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Critical Foreign Policy Questions For an Overdue Reset

By       Message Veena Trehan       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink

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As we gear up for the last presidential debate, we know that many important questions are not being answered. "Presidential foreign policy discussions, for example, are now basically limited to who hates ISIS more, who said what 13 years ago, and who believes Vladimir Putin is in charge of a roomful of hackers ... It's not enough," as a recent Guardian article entiitled "The US just bombed Yemen, and no one's talking about it" put it.

Our currently posture abroad, which reflects military-industrial complex and corporate interests abroad, has dramatically escalated conflict abroad (even in the past few months). This posture is being codified and implemented in a way that is not easily reversible. New trade deals, military bases, armed attacks, aggressive war games, and continued climate change threaten our national and international security. The violence may feel natural as it is omnipresent in our entertainment, gun homicides, and global military attacks. Yet we make disastrous choices when we provoke escalation, rather than connecting to work together for peace, sustainability and justice. We sell short our capability to radically imagine a world of human rights and human dignity.

It's time for a reset.

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Lunch under a dragon blood tree
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The questions below on our foreign policy likely won't be heard during the empty spectacle of the presidential race. They follow my earlier articles on "21 Questions for Would Be Presidents" (some overtaken by events) and commentary on "The New York Times' False Foreign Policy Narratives". They look at revisiting our past, empathizing with those with whom we share the world, and questioning our core values. The real possibility of a corporate-dictated future with higher profits coming from rising inequality, poverty and pain and possibly a Third World War is an unacceptable choice.

1. Keep It in the Ground (or Pipeline Protests) --
The greatest threat to national security has been described as climate change, which is less an issue than a reality that will shape all virtually every policy area. The Dakota Access pipeline construction highlights central issues.

a. While we can focus on delivering renewable energy, it won't matter if the critical corollary to keep grounded 80 percent of identified fossil fuels reserves is not met. Yet it is needed to meet a 2-degree target, the less ambitious of the two Paris goals. How will you #keepitintheground?

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b. What is your position on the continued construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which would be used to transport dirty fossil fuels abroad? What is your position on actions to protect the land and water from pollution?

c. Those covering the protests included award-wining Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, actress Shailene Woodley and documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg. They have faced arrests, bizarre charges, and/or long prison terms. What is your view on the role of the citizen, alternative and mainstream media in covering this and similar protests?

2. Refugees and Displaced

a. How many of the 65 million refugees, which have overwhelmed a number of Middle East states, should be allowed in the United States?

b. Many of these refugees have fled after we have destabilized and armed the Middle East. Will you ensure their basic needs are met and, if so, how?

c. The US is participating in an offensive to retake Mosul that the UN warns may displace one million people. Do you believe this attack should occur and, if it does, what should the US do to assist those who are displaced?

3. Brazil

a. On September 22, Brazilian President Michel Temer told business and foreign policy leaders that he "worked to impeach [former President Dilma] Rousseff after she refused to implement his party's economic plan, which included cuts to health, education and welfare spending." He is now the subject of a corruption investigation by the nation's Supreme Court. How do you respond to that statement and the situation, widely regarded as a coup?

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b. How do you respond to PEC 241 (condemned by Roussef) which will limit public and social spending -- given that had it been in place for a decade it would have halved the healthcare budget, brought education down 2/3, and the minimum wage by one-half -- even as we champion such increased investment in our citizens?

4. Russian and Chinese Provocation -- For perspective: Russia lost in World War II an estimated 27 million, the equivalent of experiencing a 9-11 every day for 24 years. Now in nearby Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the US is providing combat troops, heavy weapons, and tanks and the US, after NATO expansion to Russia's border, is now executing war scenarios.

a. ABC's Martha Raddatz flew with the US Air Force on a military exercise on the Russian border last month, even as NATO continues such war games. As these surely would not be tolerated by the US, why are we doing them, particularly after we ended the ceasefire in Syria through brutal and misguided action?

b. The US is placing bases, ballistic missiles, and nuclear-armed bombers around China, with China building airstrips in the South China Sea. In 2015, "the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history, known as Talisman Sabre. Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca and the Lombok Straits, that cut off China's access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle East and Africa" (from the same article). How would we respond to similar military positioning and exercises? Do you plan to take steps to deescalate the situation and, if so, how?

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Veena Trehan is a DC-based journalist and activist. She has written for NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg News, and local papers.

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