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'Time for a Major Shift': Groups Demand Biden Vow End to Endless Wars and Destructive US Foreign Policy

A joint letter urges the presidential candidate to oppose regime-change interventions and broad-based sanctions, engage with Iran and North Korea, and support a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden on Jan. 7, 2020 delivers remarks about the Trump administration's recent actions in Iraq at Current, Chelsea Piers in New York City.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden on Jan. 7, 2020 delivers remarks about the Trump administration's recent actions in Iraq at Current, Chelsea Piers in New York City. (Photo: Ron Adar / Echoes Wire / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

In a letter Monday to former Vice President Joe Biden, over 50 groups urged the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president to embrace "a principled foreign policy, one that prioritizes diplomacy and multilateralism over militarism."

"The American people are looking for a leader who will turn the page on 9/11 policies that have resulted in an endless cycle of war, countless lives lost, increased global instability, large-scale refugee flows of the displaced, and the violation of Americans' civil liberties and human rights," explains the letter (pdf), first reported by HuffPost.

"Americans... aren't falling for fear mongering or calls for nation-building abroad at a time when the challenges facing our nation and world need peaceful and cooperative solutions."
—Erik Sperling, Just Foreign Policy

"It's time to turn the page on the disastrous war and regime change policies that have only led to destabilization and suffering abroad," Erik Sperling, executive director of Just Foreign Policy, said in a statement. "Our policymakers must come to terms with the irreversible trend of public opinion away from interventionism."

"Americans—and particularly millennials—aren't falling for fear mongering or calls for nation-building abroad at a time when the challenges facing our nation and world need peaceful and cooperative solutions," added Sperling, whose group signed on to the letter.

"It is time to end our endless wars and adopt a new approach to international relations, one in which the U.S. abides by international law, encourages others to do the same, and utilizes our military solely for the defense of the people of our country," the letter says. "We hope that in the months ahead you will engage with the American people and groups like ours in a broad discussion on what a more just and progressive U.S. foreign policy should look like."

Biden spent over three decades as a U.S. senator—a career which included stints as chair of the upper chamber's Foreign Relations Committee—before serving as former President Barack Obama's vice president for two terms. Throughout the 2020 primary process, the presumptive Democratic nominee has faced intense criticism from progressives for his long record on international issues, including his support for the Iraq War.

"We can no longer afford to militarize our approach to foreign policy problems—and we have seen first hand how these misguided national security spending priorities have left us ill-equipped to deal with the crisis we now face."
—Dan Kalik, MoveOn

Signatories of the letter to Biden include the Center for Economic and Policy Research, CodePink, Greenpeace US, Indivisible, International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), Jewish Voice for Peace Action, MoveOn, Our Revolution, Peace Action, the Quincy Institute, RootsAction.org, and Win Without War.

"The United States is in dire need of a fundamental reorientation of its foreign policy, away from the goal of dominating the globe militarily, which has mired America in endless wars, and towards a national security strategy centered on diplomatic engagement and military restraint," said Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute. "The Covid pandemic has made it abundantly clear that our excessive focus on foreign military threats—real and imagined—have left us naked and vulnerable for the real challenges of this century—pandemics and climate chaos."

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Dan Kalik, senior political adviser at MoveOn, concurred. "The coronavirus has changed everything, and our foreign policy priorities must change to reflect the fundamentally new world that we are living in," he said. "We can no longer afford to militarize our approach to foreign policy problems—and we have seen first hand how these misguided national security spending priorities have left us ill-equipped to deal with the crisis we now face."

The letter was reportedly spearheaded by Demand Progress. Yasmine Taeb, the civil liberties group's senior policy counsel, told HuffPost that if Biden "wants to be successful in November and wants to galvanize and energize the grassroots, then we need to get better clarity and stronger commitments from Vice President Biden on many of these progressive foreign policy issues that the left cares about."

In addition to the broad call for "extraordinarily bold leadership" to "aggressively" reform U.S. foreign policy, the letter includes a list of key measures the groups believe Biden should support:

  • Repealing the 2001 AUMF and respecting congressional war powers;
  • Reducing the Pentagon budget;
  • Engaging with Iran;
  • Engaging with North Korea;
  • Supporting a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
  • Opposing regime-change interventions and broad-based sanctions;
  • Rejecting discriminatory immigration policies and supporting refugees;
  • Closing the detention center at the U.S. Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba;
  • Ending support for governments that violate human rights; and
  • Prioritizing diplomacy and avoid militarizing our relations with other powers such as Russia and China.

Under each priority listed, the letter details current conditions and what Biden should do if he officially becomes the nominee and wins the election in November. The groups also take aim at some policies implemented by President Donald Trump and his predecessors.

"The military and political campaigns aimed at regime change have borne disaster in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere in the past two decades," says the section on interventions and sanctions. "Meanwhile, broad-based sanctions against countries like Iran and Venezuela have served to impoverish the population at large while not having positive political outcomes—and at times empowering ruling elites."

"The pandemic has shown as clearly as possible that so many of our country's security priorities and investments over the past two decades have been not just wrong but counterproductive, and it's time for a major shift."
—Matt Duss, Sanders adviser

"The U.S. should stop seeking to transform other countries through destructive policies," the letter says, "and instead work through the United Nations Security Council and other multilateral fora to build global consensus and international legal backing for peaceful, diplomatic solutions to internal and international conflicts."

Biden's campaign has recently had "encouraging" talks about foreign policy with supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who suspended his presidential campaign last month, according to Foreign Policy, which cited Sanders adviser Matt Duss.

"Progressives just need to keep organizing and mobilizing behind the goal of ending the forever wars and strengthening nonmilitary elements of our foreign policy," Duss told the outlet. "I think we already had a strong case, but the pandemic has shown as clearly as possible that so many of our country's security priorities and investments over the past two decades have been not just wrong but counterproductive, and it's time for a major shift.

This post has been updated with additional comment from signatories to the letter.

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