“President Clinton and I… have spoken often about the goals of American foreign policy. Boiled down, these have not changed in more than 200 years. They are to ensure the continued security, prosperity, and freedom of our people. ” (Albright 1998, p. 50-64) Thus were the words of then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright back in 1998. Fast-forward to 2006 and we have President George W. Bush remarking on America as facing a ‘choice between the path of fear and the path of confidence.
’ The path of fear – isolationism and protectionism, retreat and retrenchment – appeals to those who find challenges too great, failing to see in them opportunities (Bush 2006). As Bush (2006) asserts, his administration has chosen the path of confidence, leadership over isolationism and the pursuit of free and fair trade and open markets over protectionism, consistent with the tradition of American policy.
Founded on two pillars – promoting freedom, justice and human dignity, and confronting the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of democracies, the present national security strategy of the Bush administration maintains the primacy of expanding the national strength of the United States resting not merely on the strength of the military but on economic prosperity and a vibrant democracy as well.
Yet Bush’s rather confrontational, militaristic approach as reflected in US foreign policy has been shown to have negative effects on America’s relations with its long-time allies, as well as in terms of projecting its image abroad in the somewhat turbulent arena of international relations, and ultimately casting doubts whether it is really in the national interest of the United States of America. The present paper aims to illustrate how this is so, through a discussion of US foreign policy emphasizing the critical aspects of national security, free trade, democracy, world peace and human rights.
II. DISCUSSION National Security It is the recognized primary duty of the United States Government to ‘protect the American people and American interests, obligating the government to anticipate and counter threats using all resources of national power at its disposal, before these threats can do grave damage’ (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 18). Anticipatory action taken in self-defense is considered of primary importance, particularly in view of terrorist attacks withWMD.
The US-led global War on Terror after the 10/11 terrorist attacks is considered by the US State as ‘both a battle of arms and a battle of ideas’ (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 9). It involves both the use of military force and other instruments of national power to capture and eliminate terrorists, deny them safe haven or control of any nation, prevent their access to WMD, and the cutting off of their sources of support.
The US government shall employ a comprehensive strategy involving strengthened nonproliferation efforts, i. e. proactive counter-proliferation efforts to defend against and defeat WMD and missile threats before they are unleashed; and improved protection mitigating the consequences of WMD use (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 18). The proliferation of nuclear weapons is recognized as posing the greatest threat to US national security in their capacity to inflict instant loss of life on a massive scale.
The strategy of choice is on denying terrorists and nuclear states access to the essential ingredient of fissile material and to deter any transfer of nuclear material from states having this capability to rogue states and terrorists. The 9/11 terror attacks proved the vulnerability of the United States, acclaimed lone superpower of the world, to terrorism. In a bid to safeguard national security, the Bush administration declared a global war on terror, which undoubtedly leaves many fears of retaliatory attacks from terror groups.
It is important to note that the problem of terrorism is a thorny issue and a multi-faceted one, involving not merely differences in religion and ideology but poverty and social grievances, among others, which are recognized by the National Security Strategy. Free Trade The promotion of free and fair trade has long been a tenet of American foreign policy as greater economic freedom is viewed as ultimately inseparable from political liberty (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p.
25). Taking into consideration economic power as empowering individuals, which in turn leads to the demand for greater political freedom promoting greater economic opportunity and prosperity, the market economy is viewed as the single most effective economic system and the greatest antidote to poverty. The US promotes free and fair trade, open markets, a stable financial system, the integration of the global economy, and secure, clean energy development as the means towards economic liberty and prosperity.
Economic freedom is viewed by the present administration as a ‘moral imperative,’ with the ‘liberty to create and build, buy, sell and own property fundamental to human nature and foundational to a free society’ (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 27). Economic freedom creates diversified centers of power and authority which places limits on the reach of governments, expanding the free flow of ideas, exposing people to new ways of thinking and living and ultimately giving more control over their own lives.
Even as most of the world affirms the appeal of economic liberty, it is the view of the present government that too many nations still hold fast to the ‘false comforts of subsidies and trade barriers’ which stifles growth in developed countries (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 27). The US promotes the vision of a global economy welcoming to each and every nation-participant and encourages the voluntary exchange of goods and services.
Issues on the establishment of a truly level playing field among developed and developing nations, the continuing significance and evolving roles of the post-World War multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund continue to haunt the rounds of free trade negotiations, serving as effective obstacles towards the full globalization and integration of free markets all over the world. Democracy
It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 1). The avowed goal of US statecraft then is “help create a world of democratic, well-governed states that can meet the needs of their citizens and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system” (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p.
1) through leading the international effort to end tyranny and promote effective democracy. Closely related to the goal of ending tyrannies, the US recognizes its role in helping newly free nations in the building of effective democracies – states which respect human dignity, are accountable to their citizens, and responsible towards their neighbors.
Democracy is concretely expressed through elections wherein individuals and parties committed to the equality of all citizens, minority rights, civil liberties, voluntary and peaceful transfer of power, and the peaceful resolution of differences can freely participate, as well as the presence of institutions which protect individual liberty, independent media, freely competing political associations and political parties, an independent judiciary, professional legal establishment, and an honest and competent police force.
This commitment to the promotion of freedom is coursed through several tactics varying among countries reflecting the culture and history of its people, from vocal and visible steps on behalf of immediate change to more quiet support laying the foundation for future reports. The US shall lead and call on other nations in a common international effort, yet it does not hesitate to act on its own if need be.
Grave problems arise when the US is seen as intervening in what other countries may perceive as largely domestic affairs which does not concern Washington, and the perception of democracy as a Western imposition even in non-Western countries, fueling resentment and claims of on-going cultural imperialism in the promotion of American values even in still-largely traditional societies.
World Peace Conflict among nations can arise from a variety of causes – external aggression, competing claims, internal revolt, poor governance, ethnic and religious differences, among others – which if left unaddressed, can eventually result to humanitarian disasters, the failure of states, and ungoverned areas which can become harbor terrorists.
To address this, the Bush administration seeks to implement three levels of engagement: (1) conflict intervention; (2) post-conflict stabilization; and (3) reconstruction (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 15). In terms of ensuring peace in an often tumultuous international arena of competing nations, the most effective long-term measure for conflict prevention and resolution is the promotion of democracy (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 15).
This is in line of the view that though effective democracies may still have disputes, they are more equipped to solve such differences through peaceful means, either bilaterally or in cooperation with other international institutions, formations or regional states. As some conflicts pose such grave threats to the broader national interests, conflict intervention may be deemed necessary to restore peace and stability, particularly in circumstances wherein the international community does not have enough trained military forces capable of performing peace-keeping missions.
This has led to close the government closely working with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in improving state capacities for intervention in conflict situations, and support to the UN reforms seeking to improve its ability to carry out peacekeeping missions characterized by enhanced accountability, oversight and results-based management practices (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 16).
And the third level of engagement takes into consideration the need for post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction once peace has been restored. History has borne witness to success as resulting from the early establishment of strong local institutions, e. g. a functional judiciary and penal system, effective police systems, and enhancing governance capacity critical to the establishment of the rule of law and a free market economy, on the assumption that these in turn would provide the key to long-term stability and prosperity.
It is also interesting to note that the pursuit of American interests is to be accomplished within the framework of cooperative relationships, particularly with its ‘oldest and closest friends and allies’ (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 35).
Another priority is the prevention of any re-emergence of the great power rivalries which had divided the world in previous eras, in such a way that these new approaches are flexible enough to permit effective action even in the face of differences of opinions among friends, yet strong enough to confront challenges. These principles guide American international relations, notably within its own hemisphere (the Western Hemisphere) considered the ‘frontline of defense of American national security’ (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p.
37) which is envisioned to be fully democratic, bound together in good will, security cooperation and opportunity for all its citizens to prosper. Concretely, the goal includes strengthening relations with regional partners to make multilateral institutions, e. g. the Inter-American Development Bank, more effective and better able in fostering concerted action addressing threats to the region’s stability, prosperity, security or democratic progress.
The Bush administration has identified key threats to international security in the form of rogue states, and its taking on a hard-line policy towards these states which could possibly fuel resentment and strong feelings of anti-Americanism among their peoples. World peace does not appear any less elusive in the contemporary period despite the end of the Cold War and the bipolarization of the world, as poverty, social inequality, racial, ethnic and religious differences continue to create social divides among people.
Human Rights Tyranny is defined as the ‘combination of brutality, poverty, instability, corruption, and suffering forged under the rule of despots and despotic systems’ (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, p. 3), as is the case under the nations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Belarus and Burma, which treated the world’s interest in freedom’s expansion and immediate security threats as well, i. e.
their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006. The goal of human rights promotion is closely related to the pursuit of democracy, world peace, and the promotion of global free trade. This becomes particularly acute when one considers political liberties and democratic institutions as vital towards attaining greater economic freedom, opportunities and prosperity in the context of a market economy.
Chomsky (1982) notes that the US is no more engaged in programs of international good will than any other state has been as foreign policy is designed and implemented by narrow groups deriving their power from the domestic sources of state capitalism and control over the domestic economy. Within the nation-state, the effective ‘national interest’ is by and large articulated by those who control the central economic institutions, leaving the formulation of its disguise for the technocratic and policy-oriented intelligentsia.
Human rights violations have been charged against US soldiers in occupied territories as well as among those in peace-keeping missions. Specific cases of human rights violations have been documented in US bases in South Korea, Japan, and in the former US bases in the Philippines. The preferential treatment for and custody of US soldiers in case of trial and conviction is also a major sore point between the US government and the ‘host’ countries.