I'm guessing that a lot of you, like me, received a lot of email from the Obama campaign over the last many months, urging your support. Many of you, like me, responded. You gave money, made phone calls, knocked on doors.
Now it's time to write back. The policy window is open, as the political scientists say. During his campaign, President-Elect Obama promised to repair relations between the United States and the rest of the world. Not only that, but he promised to do specific things, many of which could be quickly and easily accomplished. Right now policies are being set and senior officials chosen for the new Administration. Early input counts more: "it's always too early until it's too late," as they say in Washington. Now is the time to ask Barack to fulfill his promises to reform U.S. foreign policy.
Obama promised that he would end the war in Iraq and withdraw U.S. troops. There is no obstacle to doing so besides the unfulfilled imperial fantasies of the neoconservatives. The Iraqi government itself is demanding a firm timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Obama promised to talk to Iran without pre-conditions. There is no reasons that diplomatic contacts should not begin immediately. The Bush Administration itself has proposed to open an "interests section" - low-level diplomatic representation - in Iran. This would be a good first step. Obama should publicly encourage the Bush Administration to move forward with its own good idea.
Obama promised to pay more attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some of the policies he has proposed - like sending more U.S. troops, and launching attacks into Pakistan without the agreement of the Pakistani government - are of dubious merit and are likely to be harmful. But other things he has proposed, like increasing the pace and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, are urgently needed. Obama has argued, correctly, that the U.S. should talk to everyone. This policy needs to be applied in Afghanistan and Pakistan, without delay. The official policy of the Afghan government is to seek reconciliation with the Taliban. U.S. policy should clearly support this policy of the Afghan government, not seek to sabotage it.
Obama promised to actively support efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Early indications that he seriously intends to do so could have a dramatic effect in the region. He could signal that he intends to actually implement existing U.S. policy against Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a policy with which the majority of Israelis would have no dispute, and would welcome with relief.
Obama promised to improve U.S. relations with Latin America. In a campaign speech, he invoked the example of FDR, whose "Good Neighbor" policy swore off U.S. military intervention, and pledged economic and humanitarian cooperation. Great strides could be easily made in Latin America through cooperation, extending education and health care to the poor majority in a region suffering from extreme poverty and inequality. Obama could start by negotiating the return of ambassadors with Bolivia and Venezuela, and reversing the Bush Administration's decision to end Bolivia's preferential access to the U.S. market. He could fulfill his promise to lift the Bush Administration's restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, work with the bipartisan Cuba Caucus in the House to make it easier for U.S. companies to sell to Cuba, and work towards lifting completely the U.S. embargo, which the whole world is demanding. He could pledge that the U.S. will, for once, remain studiously neutral in the upcoming Salvadoran elections.
Obama promised to cut unnecessary spending. The greatest opportunity for cuts is in the military budget, which is outrageously large by world standards, and much of which consists of pork barrel spending for military contractors. Representative Frank has called for a 25% cut in U.S. military spending. Let John McCain, who says he know where to cut, prepare a list of recommendations. Who will dare to say that John McCain's proposed cuts cannot be made?
It's always to early, until it's too late. Urge Barack now to reform U.S. foreign policy.
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