Shared Security: Reimagining U.S. Foreign Policy - Review

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Shared Security: Reimagining U.S. Foreign Policy A working Paper of the American Friends Service Committee and Friends Committee on National Legislation.  April 2013. 

Reviewed by Roena Oesting

This document is a short, easy-to-follow discussion of what U.S. foreign policy might look like if Quakers were in charge! It is divided into five sections, and it is so well written that as a review, I will quote bits from each section.

Section one, “A New Vision of Security,” makes three main points. First, concerning “A New Way of Thinking,” the document states, “In an interdependent world, foreign policies presented in terms of binary relationships – “us vs. them” – can no longer hold. . . . We need new policies based upon appreciation of the increased complexity and inter-twining of global relationships.”  Second, concerning “New Strategies for Shared Solutions,” the report argues that “Strategies for more ethical and effective foreign policies would help address the greatest challenges to survival for the human family, . . . [and would] empower local communities to address the problems they face, and ensure they are backed up by flexible and responsive support at regional and global levels.” Finally, in “New Tools that Match Means with Ends,” the report affirms that “Today’s challenges to our global community – such as climate change, economic crisis, nuclear and other weapons proliferation, transnational crime, abusive regimes and extremist violence – will simply not be solved with bombs and bullets.”

Section two, “The Old Policies Aren’t Working,” explains, “As the world becomes more interconnected, the problems we face in our communities have become more linked with the fate of other communities and nations.” This section notes that non-state actors such as prominent non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international criminal networks, and multinational corporations are changing the shape of international politics, presenting “great challenges and opportunities” to nation-states. However, “the U.S. continues to apply old solutions to new problems.”

Section three, “The Root of the Problem: Militarized Foreign Policy,” points out that “[U.S.] foreign policy premised on the threat and use of lethal force is a fundamental failure.  It feeds the growth of the violent movements it purports to address. It fuels global instability and violence and undermines the security of our communities, country, and world.”

Section four, “Global Security, Economics, and the Environment” links U.S. foreign policy to the global environmental crisis. “Our national security is now enmeshed with a global environmental and economic crisis. . . . Current economic models based on unsustainable growth are driving the environmental crisis and creating massive inequalities in wealth distribution that fuel conflict.

Section five, “Principles for a New Global Policy,” offers four principles to guide a new U.S. foreign policy that could serve true global security: 

First principle: “Peaceful Ends Through Peaceful Means . . . An effective and ethical U.S. foreign policy should begin with well-equipped and adequately funded civilian institutions. . . . [While] we believe U.S. foreign policy should support nonviolent movements for change, we caution against the U.S. government directly funding citizen-led nonviolent movements.”

Second principle: “The Planetary Imperative . . . Preventing global disaster will require significant changes in environmental and economic policies. . . . To help prevent armed conflict and create lasting peace, governments should base peace agreements upon shared management of natural resources, which has a proven record of maintaining peace even among nations and peoples with historic enmity.”

Third principle:  “Global Cooperation and Rule of Law . . . U.S. foreign policy should strengthen the rule of law, not rule by force.  New international institutions and justice systems are needed to address global problems and to develop and enforce international laws.”

Fourth principle:  “Restorative Approaches to Heal a Broken World . . . We must invest in new efforts to . . . mend the harms caused by injustice and war . . . [and provide] more effective support to regional diplomacy and human development. . . Reducing the massive U.S. military presence worldwide will free billions of dollars for investing in improved civilian institutions, development aid and peace-building, international institutions, and a more sustainable global economy.“

Enclosed with the Shared Security document is a “Discussion Guide for Friends.” In general, I absolutely, positively HATE discussion guides because they typically posit simplistic questions or assume that there is a “right” answer.  This discussion guide showed me how wrong my pre-judgment was. It actually poses really tough questions, such as, “How does Friends’ peace testimony address (or not) the challenging questions about use of international force in dealing with mass violence and genocide?” The discussion guide also gives practical suggestions for using the document. 

The Shared Security document is part of a larger program, which is profiled on the website, www.sharedsecurity.org. The full text of this document is available for download, and the site also provides a useful section called “events,” which has links to groups who are using the document. Thanks to FCNL and AFSC for a job well done! ~~~

Roena Oesting is a member of La Jolla Friends Meeting (CA, PYM). She brings Quaker history to life through her one-woman show about Elizabeth Fry.