In advocating a “Foreign Policy for Civility” I am calling not merely for good manners and diplomacy, but for making concern for the global common good the basic animating principle of our foreign policy. We must seek to build our foreign policy on what is best for the peoples of the world as well as for ourselves. Although he does not use the word civility, this is the substance of what Bernie Sanders recently called for in his excellent
on foreign policy at Westminster College.
Traditionally, civility has been—at least at times—a vital part of American foreign policy. One of the most important contributions that the United States ever made to the cause of social justice in another country was its support for the postwar land reform in Japan. Rather than seek revenge on those who had attacked us in WWII, we sought to make allies of the Japanese people as against the Japanese militarists that had betrayed them as well as the people of the United States. My article on the subject—“The ‘Soft Peace Boys’: Presurrender Planning and Japanese Land Reform”—is available online for free download
American assistance to other peoples in their pursuit of political liberty has often come through what I have called “civil interventions”—nonviolent efforts to decisively affect regime maintenance or regime change in another country that are informed by a commitment to democratic solidarity. In a book on the subject, I examined successful American civil interventions in Cuba in 1944, Brazil in 1945, Venezuela in 1946, Ecuador in 1947, and Costa Rica in 1948, as well as a civil intervention that ultimately proved counterproductive in Argentina in 1945-1946. Like all other successes in human affairs, the victories here, if they were to be sustained, had to be fought for continually and, unfortunately, only in Costa Rica did democracy survive intact from the 1940s to the present. My book—
Democracy and U.S. Policy in Latin America during the Truman Years
—is available for
When the United States has forsaken civility and pursued selfish and/or self-centered visions of American interests—from the Trail of Tears and Death in the nineteenth century that we forced upon the Southern Indians in order to steal their homelands to the invasion of Iraq in the twenty first century with its goal of remaking Iraq in our own image with force and violence—the consequences have often been disastrous for other peoples and in the long run bad for the United States as well.
We are all in this together and must come to recognize that the common good of each is part of the common good of all. If we can keep this in mind, all of our major problems—from maintaining cordial relations with China to successfully confronting global warming—will be easier to solve.