Mike Gravel on Foreign Policy

Libertarian for President; Former Dem. Senator (AK); withdrew from Presidential primary July 2019


No "America alone": re-engage with multilateral institutions

Over the past few years, the United States has systematically left the multilateral institutions of the world. This country cannot afford to commit itself to re-isolation and the "America alone" vision of the world. The only way to sustainable peace and prosperity around the globe is a commitment to engaging in mutual aid with other countries.
Source: 2020 Presidential campaign website MikeGravel.com , Apr 9, 2019

Referendum on Puerto Rico statehood

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Although its inhabitants are citizens and have the freedom of movement throughout the rest of the country, they do not have a vote in Congress, and no say in presidential politics. This is a denial of political rights. Puerto Rico should be allowed to host a legitimate, formal, binding referendum on statehood, and be eligible to participate in presidential and congressional elections.
Source: 2020 Presidential campaign website MikeGravel.com , Apr 9, 2019

Bring critique of American imperialism to Democratic primary

There's a new must-follow Twitter account for those following the 2020 presidential race, and the man behind it is an 88-year-old man from Alaska who served in the U.S. Senate in the 1970s, ran for president in 2008, and is talking about running again in 2020.

Mike Gravel, who served two terms as a Democratic senator from Alaska between 1969 and 1981, launched the Twitter account Tuesday night with a tweet stating "#Gravel2020."

"I am considering running in the 2020 Democratic primary," the second tweet said. "The goal will not be to win, but to bring a critique of American imperialism to the Democratic debate stage. The website (http://mikegravel.org) is under construction. Official announcement will be in the coming days."

Source: Inquisitr.com blog on 2020 Democratic primary , Mar 20, 2019

1971: end Vietnam involvement; 2008: end Mideast involvement

In the 2008 debates, Gravel delivered a searing indictment of the vast majority of his fellow candidates for their support of the Iraq war and their continued commitment to American interventionism in the Middle East. Thanks to his Senate background, Gravel succeeded in getting into early debates where he served as a bit of an antiwar gadfly. His hostility to U.S. interventionism, however, dated back to a much earlier moment of national notoriety, in 1971, when Gravel "entered 4,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record just before the U.S. Supreme Court lifted an injunction on publishing them in the press." The papers, a collection of internal DoD memos and other materials documenting the planning and execution of the Vietnam War, offered a searing indictment of U.S. foreign policy, which is why the Nixon administration battled unsuccessfully to keep them secret.
Source: New York Magazine on 2020 Democratic primary , Mar 20, 2019

Sanctions never work, unless regime’s victims ask for them

When the [Presidential debate] topic swung back to Iran, the moderator looked my way. “With respect to Iran,” I said, “it is we who have threatened them, not the other way around. We’ve sanctioned them for 26 years. We scared the bejesus out of them when the president says, ‘They’re evil.’”

Sanctions never work, unless, like in South Africa, the regime’s victims ask for them. Iran was not a threat even before courageous members of the Bush administration in December 2007 exposed the lie that Tehran was building a nuclear weapon. That National Intelligence Estimate was a momentous event. Here were high-ranking civilian and military officials deciding enough was enough with the phony threats. An Iranian bomb would create a nuclear stalemate in the Middle East and neutralize our leverage to change their regime.

Source: A Political Odyssey, by Mike Gravel, p. 23 , May 2, 2008

1970s self-examination of US role is needed again

America’s loss to the wretched people of Vietnam, including indigenous people wielding spears and shields around Khe Sanh where we threatened a nuclear strike, was probably the most important lesson our leaders could ever have learned. They thought about it for a while. Military adventures were put on hold. The warmongers were on the defensive. America then went through a seven-year period of national self-examination while I was in the Senate, from 1973 to 1980. Who were we as a people? What were we really doing to the world with our tremendous wealth and power? In this short window, we had Congressional commissions looking into assassinations and past abuses of the CIA. Could we imagine that today? No, because the resurgent militarists declared the “Vietnam Syndrome” over as Ronald Reagan was swept to power in 1980. He pumped up the military industry and George H. W. Bush invaded Panama and bombed Iraq. The warmongers were back in business.
Source: A Political Odyssey, by Mike Gravel, p. 66-67 , May 2, 2008

American messianism: Christianizing & democratizing abroad

Pres. Truman, like George W. Bush, expressed himself in simple terms of good and evil, perilously mixing religion with politics. “The earth is deeply divided between free and captive peoples,” Truman said right after the war. “And much as we trust in God, while He is rejected by so many in the world, we must trust in ourselves.” From Truman to Bush, this messianism in American political thought, with its New England Puritan roots, has blurred idealism and economics as the driving force of American overseas intervention. The cynical view is that religious language about Christianizing or democratizing other peoples is merely disguising what would otherwise be seen as a naked grab for excess wealth and power. A more naive view is that some American political and business leaders have genuinely believed that the righteous cause guided more by altruism than greed. Where idealism ends and practical interests begin is sometimes difficult to say.
Source: A Political Odyssey, by Mike Gravel, p.118-119 , May 2, 2008

1948: Volunteered to fight for Israeli independence

I had been to New York City only once before, in the summer of 1948 between my junior and senior years at Assumption Prep. Without telling my parents I had gotten on a bus, at the age of eighteen, heading for New York with the purpose of joining the Israeli forces in their fight to defend their new state. I had asked someone in Worcester how I could do that, and he told me to go to New York. So I wandered around Manhattan asking various people and somehow, I wish I remember how, I wound up in the office of Alexandra Tolstoy, the daughter of the great writer himself. She had been exiled in New York and set up a charity to help Russians, many of them Jews, arriving to the big city. She sent some to farming communities she’d set up in New Jersey and Nyack, New York. She told me: “Young man, you go on back home and finish school.” And that’s what I did.
Source: A Political Odyssey, by Mike Gravel, p.128 , May 2, 2008

Cold War Latin America policy was imperialistic

In Congress we seized the opportunity to examine what had gone wrong, not only in Vietnam, but with American foreign policy since 1947. Much of the policy had been carried out in secret. Covert operations had hidden America’s imperial designs through client regimes in the developing world. US administrations had backed some of the most vicious, fascistic dictators in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The claim was to defeat Soviet “imperialism.” We of course weren’t being imperialistic. That American business benefited mightily from these arrangements seemed beside the point.

America was spreading democracy by overthrowing democratically elected leaders and installing dictators and kings: 1776 in reverse. Allende’s overthrow followed the pattern begun with Mosaddeq in Iran in 1953 and Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954.

It took Watergate and America’s first defeat in war to probe the underside of Cold War foreign and domestic policy. America’s abuse of its moral victory in WWII was exposed.

Source: A Political Odyssey, by Mike Gravel, p.193-194 , May 2, 2008

Reagan did not end Cold War; Gorbachev’s reforms did

Ronald Reagan did not end the ColdWar. That’s another myth spun by a consolidated corporate news media that gave Reagan a free ride and still eulogizes him. The collapse of the Soviet economy, Mikhail Gorbachev’s unprecedented reforms, popular democracy movements in the Eastern Bloc, and the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan all contributed. Reagan’s weapons buildup amounted to looting the US treasury to enrich friends and allies. Did Reagan’s arms buildup hurt the Soviet economy? Moscow never compiled accurate records on defense spending. The published annual Soviet defense budget stated only costs for housing, feeding, and training soldiers. No records were maintained on expenditures on military hardware and other costs. For that matter, there has never been an accurate indication of the exact size of the US defense budget either, which makes auditing it impossible. As a general rule, the Pentagon budget is half of what is spent on defense.
Source: A Political Odyssey, by Mike Gravel, p.213 , May 2, 2008

Restructure UN for participatory global governance

As a result of my experiences and studies on global governance, I have now written a specific plan that defines the kind of global governance that would work fairly for everyone. It is a restructured UN that would require little change in the UN Charter, which is a magnificent document.

The creation of a legislative proposal--the National Initiative for Democracy--is nothing less than an effort to bring about a fundamental change in the paradigm of human governance. Certainly, it is not the most modest undertaking, but in essence a very simple one; and that is that human beings with rational will are more than capable to govern themselves. They merely need a structure to do it in a common-sense fashion.

Source: Mandate for Change, by Mike Gravel, p. xvi-C , Jan 24, 2008

With policy of “beggar thy neighbor,” we all become beggars

Q: Given China’s size, its muscular manufacturing capabilities, its military buildup, at this point--and also including its large trade deficit--what do we do?

A: I want to take you to task at your rhetoric about the tremendous increase in their defense. They’re only 10% of American defense. They haven’t had a tremendous increase. 10% of our defense. And I want to take all of the other candidates to task--because this amount of demagoguery about China is shameful. The Chinese people have a problem. And when we continue this rhetoric of beggar thy neighbor, where our interests always come first, there should be the interests of human beings. Because when you have a foreign policy that’s beggar thy neighbor, we all become beggars. And so when they talk about the currency of China, what about the manipulations we do? What about the American companies that dump things abroad? What about the tariffs?

Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR , Dec 4, 2007

Recognize Cuba; open up to Chavez in Venezuela

Q: Is Hugo Chavez a dictator? If he continues to be friends with enemies of the US like Iran and Cuba, would you end relations with Venezuela, or would you stop buying oil from Venezuela?

A: No, not at all. In fact, I would reach out to him. Do we forget that our CIA tried to depose him? Do we forget that? So, is he an enemy? No, he’s not an enemy. We’ve created him as an enemy. We’re doing the same thing with Iran. What’s the difference if Chavez deals with Iran? We hope that a lot of countries begin to interchange their leadership and begin to think about the globe as one entity. There’s nothing wrong. The same thing with Fidel Castro. Why can’t we recognize Cuba? What’s the big deal, after 25 years, that these people 125 miles from this country are discriminated against? It makes no sense at all. We need to open up our arms to all nations and treat them as friends, not start looking for enemies.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on Univision in Spanish , Sep 9, 2007

No US troops in Darfur; Africans don’t trust US

Q: What about American troops in Darfur?

A: The problem is because we haven’t owned up to our responsibilities to a sense of global governance. And so now, you’ve got a situation where the US wants to go in, but the African nations don’t want us there. What’s the message? They’re afraid of us. They’re flat afraid of us.

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC , Jul 23, 2007

Need president with moral judgment; most don’t have it

Q: Darfur is the second time that our nation has had a chance to do something about genocide in Africa. The first came in Rwanda in 1994, when we did nothing.

A: It’s very simple. If we have a president, he has to have moral judgment. Most of the people on this stage with me do not have that judgment, and have proven it by the simple fact of what they’ve done.

Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University , Jun 28, 2007

US has no important enemies, so treat world as equals

Q: What three nations, other than Iraq, represent, to you, the biggest threat to the US?

A: We have no important enemies. What we need to do is to begin to deal with the rest of the world as equals. And we don’t do that. We spend more as a nation on defense than all the rest of the world put together. Who are we afraid of? Iraq has never been a threat to us. We invaded them. The military industrial complex not only controls our government, lock, stock and barrel, but they control our culture.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC , Apr 26, 2007

Bi-lateral plus multi-lateral talks with North Korea

My position on North Korea is unambiguous: I would initiate bi-lateral talks between the US and North Korea that complement the multi-lateral talks. I would make it clear to the North Korean government that proceeding with a nuclear program is not in its long term best interests while keeping other minor regional players abreast of negotiations. Artful and aggressive diplomacy can be even more lethal but less dangerous than the use of military force and thus will be the cornerstone of my foreign policy.
Source: The Gravel Report, vol. 1, no. 1, “The High Road” , Aug 15, 2006

Replace intervention with participation, not isolation

The opposite of our present interventionism is not isolationism, but a new internationalism which embodies the same kind of participation as other, smaller nations have engaged in for decades--diplomatic discourse, active cooperation & assistance through the UN, trade & travel, and other forms of cooperation.

Ironically, it has been the so-called “internationalists” who have isolated Americans, deciding for our allies what their military postures should be, setting up & toppling non-conforming client states, and forbidding travel, trade, & even diplomatic representation with many communist countries.

The new internationalism will incorporate military nonintervention, the tolerance of revolutionary politics, and a reassessment of the inequalities of enjoyment of the planet’s resources, which are so vastly, and precariously, in our favor for this historical moment.

We must demonstrate renewed respect for international law & institutions, as our best hope for creating the conditions for peace.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 56-58 , Jan 1, 1972

US should empower UN with stand-by peace force

The US has systematically undercut the power of the UN and used it for our own purposes. We use our influence to secure a UN cover for our intervention in Korea. We deliberately ignored efforts by the UN to produce a peaceful settlement in Vietnam.

The US, as the most powerful country, must now lead the way in building up the power and capacity of the UN to act effectively in areas of conflict.

In the long-run, I believe the UN must develop into the primary peace-keeping force on earth, and we should take the lead in this development.

A more powerful UN must grow slowly, applying its influence initially in regions where the conflicts of interest are limited and where the parties involved want to avoid war and seek peace. Beyond this, it can apply sanctions in cases of colonial oppression to permit independence movements to achieve legitimate ends. And it can maintain a permanent stand-by peace force, to serve as a presence whenever armed conflict threatens.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p. 58-59 , Jan 1, 1972

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Page last updated: Dec 15, 2019