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What You Need to Know: A Glimpse at US Foreign Policy in the Democratic Party Platform

As we approach the Democratic National Convention, we’ve reviewed the draft 2020 Democratic Party Platform.  In this critical moment, we face an unprecedented global pandemic and economic recession. More than ever, we need a US policy agenda that centers the solutions of grassroots feminists and social movements worldwide.

Below is our analysis of key highlights of the platform, with a focus on US foreign policy.

The Democratic party platform lays out its vision of US foreign policy — stating that “the ultimate measure —and purpose—of our foreign policy is whether it protects and advances America’s security, prosperity and values.”

What if we could imagine a different answer to the question of “what is US foreign policy for?”

There’s a narrow, bipartisan approach that sees foreign policy only as a vehicle to advance American security and to project power over others. This must be transformed.

Instead, we can see US foreign policy as a strategy for remedying historic injustices and harms. This is especially vital when those harms have been perpetuated by US policies. We must reimagine US foreign policy as a tool of the global cooperation needed to tackle the key challenges of our time: from the pandemic, to climate crisis, to economic recession.

The platform takes some important steps in this direction — and there are still places where we need to go farther. For example:

  • Ending ‘endless wars’ and a military-first approach: We must end US military interventions, from US support for the Saudi coalition’s onslaught in Yemen to the war in Afghanistan, that have destabilized communities and worsened humanitarian crises. This goes beyond ending any one war. This is about ending the US militarist mentality that has led to decades of endless wars. It’s a step forward for the US peace movement that the platform recognizes the shift that’s required, stating the need to “deliver on this overdue commitment to end the forever wars.”

Yet, while the platform supports repealing the authorizations for use of military force (“AUMFs”) that enable the US to wage war, it recommends replacing them with a “narrow and specific” framework. This remains a pathway to rubber-stamping new US military interventions.

Overall, the platform retains a confrontational, militarized approach to foreign policy. It asserts that the US military should remain the “best-trained, best-equipped, and most effective fighting force in the world.” We need to reject this militarized logic of national security — and pivot to approaches rooted in human security: basic rights like health, housing and strong social safety nets.The platform also falls short of agreeing to cut the military budget by 10%, a first step proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Reps. Mark Pocan and Barbara Lee.

The platform should also call for a global ceasefire — a call spearheaded by women peacebuilders worldwide and taken up in a recent United Nations Security Council resolution. We cannot hope to effectively and urgently confront pandemic and recession while resources are diverted to sustaining conflicts.

Finally, we need to recognize the devastation that US militarism has wrought across the world, and we must invest in reparations for women and communities harmed by those military actions.

  • Women, Peace and Security: The plan makes positive commitments to implement the Women, Peace and Security Act. It says the US will “incorporate more women into peace processes— where their participation can improve the odds of a peace agreement holding—and ensure women’s leadership in peace and security processes globally.” We need concrete implementation steps to ensure that women are at the heart of peacebuilding efforts. They bring expertise in resolving conflicts through inclusive approaches that center people most impacted: women, youth, people with disabilities and other marginalized communities.
  • Israel and Palestine: The platform fails to condemn or even mention the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Instead, it reiterates US support of Israel’s “right to defend itself” and “qualitative military edge.” While it opposes the expansion of settlements and any annexation of land, the platform refuses to denounce the network of 250+ existing illegal settlements, which experts have said are violations of international law.
  • Economic sanctions: The platform focuses its critique of economic sanctions on the adverse impact on the US’s financial system. But it fails to recognize the devastating humanitarian and gendered impacts of economic sanctions like those imposed on Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela, which shred social safety nets, strangle economies, and prevent access to medical equipment and aid needed to confront COVID-19. In targeted countries, women and girls often bear the responsibility to provide, heal and care for families and communities when sanctions tear these essentials out of reach. We call for more concrete commitments to lift harmful economic sanctions.
  • Disability justice: The platform pledges to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and ensure that “programs are disability-inclusive” across diplomatic and development efforts. We also know that people with disabilities have crucial expertise as we respond to the impact of the pandemic — and we must center their solutions across US programs and policies.
  • LGBTQ+ rights: The platform notably supports the universal rights and dignity of all LGBTQ+ people, including by strengthening immigration policies for LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers, by amplifying “the voices of LGBTQ+ persons around the world and counter[ing] violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons wherever it appears.”
  • Reproductive rights: The platform proposes to repeal the Mexico City policy and the Helms Amendment, dangerous, racist policies that limit access to abortion for people in the Global South. It also supports funding the United Nations Population Fund, which provides vital access to reproductive rights, health care and gender-based violence services globally. These are essential policy actions to protect access to reproductive rights worldwide.
August 17, 2020