Monday, March 04, 2013

The Quest for Domestic Justice is Important to Foreign Policy

The Cold War was not only about preventing nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, but about competition between two cultures. Much of it was about competition for the affiliation of people in the rest of the world to one or another of the systems. U.S. leaders developed a policy that had three major elements -- economic strength, military strength, and what we now call soft power.

Alliances in the Cold War
There was a serious effort to demonstrate that American culture not only was linked to more affluence for its members, but also for movement towards a more just society. The civil rights movement, the Great Society policy of the Johnson administration, and foreign aid were all part of that third leg of policy.

Today, there is a clash of Islamic and Western cultures. We seek a foreign policy that will lead to better relations between the participants in these cultures while maintaining as much peace as possible. Economic strength continues to be important. It seems to me that military strength remains important, although fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may not have been the best policy instruments. Soft power should again be the third leg of our stance.

There are many things in American history of which we should be ashamed -- including slavery, the treatment of American Indians, racism, religious prejudice, and exploitation of poor immigrants. All societies have similar skeletons in their closets. However, the issue is not what we were but what we strive to be, and how much progress we make towards the better angels of our nature. Are we doing enough to promote justice domestically and internationally? I think not.

I suggest that we again need popular movements to promote a more just society, not only because we desire a more just society, but also because those movements would help our foreign policy as we strive to improve relations with the Islamic (and other) peoples and achieve a more peaceful and safer world.


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