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International Relations Center
MAY 16, 2005
1:38 PM
CONTACT: International Relations Center 
Kyle Johnson | Communications Director
505-388-0208 ofc | 505-313-5519 cel |
Reclaiming Our Good Neighbor Legacy

WASHINGTON -- May 16 -- Is the U.S. a good neighbor? In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt decided that U.S. foreign policy needed a dramatic overhaul—because America’s military occupations, dollar diplomacy, and disdain for other cultures were bad for business, bad for U.S. security, and bad for our own self-respect as a nation.

A May 2005 report by a team of foreign policy experts makes a compelling case that FDR’s Good Neighbor policy can inspire a new framework for international relations. A Global Good Neighbor Ethic for International Relations, a 32-page report produced by the International Relations Center and Foreign Policy In Focus, concludes that good neighbor principles and practices would be a healthy departure form business as usual.

The report says it’s “time to push our way through the barricades established by outdated political labels of conservative vs. liberal, realist vs. idealist, or isolationist vs. internationalist,” and ground a new foreign policy in the best of American values.

“Like FDR’s foreign policy in the 1930s, the Global Good Neighbor ethic breaks with the language of Washington think tanks, pundits, and the current U.S. foreign policy, emulating instead the practices of towns, communities, churches, and neighborhoods across our land,” said Laura Carlsen, director of the IRC’s Americas Program.

“The contrasts between the early 1930s and today are striking,” said Salih Booker, director of Africa Action. “With his Good Neighbor policy and New Deal programs, FDR ended U.S. military occupations abroad, promoted cross-cultural understanding, and instituted major social democratic reforms like Social Security. The legacy of FDR’s foreign and domestic policies gives us hope that once again we can change course.”

“We should heed the warning of John Quincy Adams that we should ‘go not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy’,” cautioned John Gershman, IRC codirector of the Foreign Policy In Focus think tank. “Rather than supporting crusades like an open ended ‘war on terror’ and wars founded on dubious intelligence, we suggest a more narrowly focused search for the international terrorists that attacked the United States and other countries like Spain. These threats, these monsters, must be destroyed before they do more damage.”

“Adopting a Global Good Neighbor ethic doesn’t require backing a specific political party,” said IRC policy director Tom Barry. “It doesn’t mean joining or leaving the conservative, liberal, progressive, left, or right political camps. All that it means is that you believe, as Roosevelt did, that everyday good neighbor practices—self respect, mutual respect, and a spirit of cooperation—-are the proper starting points for mutually beneficial international relations.

“We are tired of ineffective and ill-advised U.S. foreign aid programs,” said Barry, author of several books on foreign assistance. “We call for the abolishment of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy because of their meddlesome, bad neighborly practices.”

“As FDR’s Good Neighbor policy and his visionary agenda for international cooperation amply demonstrated,” noted Marie Dennis, director of Maryknoll Global Concerns Office, “the true power of the United States should be a product of prestige, not military might.”

The report’s authors are available for media interviews. They are:

The IRC, the report’s authors, and colleagues will publicly release the document and launch the Global Good Neighbor initiative at three events:

Monday 16 May 2005 in New York Press briefing at the UN under the auspices of United Nations Correspondents Association

Tuesday 17 May 2005 in New York Reception at Nathan Cummings Foundation

Thursday 19 May 2005 in Washington, DC Discussion panel at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

For more information, see or contact Kyle Johnson, IRC communications director.


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