Much media attention has been paid to the foreign policy platforms of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump; however, we know almost nothing about Jill Stein’s or the Green Party of the United States’ (GPUS) foreign policy proposals. Yes, we can be reasonably confident that that Jill 2016 will not be winning the 2016 election (although we should not discount the possibility completely), but with Stein polling at 7% nationally in a recent CNN poll and many Sanders supporters having pledged #BernieOrBust and, more importantly, #BernieOrStein, maybe it is time to pay at least passing attention to Dr. Jill Stein’s foreign policy platform.
The GPUS official platform and Jill Stein’s official campaign website make a clear and consistent foreign policy position based on diplomacy, soft power, and a radical rethinking of U.S. foreign policy priorities. The platform highlights 6 key points, which range from the predictable to the completely underappreciated: Peace and Disarmament, Peace in the Middle East, Trade, Human Rights, and Puerto Rican Independence. Within these six points, the Green Party highlights in detail their interest in multilateralism, noninterventionism, diplomacy, serious restrictions on chemical and biological weapons and landmines, and increasing soft power through the support of human rights and the rights to self-determination outlined in the UN charter.
Specifically, the campaign’s platform proposes cutting the US military budget by 50% and the closure of over 700 military bases. This is to be followed with the immediate suspension of military and financial support to human rights abusers, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Under a Stein presidency, she would also move to work with Russia to jointly reduce the two countries’ nuclear arsenal. All of these proposals have been internally consistent, and more importantly correspond to a clear, theoretically informed understanding of how the US can best guarantee its security in the contemporary international system.
Theory and Context
What becomes immediately clear to anyone reading the GPUS platform and listening to Jill Stein’s numerous interviews on news networks like The Young Turks, The Real News Network, RT, and CNN is that the foreign policy priorities of the party and its candidates are not as far out there as one might expect. Furthermore, they are firmly based in IR theory and supported by the findings of several important studies in the discipline. Namely, Greens seem to implicitly understand the arguments of defensive realism.
Although Green Party is primarily a party for social justice, and their platform is constructed with an eye towards improving the condition of marginalized and oppressed peoples both in the United States and elsewhere, their foreign policy is not based on impractical idealism but rather explicitly recognizes the anarchy of the international system and the ways that states compete within that system.
The basic tenant of realism is that states are the primary actors in an international system defined by anarchy, meaning that all states are operating without an overarching order or another more powerful actor dictating their interactions. This basic reality means one of two things: 1) states will pursue policies that aim to make them the dominant power in the system taking offensive, bellicose actions to fight for supremacy (offensive realism); 2) states will be hesitant to take actions that could result in a coalition of other states against them, and will instead work to ensure their own stability and national security through defensive means (defensive realism).
The Green Party platform clearly recognizes some of the basic tenants of defensive realism and soft power, while simultaneously proposing reforms based on ideas of social and environmental justice. It is not about idealism or hopes for a utopian future, but rather reflects substantive thought about the nature of power and the international system. Today, the United States facing challenges to its presumed authority in many parts of the globe and has been on a collision course with many states since the emergence of the unipolar moment with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Jill Stein’s foreign policy proposals are designed to shift US priorities away from offensive notions of the national interest and to a grand strategy that seeks to make the US less of an international threat to peace and security. By reducing military spending and foreign bases, other global powers such as Russia and China will be less incentivized to develop parallel capabilities and adopt bellicose positions vis-à-vis US interests. By reengaging the US in a serious way with international treaties, disarmament, and human rights, the Green Party will allow the US to live up to its own rhetoric. Washington has too long relied on the language of human rights and international peace without shaping its own policies to actually achieve these goals. A Stein presidency would put the US back in the driver’s seat of international cooperation and ensure its own security in a much more effective way, assuming that the logic of defensive realism hold true.
Taking Stein Seriously
The Hillary, Bernie, and Trump campaigns’ foreign policies have been dissected by numerous journalists and international affairs analysts. And while they have spanned the gamut from the truly insane and divorced from reality (guess who’s?), to business as usual and progressive reforms, they have all been thoroughly considered by the voting public. Jill Stein’s bid for the presidency is not based on winning the 2016 election, but on the long game of encouraging reform and changing the electoral system. As this brief theoretical analysis of her foreign policy has shown, this not a critique based on unrealistic idealism but on the hard realities of our current domestic political system and foreign policy business as usual. Certainly, that deserves as much attention as the leading candidates, and perhaps even more so.
Analysis, Thoughts, Ideas
This blog will be an online publishing site for smaller analytical projects, news stories that I find relevant to small state foreign policy and indigenous autonomy, as well as a testing ground for new ideas and new projects that I may pursue.