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21st August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:00 pm

Beyond November: Christopher Paine


The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

Today, we’ll hear from Christopher Paine.  Posts in the series will appears every Thursday from now to the election.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

If we are actually to overcome the security challenges facing the U.S. and the world in the coming decades – rather than merely tinkering with them – the next President will need to constitute a dramatically new paradigm for U.S. foreign policy. This new paradigm rests on four pillars:

(1) Restoration of the UN Charter and increasing adherence of the force of law – not the law of force – as the ultimate arbiter of behavior between and within nation states. This means an end to the era of badmouthing and underfunding the UN system, and the beginning of serious efforts to reform and strengthen it capabilities for preventing and terminating international and civil conflicts, especially those that jeopardize the lives of large numbers of civilians.

(2) Sustainable human development, not “global economic growth,” must become the fundamental objective that the United States shares, and promotes in its relations with other nations and international institutions. That means that the actual conditions of life on the ground for human beings, and for the natural ecosystems they inhabit and will pass on to their children, must become the essential benchmarks of “progress” in our foreign policy.

(3) Renewable energy development and energy efficiency at home and abroad should be made the foremost priority of any new sustainable human development strategy. In fact, the multiple beneficial roles that renewable energy and efficiency technologies can play—in averting climate change, fostering sustainable economic development overseas, minimizing future proliferation risks, and creating good domestic jobs—illustrate the way that the traditionally sharp but often artificial distinctions between “domestic” and “foreign” policy are eroding, and none too soon.

(4) At a minimum, the next President will have to dismantle the Bush legacy in National Security Policy, but real progress against 21st century threats will require him to go further, and dismantle the longstanding political-industrial-bureaucratic nexus that observers of our politics have long dubbed the “U.S. National Security State.” For decades the United States has been locked into a pattern of dysfunctional defense spending that has impoverished virtually every public space, park, transit system, library, school, and health clinic in America. Successive administrations have pursued such costly technological idiocies as missile defenses, airborne lasers, and killer satellites, while maintaining huge nuclear forces to no discernible purpose, and developing a vast and unaffordable array of new conventional weapons to defeat the massed formations of an enemy that has faded into history.  A major rethinking of U.S. military defense requirements is urgently needed that would free resources for achieving the indispensable sustainable development objectives outlined above.

Christopher E. Paine directs the Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC, which he joined in June 1991 after five years with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he assisted successful efforts to end US production of plutonium for weapons and underground nuclear test explosions. From 1985-1987, Paine was a consultant to Princeton University’s Project on Nuclear Policy Alternatives, a Research Fellow-in-residence at the Federation of American Scientists, Washington, D.C.  and a staff consultant for nuclear nonproliferation policy with the Subcommittee on Energy, Conservation & Power, U.S. House of Representatives.  He is the author or co-author of numerous NRDC reports, as well as some 70 articles on proliferation, energy, and national security policy in such publications as Scientific American, Nature, Arms Control Today, Science, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  He is a 1974 graduate of Harvard University.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2008 at 4:00 pm and is filed under foreign policy, politics. It is tagged under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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