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Toward a new foreign policy

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By Rick Howell

    Now that we have a new president the work can begin to establish a better reputation for the United States around the world, and that means a new beginning in foreign policy.

    With Barack Obama as president, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and Sen. John Kerry chairing the foreign relations committee, all the right players are in place to change the arrogance and hubris that marked the last administration’s approach to the world.

    This doesn’t mean that we will     shirk responsibility for a leadership role. But it does mean that we will adopt what Obama advocated during the campaign: a return to diplomacy.

    Kerry, in particular, should understand the folly of wars that are fought for dubious reasons and that, once begun, are very difficult to bring to an end. He experienced it personally in Vietnam.

    Obama’s position on the Iraq war - being against it from the start - is what attracted many people to his candidacy. He has also been correct to say that he’d certainly talk to the leaders of Iran before adopting any hostile policy.

    While we will certainly be getting out of Iraq, it looks as though Obama will continue the attempt to “stabilize” Afghanistan. This has never really been achieved since 2001; the Karzai government controls little territory outside Kabul.

    But in the light of a Taliban resurgence, Obama agrees with military commanders that more U.S. troops are needed. If this works, fine. If it doesn’t, the new president may have to bring that military adventure to an end also. We certainly shouldn’t stay there forever.

    It’s time to reconsider a lot of assumptions about America’s role in the world, and I’m hoping that over time, Obama and Clinton will do exactly that.

    We are not responsible for the freedom of other countries. We can model it, recommend it, and support those forces that want it in a given country. But to send our young people to die in places like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan should be unacceptable.

    The Bush notion of “pre-emptive war” has been proven to be an unmitigated disaster and should be consigned to the ash heap of history. Obama certainly seems to understand that.

    Our official hostility to Cuba, and to socialist leaders such as Hugo Chavez and others in Latin America, should also come to an end. The trade embargo against Cuba is a relic of the Cold War that should be tossed out. Obama is apparently not ready to embrace that yet, but he should.

    Ever since the Monroe Doctrine, the United States has intervened again and again in the affairs of Latin America. We’ve invaded, we’ve supported invaders, and we’ve paid U.S. dollars for some of the worst tyrannies. Leaders such as Chavez know this, and it’s this     they hate, not America itself.(Chavez, by the way, is often described, even by the so-called liberal media, as a “dictator.” But he was in fact elected by his own people.)

    The American global military apparatus should also come under scrutiny, especially in a time when our national debt and deficits just can’t support it. Do we really need troops and military bases in Germany and Japan? Indeed, the business of empire has been very costly and very bloody.

    A new day really has dawned with the Obama presidency. Let’s hope that it means a new start not just for America at home, but in our relations with the rest of the world.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.