“The Nation and Reflections on the Politics of U.S. Foreign Intervention” SwatTalk
with Roane Carey ’82, former managing editor of "The Nation"
Recorded on Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Sean Thackurdeen Thanks everyone for coming to this SWAT talk in the afternoon, or just at noon Eastern time. It's a great pleasure to have with us, Roane Carey, class of '82, to be joining us today to speak a little bit about his reflections on the politics of US foreign intervention. And we'll be sharing with us a bunch of different examples and offer a lot of material for us to dive into. And some quick housekeeping, you know, myself, I'm Sean Thackurdeen, class of 2012 and I'm a member of the alumni council here. And the alumni council is, you know put on these really great chats, with prestigious and, you know, wonderful alum alike, and so this recession this session will be recorded and will be on the SWAT talks recording webpage, in a couple of weeks. As we go through this, after just a brief introduction we'll turn it over to Roane who will be sharing with us, his presentation, for about 30 minutes. A little bit SWAT seminar style, and then afterwards we'll dive into questions which I'll reappear and, you know, help deliver to Roane. For folks that wanna ask questions, there's, you know, you're welcome to submit your questions through the chat. If you can share your name and class year, I'll be surfacing some of these questions later on. So just to offer a little bit of an introduction to Roane. There was an incredible article in the Nation just about a month ago that probably offered the best biography that could be offered. And we'll deviate from the traditional here and just, I'll read a little bit of this. It starts, For those of us who have been lucky enough to work with him, Roane Carey, who's leaving the Nation after 32 years is not simply an editor of rare sensitivity and intelligence, he is also a person of extraordinary integrity, kindness and humility. To write with Roane, as I did on a few occasions when I was the magazine's literary editor is to experience the true meaning of solidarity, where the assertion of ego is a distraction from the cause on which you've embarked together, speaking truth to power. And I think that's exactly what we're here to do in a wonderful way. I'll just mention that, you know, one other great quote from this article is describing Roane as, Roane is a modest soft-spoken Southerner who studied history at Swarthmore College is less well-known for the simple reason that he has never drawn attention to himself. And I think, or just really glad to spotlight and surface Roane in hopefully another embarrassing, but laudatory way that this article did, so I'll turn it over to you Roane. Thanks for doing this.
Roane Carey Thanks so much, Sean. Yeah, those words were, in the Nation, were written by Adam Shatz, who's a dear friend and yes he was literary editor at the Nation. Adam is a great writer and I urge people to read him. Yes. I just wanna say thanks to Dina Zingaro and Sean and Lisa Schaefer and the alumni council for inviting me to do this SWAT talk. It's a real honor and it's a pleasure. And so the subject of this talk was is the Nation magazine and the politics of US intervention. And generally speaking I thought I would address three general topics in the talk. The first of them would be the Israel Palestine conflict and in particular, help Nation address that conflict and how it dealt with it primarily, during the Oslo period of the 1990s and then afterwards. And the second part was 9/11, and in particular, what happened after 9/11 and the run-up to the Iraq war and how the Nation dealt with that, how the Nation faced that issue. And then thirdly, I will talk a little bit about the Obama administration's foreign policy. And then finally, if you've been reading your news of course you are aware there has been a terrible flare up of violence in Jerusalem and then also Gaza Israel, Palestine.So if I have time,I might say a word or two about that at the end, but certainly, we can deal with that in the Q and A. And then also if I have time, I will talk a little bit about what I see, how I see the Biden administration how it's starting out and what it's doing. So about my three topics, before I get into those topics though, I think I should talk really about, how my experience at Swarthmore led naturally to me winding up at the Nation magazine and the ways in which Swarthmore helped to form me and my politics. And so I'll do that a little bit at first. I had some great professors at Swarthmore. They were wonderful teachers, people like Bob DuPlessis in the history department, David Lachtman, Hans Oberdiek and Hugh Lacey in the philosophy department, Phil Weinstein and Komp Ligt, Tom Bradley in Russian history and literature. And then there were other professors who I didn't take courses with but who I learned a lot from in their lectures like Kre Cattell's brilliant lectures on film and Ken sharp who was relatively new when I was a student who was great a sort of great advisor to those of us who were involved in Latin American politics at the time. And in fact I guess the key political issues that I got involved in when I was a student at Swarthmore were issues in solidarity with people fighting genocidal violence in Central America, the genocidal regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala which the US government was supporting. I and my little group at Swarthmore we were in solidarity with the FMLN in El Salvador and with the Sandinista government and Nicaragua and opposing US policy there. That was a big issue for me and also somewhat the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. I took part in some actions involving the anti-apartheid movement. At one point we barged in on a board of directors meeting at the college, trying to push them to divest from a couple of mining corporations that were still invested in South Africa back then. Those are sort of the big issues when I was at Swarthmore. And actually one of the topics of this talk today, Israel Palestine, that was not a major focus of mine when I was in college. In fact, I didn't really know too much about. I had only a surface knowledge of the Arab Israeli conflict as we tended to call it then I didn't know much of anything about Palestinians, but one of the things that I'm really grateful for at Swarthmore was the fact that not only were the professors wonderful teachers, but my fellow students were my teachers too. I learned so much from my fellow students. The period when I was at the college just to take one example between 78 and 82 that was sort of the high point of second wave feminism. And there were so many young women at the college then who had just absorbed everything that was being written by that new generation of feminist activism and they educated me about that. And in particular, an issue that became a major one in my career, Israel Palestine, it was a fellow student at Swarthmore who first kind of opened my eyes to issues that I was ignorant about. And also she happened to be the very first Palestinian I've ever met in my life. So if you're out there, Fay Abu Alhaj, thank you for telling me at one point, Hey, Roane, there's this book you ought to read, it was just published. This guy named Edward Said has written a book called "The Question of Palestine" And so really you'll learn a lot from this book. And indeed I did. I read that book and it had a huge effect on me. It opened my eyes up to things that I just did not know before then. In fact, it was Said's "The Question of Palestine" and a book by Noam Chomsky that came out a few years after that called "The Fateful Triangle" that were really my first kind of guides into learning a lot more about Middle East politics and helped to form what became a sort of major part of my professional career when I was an editor at the Nation. Anyway, when I left Swarthmore, my original plan I was gonna get a PhD in history probably European history and teach history. And I abandoned that plan. I never did that. Never went to grad school but I did retain my love of history. And I did, one of the things about my Central American solidarity work when I was a student at Swarthmore and the anti-apartheid movement, as I was, retained a very deep interest in American foreign policy and in particular, the politics of American interventionism abroad. It had colored my youth because of the war in Vietnam and my early adulthood with the wars in Central America, and that sort of became a major interest of mine. So even before I arrived at the Nation magazine which was in 1989, I spent a lot of time in the eighties reading a lot about American foreign policy and in particular, the way in which the US government whether it's run by a democratic administration or a Republican administration generally tends to support repressive regimes abroad not dictatorships, contrary to the view expressed in much of the mainstream press, which would have us believe that America is overwhelmingly a force for good in the world. And sometimes we make mistakes. It's what I call the Samantha Power point of view. I've very different point of view. I think America almost always supports repressive regimes and dictatorships. And it's an exception when America supports democracy and freedom. Anyway, I'd sort of imbibed that point of view even before I arrived at the Nation. So in a lot of ways, the Nation magazine was a natural home for me.I started there in 1989and there were punch of actual Swarthmore connections. In fact, the chief editor when I started at the Nation was Victor Novasky and Victor was a Swarthmore graduate, class of '54. Hello to you, Victor, if you're listening. And also the literary editor at the Nation at the time was a Swarthmore grad too, Elsa Dixler, she was, I believe, class of '66, maybe '64. I'm not sure. Anyway, so I arrived at the Nation in '89. And so, so now I'll move to sort of the first theme of my three themes here, which is Israel Palestine. Now, when the Oslo Accords were announced in September of '93, most of the mainstream press sort of the liberal establishment said basically this is a wonderful thing. Peace breaks out we're gonna have an end to the conflict, there's gonna be a two-state solution. It was basically celebratory. And I would say that at the Nation, when I arrived there the magazine had a kind of there were some internal disagreements about to approach the question of Palestine. I would say on the one side, there was what I would call roughly a liberal Zionist point of view. Opposed to the occupation of Gaza in the West Bank, no question. Supportive of negotiations with the PLO, Absolutely. Supportive of a two-state solution, yes. But basically tending to look at everything in that conflict from the perspective of the liberal Israeli Zionist everything was sort of be seen from that point of view. It was more a feel than anything particular. It was not really explicit solidarity with Palestinians. And I would say the other point of view that was very strong at the Nation at that time was very much full-throated solidarity with Palestinians best expressed by two of our most prominent columnists Alexander Coburn and Christopher Hitchens. And also of course, Edward Said who was a columnist for the Nation at the time, but he actually, his column was about classical music and opera, not politics. He did write articles on Israel Palestine but those were occasional pieces. But anyway, I would say that Coburn and Hitchens and Said represented the sort of, to borrow a famous line from Said, they saw Zionism from the standpoint of its victims. So very much solidarity with Palestine. And the other side, liberal, yes, but more sympathetic to the idea of Israel more sympathetic to seeing Israel as a genuinely democratic state, albeit with problems, you might say involving the occupation after 1967. The other thing that had really helped shape my politics and this has to do with my love of history and reading history is I was blown away in the eighties even before I came to the Nation with what were called the new historians in Israel. This was a group of historians who, after the Israeli government opened their state archives from the '48 war, completely rewrote the historiography of the country. Historians like Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappé. Journalists like Tom Segev, Baruch Kimmerling, sociologist Baruch Kimmerling. They wrote wonderful history that was groundbreaking and really kind of upset what had been the mythos that had been kind of the, the sort of official view of Israel that published, you know, that proposed ideas like, you know, people without land, settling in a land without people kind of a mythos of Israel as a wonderful unblemished democracy with KSI socialist kibitz seam, this new historiography by the new historians just completely upset that. And they were a great influence on me. But anyway, so at the Nation we had this kind of uneasy division about Oslo and you could see it in September of 93, when the Accords were announced. That famous handshake on the White House lawn with Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat. On the one hand, we had our unsigned editorial which was the official view, which was mostly celebratory and said, this is a wonderful thing. Yes, there may be problems and there unanswered questions but on the whole, this is great. And we had assigned piece by James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, which said also this is a wonderful thing, a great advance for peace but also at the same time we had Edward Said who said, this is a disaster. This is an unequal agreement. This is not going to lead to peace. Basically what has happened is that Arafat has recognized the state of Israel and has agreed to end all violence, but in return what does he get? He doesn't get the crucial concessions that Palestinians need. He doesn't get an official statement from Israel that the occupation is ending in its entirety. He doesn't get Israel's recognition that of a state of Palestine. Everything was sort of set for negotiations to be resolved for final status talks. So Said was very much an opponent of the Oslo Accords from the very beginning. And I would argue, as I did in the first book that I published that Said was basically right. That the Oslo Accords were not really about ending the occupation, but, and in fact what they were really about was offloading the policing of Palestinians from Israeli soldiers and police to Arafat's police. It was really a kind of a as the Israeli writer and their own Ben-Veniste put it, occupation by remote control. And Said wrote a series of articles for us in the 1990s, that express that point of view. And so many of the Israeli writers and Palestinian writers that I was reading throughout the nineties were saying the same thing. So anyway, as when the Camp David peace talks in 2000 collapsed ignominiously, and then the second Intifada broke out in the September of 2000 and I saw the way this news was being purveyed by the mainstream press in the US. I was really horrified about how these events were being depicted. You know, things such as a prime minister Ehud Barak, offered to the Palestinians the most generous offer they'd ever received but Yasser Arafat just turned it down because he felt he could win through terrorism what he couldn't win at the negotiating table et cetera, et cetera, things like that. I was seeing all the time and I just said, this is crazy. We need a response to this. And so luckily I knew Colin Robinson who was the editor of Verso Books and Collins said, Roane, you should do a book on this, do a book and so I did. I put together a collection of essays from by wonderful people. I was lucky enough to get Noam Chomsky to write an introduction. And I was lucky enough to get Edward Said who by then I was editing at the Nation. Edward agreed generously to give me two pieces, including the foreword for that article. And I had a whole bunch of other pieces. Anyway, that book was published in the fall of 2001. It was called, "The New Intifada: Resisting Israel's Apartheid" note that word apartheid in the subtitle that was very controversial then. We can talk about how it's arisen in the news, later in the Q and A maybe. But anyway, I published that book in the fall of 2001. And at the time I was very worried that it wasn't gonna get any intention because the 9/11 terror attacks had just happened. And I thought, this is just gonna be completely ignored. In fact, the opposite happened. Bookstores placed it prominently in the front of their book in the front of their stores on tables up front because they were putting everything up front that had to do with Middle East politics, that had to do with Afghanistan, that had to do with Al Qaeda, that had to do with Islam, Israel Palestine, all sorts of subjects. So the book actually got a lot of coverage. It sold well. I got a lot of attention from it. Yes. I got a ton of hate mail as well as positive response. So I did that book in 2001. And then I followed that book up in 2002 with another book called "The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent" And here is where I can introduce another Swarthmore connection. The Nation magazine has interns who come to work at the magazine for a few months, every year. Several sets of interns who come to learn how the magazine works and take part in the editorial process. And someone who had been an intern right before I did those books was a Swarthmore graduate, Jonathan Shannon, probably class of '98 or '99, maybe 2000, something like that. Anyway, Jonathan was very talented, smart intern and he worked closely with me in compiling that second book, "The Other Israel" In fact, he is the co-editor of that book with me. Jonathan has gone on to do wonderful things. He worked at several magazines, including Caravan in India, The New York Review of Books And then he went on to The Guardian in London. He was their long reads editor there. And then he, I think now he's the editorial page editor. So anyway, after "The Other Israel" came out, I sort of became more or less the go-to person at the Nation for issues having to do with Israel Palestine. And by that I don't mean that I was the sort of, you know gatekeeper of everything that came in. We published plenty of pieces that were divergent from my own. We had lots of writers and columnists writing on the issue. But what it did mean is that I had much more of a hand in guiding our official editorial policy. So for example, if you read the Nation's unsigned editorials from roughly 2002 to roughly, you know well really the last five or six years, most of those are written by me. And I would say one example of this was then in 2007 on the 40th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, I put together a special issue on the occupation in which I wrote a long unsigned editorial that basically said, look, the Nation has for many years supported the two state solution to this conflict, but it looks like the Oslo peace process is dead. It looks like there's no real hope or very little hope for a two-state solution because it looks like there's very little likelihood of Israel ever withdrawing its colonies from the West Bank or even its control over Gaza. So I said, because of that, we, those of us who support adjust resolution need to think about other solutions. We need to think about whether maybe the best solution to this conflict is simply one secular democratic state stretching from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean where every person in that state whether they're Palestinian or Jewish whether they're Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or atheist everybody has one person, one vote with guaranteed rights for both collective groups, that is for both Jews and for Palestinians but also individual rights. So that such that no group has any more rights than anyone else. And in such a transformation Israel would cease to become true. It would cease to become an officially Zionist state. It would be a secular democratic state. It could be culturally Zionist but it wouldn't be officially Zionist. I guess the other issue, the last issue I'd wanna talk about vis a vis Palestine would be the whole question of boycott divestment and sanctions. I have supported this since it was first proposed. Inside the Nation, there has not been total agreement on it. In fact, because there wasn't, we had a really interesting debate on BDS before our editorial board. I would, I think this was probably around 2012, 2014. We didn't really resolve formally that issue, but within about a year or so, we were basically saying in our official unsigned editorials that BDS is a natural and justifiable response from Palestinian Civil Society to continued occupation. Well enough about Israel Palestine. I'll talk a little bit about what happened after 9/11 and the terror attacks. That was obviously an extremely traumatic event for us at the Nation we were living in New York city we saw the buildings collapse with our own eyes. A bunch of us knew people who died in the attacks. Our own internal operations were damaged from those attacks. And so we were shaken just like everybody else but what really was shocking to us at the Nation was the Bush administration's decision to go to war against Iraq. To us that was just plainly and evidently obviously a war built on lies that were just what was shocking to us was not so much that the mainstream press supported this war but even liberal outlets like the New Yorker and the New Republic were also pro war. That was just astounding to most of us at the Nation. We felt very alone then. But anyway we opposed the war and we were unified in that with one sort of sad, major exception. One of our most prominent columnists, Christopher Hitchens who had written for us for years and who had a very deep radical critique of American foreign policy and American interventionism, announced suddenly that he was quitting the Nation because he supported the war in Iraq and he was gonna devote himself to, as he ostentatiously put it the war on Islamofascism. So we lost Christopher Hitchens. He was soon enough helicoptering around Iraq with people like Paul Wolfowitz and supporting war in Iraq. That to me was a very sad development, but honestly it was good that he left the Nation. It was not a natural home for him after that. The third thing I think I was gonna talk about was the Obama administration's foreign policy a little bit about Obama's foreign policy. Clearly we at the Nation we supported Obama over John McCain. That's without question but we weren't sort of wholehearted cheerleaders of Obama. We kind of understood that he was a centrist more or less Neo liberal Democrat. It was very hopeful that he was elected. And for me in particular having the first African-American president just in itself was something to celebrate. And Obama of course is a thoroughly decent man, brilliant intellect. I respect him in so many ways but when it came to American foreign policy there was a lot of bad mixed in with the good, for example I think he made a devil's bargain with the what he later would ruefully call the blob. The kind of fake tank foreign policy, military industrial complex of Washington that supports a major military and bases all over the world. He followed his campaign promise to withdraw from Iraq but as a kind of exchange for that he decided to double down in Afghanistan and send more troops in a surge to Afghanistan. We at the Nation thought that was mistaken. The other thing that indicated Obama right away that he was gonna sort of hue to sort of standard establishment politics was keeping Robert Gates as his defense secretary. He was the outgoing defense secretary for George W. Bush and a Republican. So it was kind of obvious that Obama was not going to be anything like a was not going to call for fundamental foreign policy changes. On the other hand, it was excellent that Obama forged the nuclear agreement with Iran in the face of enormous opposition on Capitol hill not just from Republicans, but from a lot of Democrats. And I think it was wonderful that Obama reestablished relations with Cuba. That was a great move. Unfortunately, both of them have been rescinded by the Trump administration but I think those were excellent moves by Obama. One terrible move by the Obama administration was that when and this happened early on when the Honduran military overthrew the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, Obama's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton unfortunately refused to call this an official military coup and basically defacto supported that corrupt and brutal military regime. And this has terrible consequences because hundreds of thousands of people flee Central America for the US precisely because US administrations both democratic and Republican have supported extremely repressive regimes in Latin America. And it was sad to see the Obama administration do the same thing that previous administrations had done. We're coming towards the end of the main talk I guess the last two things I was gonna talk about before I hand it over to Sean for Q and A is Sean had asked me to say just a little bit about how I see the Biden administration. First of all, I would say that those of us at the Nation were never big fans of Biden. I could give you a long list of the reasons why we think his career has been replete with very disappointing, very mainstream very pro corporate, very kind of centrist Imperial foreign policy, democratic politics. But I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised at what Obama has, sorry, at what Biden has done so far in his domestic policy, he has pursued basically, basically what he's done is abandoned 40 years of Neo liberal politics which has been pursued by administrations, both Republican and democratic ever since Reagan. He's adopted more or less a kind of FDR Keynesian, big investment politics which I think the country desperately needs. He's spoken out forcefully against massive inequality which I think the country desperately needs. And what I think this shows is not so much that Biden himself has had some magical transformative change of heart, but Biden is a politician. He keeps his finger to the wind. He looks and sees how things are changing around him. And he has seen how an entire generation after the 2008 financial collapse has turned against neo-liberalism and really wants the US government to do something to help ordinary people, help working class people. The Bernie Sanders campaign, which shocked everyone by almost upsetting Hillary Clinton in 2016 and continued very strongly afterwards has had a huge effect on American politics, a huge beneficial effect. We at the Nation, we're big, big fans of Bernie Sanders. We supported him in 2016. We supported him this past year, and I think Biden has taken on a lot of the politics pushed by senators and I think that's a good thing. In terms of foreign policy, not so wonderful from Biden. I think he's basically gone back to the status quo ante as it was pursued by Obama. Not terrible, but not good. I'll close by talking about Israel Palestine. That's a good example about how Obama has, sorry how Biden has gone back to the same old, same old. Massive oppression in East Jerusalem, essentially ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, what has Biden done? He said nothing about it. Attacks on worshipers at the Al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli police and soldiers. What did Biden say about it? Nothing. All he said is I support Israel's decision to defend itself. Well, what about Palestinian's decisions? What about Palestinian's rights to defend themselves? Nothing there. So on foreign policy Biden has been kind of same old same old. Domestically though, I think he's been wonderful. Anyway, I think we have come close to my allotted time. Sean, do you want to break in and say a word or two? Is there something that you would like me to add? Say a bit more about?
Sean Thackurdeen Thanks so much, Roane. I think some questions are filtering in here and definitely add more to the chat. We'll get to them. You know, you mentioned, Roane, at the beginning of the chat like really how you've seen American foreign policy and you described it as kind of the, you know, the Samantha Powers approach and then in more so in as a minority that that the support for true democracy and freedom could be considered the exception. We have a question here from Mike Inskeep of, forgive me if I'm pronouncing that wrong, class of '78, and asking perhaps following up to that categorization what has driven the motivations behind US interventionism and support for repressive regimes?
Roane Carey Well in my view I think that this policy really stems from the people who were running the country after world war II. After world war II America was the overwhelming lead dominant power in the world. And the people who were running the country realized in order to maintain that dominance, we had to maintain control over vast territories, not only in Europe but also in Latin America and Africa and Southeast Asia. And so in order to do that we needed to prevent the people in those countries themselves from controlling their own fate. And I think that explains why we engaged in a near genocidal war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. It explains why in 1965, we colluded in the overthrow of the democratic regime of Sukarno and supported Suharto's slaughter of something like half a million people, alleged communists and established a dictatorship. You can see it in Iran in 1953. Democratic government of Mohammad Mosaddegh, we overthrew and installed the Shah. Why? So that we could control Iran, control its oil. We did the same thing in Guatemala in 1954. We helped overthrow a democratic regime and established a dictatorship. Chile, 1973. Brazil, 1964. Argentina, 1976. Congo with Lumumba, you know in the 1960s. I mean, you can just go on and on and on. America supported dictators in Iraq in we supported Saddam Hussein before we opposed him, right? We supported him when he was attacking Iran. Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. I mean, it just goes on and on in fact you'd be hard pressed to find a place where we supported democracy. So the question becomes why? It's like we don't want the people of Latin America to control their fate. We wanna control it for them and the easiest way to do that is to work with a dictatorship so that we can make those countries a safe place for American investment and profit taking.
Sean Thackurdeen Thanks, Roane, there's some follow up, about other areas of the world and where, you know American foreign intervention has reared its head including questions that go back to, you know the Sandinista in Nicaragua and then also in Vietnam and would be curious to hear your thoughts on those areas in particular
Roane Carey About Central America and say that again, sorry?
Sean Thackurdeen And Vietnam as well.
Roane Carey You mean about why we got involved or what?
Sean Thackurdeen Yeah. You know, how have lessons from Vietnam shaped or not, American foreign policy
Roane Carey Well, I think, well, in some ways many Americans have learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam. I mean a lesson, as far as I see it is that I think American citizens need to think very carefully about how actually power works in Washington and the way in which power in Washington acts abroad. They claim to represent the democratic interests of the American people. We seem to be a democracy and we often think of ourselves as a democracy, but we act in other countries with in ways that do not reflect the interests of the American people, they were reflect much, much narrower set of interests. The American people don't make these decisions they're made for us. Now in the most disastrous examples like Vietnam, they not only support oppressive regimes but they send hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to go over to these places and to die. You know, and we did that in Vietnam and we did it to a lesser extent in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even when we don't do that, for example Obama's drone warfare, not only in Afghanistan but all over north Africa and Central Asia, we're engaging in assassination by drone and warfare against peoples and inside countries that the American people themselves have very little knowledge of and don't know about and it's not done in our interests. And we're killing a lot of civilians and we're fomenting an immense amount of rage against America. You know, a lot of people asked, 9/11, why did they do this? You know, George W. Bush said, well, why do they hate us? We're so wonderful. We're so democratic. You know, we do good things in the world but you know, he didn't say, well, wait a minute we're supporting an apartheid regime in Palestine. We're supporting an Israeli government that oppresses the Palestinian people. Before 9/11, we had tens of thousands of soldiers in Saudi Arabia. And that angered a lot of people in Saudi Arabia. We support dictators all across the Arab world. They see America, not as a democracy but as a country that claims to be democratic and actually acts like a dictatorship. So I guess the lesson I would take from all these things is that never trust a US government whether it's a democratic president or a Republican when they say we need to send soldiers abroad to keep the peace somewhere, look really closely and examine it closely. And not just about sending troops but just about giving military aid. Right now the US government is giving enormous amounts of military aid to very corrupt governments in Latin America, Honduras, Guatemala, Salvador, et cetera to stem the tide of refugees presumably but what they're doing it for what those governments are using that aid for is to repress their own populations. So again, we're supporting we're still supporting dictatorships in foreign countries and the American people aren't told about it and know very little. I mean, you can, if you study, you can of course find out it's not so much that it's hidden, but our mainstream press simply never talks about this.
Sean Thackurdeen Thanks Roane. One of the things that's kind of come into mind is the kind of pervasiveness of real politic and just, I suppose, the nexus and arrogance of realism in determining foreign policy. And there's some questions that are surfacing, well, you know, what happens as, you know, say there's an ideological shift where we begin to move away from some of these approaches that we've had internationally through the foreign policy. Does that create, I suppose, vacuums and opportunities for other actors to, I suppose, be doing the same exact thing? So I suppose, you know, there are specific questions there about Russia and China on the world stage, how do we kind of navigate that dynamic? And then also what's kind of necessary in order for us to make those shifts or those? Are we constantly playing to the worst actor on the international stage in order to maintain and support the system that exists?
Roane Carey Yeah. Those are really good questions. And in fact, somebody asked earlier a question in the chat isn't it true that during much of the Cold War, American interventionism abroad was really about facing off against the Soviet Union, you know, supporting, players that were opposed to Soviet supported groups. And yes, that's totally true. I mean, we engaged in this tit for tat against the Soviet union and countries all over the world not just Vietnam, but of course, Ethiopia and Somalia. But getting back to your question, Sean, yes there are a lot of nasty players in the world. I mean, just look at what Russia has done in Syria. I mean, Russia has carried out numerous war crimes in alliance with the horrific dictator Bashar al-Assad the fact that we, in my opinion should not engage militarily in Syria doesn't mean that those who are doing are good people. And just because, for example I think it was a horrible mistake to go to war against Iraq, doesn't mean that Saddam Hussein was anything other than a horrific dictator. That raises the question of so-called liberal interventionism. But what I wanna say about if we pull out of certain areas if we refuse to support dictatorships yeah, in some cases, other countries are gonna do that. You know, China might, Russia probably will, other countries will. What I think, the conclusion we have to draw from that is that we have to think carefully as a country, what are our national interests really when it comes to foreign policy and when is it really appropriate for the US to become militarily engaged abroad? When is it appropriate for us to support a government with arms or even without? And as far as that goes I think as a social Democrat and as somebody who wants America to become a social democracy I think we need to be consistent with the kind of domestic politics that I think are best for America. So if social democracy is best inside the country then I think our natural alliances are with social democracies and with social democratic movements abroad. And that in some cases will mean opposing, for example a repressive big power who's supporting a dictatorship but the kind of opposition we take should not be in most cases, military. It should be by other means. It should be working with in a multipolar way with other countries who also support social democracy. And we can, there's all sorts of ways we can oppose violent oppressive countries abroad who are doing terrible things in countries. Military interventionism is only one among many options the US can take. And I think it should always be the last option. We should only do it when our direct when our country is directly threatened.
Sean Thackurdeen Then kind of following up and in attempting to make that shift. Great question from Dave Cresco, asking what is the most potent leverage the domestic lev can exercise in influencing foreign policy?
Roane Carey Well, that's a hard one. I guess it comes through electing leaders who would actually make this transition. Clearly, I don't think any Republican president is going to adopt a progressive foreign policy. Trump was interesting because Trump deviated from the neoconservative aggressive militaristic violent foreign policy of administrations like George W. Bush, he was isolationists, but in my view not isolationists in a productive way. In a very impulsive way and in a kind of xenophobic way. On the other hand, I think the sort of standard mainstream democratic party, foreign policy are Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and so far Joe Biden is also not something that is really good for America in the long run, because they will tend to support the same set of dictatorships around the world that I was talking about earlier. So I think the best way to support a genuinely more progressive foreign policy is to elect people more like, for example, Bernie Sanders or people like him, you know, people who are actually gonna say what they mean when they say, for example, we should not support Israel's occupation of the West Bank. And we should withdraw aid from Israel until they get out of the West Bank. We should not give military aid to governments like the current one in Honduras. We should not be sending military aid to dictatorships anywhere ever for any reason, you know we should forthrightly and directly support the democratic movements within those countries. Again, it doesn't mean direct military subversion. It means verbal support. It means diplomatic support. It means multipolar support with other countries. There's so many versions of soft power that Washington can use short of military interventionism
Sean Thackurdeen I think, and this circles back to a question and really a theme recurring in the chat really about China about just following up on the answer to the question as before. Just curious to hear more about, you know, what the strategy of containment generally in foreign policy especially with respect to economic power. So, you know, how do we kind of deal with the challenges provided by actors on the global stage that carry much more economic might and power than in the past, such that it makes it difficult to then I suppose, navigate I suppose, a creeping control on the international and global stage.
Roane Carey Yeah, I guess the chief country we really should talk about with respect to that question would be China. I mean, China is the great power of the 21st century. I'm convinced that China is going to be for the 21st century what America was for the 20th. You know, their economy is enormous. They are already investing staggering amounts both economically and diplomatically all over the world, The Belt and Road program, for example. Huge investments in Africa and Latin America. They have a footprint everywhere. It's a very mixed bag. You know, China is in many ways doing what America did and other great powers did before it. You know, they want resources, they want investment. They want, they need natural resources for their own economic growth but they also are a growing diplomatic power. And eventually they're going to be a growing military power. They're already flexing their muscles in the South China sea. They have already told the Philippines and Vietnam that they, the Chinese have a natural right and control of the South China sea, which is wrong in my views. So China is a rising great power. And I think it's gonna be very difficult for even the best US president to negotiate this. Because on the one hand we're gonna have a loud cry in America for vamping up a new Cold War, this time against China as opposed to the former Soviet Union. And that can be extremely damaging both to China and the US. I think that would be terrible. There are lots of things about China that people who support genuine democracy need to oppose. You know, we need to oppose China's oppression of Hong Kong. China is a repressive state. I mean, it's a dictatorship run by name communist party. Of course, they're very capitalist and they're as capitalist as can be, but it's a repressive government. It's not an open government. Many of their investments in other countries are they benefit only China and they do immense damage to those countries in much the same way that US investments did in the past. Again, I think the first step is to elect leaders here that are genuinely progressive, not centrist neo-liberals but really, really progressive social Democrats. Once we do that, then I think we can put in place as a country and as a foreign policy and approach to China that will be practical and cooperative in a lot of areas where we need to cooperate with China. We need to cooperate with China for example, in the fight against climate change. They have to be our partner. If they're not our, if China and India are not our partners then the whole world burns up, right? So we got to cooperate with them. I think they understand that the Chinese leaders, even though they're oppressive they know they need cooperation with America. So there are a lot of areas where we can actually do things to our mutual advantage. There are other areas where we will be opposed to China. We need to, for example if they start to militarily threaten other countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, we need to figure out a way to work multilaterally, not alone but multilaterally with other countries to defend other governments that are worth defending, you know. So it's gonna be difficult. There's not an easy answer to this. There are a lot of nasty players in the world. So, you know, foreign policy, as far as that question goes is gonna be a challenge.
Sean Thackurdeen Yeah. And then in general, it really is speaking to I suppose, the more, I suppose, intertwined and interconnected relationships that, you know, nation states have and the challenges that that context poses for actually advancing pro-social foreign policy, pro-democratic foreign policy. I think, you know, one of the things that's coming to mind and you mentioned it already on climate change is thinking about the fundamental shift that that could potentially bring to the way in which foreign policy is enacted. And so, and given what you've shared about US foreign intervention, do you think, you know, one, the US can be trusted to lead and support a response to the climate change, on the international stage. And then, you know, what might some of those shifts begin to look like as well that speak to, you know, this fundamental shift that's necessary in the foreign policy arena?
Roane Carey Well, I think so far America has been mostly disappointing on the global stage when it comes to climate change. I mean, certainly Obama was way better than Trump. Trump was awful. Trump was just, you know I can't say enough negative things about Trump was on climate change as a denialist. Obama was much better but Obama was cautious. You know, he, yes he signed the Paris Accords, but, you know fending off the massive and powerful fossil fuel interests in America is not an easy thing. And he made compromises with that set of powers I think to the detriment of what we really need to do to fight climate change. So far, Biden has been really promising on climate change. He's been better than the Obama Biden administration was so far. He has said and I think this is absolutely right. We need wholesale transformation. We need massive investment in green technologies. And he's pointed the up,he's pointed to the upside of this that this is actually will lead to many jobs if we do it right. But far more important than that is just the necessity of it. We have to stop using fossil fuels or our children and grandchildren are gonna live in a horrifying environment. We simply have no choice. And this gets to the question of what a mistake that people often use when they talk about national security. Now, typically people say national security, oh that's a foreign policy issue. Well, climate change is all about national security. It's about global security but it's also about national security and climate change is a perfect example of something where there is no border anywhere. I mean, it's fundamental to America's survival that we put all hands on deck to invest in green technologies and shift away from fossil fuels in the fight for climate change. But it's a global thing and we need to do it with China, with Russia, with India. And as far as that goes, the third world countries are entirely correct when they say America is so wealthy America has an obligation to help us. If you want us in, for example, Mali or Egypt or Peru or Ecuador or India to fight climate change, you need to give us aid so that we can switch to green technologies because we're very poor countries and we don't have the means to make this transition without your help. So I think it's incumbent on the US to spend a lot of money to help poor countries, not just the US, US and Europe, right? The rich countries of the north need to invest more in the climate fight the poor countries need to undertake and those desperately affected countries like the Island Nations that are gonna be overwhelmed. You know, we need to spend even more to help those Island Nations.
Sean Thackurdeen Indeed. And I think since the late 18th century and the calculations that have been made for historical emissions, the US contributes, to that entire measurement, 25% of historical emissions. So definitely another reason for us to be acting and supporting on the international stage. There's, you know, it's been, you know despite this being Swarthmore and you know where I've learned so much about civility and engagement I think even in the chat we've seen an incredible for me a little bit surprising I suppose, uncivilized commentary. And there's been some questions here some folks are actually lifting up, you know, how do you deal with both personally and professionally, you know, a lot of the hateful and threatening attacks that you might deal with. Some fellow reporter is asking that question. And so I think, you know we just have a couple of minutes left but would love for you to share a little bit more about how you get through the day, given that. And then also there've been some requests for other sources of media where folks can learn a little bit more about you know, neoliberal or critiques of neo-liberalism in US foreign policy and where they should be getting their news from.
Roane Carey I'll answer the last one first. Well, of course I strongly recommend that you read the Nation magazine. We are not flawless. We sometimes publish dumb things. I'll be the first to say that, but overall, I think the Nation is fantastic. I wouldn't say, I wouldn't have worked there for 30 years if I didn't think so, but also we have others like Jacobin. Jacobin is much more explicitly socialist but it's not sectarian. It's, have a lot of really, really smart writers. So I recommend reading Jacobin, that's a good read. Oh God, there's so many good places. Where do we go? Those are two. I'll get back to the other thing about attacks on politics. Well, as anybody who has written about Israel Palestine will tell you, once you jump into that issue, you're setting yourself up for a lot of slander and I've gotten my share of it. I've gotten death threats, I've gotten attacks. I've had people call me an anti-Semite, all sorts of things. I think you just need to take that in flow. Look, if you're gonna write publicly you just have to heed that old saying, you know, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Right? I knew when I was gonna write publicly about Israel Palestine, I knew before I did it that I was gonna, you know, get a lot of flack from people and I just decided beforehand, okay. So be it. I'm just gonna do that. If Edward Said can do it if Noam Chomsky can do it, why can't I do it? You know, we need more people to do it. In fact, that's why I did that first book, "The New Intifada" 'cause I thought if I don't do it who's gonna do this book, you know? All I see is this nonsense out there we need. So anyway, yeah. You know, I've gotten attacks, but honestly when I give a detailed substantive article pointing out for example, what's wrong with the occupation. And somebody says, oh, I'm an anti-Semite. It's like, to me that says, I've won the argument because that is a non-substantive attack, you know, they're just making an accusation not based on substance. Now, if they're to say, no, this is wrong because you said X here and the sources prove that it's not X it's Y okay. I can see, you know, I'm willing to concede where I'm wrong on the facts and even where I've been wrong on certain theoretical issues, but name calling, death threats. I just ignore it. Honestly, what else are you gonna do? You stop writing or you ignore it, one or the other and I'm not gonna stop writing so I just ignore it.
Sean Thackurdeen Well, thank you so much, Roane.I think your answer definitely echoes, you know, all the great things that were written about you just last month in the Nation, you know, integrity, kindness and humility while speaking truth to power. And it's been a pleasure to hear you chat and speak to us about this. And I just wanna thank everybody for coming in and supporting Roane to share his experience. Thanks so much y'all.