Endless war

July 08, 2020

The police killing of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on communities of color has focused the world’s attention on structural racism and inequality. Black Lives Matter...

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The police killing of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on communities of color has focused the world’s attention on structural racism and inequality. Black Lives Matter can no longer be dismissed as a fringe movement – it has become a global rallying cry in the wake of Floyd’s death.

In this unique moment of solidarity and introspection, hundreds of organizations within Washington’s national security community (including the Quincy Institute) have committed to improving racial diversity in their ranks. And as US rivals seize on anti-racism protests for political gain, some national security experts have highlighted the need to recognize racial injustice at home as a barrier to America’s moral authority on the world stage.

Yet it would be a mistake to limit our critical self-reflection to promoting diversity and inclusion within the national security workforce: we must have an open and honest debate about the ways race and racism have influenced America’s foreign policy for centuries, perpetuating racial injustice and inequality abroad in the name of national security.

Of course, the underrepresentation of minorities in the national security community is a serious problem that must be redressed. Despite efforts in recent years to increase diversity, people of color at the State Department and USAID remain disproportionately represented, especially at senior levels, and are less likely to be promoted than their white counterparts, according to the US Government Accountability Office.

But as important as it is to improve racial equity in public service, these efforts do not automatically translate to fewer wars against predominantly black and brown countries, so long as the connection between race and foreign policy remains largely ignored.

As political scientists Kelebogile Zvobgo and Meredith Loken observe, the role of race is strikingly absent in mainstream international relations scholarship. This is because the major theories of international relations – realism, liberalism, and constructivism – view political events through a Eurocentric perspective that justifies Western dominance.

After all, the study of international relations, as the late Stanley Hoffman famously said, is an “American social science” whose development roughly coincided with the emergence of the US as a global hegemon. It should therefore come as no surprise that the paradigmatic work of international relations, mostly written by Western white male scholars, ignores the issue of race in foreign policy.

Still, history is replete with examples of how race and racism have influenced America’s role in the world. The racism that permeates our foreign policies today is an extension of the belief in white supremacy that shaped the territorial and ideological boundaries of our nation from its inception.

The United States was built on the backs of black slaves and consolidated through Manifest Destiny-era policies that denied indigenous peoples the right to own and cultivate their own land.

Excerpted from: 'To Defeat Systemic Racism, America Must End Endless War'.

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