Restoring American Global Leadership, One Step at a Time

I think it’s fair to say that after the last eight years we in the United States are not quite accustomed to what it is like to have a president that is genuinely popular oversees. This will clearly change under the Obama administration, and with Obama’s popularity comes tremendous opportunity to re-affirm America’s traditional role as a global leader. This will not happen automatically, or simply by virtue of his personal popularity. Rather, restoring American global leadership requires that the new administration take a number of discrete actions, the sum of which signals to the rest of the world that the United States is back–and ready to lead by example.

Today, a group of 145 foreign policy experts, including former senior government officials, at least one ex-president (Jimmy Carter), academics, activists and advocates signed a letter spelling out exactly what policies would do the most to restore American global leadership and global standing. The letter is distributed under the aegis of the Connect US Fund and provides very specific markers for judging whether or not the incoming administration is willing to adopt the kind of policies that constitute a brave new era of American global engagement.

Repair U.S. credibility and influence on international human rights and humanitarian law:

* Issue an executive order that reaffirms an absolute prohibition on torture and ensures that all detainees within the custody of the United States are treated consistent with standards articulated in the U.S. Army Field Manual and international legal instruments; that halts the practice of secret detention; that ends rendition to torture and that directs a review of all legal opinions and policy guidance relating to treatment of detainees.

* Announce your intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center promptly and to treat all detainees in U.S. custody in a manner consistent with international obligations and domestic law.

* Re-engage in a positive way with international human rights institutions, such as by supporting the work of the ICC to investigate and prosecute individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Establish U.S. leadership on international efforts to address climate change:

* Commit to binding caps on carbon emissions that would reduce greenhouse gases by at least 80% by 2050, and thereby effectively contribute to worldwide efforts to limit the average world temperature increase to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels; to funding and mechanisms to assist developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change, access clean energy technology and avoid deforestation and degradation; and to legislation that promotes domestic green jobs and renewable energy.

* Quickly put in place a U.S. negotiating team led by a senior White House official, to work with Congress and civil society to formulate key elements of the U.S. position prior to climate negotiations scheduled for June in Bonn.

Reduce the threat of nuclear war and weapons proliferation:

* Resume talks with Russia on a new, legally-binding, and verifiable agreement that would, by the end of 2012, achieve significantly deeper and irreversible reductions than currently planned in deployed and reserve U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles and delivery systems, and that would extend or strengthen key verification and monitoring provisions of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

* Outlaw nuclear weapons testing: undertake bipartisan efforts to win prompt Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and actively support ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring on board other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.

* In order to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism, commit to the goal of securing and retrieving vulnerable nuclear weapons usable materials worldwide within four years.

Ensure a safer and more secure world by dramatically strengthening U.S. programs to promote diplomacy and development:

* Transmit to Congress with the FY2010 budget a separate national security and international affairs budget that includes funding for Foreign Operations, Homeland Security, and Defense. The justification for this separate budget should highlight how the four agencies that support national security (DOD, Homeland Security, USAID, and the State Department) complement one another to make America and the world more safe.

* Include in the FY2010 budget substantially increased resources for civilian agencies engaged in development, diplomacy and efforts to assist fragile states.

* Elevate the development functions within government: promptly name a highly respected development professional to lead U.S. development programs and ensure that that the National Security Council staff includes a senior staff position dedicated to development.

* Work with Congress to create a coherent, effective, U.S. development strategy that affirms the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the use of all key tools to achieve them (such as increased and reformed foreign aid, expanded debt relief and trade reform), and that guides a rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

* Request that Congress ensure that the appropriation for the International Affairs Budget for fiscal year 2009 is at least at the level requested by the current Administration.

* Ensure that international deliberations on the global financial crisis include
representatives of developing countries, and that decisions on managing the crisis do not unduly impact critical international development priorities.