US foreign policy was traditionally created to serve US national security, promote democracy in other countries, promote world peace, allow free markets and promote human rights. This concept is still practical in the US foreign policy when invading war-torn countries due to dictatorship. In addition, it is useful in raising and lowering the value of the dollar to compete and facilitate international trade and protecting lives through humanitarian efforts. America, as a country, had fought the autocracy of the ancient British Empire in becoming a republic where ultimate power is through the consent of the people who are governed. This is the essence of the US becoming a republic. In 1791, the US Congress revised its constitution to include the famous Bill of Rights, which was later adopted by many countries (Jerick, 2010). Its main purpose was to prevent abuse of power in the assigned branches of the US government. America had also designed branches of government that opposed each other, so that individuals or groups of people could not grow too powerful. The interest of these two opposing branches of the government ensured that the concerns of the citizens were fully expressed and solutions implemented. The system also prevented another case of colonialism that Americans suffered under the crown of the British.
As America grew from a mere colony to the only superpower, her global influence and domain has largely expanded. The expansion has made America one of the most prosperous countries worldwide, but it came at a cost. America has legally declared war against other countries only seven times since its independence (Jerick, 2010). These wars have not only taken a toll on national treasure and blood, but also on the veracity of balances among branches of governments and other rights as provided by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Throughout the history of America, there has been a heated debate among academic scholars about foreign policy benefiting America or the world at large.
Thesis statement: this research is intended to provide a view of the traditional perspectives of the US foreign policy, the significance of America in the global community, according to proponents, and concerns raised by critics in labeling it as a contemporary empire.
Traditional Perspectives of US Foreign Policy
The US first priority in establishing strict foreign policy is due to the diverse threats to the interests of America. The security of Americans comes first, then the interests of the US in the national security. Threats are grouped into three categories: state-centered threats, transnational threats and, finally, threats possessed by weapons of mass destruction.
State-centered threats occur when other countries have the desire and capabilities to threaten America’s vital interests via cross border aggression or coercion (Jerick, 2010). These states that threaten the US obtain biological, chemical or nuclear weapons all directed to the superpower. The US foreign policy allows the US to disable nuclear plants in foreign countries and neutralize chemical or biological weapons. It is argued that such weapons are created for the purpose of an impending war with a great rival, which is a superpower.
Transnational threats are those that transcend national borders. The threats include terrorism, illegal arms trafficking, illicit drug trade, environmental damages directed to the citizens, frenzied refugee emigrations and international organized crime. The US government will investigate and arrest foreigners who commit transnational threats.
Weapons of mass destruction are recent threats realized after the September 11th attacks. These threats pose the greatest potential risk to the global security, but mostly to the US national security. America reduces the threat of weapons of mass destruction by stopping the production of cutting-edge technologies of the countries that are hostile and capable of destroying the US. Some countries are outlaws in a sense that they strongly oppose global security interests and efforts. These countries advocate for terrorism, nuclear warfare, international crime organizations and biological or chemical weapons directed to civilians.
Prosperity in the 21st century for the US depends entirely on its ability to have a competitive advantage and win in all international markets. This means that the US implements foreign policy that enhances free access to international markets. America is the only country that has rapid growth in technology and education. Other countries depend on the US for most consumer products that cannot be produced in their countries. Emerging markets grow rapidly, and the increasing global economy provides massive opportunities for American workers and companies. The future of all countries in the world depends on the expanding global economy, which shows that almost 95% of the consumers worldwide live in foreign countries (Jerick, 2010). This means that the US uses foreign policy to export services, products and human capital to other countries, while the US economy is growing and sustained. Agreements are enforced and secured to enable Americans to trade and compete equitably in international markets. Congress recognizes a President who implements strict foreign policy that breaks down international trade barriers, hence, creating good jobs for both, Americans and foreigners. In enhancing free markets, the US is implementing an agreement for high technology products that are exported to foreign markets. The Information Technology Agreement eliminated tariff on these products and a tax cut of five billion US dollars every year. The World Trade Organization concludes an agreement that facilitates the liberation of global trade, especially in telecommunications sector. Closed markets open up for competition principles and deregulation, championed by America. The US foreign policy sets high standards for countries to access free markets in terms of rules adherence and opening all closed markets.
Dictatorships in the contemporary society degenerate social development, economic growth and education. The US foreign policy is implemented in countries where citizens are not free to trade, socialize and learn new technological developments from first world countries (Jerick, 2010). Democracy in other countries is essential to the US, because respect and freedom for human rights form a firm base for international trade, which contributes to the global economy. Countries that practice democracy often progress into becoming valued economic and diplomatic partners in the global community. Recent events of opening up new markets and facilitating the freedom from dictatorship include efforts in Iraq, Egypt and Libya. These countries were had closed markets and human rights were violated by strict dictators who had too much power. The US is integrated into European economic and security organizations, such as European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). America deployed her military personnel to maintain peace and freedom in Libya, when Muamar Gadhafi refused to surrender and give his extensive power to the citizens of Libya. He was gunned down by NATO, and Libya is now a democratic and free country, which allows the US and other countries to trade freely and socialize with Libyans. In Egypt, Hussein Mubarak stepped down as the president to facilitate democracy, where citizens are allowed to vote for their preferred candidate and practice free trade with other countries in the global community. US foreign policy has helped to preserve the progress of foreign democratic countries, thus, allowing market economic reforms that benefit the global economy.
Universal Human Rights
The US foreign policy is implemented to sustain efforts that facilitate political liberalization, respect human rights and democracy. Multilateral institutions unite with the US in promoting universal adherence to democratic principles and human rights (Jerick, 2010). America helps the United Nations (UN) and other human rights organizations in making principles and standards that foreign countries need to adhere to, because their international behavior is globally accepted. The US works with human rights organizations to facilitate international standards for human rights that protect the traditionally oppressed or vulnerable members of the community, such as children, women, refugees, workers and people who are persecuted because of their religious affiliation or ethnic descent (Chomsky & Herman, 1979). United Nations has a commission for human rights where permanent criminal courts that investigate, address and persecute violators of international human rights, such as war crimes in Darfur, Rwanda, Libya and Kenya. Recent research shows that sexual exploitation, especially of minors is rampant in the contemporary society. Children are abducted and transported to developed countries through dangerous methods, either through water or by road. Homeless women and children is an example of human rights violation. In Africa, female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced in most nations as a culture, but this is violation of human rights, which the US and human rights organization fight hard to eliminate. The foreign policy of America encourages democratic governments to arrest offenders of war crimes and take them to international criminal courts for persecution. The latest event in war crimes is the arrest warrant of Omar Hassan Al Bashir who is responsible for the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The UN and US are encouraging other African nations to arrest Omar Al Bashir when he steps on their land. In Kenya, offenders who were responsible for post-election violence in 2008 were rigged to the International Criminal Court during the confirmation hearings that would determine, whether the International community has a case that needs prosecution.
World peace is the most essential aspect in the US foreign policy, because it prevents World War III and violation of human rights. Arms control in the US and foreign countries is under the strict control, while transparency surrounding the structure and size of military forces is enhanced. Controlling arms in countries facilitates nations’ confidence, reduces incentives for nations to engage in attacks and allows nations to direct human labor, finance and resources to more dynamic and safer international resources (Jerick, 2010). Weapons created by other nations, such as Russia, Korea and Iraq, are destabilized to reduce attack against developed countries. The US foreign policies against nuclear warheads favor America and other nations in terms of protecting human rights and allowing free trade across borders. Russia and the US are among the few countries that have the capabilities to create and disarm nuclear weapons. These two nations have implemented a strategy to destroy all nuclear weapons, especially submarines and aircrafts that carry these weapons when attacking other nations.
Data from Mainstream Theorists
Robert Kagan is a mainstream theorist who believes that America is an empire, because of its great efforts put to control a world peace, global economy, great humanitarian efforts and promoting democracy. In his book the Benevolent Empire, Kagan reveals the state of the world after the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal with the former President Bill Clinton hit the media (1998). The international community watched keenly to see if the world would suddenly spur into chaos, because the leadership of the superpower was under controversy. Foreign dignitaries wondered if the peace process facilitated by President Clinton would stall, or the financial crisis in Asia would breakdown. Many people wondered whether the Peninsula in Korea would be unsettled. All these questions came from mainstream media who calculated the risks associated with a distracted super power. European, Middle East and Asian mainstream media temporarily stopped their irritable view of American hegemonic pretensions and arrogance (Kagan, 1998). They all paused to contemplate the risks and consequences associated with a crippled presidency from a super power. Many countries through their communications network expressed their fears due to a distracted supremacy. The absence of a supreme power proved to be a major global crisis as compared to having America as the only super power. Other alternatives did not suit the position of a supreme nation. Kagan asserts that people resent power, even when it is possessed by relatives or friends. He further explains this resentment as a timeless human emotion that goes hand in hand with arrogance vested power. The resentment of US power by other nations originates from its expansion after the Cold War. The US improved its economy, healthcare, technology and social life because of the ruins the British colony and the Cold War had left within its grasp. The US as a super power is essential and favorable to all countries as compared to alternative powers. A world that lacks U.S primacy or authority will have violence, disorders, dictatorships and economic downfall within itself. Kagan claims that it is better for a world that has U.S primacy than a world that does not have single authority or other alternative powers (1998).
The US defense budget is higher than those of all other developed countries. This is because America is the main target of attack due to its power and international commitment made by the US to protect its allies. Kagan reports that 90% of American soldiers expelled Iraq’s army during the Gulf War from Kuwait (1998). In Bosnia, America deployed troops to defend its interests because it is one of the US allies.
Power and Weakness
In the book Power and Weakness, Robert Kagan tries to differentiate the view of the world from European’s side and from America’s perspective. Americans and Europeans have divergent views in terms of power. Europe does not seek to hold too much power, but it is moving to a position where rules, laws, cooperation and transnational negotiations turn the world into a self-contained system (Kagan, 2002). Europe wants to enter into a post-colonial paradise of relative prosperity and peace. The US remains stalled in history where security, order and power remain to the nation that has military might and possession of advanced weapons. Europeans fear that they no longer share the same culture with Americans in the sense that the US allows men and women to carry guns or store them in their houses. There is a warlike temperament with every defense situation and death penalties reigns in different states in America. Europe resolves crisis through diplomacy, but the US has weapons and military personnel to response quickly using force.
The Unipolar Moment
Charles Krauthammer asserts that America had to take the leading position after the Cold War due to its tactics and relationship with the global community (1990). He disputes the critics who view America as a self-serving country that takes advantage of its power. America, as a supreme nation, worked hard to attain its power. Power and preeminence in America are based on the amount of its military, political, diplomatic and economic assets that allow it to be the only player in making decisions during conflicts in different parts of the world (Krauthammer, 1990). The US took control of the Persian Gulf War that prevented Iraq from taking control of the Arabian Peninsula. Japan and Germany have threatened to be the super powers in the past, but economic dominance does not only constitute for primacy. Europe does not qualify to compete for primacy, because the methods it uses while solving conflict are old-fashioned and time consuming. Krauthammer continues to explain that the US deserves to create the unipolar moment in a sense that when Kuwait was under fire during the Gulf War, Europe and Germany and the United Nations guaranteed nothing (1990). America deployed its troops, bribed and blackmailed Kuwait’s rivals to win the war. The US took action and responsibility, because other countries ignored the plea of Kuwait, while the United Nations is present by name. Kuwait would have been written off if America did not step in as a primacy to help to solve its conflicts. Krauthammer’s foresight of America’s economic spiral does not occur to its expansion to foreign countries, but due to its defense budget, which serves its citizens and the nations allied to the US (1990). He further explains that the economy of the US fell because of domestic spending, such as the low tax creed imposed in the 1980s attached to its insatiable desire to improve the living standards of its citizens without paying the cost of luxurious lifestyles. Krauthammer later confirms that America is not only an isolationist by geography, but also by the unfriendly conditions that its two neighbors displayed in ancient years (1990).
Data from Critics
Super Power Illusions
Jack Matlock is an accomplished American diplomat who served as the US ambassador in the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991 (Mandelbaum, 2010). Matlock advised a former President Ronald Reagan concerning Soviet affairs before he was stationed to Moscow. In his book Super Power Illusions, he harshly criticizes the Bush administration because of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US citizens (2010). Matlock observes that Bush and his administration neglected the information provided by the CIA prior to the attacks because of extreme power vested in the US (2010). He compares President Barack Obama to the former President Ronald Reagan, whom he advised and reasoned with, in contrast to the previous President Bush. Matlock who was a close friend and advisor of President Ronald Reagan disputes the famous concept about the US using threats and military force to end the Cold War (Mandelbaum, 2010). He says in his book that the Cold War ended due to negotiations that benefitted both nations. He also denounces the notion that President’s Ronald Reagan rhetoric actions in negotiations conquered communism. Matlock condemns the perception of the Americans regarding the fall of the Soviet Union as being equivalent to the US military victory (2010). The misconception of the end of the Cold War has led to pernicious consequences where Vladimir Putin asserts that Russia was weakened and destroyed by the West in the negotiations, hence, the existence of autocratic domestic policies imposed by President Putin and reflexive hostility by Russia towards the US (Matlock, 2010). The incorrect understanding of the end of the Cold War contributes to the exaggerated sense of the US power. This creates harmful foreign policies by the US in maintaining competitive advantage in global markets, deploying military troops in contemporary wars and raising the value of the dollars to oppress poor countries in international trade.
Foreign Policy and the US Intelligence
Chomsky Noam a harsh critic of US foreign policies states that America imposes foreign policies in the name of good international relations, but the underlining reason is for self-interests. The US foreign policy is intended for certain principles and ideals that reflect the interests of America. However, some of these policies cause more harm than good in violation of human rights, bad leadership and self-centered ideas. In cases that turn tragic, unfortunate or embarrassing, the US is quick to fix a solution right away, explaining that any event that threatens national security is dealt with using force and strict trade policies. When America deviates from its original purpose while implementing foreign policies, top scholars and government officials explain in intense details that tragic error was a deviation from the normal and deeply held ethics. In the Vietnam War, the US explained the great loss of civilian lives as a collateral damage when military action is sought (Andrews, 1976). The US claims that it lives beyond its moral resources in trying to defend itself or other allies. This makes the US fall into self-righteousness and hypocrisy. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq led to a great loss of life in the civilian population (Chomsky, 1982). This population encompasses children, women and innocent men who were caught in the middle of cross fire because of their country’s rivalry with the US. Many intellectuals believe that America’s use of power during the both wars in Iraq and Vietnam showed an abuse of power and immorality. This is the reason many people believe that America is amending its principles to dismantle its weapon power throughout the world. This is a pure fairytale created in the minds of people, believing that the media now possesses ultimate power as compared to the state. This myth about the media becoming the most powerful system is spreading to other nations, but in reality, the media neglected to report how the war in both, Vietnam and Iraq affected civilian lives, until radical critics both, in the US and foreign nations raised their concerns (Terkel, 1984). Many intellectuals disregard the US when they seem to have failed in their morals, especially in the Vietnam War, but the truth is that the US did not fail in its efforts, it carried out its mission and succeeded. People who lived through the Vietnam War want to escape the US education system and media involvement, but the alternative is impossible, which is to extract facts from sources close to officials in the justice system.
The Power Curse
Giulio Gallarotti has a different perspective on the power theme by the US. Gallarotti is a Political Science professor at Wesleyan University and the author of the book The Power Curse (Mandelbaum, 2010). He acts as an observer of the global economy, where the US has taken a strategic position in controlling trade and policies in its exports. Gallarotti observes that the US has the resource curse in a sense that the US is the only nation that has large endowment of different valuable resources (2010). An example of valuable resource in this case is oil, which is derived from other countries that are poorer, hence, low in production. The US uses this oil in boosting its economy and lifestyle, but when it raises the value of its dollar, exports will not be valuable, because other poorer countries cannot afford to import such products from the US. Many countries cannot afford to import energy products from the U.S because of the high price. These countries impose their own foreign trade policies, hence, making the US adopt such polices that will eventually weaken its economy in the global markets (Huntington et al., 1975).
Gallorotti reports that the US accumulated power is a danger to itself, because the power makes other countries fall victims of extensive foreign policies imposed by the US and, finally, to withdraw from the global market. US citizens fall victims to the infamous moral hazards of trade. This means that gains, profits and revenues from economic activities with foreign markets are privatized, but losses are often socialized, especially to the government. Gallaroti implies that an individual or a company whose operations are based on moral hazards will engage in risky business deals, because of losses to be accounted for by other people (2010). The Bush administration weakened the US due to the intense foreign policies. Gallaroti writes in his book that the social welfare activities directed to the terrorist groups: Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, are legend in all Muslim communities worldwide, but the effects of policies imposed by these groups create a poor welfare for the people who are affected (2010). When Hamas assaulted Israel and the criticism of Egypt intensified, the two countries blocked the Gaza Strip, a power base for Hamas and a form of underworld for local citizens. Hezbollah began a war that was unprovoked on Israe,l and this caused extensive damage to human life and property in Beirut and whole Lebanon. Al Qaeda has continued to murder thousands of innocent Muslims after the terrorist attacks in the US (Mandelbaum, 2010).
The US is both, an empire and a republic due its role in the international community and the consequences associated with its actions. America is an empire, because it has the economic, political, military and social dominance to be a primacy. The world would be out of order if the US ceased to be preeminent. Other alternatives, such as Europe, Germany or Japan cannot provide the necessary force needed in maintaining peace and order. These countries cannot become super powers, because they lack the economic and military power to support the world in cases of conflicts. The US as a republic is an isolationist, because all foreign policies serve the interests of the Americans before those of foreign countries. Power enables the US to sustain a competitive advantage in the global markets, derive valuable resources from weak nations through force and declare war when it is solving security threats. The US will interfere with any nation’s operations when it pleases because as an isolationist, it must focus on the interest of its citizens and its environment. This is because no country dares to oppose the US lest it wants economic downfall or military troops on its land.