Asha Hagi Elmi was horrified at what was happening in her country. A member of the Somali parliament and leading women’s rights activist, Elmi watched the Ethiopian invasion in December 2006 push her country from precarious stability over the edge into catastrophe.” There is no food, no shelter, no water, no medicine and people are dying every day, children are dying every day,” she told a British reporter in April 2007.1 In the ensuing war among Somali insurgents, Somali clans, and Ethiopian troops, thousands have died. The fighting has also created a large-scale humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of refugees.

The United States backed Ethiopia’s invasion in Somalia. The U.S. military also sent AC-130 gunships to attack suspected terrorists in Somalia but instead killed 70 innocent nomadic herders.2 “People are using the war on terror as a pretext to provide political and financial support, and the reality is far from that,” according to Elmi. “The people who were killed in Mogadishu—the civilians, the women and children, the innocent people, the elderly—are not terrorists.” Resentment against Ethiopia and its U.S. backer runs high, and Somalia is now more of a failed state than ever before. Elmi urges reconciliation, not further conflict. She wants to see a “comprehensive political solution” that involves all the parties in Somalia, including the remnants of the Islamic Courts Union, which Ethiopia dislodged from power.

Somalia is only one of several wars burning in Africa—in Sudan, Congo, Uganda, and elsewhere. Injustice fuels these conflicts. It is the injustice of borders transgressed and sovereignty ignored, of unequal access to resources, of massacres of civilians and the misuse of political power. In the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Colombia, and the 30-odd other wars raging in the world, the stated rationales for fighting—to combat terrorism, say, or to prevent nuclear proliferation—can be deceptive. Underneath these rationales lie injustices that, left unaddressed, will continue to generate war and conflict, no matter how many ceasefires are brokered.

The United States is involved in many of these conflicts. It has intervened directly or through proxies like Israel and Ethiopia. It has helped fan the flames by selling billions of dollars of military hardware and by training officers and intelligence operatives. A network of more than 700 military installations scattered around the world reinforces the U.S. commitment to unilateral military force. U.S. military spending, which neared $500 billion in 2005 and will top $600 billion for 2008 with the Iraq and Afghanistan spending included, is twice that spent by our nine closest competitors combined.3

Military conflicts are never easy to resolve. But instead of causing or exacerbating these conflicts, the United States can become part of the solution. It can move from a position of conflict promotion—either tacit or otherwise—to one of conflict prevention. To secure a just peace in Somalia, throughout Africa and the Middle East, and elsewhere, the United States has to step back from its reliance on military force, invest more resources and authority into international law and the UN, and put the protection of human rights and equality for all at the heart of a new, just foreign policy.

Core Misconceptions

Both Democrats and Republicans have been committed to military intervention to control resources and expand U.S. military power. At the end of the 19th century, the United States embarked on building a territorial empire with seizures of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hawaii. In the 20th century, as territorial control became less important than mercantile expansion, secure access to oil resources and the extension of U.S. military bases became the linchpins of U.S. power projection. During the Cold War, the justification for U.S. military expansion overseas changed to “combating communism.” Washington expended enormous resources in its failed attempt to stop Southeast Asia’s “dominoes” from toppling in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. It propped up dictators against “communist-backed” insurgencies threatening authoritarian allies and supported guerrilla forces against governments in Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere. After the Cold War ended, the United States continued to use existing regional conflicts as pretexts for war, engaging in direct and indirect military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Haiti, Sudan, Bosnia/Serbia/Kosovo, Somalia, and Lebanon.

Ending U.S. military interventions will require a full-scale reversal of the imperial trajectory embedded so deeply in U.S. foreign policy. This applies to the prudent imperialism of President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 definition of Persian Gulf oil as a U.S. “vital interest” that might require military force to protect. It applies to the Afghanistan and Sudan air strikes of the Clinton years. And it applies as well to the reckless launch of permanent global war that characterizes the Bush administration. We face a fundamental challenge to recognize, as a nation, the injustice of pouring arms, troops, and dollars into military conflicts, all the while refusing to examine the root causes of those disputes over sovereignty, resources, equity, and rights.

This refusal to deal seriously with the fundamental underpinning of military conflict has produced a set of misconceptions that characterize U.S. foreign policy: that conflict prevention is not a serious option; that the only way to stop a regional military conflict is through more military force; and that the United States should only engage in a regional conflict when strategic U.S. resources (such as oil or key markets) are threatened and not when only people’s lives are at risk (such as the 1994 Rwandan genocide). These misconceptions are perhaps most evident in U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine where, contrary to Washington’s statements, the United States has never played an even-handed role or dealt with the injustices that sustain the conflict.

Until we address these core misconceptions, workable alternatives cannot replace the current failed policies. Let’s begin with misconceptions about U.S. military policy before turning to the Middle East and Africa, two regions that have endured a variety of longstanding conflicts.

Misconception: The United States needs to spend over $600 billion each year to keep the peace internationally.

U.S. military spending falls under a “defense” budget. But much of this budget in fact goes to offense: weapons used to attack, invade, and destroy. Nearly half of President Bush’s proposed 2008 military budget of $656 billion goes to maintaining U.S. military presence abroad, which includes a large chunk for continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yet from the Middle East to Central Asia to Africa, the U.S. military presence provokes rather than prevents conflict. International polling indicates that nearly 70% of the world believes that the U.S. military’s operations in Iraq are counterproductive.4 In Afghanistan, the rising number of civilian casualties in the U.S.-led war has generated more calls for foreign troops to leave the country. Public movements against U.S. military bases in Japan, South Korea, Ecuador, and elsewhere are forcing the U.S. government to rethink its overseas military footprint.

The United States has taken on the role of world’s policeman, but the world is not calling 911 for our services. Of the total 2008 military budget, $145 billion devoted to outfitting the world’s policeman can be redirected to proper defense—Homeland Security, preventive security—and to other human needs. Another $68 billion can be saved by reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, cutting out weapons designed to fight bygone wars, and trimming Pentagon bureaucracy.5 We can therefore cut $213 billion of military spending, improve our defenses, and still have money left over for other human needs.

The United States spends way too much on the military. We are responsible for nearly half of all global military spending. We are spending more now on an annual basis than at any time since World War II. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have proposed even freezing the U.S. military budget much less cutting it down to size.

Misconception: U.S. weapons sales overseas are in the national interest.6

The end of the Cold War should have provided an opportunity to scale back substantially on the worldwide market in weapons. Instead, the late 1980s marked a dramatic rise in arms sales worldwide. This trend was led by the United States, which was eager to take advantage of the Soviet Union’s decline and collapse to seize market share. From 1987 to 1992, U.S. foreign military sales jumped from $6.5 billion to $15 billion. Over the next year, helped in large part by the first Gulf War, they doubled again to $32 billion.7

The end of the Cold War did lead to some modest cutbacks in Pentagon spending. So, as the Pentagon’s procurement budget dropped, U.S. arms manufacturers eagerly sought new foreign markets to compensate. The U.S. government bent over backwards to help: In May 1993, Secretary of State Warren Christopher called on U.S. embassies to help in the promotion of arms exports.8 Commerce Secretary Ron Brown created the Office of Strategic Industries and Economic Security to boost weapons exports. The expansion of NATO and the promotion of new markets in Latin America helped U.S. arms merchants stay in business and keep the United States on top of the list of arms exporting countries.

While the Bush administration has sought to distance itself from so much of the Clinton legacy, it has had no qualms about embracing the arms promotion approach of its predecessor. As a result of the events of September 11, the Bush administration has made arms transfers one of the key strategies in the war against terrorism. To help countries buy and use U.S. weapons after September 11, Foreign Military Financing rose by half a billion, and there was a 38% increase in the International Military Education and Training budget.9 In the process of building an anti-terrorism coalition, the United States lifted sanctions against key arms-importing nations such as Pakistan and India and potentially large customers such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.

U.S. weapons sales—and the U.S. government’s aggressive promotion of private military contractors—is neither in the global interest nor the U.S. national interest. Arms sales to Israel have not only supported Israel’s occupation strategies but also provided key backup for Israel’s decision to invade Lebanon last summer. Arms sales to Africa have helped keep the region awash in violence and conflict. Economic aid to rights-abusing regimes, as in Sudan, has allowed governments to maintain a high level of military spending. Major weapons sales to Chile, Taiwan, South Korea, Turkey, and elsewhere have only encouraged regional arms races. U.S. insistence on inter-operability—the joint functioning of the U.S. military and other militaries—not only ensures future arms deals but also gives the United States greater influence over the foreign policies of countries that buy U.S. weapons.

The Bush administration has steadfastly opposed multilateral agreements to restrain global arms sales. In October 2006, when the UN voted to kick off the process to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), there was only one naysayer: the United States. In 2005, nearly $45 billion worth of weapons were being sold around the world, two-thirds to the developing world.10 Democrats and Republicans share the blame for the U.S. role in growing the arms market.

Misconception: The United States has played an even-handed role in the Middle East.

The region where conflict and tensions are spreading and militarizing most rapidly is the Middle East. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has polarized the region and sharply raised the level of violence. Uncritical and unlimited U.S. support has helped maintain Israel’s 40-year-long illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. And Washington’s reckless rhetoric about “leaving all options open “threatens to spark conflict with Iran. The United States has a long history of diplomacy aimed at Middle East peace. But no serious efforts have taken place in the last six years. And since those earlier efforts actually aimed to normalize rather than end the Israeli occupation, they had no chance of succeeding.

Since 1967, U.S. policy in the Middle East has rested on three pillars: oil, Israel, and military/economic stability. As a result, Washington has supported Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. It has rejected international law, UN resolutions, and human rights standards as the appropriate components of a real solution to the conflict. It has denied Palestinian rights to equality, land, and return. And it continues uncritically to provide military, financial, diplomatic, strategic, and political support for Israel as an expansionist, militarized, nuclear-weaponized strategic partner. For years, Washington has spent a quarter to a third of its foreign military aid funds on Israel. In 2007 the Foreign Military Financing budget included nearly $2.4 billion for Israel out of a total of $4.5 billion for the whole world.11

U.S. attempts to stabilize and democratize the Middle East and insure U.S. control of the region’s oil have failed. Washington has never been able to support simultaneously its three pillars of policy in the region—oil, stability, and Israel. If attention goes primarily to securing the oil and protecting Israel, major instability is likely to ensue. It might be possible to stabilize the region’s repressive monarchies and pseudo-democratic governments and keep U.S. hands on the oil spigots. But absolute support for Israeli occupation (and indeed for the parallel U.S. occupation of Iraq) would have to be sacrificed. Two out of three has been the best any administration could hope for.

Tragically, the failed U.S. policy in the Middle East—specifically the Israel-Palestine conflict—also remains the venue of the most consistent bipartisan, bicameral, and executive-legislative consensus of any U.S. foreign policy issue. Democrats and Republicans alike have long vied with each other to see who can be more supportive of Israel. Powerful lobbies work both sides of the aisle: both the traditional Jewish lobby groups, influential among Congress and the Democratic Party, and newer right-wing Christian Zionist organizations currently more influential among Republicans and the White House. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times, “There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians. And that silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.”12

In that context, the main difference between the current administration’s overwhelming embrace of Israel and the policies of earlier presidents is the fact that earlier administrations often (though not always) pretended to be honest brokers encouraging Israeli-Palestinian peace processes. The Bush administration attempts no such charade.

Misconception: The United States has opposed Israel’s policy of occupying Palestinian territory.

In the occupied West Bank, roads, bridges, and tunnels controlled by the Israeli military currently divide the Delaware-sized territory into scores of even smaller cantons. More than 530 armed checkpoints, huge earth berms dug by armored tractors, and especially the huge separation wall under construction throughout the West Bank all prevent Palestinians from moving within their own territory let alone traveling into Israel. The resulting economic shortages are severe. Truckloads of produce rot in the sun at checkpoints, milk sours, and workers cannot get to their jobs. Women give birth and their newborn babies die at these artificial borders because Israeli soldiers will not allow them to pass. Victims of settler or soldier violence die because military officers refuse to authorize Palestinian ambulances to come to their rescue.

The Gaza Strip, meanwhile, remains isolated, impoverished, and besieged. Despite the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers in 2005, Gaza continues to face Israeli military control of exit and entry of all goods and people. In June 2006, the World Food Program reported that a majority of the Gaza population could not cover their daily food needs without outside assistance.13

In April 2004 Bush accepted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral plan to permanently absorb the huge West Bank settlement blocs and their 220,000 settlers into Israel. For the first time, the United States explicitly and officially rejected the internationally recognized and UN-sanctioned Palestinian right of return. The Bush-Sharon agreement was the U.S. quid pro quo for Israel’s decision to withdraw the illegal Israeli settlers and Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip. Bush thus essentially banished any commitment to achieving a serious and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Bush’s “new status quo”—permanent Israeli occupation, no right of return for Palestinians, and no viable Palestinian state—has set the terms for the next indefinite period.

The U.S. acceptance of Israel’s unilateral decision-making also returned Middle East diplomacy to its pre-1991 position: the official exclusion of Palestinians from all negotiations. U.S. negotiations with Israel have become the substitute for Israeli-Palestinian talks, with the United States free to give up Palestinian land and rights. “Imagine if Palestinians said, ‘O.K., we give California to Canada,'” one Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) legal advisor told The New York Times. “Americans should stop wondering why they have so little credibility in the Middle East.”14

U.S. military, financial, and diplomatic support helps maintain Israel’s occupation policy. Since 1976, although it is wealthier than a number of European Union member countries, Israel has received 25% of the entire U.S. foreign aid budget and remains the highest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the world.15 The total aid package, which includes military aid, economic assistance, and tax-exempt contributions by private citizens, comes to over $5 billion annually.

Israel can purchase the most advanced weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal, with U.S. taxpayer assistance. Most of the weapons Israel uses in the occupied territories, including Apache helicopter gunships, F-16 fighter bombers, wire-guided missiles, and armored Caterpillar bulldozers for demolishing Palestinian houses, are all made in the United States, and purchased from U.S. manufacturers with U.S. military aid funds. Some of the weapons, such as the Merkava tanks, are joint products of Israel’s domestic arms industry and U.S. manufacturing technology.16

Diplomatically, the United States alone protects Israel in the UN and other international arenas and keeps it from being held accountable for its violations of international law. Under international law, particularly the Geneva Conventions, it is always illegal for an occupying power, such as Israel in the Palestinian territories, to do anything to change conditions within occupied areas. In a spring 2006 report, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights John Dugard stated that “Israel is in violation of major Security Council and General Assembly resolutions dealing with unlawful territorial change and the violation of human rights, has failed to implement the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice [which held that Israel’s separation Wall is illegal everywhere it crosses the Green Line border and extends into the West Bank itself—which is about 80% of its length] and should accordingly be subjected to international sanctions. Instead the Palestinian people have been subjected to possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times.”17

This direct and indirect support of Israel’s occupation enjoys bipartisan support in the United States. The Democrats have provided solid backing for Israel. In 2003, when presidential hopeful Howard Dean urged the United States to have an “even-handed approach” to the Arab-Israeli conflict and that “an enormous number “of Israeli settlements would have to be dismantled in the occupied territories, he was roundly criticized by his fellow Democrats. Today, as U.S. threats against Iran are escalating, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced legislation to prohibit a U.S. military strike against Iran without congressional approval. But the Democratic Party leadership stripped the proposal out of the bill’s final language because of pressure from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the key pro-Israel lobby.

Misconception: U.S. policy toward Africa focuses solely on peace and development.

In February 2007, the Pentagon announced the creation of a new U.S. Africa Command infrastructure, known as AFRICOM. “This new command will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa,” President Bush said in a White House statement, “and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa.” Ordering that AFRICOM be created by September 30, 2008, Bush said, “Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.”18

The general assumption of this policy is that the United States should act unilaterally and through military means to bring health, education, and development to Africa. This military-driven U.S. engagement with Africa reflects the desperation of the Bush administration to outmaneuver other countries, particularly China, to control the increasingly strategic natural resources on the African continent such as oil, gas, and uranium. Nigeria is the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the United States. The West African region currently provides nearly 20% of the U.S. supply of hydrocarbons, up from 15% just five years ago and well on the way to a 25% share forecast for 2015.19

The new Africa Command, based potentially in or near oil-rich West Africa would consolidate existing operations while also bringing development (USAID) and diplomacy (State Department) even more in line with U.S. military objectives. The Pentagon commands significantly more money and other resources for its work in Africa than either the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Bush administration’s militaristic approach leads to an Africa policy that provides more weapons, equipment, and military hardware than schools. By helping to build machineries of repression, these policies reinforce undemocratic practices and reward leaders responsive not to the interests or needs of their people but to the demands and dictates of U.S. military agents. Making military force a higher priority than development and diplomacy creates an imbalance that can encourage irresponsible regimes to use U.S.-sourced military might to oppress their own people. These fatally flawed Bush administration policies create instability, foment tensions, and lead to a less secure world.

The U.S. government is mistakenly looking at Africa through the prism of terrorism. The Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative, for instance, focuses on border security and denying safe haven to suspected terrorists in North African countries like Algeria, Mali, and Chad. But the U.S. claims of an African “second front” in the war against terror have been exaggerated, and the counter-terrorism rationale has served as a convenient excuse to provide military aid to dictatorial governments, such as Algeria.20 The terrorism rubric also justifies U.S. training of African special forces, expansion of military bases in the region, and a general elevation of military over diplomatic approaches.

In Sudan, meanwhile, the United States has hesitated to press hard to stop genocide in Darfur because the government in Khartoum is a key ally in the “global war on terrorism” and because U.S. oil companies have a large stake in the country. Even as it backs the murderous Janjaweed militias committing ethnic cleansing and widespread rape, the Sudanese government has received millions of dollars in Economic Support Funds from Washington, which has freed it up to divert money to the military.21 While congressional opposition to the Bush administration’s handling of the Sudan crisis has grown, Democrats have largely focused on military solutions, such as air strikes against the government in Khartoum.22 But such air strikes would reduce the chances of a diplomatic solution pushed by African negotiators, run the risk of creating a greater humanitarian crisis, and probably achieve very little since Khartoum doesn’t ultimately control the Janjaweed.

In Congo, Niger, and elsewhere in Africa, the United States has followed the same pattern of selling arms and securing access to natural resources. It’s a bipartisan approach. “We value our deepening economic ties with Africa, including Central and West Africa’s rapidly rising position as a major source of non-Gulf oil,” reads the 2004 Democratic Party platform. And the Clinton administration was notorious for boosting arms sales to the continent. During the 1990s, Washington provided over $227 million in arms and training to African countries.23

A Just Security Alternative

To reorient U.S. foreign policy regarding military conflict, the United States must support international law, respect other nations’ sovereignty, and protect human rights and equality for all. Washington must work closely with allies—and in the UN—to restrain arms exports. It must boost support for peacekeeping operations. And it must help restrain the market for the “blood resources,” like diamonds and oil sold extracted in war zones, which only prolong conflict.

International law is fundamental to any just security alternative. A consistent set of rules and regulations, hammered out through democratic procedures, ensures that powerful countries do not take advantage of weaker countries and weaker countries do not feel compelled to compensate for their asymmetrical disadvantages. An increasingly globalized world requires an ever more robust system of international law. But laws are only as good as their enforcement. So we must work to improve the institutions that implement international rules and regulations and create a level playing field for all nations.

The greatest threat to the health of the international community is the profusion of deadly weapons and the national spending patterns that continue to direct resources into their production. As the country that splurges the most on its military, the United States must be the first to cut up its “Arms-Mart” credit card. We can cut nearly one-third of U.S. military spending by resigning our self-appointed commission as world cop, scrapping old-fashioned weapons, and stripping unnecessary bureaucracy from the Pentagon.

Injustice fuels conflicts, and the arms trade only fans the flames. The United States must stop backing repressive regimes and their oppressive policies. It must cut back on arms exports, because the costs of the resulting blowback far outweigh the very minor increases in U.S. export totals. The Arms Trade Agreement can potentially improve on existing treaties that have done so little to stem the flow of arms. By supporting the ATA, the United States can effectively signal that it is rejoining the international community.

In terms of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the United States should acknowledge its lack of neutrality. It should abandon the so-called Quartet—a U.S.-created diplomatic fiction made up of the United States, Europe, Russia, and the UN designed to provide a multilateral imprimatur to unilateral U.S. control of Middle East diplomacy. Instead, the UN should be the nucleus of a new diplomatic process. The UN created the state of Israel; Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem violates numerous UN resolutions; and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has global significance and thus should be addressed by an international body.

UN resolutions, not a U.S.-created road map, should set the terms for an international peace conference under the auspices of the Security Council, or indeed the more representative General Assembly. Such a conference would involve all the parties to the conflict, including Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab states, as well as Europe and the United States. The conference should be based on all relevant UN resolutions and internationally guaranteed rights for all parties, and the goal should be to bring about an end to occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem and to create an independent Palestinian state.

A just security solution would achieve both security and justice for Palestinians and Israelis. It would begin with recognizing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. That starts with Israel’s recognition of its role in the expulsion of refugees and creation of the refugee crisis in 1948, and public acceptance of Resolution 194 and the legal right of refugees to return, to which Israel agreed at the time it joined the UN in 1949. Once the right to return has been recognized, negotiations on implementation can begin.

Israel and Palestine, as equals, would jointly exchange full diplomatic relations. Israeli settlers would be disarmed and given the option of moving to new homes inside Israel or remaining in their homes as citizens of Palestine with no special privileges and accountable to the Palestinian government. Jerusalem would be an open city, with the capital of Israel in West Jerusalem and the capital of Palestine in East Jerusalem. Each state would be responsible for maintaining the safety and security of its own citizens and would make commitments to prevent any cross-border attacks on civilians in the other’s territory.

A comprehensive and lasting peace would also require reversing the humanitarian disaster in Palestine as well as addressing the vast disparity of economic power between the two countries, which threatens the basis for regional economic cooperation. Technology transfer and job creation should be among the approaches considered. Within each state, equality of all citizens would be guaranteed. There would be no privileges for one group or discrimination against other groups in either Israel or Palestine.

An end to Israel’s occupation—described as apartheid by former South African President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, and numerous Israelis and Palestinians—will immediately reduce tensions and instability in the region, and make possible much better relations between the United States and the Arab world. The establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the normalization of its relations with Israel as well as with surrounding Arab states will set the terms for the other Arab states’ normalization of ties with Israel, further easing tensions in the Middle East. Furthermore, because anger at Israel’s occupation translates so powerfully into anger toward the United States, Israel’s global patron, an end to occupation will also reduce antagonism toward U.S. policies and reduce the threat to ordinary Americans that those policies engender.

By addressing occupation and oppression, the twin engines of war and terrorism, a Middle East peace with Israeli-Palestinian cooperation at its heart would establish a powerful precedent. Instead of addressing only the symptoms of conflict, it would go deeper toward resolving issues of political power, national identity, and management of economic resources. If Palestinians and Israelis can share space with justice and security for both, if the Middle East becomes a place of peace and prosperity, then people elsewhere in the world will see their own struggles for dignity to be that much more achievable.

Peace is not simply a matter of good intentions. Peace, as the case of Africa demonstrates, requires institutional support. A just security framework in Africa would prioritize the protection of civilians, particularly in instances of genocide and gross violations of international humanitarian law. The Bush administration is building its new Africa Command in an era when, after the debacle of the Iraq War, the costs and flaws of unilateral peacemaking are most stark. A just U.S. Africa policy would fully fund regional and international efforts at peacekeeping. The African Union, woefully underfunded and ill-equipped, should have financial and logistical capacity to serve as “first responders” to crises on the continent. Their mandate should be the short-term protection of civilians so as not to drain scarce resources from the development needs of the continent. The international community must then step in to provide the long- term peacekeeping needed for protracted crises.

A just U.S. Africa policy would also support efforts at regional integration and cohesion within the African continent. The greater integration of markets, currencies, standards, and transport systems would encourage African leaders and civil society to look within, put people first, and work to uplift the entire continent. A progressive U.S. Africa policy would look beyond a militaristic unilateral security frame to a comprehensive engagement that prioritizes Africa’s development.

A just U.S. policy toward Asia would work to erode rather than reinforce the remaining Cold War structures and thinking in the region. The Bush administration reversed itself on negotiating with North Korea over the nuclear crisis. However, the United States has been supporting Japan’s constitutional revisions and large-scale military buildup. Washington has pressured South Korea to back the new military doctrine of “strategic flexibility” that might draw the country against its better judgment into any future U.S.-China conflict. And the United States is building a new Pacific War, an alliance of India, Thailand, Australia, and Japan to contain the ambitions of China.24 Instead, the United States should back regional confidence-building and disarmament mechanisms that can diminish the looming Cold War conflict between Washington and Beijing and prevent Asia from slipping into a disastrous arms race.

A just U.S. policy toward Latin America would stop militarizing the region. In the last decade, the U.S. government has poured over $7 billion in military and police aid into Latin America and the Caribbean.24 A large portion of this sum has gone into narcotics control, which has done nothing to diminish the supply of drugs or deal with the demand in the United States. The U.S. counter-narcotics program for Colombia—Plan Colombia—has sustained a bloody war in that South American country and propped up its corrupt and human rights-abusing government. After September 11, the Bush administration has increasingly merged drugs and terrorism, redefining traffickers as terrorists. Whether justified as counter-narcotics or counter-terrorism, Washington has approached a largely peaceful region as though it were an enormous conflict zone.

After more than a decade of instability, Somalis were beginning to achieve a measure of self-determination. Asha Hagi Elmi’s success in organizing a women’s party and electing 23 women to the national parliament was one sign that the country was beginning to address a range of social injustices. The Ethiopian invasion and the ensuing war has temporarily destroyed those hopes. The Palestinians, Tamils, Kurds, and others similarly want to exercise their right of self-determination. Only when the United States and other countries address these underlying roots of conflict will the international community, in the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, embrace the “world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”


  1. David Loyn, “Somali Woman Leader’s Peace Call,” BBC News, April 26, 2007. Available at:
  2. Aaron Glantz, “U.S. Air Strikes in Somalia Condemned for Killing Innocent Civilians,” OneWorld US. Available at:
  3. Miriam Pemberton and Lawerence Korb, “A Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2008,” Foreign Policy In Focus, April 2007, p.14.
  4. “World View of U.S. Role Goes from Bad to Worse,” PIPA, January 22, 2007; Available at:
  5. Unified Security Budget, op. cit., p.21.
  6. This section taken in part from John Feffer, “Supporting the Arms Industry,” in Tamar Gabelnick and Rachel Stohl, eds., Challenging Conventional Wisdom (Washington: CDI and FAS, 2003).
  7. Jacques Gansler, Defense Conversion, (Washington, DC: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1995), p. 60.
  8. Federation of American Scientists, Arms Sales Monitor, No. 21, July 15, 1993.
  9. Tamar Gabelnick, “Security Assistance Post-September 11th,” Foreign Policy In Focus, May 1, 2002.
  10. Scott Stedjan, “Arms Trade Treaty,” Foreign Policy In Focus, November 29, 2006.
  11. Frida Berrigan and William Hartung, “Who’s Arming Israel?” Foreign Policy In Focus, July 26, 2006.
  12. Nicholas Kristof, “Talking about Israel,” The New York Times, March 18, 2007.
  13. World Food Program, “WFP Warns of Deteriorating Humanitarian Situation in Gaza,” August 26, 2006. Available at:
  14. Richard Curtiss, “‘Sharon Got It All’ Headlined Israel’s Leading Daily, Haaretz,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2004. Available at:
  15. Egypt, a much larger and more impoverished country, receives the second largest amount of U.S. foreign aid.
  16. Israel is the only country allowed to spend part of its military aid funds (25%) on its own domestic arms industry. This has helped Israel consolidate its own arms-exporting sector, part of which actually competes for export customers with U.S. arms manufacturers.
  17. John Dugard, “Human Rights in Palestine,” Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, June 21, 2006. Available at:
  18. Available at:
  19. National Intelligence Council, “Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future With Nongovernment Experts, December 2000,” Available at:
  20. Jeremy Kennan, “The Collapse of the Second Front,” Foreign Policy In Focus, September 26, 2007.
  21. Frida Berrigan, “Peace Accord in Sudan,” Foreign Policy In Focus, January 14, 2005.
  22. Susan E. Rice, Anthony Lake and Donald M. Payne, “We Saved Europeans. Why Not Africans?” The Washington Post, October 2, 2006.
  23. William Hartung and Bridget Moix, “Africa Needs Aid, Not Arms,” Global Beat Syndicate. Available at:
  24. Conn Hallinan, “The New Pacific Wall,” Foreign Policy In Focus, May 30, 2007.
  25. Center for International Policy, Below the Radar (Washington, DC: CIP, March 2007), p.2.

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