American Foreign Policy and Process is a comprehensive text for the first course in U.S. foreign policy. Because policy actions are always taken within a value context, values and beliefs are the basic organizing theme for the text. The book portrays the way values and beliefs about foreign affairs have changed over the course of U.S. history and how foreign policy has changed from its earliest years through the end of the Cold War and beyond.
Part 1 focuses on the values and beliefs that have
shaped policy historically; during the height of American globalism and
the Cold War years; during the immediate post-Vietnam administrations of
Nixon, Ford, and Carter; during the Reagan-Bush years; and during the Clinton
administration. Part 2 examines the policy-making process and how various
institutions and groups--the president, the Congress, the key bureaucracies,
political parties and interest groups, and the media and public opinion--compete
to promote their own values and beliefs in American policy abroad. Part
3 discusses alternate views of the values and beliefs that may shape American
Values, Beliefs, and Foreign Policy
-Identifying U.S. values and beliefs allow us to understand U.S. foreign policy better.
-Values, here, are defined simply as core beliefs.
-On the whole, U.S. National values are nearly impossible to define due to the great
diversity, which has long since been established in our society.
The United States: A New Democratic State
-Personal freedom and personal achievement have emerged, as a result of our societies long established tradition of focus on individuals, atop our societies value’s list.
-The U.S. guarantees the equality of opportunity rather than the equality of outcome.
-Early U.S. leaders did not hold foreign policy as important as domestic policy.
-Two important foreign policy traditions: Isolationalism and Moral Principle.
The Role of Isolationalism in U.S. Foreign Policy
-Isolationalism is the idea that America should be as little involved, if not completely
uninvolved, in the arena of international policy.
-Two statements on Isolationalism:
1.) George Washington’s Farewell Address-“two-spheres” concept- emphasizes the differences between Western and Eastern
2.) The Monroe Doctrine
The Role of Moral Principle in U.S. Foreign
-“A reliance on moral principle as a guide to world affairs,” is an important aspect of U.S.
-The importance of moral principle, which justifies U.S. involvement abroad and our foreign policy actions is illustrated in the following four instances:
1.) War of 1812-“Wilsonian Idealism”- opposite of Isolationism; foreign policy encouraging U.S.
2.) Spanish-American War
3.) World War I
4.) World War II
Notes by Margaret Enfinger, 2001
"Politics" can be defined many ways, but most attest to the central place that values play in political life. It deals with values such as power, rule, and authority. Authority structures distribute the values. Values also refer to modes of conduct and end-state of existence that guide people's lives. Specific values, such as liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness were stated as reasons for creating the US. The use of values and beliefs as the organizing scheme and focusing on nations and individuals is a principle model of analysis. Core beliefs are values. Individuals may have numerous beliefs, but some are more central than others in accounting for their behavior. Although values are likely to be few in number, they are crucial in understanding the attitudes and behaviors that an individual expresses. Nation-states would operate in the same way as individuals, since ultimately individuals comprise them. (Focus will necessarily have to be mostly concentrated on the political elites' values.)
This values & beliefs model is used because (1.) The nation was explicitly founded on particular sets of values, and these values made the US view itself as exceptional from the nations of the Old World from which it originated. (Politics was to be conducted on the basis of democratic principles, instead of power politics.) (2.) Since American values toward international affairs have changed in recent years, an understanding is important for foreign policy analysis. (Isolationism into the Cold War consensus and now a few focus on selective global engagement and the promotion of democracy.) (3.) Also, the lack of a foreign policy consensus at either the elite or mass levels in US society today (ex. None of the foreign policy approaches of the post-Vietnam era has been fully embraced by the US public or its leaders.) (4.) Finally, efforts have been made recently to reincorporate the role of values into foreign policy decision making. (Other principal models of analysis are the Rational Actor Model, the organizational process model, and the bureaucratic politics model.)
Because of its democratic value emphasis, America developed with the belief that its society was unique and possessed a set of values (dynamic, classless, and free society) worthy of emulation by others. A natural aversion to European values (class-bound & restrictive) developed which further reinforced America's beliefs in its own uniqueness. Personal freedom & personal achievement naturally emerged as cherished values in American society. What was guaranteed was not equality of outcomes but equality of opportunity for all (the freedom to determine one's own level of achievement). Again different from the European states of the time, most of the new American leaders did not view foreign policy as having primacy over domestic policy or as a philosophy whereby the power and standing of the state must be preserved and enhanced at the expense of domestic well-being. Instead, most early American leaders saw foreign policy as subservient to the interests of domestic policy and domestic values. Because of these beliefs, important foreign policy traditions emerged: An emphasis on isolationism in affecting whether to be involved abroad and an emphasis on moral principle in shaping that involvement.
There were also some practical reasons to the isolationism including the distance between the US and Europe and the facts that the US was a young, weak country with a small army and a large land mass. Also, there was not a sense of domestic unity (nationalism) as of yet. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, warned the nation about international entanglements (forming close, permanent ties with other countries), although economic and amicable diplomatic ties were good and would facilitate and enhance commerce. (However, according to the Monroe Doctrine, the American political isolationism did not really apply to the Western Hemisphere.) Because of the isolationism, in the 1800's there was a severe restriction on treaty commitments that would bind the US politically to other states. The treaties that were made served primarily to facilitate amicable trade relations with other states.
Only when moral principle justified interventionist policy into European affairs (as the case of WWI) was isolationism abandoned temporarily. After the war, the culture hadn't changed, as shown in the American rejection of membership in the League of Nations and its attempt to outlaw international war with the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
On the other hand, isolationism did not guide the US in Latin America at that same time. The Roosevelt Corollary extended the meaning of the Monroe Doctrine (whose purpose was to prevent intervention from abroad) to include US intervention to protect Central and South America. Even in recent decades, the imperative to keep the Western Hemisphere free of outside powers and to keep the Monroe Doctrine alive continues largely unabated ( as seen in Guatemala, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada and Haiti, among others).
The initial period of America's active entry into global affairs was between 1947 and 1960. After the 2nd world war, at least 15% of the multilateral pacts were defense commitments.
The US has a reliance on moral principle as a guide to world affairs. The policy of political noninvolvement generated a distinct approach to the world when the country occasionally did become involved in international politics. The role of moral values, as opposed to political interests, became an important feature of American policy making. Americans think that if the cause is sufficiently important in the first place, the effort taken should be complete and total. Intermediate conditions in which limited force or a mixture of military might and diplomacy is used are not wholly understandable or tolerable to many Americans. If the country has to get into war, an all-out effort should be made to win the war. When force and diplomacy are combined, it appears to compromise the country's moral position.
Prior to 1947, when the US finally committed itself to global involvement, US engagement in global affairs was generally tied to explicit violations of international ethical standards by other states (England in War of 1812, Spain in Spanish-American War, Germany in WWI, and Japan in WWII). After the first three international involvements, the US moved back to its favored position of isolationism. None of the wars brought about a basic change in American foreign policy orientation. Only after WWII did the US reject noninvolvement in global affairs.
Notes by Margaret Enfinger, 2001
After WWII, the US found it difficult to change course and revert to the isolationism of the past ( however, the first impulse was in that direction). The most important reason that the US went in the direction of global power was the rise of an ideological challenge from the Soviet Union.
The international system that the US faced after the defeat of Japan and Germany was considerably different from any that it had faced in is history. The traditional powers of Europe were defeated or had been ruined by the ravages of war. The global economy had been significantly weakened by that war. A relatively new power with a threatening ideology, the Soviet Union, had survived the war in better shape than any other European power.
The political and economic conditions of the international system immediately after WWII were awful. Hunger was widespread; millions of people were homeless; and land, cities, homes, and economies were devastated. Each European country had to rely upon US assistance to meet its financial needs. Several British and French colonies were demanding freedom and independence. The countries had both foreign and domestic problems. So, none of the traditional European powers seemed able to exert its traditional dominance in global politics. On the other hand, during that same time, the US had huge trade surpluses. American reserve assets were substantial and growing. The military might of the US seemed preeminent (the US had the world's largest navy). Also, the US alone had the atomic bomb. The international environment seemed conducive to the necessity for America to play a dominant role in global affairs.
There was also a change in world view among American leaders during and after WWII. Roosevelt's plan included the total defeat and disarming of the adversaries, with no leniency shown. It also required the establishment of a global collective security organization. Also, the allies in war must remain allies in peace in order to maintain order in the world. However, the core of the plan was American involvement in world affairs and its cooperation with the other great powers. He envisaged postwar cooperation among the four principal powers (US, Great Britain, USSR, China) that would yield a system in which they acted as the four policemen to enforce global order.
To direct the US toward a role in international politics (instead of isolationism), the building of cooperation with the USSR was deemed essential. Roosevelt believed that this would be possible through the power of personal diplomacy. He had made a concerted effort throughout the war to foster good relations with them.
The Yalta agreements mark the beginning of an American commitment to global involvement beyond the wartime period. The Yalta Conference achieved agreement on a strategy for the completion of the war effort and commitment on the division and operation of postwar Europe. France, Britain, the USSR, and the US agreed to zones of occupation in Germany, some territorial concessions to the Soviets from Poland, and the Declaration of Liberated Europe (which specified free elections and constitutional safeguards of individual freedom in the liberated nations). Finally, they produced the veto mechanism within the Security Council of the United Nations. Roosevelt's rationale was that only by taking into account the interests of the various parties (including the Soviets) was a stable postwar world possible.
Truman, as Roosevelt's successor, began with the
same hopes. However, Truman's advisors increasingly focused upon the threat
posed by international communism generally and by the Soviet Union specifically.
By the Potsdam Conference in 1945, Truman was increasingly urged
to be tough with the Soviets, while still seeking postwar cooperation.
However, by 1946, Stalin was alarming American policy makers by attacking
capitalism and suggesting war; Churchill responded with his "iron curtain"
Kennan, at the same time, sent his "long telegram"
to Washington (from Moscow where he was an American diplomat). The Soviets
policies, he said, were to advance Soviet interests worldwide and to undermine
Western powers. Ideology, and not the realities of power politics,
was the important determinant of Soviet conduct.
When America adopted a tougher policy line toward
the Soviets, it was able to achieve results, until accommodation changed
to confrontation over the question of aid to Greece and Turkey. The US
provided aid to them with the rationale being the need to stop the expansion
of global communism. Eventually the policy adopted by the US was the containment
The first containment initiative was the establishment
of several regional politico-military
alliances. The US entered
into pacts with Latin America ( the Rio Pact), Western Europe (NATO), Australia
& New Zealand (ANZUS Treaty), and Asia (Southeast Asia Collective Defense
Treaty- SEATO). It also participated in CENTO- the Central Treaty Organization
with Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran. NATO proved the most important,
& is an exception among the rest, for its organizational structure
developed much more fully. Also, the parties' commitment to respond to
an attack appears to be more automatic. In addition to these multilateral
pacts, there were also several bilateral defense pacts in Asia (with the
Philippines, Japan, South Korea, & Taiwan).
The second set of initiatives to implement the containment strategy focused upon economic and military assistance to friendly nations. The initial goal was to foster the economic well-being of the recipients, but the ultimate rationale became to ensure the stability of those states threatened by international communism & to build support for anticommunism on a global scale.
The Marshall Plan called for the Europeans to draw up a plan for economic recovery and pledged American economic support to implement it. As a key trading partner, a healthy Western Europe was important to the economic health of America. Also, the region might well be subject to political instability and perhaps Communist penetration and subversion. 17 billion dollars was sent to revitalize Western Europe.
Truman's Point Four plan was supposed to develop on a global scale the essentials of the Marshall Plan. Point Four was less a cooperative venture with participating states and more a unilateral effort on the part of the US. The program was to provide industrial, technological, and economic assistance to the underdeveloped nations of the world. However, the program never received sufficient funding authorization from Congress.
The Point Four plan was replaced by the mutual
security concept. It emphasized aiding nations to combat communism
and to strengthen the security of the US and the "free world," using primarily
just military assistance. This aid was intended to save America's friends
from Soviet and Chinese communism.
NSC-68 was the result of a review of US
foreign and domestic defense policies that outlines the nature of the international
crisis between the USSR and the US and then contrast the foreign policy
goals of Washington and Moscow. The document analyzed 4 different policy
options to respond to the Soviet challenge, and recommended a rapid buildup
of American and allied strength. Therefore, the govt needed to place defense
spending as the number one priority in the budgeting process. It should
also produce and stockpile thermonuclear weapons; nuclear weapons should
become part of defense strategy. The paper also addressed internal security.
It said that there should be efforts to protect the American people against
subversion and to gain their support for Cold War policies. Hence, the
House Un-American Activities Committee reflected the concern with
possible Soviet penetration. The political and psychological effects of
the Cold War produced the foreign policy consensus. There was widespread
fear about veering too far from the mainstream on foreign policy issues.
What brought the Cold War really into existence
was the Korean War. The US and allies knew that the aggression was
Soviet-inspired and aimed principally at testing the resolve of the US.
So the US had to make the containment doctrine a reality. General MacArthur
led both the UN and US forces in Korea against the North Koreans and the
Chinese People's Volunteers. Since 1950, there has been a stalemate across
the 38th parallel. Some effects of the Korean War were a sharp
increase in the American defense budget, the militarization of NATO, and
the need to maintain large armies and to take action against aggression.
The war solidified the US view that a Sino-Soviet bloc promoting communist
expansion was a reality and that there was a need to combat it. The bilateral
pacts in Asia were established afterwards. Also, it gave credence to what
was outlined in NSC-68, as well as the need to make rapid changes in the
security arrangements of America and the free world. Finally, it made the
US have a real commitment to contain communism everywhere.
The US did abandon isolationism, but both policies it used was unilateralist. Globalism, on the part of the US, was a strategy to reshape global order through its own design and largely through its own efforts. The heritage of moral principle was consistent. Moral accommodation with the values of Russian communism was simply not acceptable. The containment strategy represented an all-out attempt to confront the moral challenge from the USSR and all it represented. Moral values served as a primary justification for US policy once again.
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From the Cold War environment, and the initial encounter of the Korean War, and identifiable foreign policy consensus developed among the American leadership and the public at large. One of the several components of the consensus was the dichotomous view that most Americans held. The world was divided into only two parts: communists and non-communists. Change was seen as Communist- inspired, so change was viewed suspiciously. Even those countries who were neutral were considered against the "free world." Instead of having sympathy for nationalism and revolutionary movements, the US would rather keep a dictatorship or a military regime in power.
To prevent communist gains, the US participated in several military interventions all over the world. Force was used as a political instrument, as a "deliberate attempt by the authorities to influence specific behavior of individuals in another nation without engaging in a continuing context of violence." Displays of force and occasional violence came to be justified to defend American interests. Confronting potential aggressors was essential to world peace. Drawing upon historical analogies as a guide to present policy was an important source of the kind of response (ex. Chamberlain appeasing Hitler). The US came to believe that it along could solve the problems of the poor and emerging nations through the application of its technological skills. The US tended to offer itself as the model for the achievement of development and democracy. With the consensus, the public was willing to sustain a worldwide effort to stop communism, including the use of armed forces. The American public was quite willing to provide economic and military assistance to countries threatened by international communism. Also, the public appeared to support some contact with the USSR, but not more than a commercial relationship.
The Cold War consisted of series of increasing and decreasing levels of hostility. As the US and USSR changed in their capabilities and the international system changed, the nature of the war changed. Neither party obtained all the goals that had motivated this conflict, but neither party was able to vanquish the other. During the periods of lesser hostilities, there were several attempts at accommodation. Only toward the end of the Reagan administration and with the ascendancy of Gorbachev was the Cold War thaw under way.
The Cold War consensus began to meet resistance through the Truman until the Johnson years. The world environment was changing- the world was increasingly multipolar rather than bipolar. The Vietnam policy produced a full-blown domestic debate and is often cited as having signaled the death knell of the Cold War consensus. Also, the policy split between the two largest communist powers- the USSR and China questioned the assumption about the basic unity of international communism and the degree to which communism was directed from Moscow. American officials slowly began to recognize the reality and the need for a policy that did not homogenize the Communist powers. Another fissure in the view of Communism was the the differences that emerged within the Warsaw Pact. Americans observed that exploiting the internal differences within the Eastern bloc was yet another way of moving the nations away from Soviet control. In the West, however, the US faced several challenges within its own NATO alliance. The US could no longer dictate Western policy, especially with the creation of the European Common Market. European states wanted to exercise a more independent role in world affairs.
De Gaulle of France represented the most consistent pattern of moving away from the bipolar world. He wanted to reduce American influence on the continent and to weaken Soviet control as well. France withdrew from the military structure of NATO. The country initiated political contacts at the highest levels of govt with the Eastern Europeans. De Gaulle took policy steps clearly at odds with the bloc-to-bloc relations. He even made official visits to the USSR.
During the post WWII years, huge numbers of new countries were created. There was seemingly a spreading desire for independence by colonial territories. The new states generally refused to tie themselves into the formal bloc structures of the Cold War and, instead, preferred to follow an independent, nonaligned foreign policy course. They also wanted to expand the areas of the world that were part of the nonaligned movement. They took an active part in world affairs through their own initiatives and in their own way without going through coordinated actions of a bloc of states. They also rejected military alliances with, or military bases for, the superpowers. The new states wanted neither to infringe upon their newly gained independence by the formal incorporation into the East-West bloc structures nor to return to the influence of their former colonial powers.
The Cuban Missile Crisis had a major impact on the US consensus. It was the closet that the two superpowers came to nuclear confrontation since the advent of atomic power. President Kennedy threatened the USSR with a nuclear response if the offensive intermediate-range missiles in Cuba were used against the US. In the end, an agreement was worked out for the removal of the missiles by the Soviet Union under United Nations supervision. In exchange the US would remove its threatening missiles from Turkey. This scare brought home to world leaders that mutual assured destruction (MAD) was no longer an abstract theory, but a real possibility. Another lesson learned was that both the countries were capable of evaluating in a rational way their national interests and global consequences. This proved to US policy makers that rational policy making with the USSR might just be possible. Americans and Soviets each learned that accommodation with their major adversary was possible and necessary for mutual survival. The nuclear showdown is considered the beginning of detente.
The last important challenge to America's Cold War consensus was Vietnam. American involvement in Vietnam began at the end of WWII and lasted for almost 30 years. It ultimately produced a major foreign policy defeat, as well as being the most divisive foreign policy debate in the history of the Republic. The US began providing clandestine economic and military assistance in the war against Vietminh (by France) as a result of the political leanings of the independence movement, led by Ho Chi Minh. It was President Johnson who fully changed the US involvement in South Vietnam from a political to a military one. Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which authorized the president to take "all necessary measures" in Southeast Asia; the resolution became the equivalent of a declaration of war. In 1968 there were over a half million American soldiers over there. President Nixon began to decrease American military involvement (after the Tet offensive) through a policy of "Vietnamization" of the war, whereby the South Vietnamese military would replace American soldiers. There were several protests, including major ones held on school campuses. Students protesters were killed at two, after which further opposition to the war resulted. Involvement ceased with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Both the American public and Congress ultimately were unwilling to sustain support for the war. The nature of "limited war" did not allow the US to take maximum advantage of its military capabilities. Some no longer supported the war because they believed that it was not being prosecuted fully, while others did so because they no longer believed that it was moral or ethical to engage in this conflict.
After Vietnam, there was the questioning of the
US role in the world. There were limits to American powers; there were
limits to America's responsibility; and there were limits to how much globalism
the American public would tolerate. There was also greater hesitancy in
fighting limited war. Now, foreign policy goals and matters became a ready
source of public debate. The value and belief consensus that had guided
the conduct of foreign policy since the end of WWII was shattered. America's
foreign policy elite also were equally divided. More than any other action,
the Vietnam War appears responsible for ultimately shattering the Cold
War consensus and producing a reassessment of America's approach to
international affairs. Thus, it produced a
foreign policy vacuum
at home. A unique opportunity existed for succeeding presidents to develop
a new foreign policy approach.
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