The following is an open letter to the author of America after Hegemony, recently posted at CommonDreams.org, Mr. Harrisons’ text in black, my responses in italics.
With the Iraq war fading into memory even as the country still simmers, the U.S. peace movement faces the need to reframe its message.
The US peace movement has for many many decades needed to reframe its message to something that accounts for centuries-old knowledge of human nature, and the people’s internal wisdom. Unfortunately the idea that the US peace movement has been entrenched for decades in a rut is at odds with the Merkan idea of “freedom”, as that idea will be used to re-fragment the peace movement after a short period. But a sustained reframing is crucial of course, if the people want to progress toward their nirvana. And all indications are that they do. So here is the re-framing, that will be sustained in perpetuity: The people revoke all support for the elite agenda forever more, and place all support behind the people’s agenda of universal enlightenment, solidarity, equity and justice.
We have spent the last 10 years resisting the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – tragedies that have not only devastated those two countries and taken tens of thousands of lives, but have left thousands of returning veterans with lifelong disabilities and taken a huge toll on our national economy.
The US peace movement has spent the last ten years dissented in ways that don’t bother the elites, while consenting in ways that delight the elites.
We’ve exposed nuclear weapons’ threat to human survival, organized against sanctions and war on Iran and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and built alliances with labor and community groups to cut the military budget.
We’ve opposed lawless torture and drone killings, cyber-warfare attacks, and the U.S. “pivot,” which seeks to encircle China with military bases.
The US peace movement has raised awareness, but the US peace movement hasn’t raised alternatives. Does the reality on the ground today starkly illustrate that the people need alternative? The people have chosen the answer “yes” with their actions, as the people are standing up today and actively moving toward their nirvana, outside mainstream channels.
These campaigns are important, but they primarily arouse internationals, longtime activists, and leftists, not the indignation of millions. To get out of the echo chamber, we need to present a vision of a democratic foreign and security policy that would tie our many campaigns together into a coherent whole, from the local to the global.
The people do see the need to arouse indignation with elite rule. But the people have long realized that indignation with elite rule only functions as a reminder of why the people must take matters into their own hands, so the people are moving forward with the people’s initiatives, the people’s enterprises, toward the people’s vision, to achieve the people’s nirvana. The people’s vision, the people’s agenda, unites all campaigns, local and global, into a coherent whole.
Such a platform would provide hope to the many who sense that something is wrong with corporate capitalism, with U.S. foreign policy, and with the military-industrial complex. It would set the basis for a principled alliance between the peace movement and the labor, immigrant rights, women’s, economic, social, and racial justice movements that are its natural allies.
The people are placing their hope, and trust, in themselves. The people know that something is wrong when someone asks them to shift their hopes and trusts away from their very own selves and toward the wizard of oz.
In short, the peace movement needs to make it clear not only what we are against, but what we are for.
The US peace movement can get on board with the people’s movement, and adopt its vision and agenda. The people’s vision depicts the people’s sole reliance on self, the local community, and nature. Specifically omitting hierarchical society, institutions, cultures and traditions. There is no such thing as healthy dependence of individuals on hierarchical establishments.
A Hegemonic Foreign Policy in a Unipolar World
The organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has been to ensure that every nation in the world stays within a security structure managed and controlled by Washington. Nations, regardless of their ideological orientation, that refuse to follow U.S. wishes find themselves demonized and pressured to conform, while nations whose states are not centralized enough to control their territory are called “failed states” and are subjected to often counterproductive “nation building.”
The people do not recognize the US government as a legitimate institution. It is far too corrupt and destructive. Merkan liberals tried realpolitik for decades, and it didn’t work. Let Merka try something different now. Before its’ too late.
In colloquial terms, Washington seeks to act as the world’s policeman. Defenders of U.S. hegemony often darkly warn of the disorder that might result if the United States did not shoulder this difficult task. They offer the 9/11 attacks as the ultimate darkness to spring from an unpoliced world, limiting the national security debate between Democrats and Republicans to what MIT scholar Barry Posen calls “the modalities of hegemony.”
The people know that leaving the public dialog up to elites is the ultimate darkness. Let the elite hijackers of the US government work to legitimately earn the respect and recognition of the people. Do I need to expand recognition of how this resonates with the people’s needs and agenda? Or do you want to expand your own recognition?
But when it comes to any meaningful discussion of whether the United States has any business running the rest of the world, the silence is deafening. Congress and the mainstream media almost never discuss why the United States should maintain a global force structure, why it needs to station an estimated 1,000 bases in over 100 countries, why it requires exorbitantly expensive weapons systems, or why it has a “vital interest” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, or in the region surrounding China. These questions are never asked because of the ruling elite’s consensus on the need for hegemony.
No. The silence is not deafening. Rather, you have a habit of listening for the wrong voices. Tune into the people to find out what is relevant to the people. Such as the fact that elites have no business running anything.
It is true that most Americans still fear terrorism and, more generally. foreign threats to their security. Opinion makers have cultivated these fears in every possible way since 9/11, with terrorism replacing Communism as a bogey-man justifying the policy of hegemony, or what Stephen Walt calls “deep engagement.”
Yes, elites continue to manipulate the people, by inflaming their fears, and inflaming most other negative and problematic emotions, for elite advantage. So it’s quite strange then that elites continue to get a seat at the table, continue to gain attention in the press, and continue to get votes at the ballot box. Would you care to comment on this, Mr. Harrison? Could this be due to the implicit support for elite rule built into the journalistic status quo, the conventional wisdom, the cultural mythologies?
Yet polls also consistently show that majorities of Americans support cutting the military budget instead of Social Security, Medicare, or other essential programs. That tells us that while people think the military might keep them safe, they are absolutely sure that Social Security does.
The people are getting in tune with their internal wellsprings of wisdom, to transcend elite propaganda, and reach the gates of the people’s nirvana. Walking side by side with the people, you will have no need to cite polls. Rather, you will cite the next milestone along the way that is getting the people excited. Mass dependence on a federal government hell-bent on skulduggery of a mind-boggling depth and variety, is not one of those milestones.
In other words, support for the hegemonic foreign policy is soft. But to crack the hegemonic consensus, the peace movement must offer an alternative to hegemony that offers real security to the American people — a new democratic foreign policy that does a better job than hegemony of providing human security.
Instead of a statist foreign policy, the people’s policy is articulated by the people’s agenda: Universal enlightenment, solidarity, equity, and justice. Don’t wait for elites to endorse it. I had to say that.
Hegemony and Empire
Hegemony is not just a transitory policy of U.S. elites trying to secure the homeland in the most effective way possible. On the contrary, the United States’ hegemonic foreign policy is tied to its leadership of the global economic system that has been in place since at least 1945.
Good that you raise the specter of the global economic system. Because it’s already in the people’s crosshairs. The people are replacing it with localism. Locally demanded, locally owned production. The way in which localism supports the people’s agenda is nothing short of a “miracle”.
With the world as a single market, capitalist firms can reap profits from worldwide production. They can produce wherever the cost of production is least, paying workers in underdeveloped countries a pittance. They can build global production and distribution chains, integrating capitalist firms in various countries into a single network. They can sell their products to a market of at least 3 billion people throughout the world with disposable income, creating world-wide monopoly corporations of unprecedented scale. Monopoly, not the so-called “free market,” is the most advantageous arrangement for capital, because it allows for relatively stable, profitable production untroubled by competitors.
Capitalists want to be hegemonic. But that doesn’t mean they will always succeed. The key to the people’s emancipation from elites and their rackets, be they capitalism, militarism, what have you, is for the people to believe in themselves, and their own creativity and productivity, without falling into the trap of the elites’ hierarchies. Learning to resist the elites’ siren songs is the key lesson, buttressed by the people’s philosophy, agenda and practices. Pay careful attention to the people’s design. It is sculpted by the people’s true needs, true potential, and self-awareness.
U.S. hegemonic military power has provided the framework for that single market. As globalization enthusiast Tom Friedman explained in 1999, “[S]ustainable globalization still requires a stable, geopolitical power structure, which simply cannot be maintained without the active involvement of the United States. …The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist — McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15.”
The people can and do manipulate markets to suit their needs. The people mustn’t tolerate the “supply-side” to dictate markets. The people can, and must, and are, driving markets with organic demands, and supplying those demands, in the people’s nirvana. Only the people can make reasonable, sustainable demands, and only the people can supply those reasonably, sustainably. Why can’t the elites? Because they are sociopaths, driving armies of minions who have no idea what is going on.
“Empire” is really a better name than “hegemony” for the current international system, because global U.S. control is not a political choice that can be changed by new domestic political alignments, but rather a system with deep economic roots that transcends partisan control of Washington. Indeed, elite interest in a U.S. “empire” goes back long before the postwar period, back to the 1890s and to the framers of the Constitution.
It doesn’t matter too much that Merka’s federal government does or does not have an historic record of control over the economic system. The people are not counting on the federal government to enforce any 21s Century New Deal. The people are assuming the role of stewarding the society and the biosphere themselves. Would you like to support the people in this endeavor, in your communications?
Yet the 2008 economic crash was an unmistakable reminder that worldwide monopoly production is no longer stable. Rivalry between banks and hedge funds over investment in the most profitable companies destabilized the financial system, as one bubble after another burst. In the coming years, as Chinese economic growth and south-south economic ties begin to overtake U.S. leadership, the role of U.S. military might will also come into question internationally as an increasing number of countries and movements seek to arrange matters differently.
Merka’s score in the “global great games” is mostly irrelevant. Instead, the people are focused on cultivating our local varieties of what needs to be local and we’re sharing global versions of what needs to be global. It’s part of the people’s agenda, of course. The people’s agenda is the most fascinating pursuit, for the people. This is because the great majority are not sociopaths and do not harbor sociopathic ambitions.
The crash also raised questions in the minds of millions about the ability of the world capitalist economic system to deliver jobs, life, and prosperity to them. People are scrutinizing the desirability of capitalism and globalization as never before. Among the more than 99 percent of Americans who don’t own global companies, the question is there, waiting to be asked, of whether U.S. foreign policy actually serves their interests. The time is therefore ripe for the peace movement to offer a new foreign policy which serves the interests of the domestic and global 99 percent better than the hegemonic order.
The people define prosperity as achievement of universal wellbeing. We have our own definitions of things. We don’t need big (bother) brother to define things for us. Let all who wish to contribute to the people’s philosophy, agenda, and progress toward their nirvana, submit to the new status quo of the people’s self-rule.
Five proposals for a new foreign policy
Peace Action’s Kevin Martin has called for the peace movement to propose “a new vision for our country’s role in the world—to create a new foreign policy for the 99 percent.” Such a foreign policy, he says, should be based on the “widely shared ideals of democracy, justice, human rights, international cooperation, and sustainability.”
The people do not recognize the idea of nation-states, nor do we recognize mythological deities, nor most other elite constructs. The vision for Merkans then is a universal vision, the people’s vision.
I think Martin is absolutely right — but we still need to explain what that policy would be and how it would work, applying it to each region of the world and each type of international problem. We also have to identify the interests that would favor and those that would oppose the new policy. As such, Martin has pointed towards the policy that we need, but has not articulated it in detail.
Let’s start with the interest favored by the policy we call the people’s agenda. It’s the people’s interest, of course. But most importantly, the people’s BETTER interests, which are to take care of all their needs, in a sustainable way. I’m sure you can do the math to arrive at the people’s better interests. The people will employ many to do the math. It’s a most noble enterprise in the people’s nirvana. To know ourselves. Some basic ideas explaining the people’s better interests are that higher fulfillments should prevail over hedonistic pleasures/conveniences. But that, and everything else, will be obvious to everybody with universal enlightenment. Do you want to help usher in universal enlightenment?
Those who oppose the people’s agenda are those driven by their egos. The people are driven by their hearts, not their egos. But the ego influence in the society teaches us to be offended by such a judgment, such a distinction between the heart and the ego. And we are taught to ignore the distinct benefits of actions of the heart. When we realize and accept that ego greed instigates the vast majority of problems in this world, then we will know how to most effectively allocate our resources to maximize universal wellbeing: In support of the heart.
So what would a foreign policy for the 99 percent actually look like?
See the people’s agenda. When you truly embrace it, you find all answers within it, and within yourself. This is not pie in the sky. This is reality on the ground, fully accounting for the construction of reality.
The Coalition for a Strong United Nations, a Boston-based grassroots group, issued a “Peace Platform” in 2003 which, although a decade old, is consistent with Martin’s ideas. “[T]he world is no longer a collection of sovereign nations, but a single homeland, and each member of the human family is a citizen of that homeland,” it proclaimed. “No nation’s people can be secure when so many people around the world are denied a decent standard of living or deprived of basic rights. No peace can be achieved unless the society of nations begins to function more as a real community, with each nation abiding by a commonly accepted code of international law.”
How about a recognition of universal needs instead of a code of law. Law requires specialization and specialization leads to isolation. Mass awareness and recognition of universal needs force laws to serve the people, instead of rule the people. Universal needs are quite easy to discover. Look within yourself for the answers. No stable, sustainable, equitable, and just society can exist without meeting universal needs.
The CSUN platform offers specific proposals in the areas of human rights, development, the environment, security, governance, education, and health. In the security arena it calls for the United States to “commit to a phased disarmament program,” “renounce universal military intervention,” “stop funding other nations’ military arsenals,” “strengthen the authority and resources of the UN,” “abide by the decisions of the World Court,” “support the development and training of a Non-Violent Peace Force,” and “create a Department of Peace.”
Specific proposals? Applying the people’s agenda is rather obvious in each situation, so the process of implementation is systematic. The crucial first step is de-programming the elitist hierarchical imperial brainwashing and re-programming the people to appreciate themselves, appreciate the truth, and appreciate the people’s agenda. The more progress in this direction, the easier it gets.
CSUN’s proposal outlines a better foreign and security policy, but it doesn’t explain how to implement it, or identify whose interests would be helped and hurt. Without an answer to that question, it is likely to remain on the shelf as an idealistic exercise.
The people’s agenda is implemented through changes in the school curriculum and changes in the journalistic standards, to factor in the reality on the ground, namely that the people’s ideals, and views, work better for the people than elite ideals and views. The people’s ideals and views include such truths that cooperation with nature and with each other is in the people’s better interests, while competition with nature and with each other are not. As for your question of whos interests are helped/hurt, the people’s interests are helped, i.e. the interests of the heart are helped. Elite interests, or the interests of the ego, are hurt. But this is ok because the ego has no legitimate interests. The ego’s proper role is that of the guard dog, on a short leash, in submission to the heart. Just ask Ayn Rand’s disciples if this isn’t their worst nightmare. Or better still just watch them shudder.
At a Korean solidarity conference in November 2012, Joseph Gerson presented “common security” as a framework that, while not an ultimate foundation for human security, could meaningfully relieve international tensions. Common security, an idea first promulgated by the late Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme, “recognizes that nations as well as individuals respond to fear, that when one side augments its military arsenal and actions to respond to perceived threats from the other, that this will be seen as a threat by the other side, resulting in the enemy augmenting its arsenal and actions in a defensive but frightening response. This leads to a mutually reinforcing and spiraling arms race, not unlike what we now have in Asia and the Pacific.” A response based on common security, said Gerson, would involve “hard-headed negotiations in which each side names its fears and arrives at diplomatic solutions which address the anxieties of all involved. … Common security is inconsistent with the pursuit of empire, which ultimately can be overcome only by people’s will and as a result of contradictions including, in the case of the United States’ misplaced priorities, imperial over-reach.”
Imperial overreach does not damage the pursuit of empire because Merkan imperialists are able to profit from their own catastrophes, now that they have totally enslaved the people. Thank the liberals for playing aces in that game. And overcoming empire requires more than the people’s will when the people’s will is hijacked, as in today’s Merka. Common security as described is not a useful idea because it leaves the fears intact and legitimizes them, thereby entrenching a failed worldview, to the benefit of elites, of course, at the people’s expense. But the people’s agenda overcomes the pursuit of empire by peeling support away from the empire and toward our local communities where we have a stake in something good that is also our own.
Oh the resistance to localism is fierce, among elite and among their minions. Because localism is the people’s great hope.
Given its emphasis on established diplomatic and security structures, common security is a more modest and less idealistic proposal compared to the Martin and CSUN visions. But can a common security paradigm guide the U.S. peace movement in helping the United States move away from hegemony to a democratic foreign policy? Tyler Cullis of the Boston University Antiwar Coalition took such an approach recently when he addressed the Iran sanctions issue at a January debate, outlining a negotiating platform for the United States that addresses real fears on both sides and proposes constructive steps. Yet it remains unclear if “common security” can move from preventing catastrophic wars to serve as an intermediary step away from empire that movements for greater justice and peace can build upon.
The common security paradigm cannot guide the US peace movement toward any significant alternative to empire, as we already established, because it leaves the fears intact and legitimizes them. The Boston University Antiwar Coalition has made two mistakes which render it largely ineffective. It declares itself a coalition which means it is composed of factions ready to splinter at the drop of a hat. And the BUAC took the bait of the Iran crisis which is purely an imperial fabrication. Islamic radicalism is fueled by western imperialism. End western imperialism, and Islamic radicalism fades away.
Speaking from a “realist” rather than a “peacemaking” perspective, Barry Posen made his own proposals for a change in foreign policy in a January 2013 article in Foreign Affairs. After a decade of war, he now says that hegemony is too expensive for the United States to sustain and that it “makes enemies almost as fast as it slays them.” Posen therefore proposes to end hegemony and adopt in its place a “strategy of restraint,” which means “removing large numbers of U.S. troops from forward bases” and “transforming the military into a smaller force that goes to war only when it truly must.”
The “realist” perspective is illegitimate. Merkan imperialism is based on a “realist” perspective, or “realpolitik”, which censors the people’s better interests. Besides, Merka isn’t going broke so long as Merkans are hoodwinked into consumption mania. Thus we can see that the “realist” perspective only sends resources on a wild goose chase. This is the imperialists’ intent of course. Posen’s proposal has a sliver of truth in that a smaller military that goes to war only when necessary is better than what we suffer with today. But that sliver of truth simple does not carry the flaws of “realpolitik”. Better to adhere to the people’s agenda, which wholly builds the people’s stake in peace and cooperation. Of course the people have to have a stake in something in order to defend it. The silence on that one is deafening.
Posen makes clear that the military budget cuts consistent with a “strategy of restraint” should release more funds to “preserve the country’s prosperity and security over the long run.” These goals fit with much of President Obama’s early second-term rhetoric, though Obama has not at all embraced the strategy changes Posen calls for. And importantly, they draw a link from conflict resolution abroad to “nation-building at home.”
Release more funds? How about releasing ALL funds? The prey does not wish to compromise with the predator. The host does not wish to compromise with the parasite.
Posen does not address the globalized commerce that has required the global security regime. He assumes that there is really no U.S. interest that requires the degree of “activism” that it has displayed in the past 20 years, nor does he propose any increase in international cooperation that might provide for stability in the absence of hegemonic power. His proposal therefore does not qualify as a new democratic foreign policy, but rather as a less imperial, less hegemonic policy, which if realized could create space for democratic interests to assert themselves in the future.
The people’s agenda does not require international cooperation by way of governments because the people will not depend upon governments. In the people’s nirvana, international cooperation is a vast web, with no centralized command/control nodes, by necessity.
In a similar vein, Stephen Kinzer recently outlined a “Wacko Birds” manifesto for U.S. foreign policy, taking the name from an epithet hurled by the militarist John McCain. Like Posen, Kinzer emphasizes that the United States has overreached, but calls only for a more moderate pursuit of “U.S. vital interests.” Kinzer does not consider the possibility that the true interests of most Americans lie in cooperation with people in other countries rather than in solidarity with U.S. corporations.
Nice to see you place a little emphasis on global grass-roots cooperation, reject the corporate message, and defy the elite agenda.
Towards a Democratic and Peaceful Foreign Policy
Thus the problem remains ripe for more solutions. The peace movement needs a comprehensive, positive framework to present, one which is compelling enough to be taken up and implemented by a progressive majority consisting of an alliance of social movements. I thank the authors I have mentioned for their thought provoking contributions. Yet while each of the proposals examined has positive aspects, none seems to be adequate by itself to point the way forward. We have more work to do!
Yes, the solution space is filled completed by the people’s movement, with the people’s philosophy highlighting the people’s true potential and true needs, the key role of nature, and human nature, and the agenda that unites the people. The people’s ideal and agenda is universal enlightenment, solidarity, equity, and justice. The people are reaching for their nirvana, and it’s time now for dear leaders of all stripes to stand aside, or board the caboose.