Make Your Own Foreign Policy

Bush is on the ranch in Crawford, Texas. Members of Congress are back at home or are abroad doing important “research”. With the policymakers who have steered our country in the wrong direction absent from Washington, now is the time for YOU to start making US foreign policy.

Foreign Policy In Focus is excited to announce the launch of a new website enabling citizens to write their own foreign Policy. US Policy World (USPW) is an incubator for progressive policy analysis, encouraging broad expert and public participation. Using wiki technology (the same that Wikipedia is built on), anyone can write and edit directly on the site with ease.

Historically, the development of foreign policy has been left to elites, leaving out the broader public. But since the terrorist attacks of 9-11, the U.S. public has become more engaged in international affairs. Indeed, many analysts view the mid-term election results from November 2006 as one of the few votes in our nation’s history based directly upon a foreign policy issue — the Iraq War.

New technologies make it possible for the public to be more directly involved in these debates over a new framework for foreign policy. Time magazine’s person of the year was “you.” They wrote:

“It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”

There is no time like the present to “wrestle power from the few.”

US Policy World depends on informed and concerned citizens like YOU. Your contributions will assemble the framework that we will use in a fall media event comparing candidates’ positions with the people’s policy. And the ideas and policy prescriptions developed in USPW will help inform the greater network of FPIF writers. So take a break from the summer hammock and jump into USPW. We look forward to your help in making a better foreign policy with FPIF and the larger progressive movement.

While the Mice are Away

With Congress and the President away from Washington, one would think little harm could be done on the policy front. But following the pattern of legislating behind the scenes during the dead of August, the cat has still been at play.

Last week there was some good news as the Pentagon announced that it would shut down the controversial TALON database that was criticized for improperly storing information on peace activists and others whose actions posed no threat under the guise of anti-terrorism.

But just as with the multi-headed hydra, as one program was being shut down, another grew. Beginning today, Uncle Sam now requires charities and other non-governmental organizations that receive funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide personal information — birth dates, telephone numbers, email addresses and other data — on individuals occupying key positions in these organizations.

Critiquing this new policy, FPIF contributor Dan Smith writes, “The new USAID restrictions are another effort to discourage legitimate non-government and civil society organizations from trying to advance development, humanitarian, and peace agendas in areas ravaged by human folly, natural disasters, and war.”

The new restrictions come in the aftermath of the disclosure of another attempt at squashing free speech by Bush. The Washington Post unveiled a White House Manual for “deterring potential protestors” from President Bush’s public appearances around the country.

Perhaps Bush should spend a little less effort and time spying on people, and a bit more on listening to them. With his approval ratings hovering around 30 percent, it couldn’t hurt.

Regime Change

Democratic leaders have shied away from calling for the impeachment of Bush, despite the lies and deception he perpetuated in taking our nation to war. But two heavy hitters showed no hesitancy in weighing in on the future of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki last week. Both Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) echoed Bush’s warning that the Iraqi people would replace the al-Maliki government if it continued to be “unresponsive.”

Noting the dangers of such finger wagging, FPIF contributor Erica Bouris wrote in The Dangers of Scolding an Embattled Arab Leader, “that it doesn’t generally result in a quick turn towards obedience and good governance.” For those with short memory, she reminds us that we’ve been down this road before. “Whether Maliki stays or goes, this problem isn’t going to go away. Lest we forget, Maliki is Prime Minister number two, replacing Ibrahim Jaffari who was booted out for — you guessed it — being too sectarian and unable to clean up the political mess in Iraq.”

Perhaps former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi should rethink his $300 million contract with influential GOP lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers who are grooming him for return to the prime minister’s office.

Those in Washington who think a military coup may be the way to go in Iraq should read Zia Mian’s latest, Pakistan Under Siege. He writes, “Military rule and puppet politicians have brought Pakistan to its present dreadful state. Rather than keeping Musharraf in power the world must demand that Pakistan’s army yield control over government and economy once and for all.”