Bill Moyers hosts the following important article by Andrew Basevich, “Are There Questions About US Foreign Policy We’re Forbidden to Ask?” When it comes to foreign policy, Basevich, a history professor at Boston University, a retired colonel in the US Army, graduate of West Point, with a doctorate from Princeton, is one of America’s straight shooters – one who tolerates no fools and accepts no political or nationalistic spin. He is important to listen to because he challenges a number of the unspoken assumptions of American policy – assumptions that keep our nation engaged in conflicts around the world with little to gain and little understanding of why we are there or what objectives we might accomplish. In the linked article, Basevich sets out twenty-four questions, each worthy of your consideration. For example, the following:
“America’s empire of bases: The US military today garrisons the planet in a fashion without historical precedent. Successive administrations, regardless of party, justify and perpetuate this policy by insisting that positioning US forces in distant lands fosters peace, stability and security. In the present century, however, perpetuating this practice has visibly had the opposite effect. In the eyes of many of those called upon to “host” American bases, the permanent presence of such forces smacks of occupation. They resist. Why should US policymakers expect otherwise?”
Or this, on our role in non-judicial killings across the globe:
“6. Assassin in chief: A policy of assassination, secretly implemented under the aegis of the CIA during the early Cold War, yielded few substantive successes. When the secrets were revealed, however, the US government suffered considerable embarrassment, so much so that presidents foreswore politically motivated murder. After 9/11, however, Washington returned to the assassination business in a big way and on a global scale, using drones. Today, the only secret is the sequence of names on the current presidential hit list, euphemistically known as the White House “disposition matrix.” But does assassination actually advance US interests (or does it merely recruit replacements for the terrorists it liquidates)? How can we measure its costs, whether direct or indirect? What dangers and vulnerabilities does this practice invite?”
What should our role be as an arms merchandiser? Basevich:
“14. Merchandizing death: When it comes to arms sales, there is no need to Make America Great Again. The US ranks No. 1 by a comfortable margin, with longtime allies Saudi Arabia and Israel leading recipients of those arms. Each year, the Saudis (per capita gross domestic product $20,000) purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of US weapons. Israel (per capita gross domestic product $38,000) gets several billion dollars worth of such weaponry annually courtesy of the American taxpayer. If the Saudis pay for US arms, why shouldn’t the Israelis? They can certainly afford to do so.”
What of American double standards?
“23. Double standards (III): The United States condemns the indiscriminate killing of civilians in wartime. Yet over the last three-quarters of a century, it killed civilians regularly and often on a massive scale. By what logic, since the 1940s, has the killing of Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Afghans and others by US air power been any less reprehensible than the Syrian government’s use of “barrel bombs” to kill Syrians today? On what basis should Americans accept Pentagon claims that, when civilians are killed these days by US forces, the acts are invariably accidental, whereas Syrian forces kill civilians intentionally and out of malice? Why exclude incompetence or the fog of war as explanations? And why, for instance, does the United States regularly gloss over or ignore altogether the noncombatants that Saudi forces (with US assistance) are routinely killing in Yemen?”
Basevich, as I said, asks twenty-four such questions – I dare say he could produce another twenty-four – asking that we consider and debate the underlying assumptions of US foreign policy. This is important stuff. When we finally jettison Trump and reestablish a real policy built on knowledge and principle, we could do worse than to get Basevich involved. Our messes throughout the world suggest it is time to think outside the old boxes.