The obvious racism in U.S. foreign policy — from the deportation of Haitian refugees and asylum seekers to the death toll of Black and Brown people from U.S. drone warfare worldwide to the global consequences of U.S. policies toward Covid and “vaccine apartheid” — is rarely discussed by U.S. officials and the American media. A publication just released in time for the United Nations General Assembly seeks to shed light on this under examined subject.
A new study from Salih Booker of the Center for International Policy and Diana Ohlbaum of the Friends Committee on National Legislation explains how the current, militarized U.S. approach to “national security” perpetuates racism and causes immense harm to people of color at home and abroad. The discussion paper emerged from a high-level working group that included a cross-section of leading U.S. advocates, activists, organizers, faith community leaders, and scholars in a wide variety of fields.
“The major challenges facing Americans today – racial and gender injustice, economic inequality, pandemic disease, climate change – cannot be solved without international solidarity and human compassion,” said Salih Booker, President & CEO of the Center for International Policy. “Endless wars and endless Pentagon spending only exacerbate these problems, making people at home and abroad less safe. Without addressing the racism and militarism at the core of U.S. foreign policy, progress toward a more sustainable, just, and peaceful world will not be possible.”
The paper identifies three major systems that entrench racism and militarism in U.S. foreign policy. The first is economic, including the military-industrial-carceral complex, the corporate profits extracted from it, the jobs dependent upon it, and the campaign contributions arising from it. The second is political and legal, encompassing the structures that exclude communities of color from fair representation in Congress and repress their political power. Finally, an array of foundational myths undergirds America’s systemic racism and addiction to violence.
“The sense of American exceptionalism and national superiority, widely shared among U.S. policymakers, is based on the poisonous belief that American lives – and specifically white lives – are more valuable than others,” said Diana Ohlbaum, FCNL Senior Strategist and Legislative Director for Foreign Policy. “It relies on the militarist myth that violence is both necessary and effective as a tool of foreign policy.”
Booker and Ohlbaum conclude that dismantling entrenched racism and militarism will require new thinking and ways of working together, arguing that systemic change will come from broad grassroots movements that fundamentally shift power dynamics. It is these movements that provide the truth-telling necessary to educate a country willfully ignorant of its past.