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American Interests: Where do we draw the lines?

By       Message John Kusumi     Permalink
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In many ways, I absolutely adore the candidacies of Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, and Cindy Sheehan -- plucky figures of opposition for the U.S. status quo. I have long felt that the two-party system (which is nowhere to be found in the U.S. Constitution) has become "the repressives versus the regressives." (Which is to say, a bad thing versus a bad thing.) I don't believe in voting for the lesser of two evils, and that's one reason why I became the independent teenager candidate for U.S. President, back when it was Reagan versus Mondale in 1984.

So, all four of us have offered an alternative that "gives 'em hell" and allows Americans to vote for "none of the above." Cindy Sheehan uses a slogan, "People Before Politics," and back in the day, my bumper stickers said, "People Are Important." Logically, there should be some affinity here. Nader, McKinney, and Sheehan should be three of my favorite people, and they are.

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I am also intrigued by the 2008 conventional tickets, because each of them has a forty-something candidate. In politics, that counts as a fresh face or an untested, younger newcomer. The Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who has now made it onto the McCain ticket is a Generation Xer (born 1964-1981). It's also true that Nader's running mate, Matt Gonzales, and McKinney's VP pick, Rosa Clemente, are GenXers. So, 2008 is an intriguing year in U.S. politics, because my age group will appear in the elected offices of the U.S. executive branch.

However, nobody has won my vote yet -- none of the foregoing candidates has closed the sale with me. With my newly-popular internet column[1], I want to ask "a debate question" that merits response from the mentioned candidates, and perhaps from the Obama ticket as well. Conventional political pundits and analysts may also want to weigh in, because I will question the rules of thumb that they never question.

America has been running with fundamental assumptions which may be conceits. The progressives see it clearly as a matter of empire versus integrity. America has exercised hegemony, militarism, and frankly, imperialism around the world. However, I am not a blanket pacifist, nor an isolationist. I was largely okay with U.S. foreign policy of the 1980s, which held it to be important to wage the Cold War and to resist hegemony, militarism, and imperialism on the part of the Soviet Union.

I was a nucelar freeze candidate, but I said that I would shift funding from nuclear to conventional forces. For the conventional side of the Pentagon, that meant even more money; we can say that I bought into the Reagan line that America must have a strong defense. Even during peacetime, I'm okay with aerospace and defense spending at 4% of GDP. Progressives, on the other hand, decry the military-industrial complex as a monster, and seem like they want to do away with it.

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Simply put, I don't want the military-industrial complex (MIC) to rust away. But, like the progressives, I decry any instances of over-feeding the MIC. At 5% of GDP, I would call it overfed, bloated, or fattened; and at 3% of GDP, I would call it thinly funded to a point that may hurt readiness. Let's face it, my "politics of practical idealism" believe in being strong on national security, even while I don't believe all of the justifications for war, hegemony, militarism, and imperialism -- justifications were revealed to be faulty during the Bush administration.

As an aside, the baldface manufacture of its pro-war propaganda is a valid reason to impeach the Bush administration -- and that is a place where Nader, McKinney, and Sheehan have been standouts, calling for impeachment. I second those calls.

When there is a corrupt and farcical America, stomping around the world, it is a natural reflex to think, "cut off the funding." And, if we talk about the Iraq war in particular, I well agree. I was with the war at the outset, because I believe that Saddam Hussein was a menace who fights dirty, and that he should have been taken out in the first Gulf War, 12 years earlier. (However, I expected that war would be the last step of an escalation sequence; I expected that the inspectors would be heeded; I expected that escalation would be prudent, and that intelligence would be solid.) About funding the Iraq war, it should have taken $70 - $90 billion. The masters of corruption have made it cost ten times that amount.

But, to get improvement, we must imagine a future America that is upright, upholds its principles, and has integrity. In other words, imagine a Nader or McKinney administration. Imagine a foreign policy that is free of lingering influence from Rockefeller, Kissinger, Brzezinski, and corrupt cabals. In an upright U.S. foreign policy, I believe that the military-industrial complex should be healthy rather than emaciated. Healthy, even if it is confined to the doghouse.

The doghouse makes for a good analogy, because my question here for Nader and McKinney (and Sheehan) is really, "how long should be the leash of the U.S. military?"

An isolationist might say, "let's just defend ourselves," and I take it that that means largely keeping the U.S. military in the doghouse, with no length of leash. Sometimes, I worry when it seems like this is really the ideal of progressives.

Others would say, "we'll defend ourselves and our military allies." That means that a series of nations are protected, and I will nickname that "the short leash" theory of U.S. foreign policy.

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Yet others would say, "let's defend the entire free world." The strongest support for freedom would do so. However, this is a gray area and we might find ourselves defending Georgia against Russia, although Freedom House rates Georgia as only “partly free.” While Georgia made noises about joining NATO, it did not do so prior to the start of recent hostilities there. So, to defend non-military allies of the (partly?) free world would be "the medium leash" theory of U.S. foreign policy. We are being tested at this time by the actions of Russia.

Then, there seems to be a George Bush attitude which doesn't mind offending the entire world, whether free or unfree. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was outside of the free world. We transgressed some boundaries to go there. It is "the unleashed" theory of U.S. foreign policy, indicating that the U.S. military may roll into to any place around the world. But, to have aggression not governed by the rule of law invites the world's contempt, or worse -- Vladimir Putin and his man Dmitry Medvedev are now demonstrating a principle that "two can play at that game."

To avoid a conflict with Russia, it is necessary to return to the short leash theory, in which we defend only ourselves and our military allies. That is where I would go as a first step, but I also believe in helping other free world nations when they form military alliances and ask for our help. Ultimately, I would like to see a "United Free World Nations," to check the aggressions of tyranny and which could be a pan-free-world military alliance.

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The author was once the 18-year-old candidate for U.S. President ('84) and later the founder of the China Support Network, post-Tiananmen Square.

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