Libya, the Arab Spring, drones and Israel/Palestine have deepened this split between interventionists and isolationists. So where's the common ground? What should the next progressive foreign policy look like? Can liberal interventionists distinguish themselves from right-wing neocons? Is Ron Paul onto something with his anti-war stance? From sanctions and special forces to drones and no-fly zones, attendees to this panel will hear a variety of views on humanitarianism, state sovereignty, multilateralism, limited conflicts and domestic war fatigue from the left's most prominent experts in international affairs.
"Moderator: Adam Weinstein
"Panelist: Tom Perriello"
Tom Perriello, my former representative, is a proponent of humanitarian war and a faith-based believer in "nationbuilding" who works with an organization that is promoting war in Syria. The problem in this panel will not be that our recent and current wars have killed a lot of people or made us less safe or destroyed the environment or stripped our civil liberties or wrecked the economy, but that they have turned us away from the great Liberal Tradition of favoring war making. Solving the Afghanistan Syndrome is not quite the same goal as solving the Military Industrial Complex problem.
Netroots Nation will also have a panel on "Military Sexual Trauma: The Women's War," focusing on rape in the military, and a panel on "COINTELPRO 2.0: Surveillance, National Security and Our Eroding Civil Liberties." The latter looks excellent, and I think the organizers are taking some risk with some of the panelists, namely that they might point to war as the root cause of the outrages under discussion.
Then there is one more panel, one with some potential to address the core problem, but ultimately a determination not to. There is no indication of who the panelists might be, but here is the title and description:
"Iran 2012: Iraq 2003 All Over Again?
"Despite broad opposition from military and security leaders in the United States and internationally, the sponsors of the Iraq War are fear-mongering their way into another costly Middle East conflict. Bush has dropped from the headlines, but the architects of his foreign policy have taken over the shadow cabinets of GOP presidential contenders, the corner offices of think tanks and the halls of Congress. But 2012 is not 2003. A restrained economy, an ascendant model of less-militarized foreign policy and a war-weary public create an opportunity for a responsible policy outcome and a definitive blow to the (neo)conservative death-grip on national security politics. Attendees will hear from experts well-steeped in the trends and decisions behind the war drumbeat both then and now, who will spotlight the web of familiar players, debunk their arguments and discuss strategies for achieving a sounder policy and winning the political debate."
Now, who are the sponsors of the war on Iraq that are pushing the war on Iran? Are exclusively Republicans creating a new war despite the president inconveniently being a Democrat who constantly talks up the Iranian threat, who forbids the State Department to speak to Iran, who increases weapons sales to Israel, who doubles down on commitments to veto any U.N. accountability for Israel, and who has reportedly promised to arm Israel for an attack on Iran as long as it is delayed until 2013? What is this less-militarized foreign policy? What nation is it in? Surely not ours. Obama has increased military spending, increased military privatization, increased the use of secret agencies for war making, radically expanded the use of drones, openly claimed and used the power to launch wars without even bothering to lie to Congress, seized the power to murder anyone including U.S. citizens and children and U.S. citizen-children, claimed and exercised the power to imprison or spy without charge or justification, expanded governmental secrecy and retaliation against whistleblowers beyond anything Bush ever dreamed, and expanded U.S. military bases abroad. It's a step forward for Netroots Nation to be opposing Republican wars. It's just a shame that these folks waited until Obama was waging the wars to launch that now-out-of-place protest.
I've been on a number of email threads discussing the complicated question of whether big groups loyal to the Democratic Party are co-opting Occupy. Well, of course, they're trying to. But much of Occupy has itself been weak on the central problem of the military industrial complex. And individuals who identify themselves with occupy movements or big Democratic groups have all sorts of different outlooks. The co-opting can and does go both ways. Principled activists can educate their neighbors, even at events planned by people who believe that voting for Obama will fix most of our problems. We should never dismiss actual people in the way that we dismiss an ineffective agenda. But in figuring out which events have been planned with useful agendas and which need to be nudged in a better direction, the test should never be merely "Are they trying to drag us into electoral campaigns?" It should also include the question of what is missing. "Tax the rich," is the very best that the big organizations sometimes offer, and it leaves a whole lot missing.
On March 28th, Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica, spoke in Washington, D.C., about his country's decision to disband its military. In Costa Rica, war is found only in a museum. I know we should never ever ever learn from that 95 percent of humanity that has the misfortune to not be our compatriots. Nonetheless, the results in Costa Rica, often listed as the happiest country on earth, are at least more interesting than the deadly chaos we've brought to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Here's Arias:
"This resulted not only in a healthy, educated, and free society. It resulted in concrete gains for national and regional security. When conflicts and civil wars swept our region in the 1980s, Costa Rica was able to maintain its stability and freedom from violence. What's more, this enabled my little country to become the platform for the peace accords that gradually ended the unrest in our part of the world. And today, while the terrible consequences of drug trafficking in our region and consumption in the developed world are posing serious challenges to our government, Costa Rica continues to maintain its foothold in the world of peace. Here in the developed world, those achievements might seem distant, or even insignificant. But an oasis of democratic stability in a region that is among the most dangerous in the world, and whose exports of goods and people have a direct effect on its northern neighbors, is valuable indeed."
Proposing some options for redirecting part of what the United States spends on war preparation, Arias remarked:
"Imagine the impact on security of reducing poverty by half. Imagine the impact on security of universal primary education. Imagine the impact on security of eliminating the digital divide. Imagine the impact on security of drastic reductions in hunger and sickness. These changes would take power from dictators and terrorists in ways that weapons never could."
Surely some of those things also touch on "ideals long held dear by liberals"? Arias even has a plan that he proposes could be put into practice:
"I have proposed a change: the Costa Rica Consensus. This simple idea uses international financial resources to support developing nations that spend more on environmental protection, education, health care and housing for their people, and less on arms and soldiers. It would change the way international aid is distributed. It would end the ridiculous policies that punish countries when they make good choices, and reward corrupt or misguided governments that create conflict and deprivation. It would make a real difference in some of the most dangerous and conflict-ridden nations on earth. . . .