The Foreign Policy Tradition of the United States
American foreign policy is based on the belief of a special US mission in the history of mankind. First of all, this vision reflects the circumstances of the appearance of the American state. The inhabitants of the former British colonies created the democratic republic, which is the only one of its kind. According to contemporaries, the young federation became a clear reflection of the ideas of the Enlightenment. It is not surprising that from the outset, the United States has stated itself as an ideal of democracy and seen its role in the demonstration to Europe the benefits of freedom to despotism. The topic of the paper is to study the foreign policy tradition of the United States, which is based on the principle of dominance.
This perception of the historical role of the United States has formed another important feature of American foreign policy – confrontation between isolationism and internationalism (Lind, 2006). In the first third of the XIX century, there were two approaches to American foreign policy. Proponents of the first approach thought that the America’s commitment was to defend the ideals of freedom and justice throughout the world (Bynander, & Guzzini, 2013). They objected to those who considered it necessary for the United States to avoid involvement in foreign conflicts to preserve the democratic nature of its foreign policy. The second view prevailed with the adoption of the Monroe Doctrine, the main point of which was to divide the world into two systems – American and European (Renehan, 2007). The intervention of the first in the affairs of the second was considered by the United States as a threat to the security. Monroe Doctrine closed the United States in the Western Hemisphere (Renehan, 2007). The country gradually overcame this regional determinism during the XIX century due to expansion in the Pacific. The Congress was traditionally a stronghold of isolationism in the United States. The president was often its opponent. The most vivid episode of this confrontation was the refusal of Congress to ratify the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. In the XX century, due to the policy of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, isolationism has ceased to be the basis of the US foreign policy. Isolationism created another important feature of American foreign policy – unilateralism (Hastedt, 2009).
Washington always demonstratively reproved the principle of balance of power. It had an extremely negative attitude to the idea of blocs and coalitions and tried as much as possible to avoid obligations to other states. The creation of the Anglo-American alliance, cooperation in the framework of the Big Three, the US involvement in the creation of NATO, and other military blocs began the rejection from this tradition (Hastedt, 2009). Nevertheless, at the end of the XX century, the country again returned to unilateralism (Hastedt, 2009). It gave Washington the opportunity to use force in international relations regularly and fairly easy for XX-XXI centuries.
The most important feature of the US foreign policy is the desire of leadership. The author Darion Lisiero (2008) affirms that “Global leadership, preeminence, and dominant status are the most common words to describe the American imperialist role in the world” (p. 69). When, after the collapse of the USSR and the collapse of the world socialist system, the United States became the sole superpower, the concept of American global leadership formed in the American political thought (Crandall, 2011). This thought exists in two forms – soft and hard. According to the hard form, there are representations of the US as the only power with sufficient economic and military power to realize the idea of global leadership. The soft form creates an image of the US as a model for the world. Striving for a leading position in the world, the United States should not only put pressure on other states but convince them by a personal example. American ambition to leadership was repeatedly expressed in the presidential doctrines beginning with the Monroe Doctrine that legalized Washington claims to leadership in the Western Hemisphere. Doctrines directly related to the Cold War – Truman, Eisenhower, Carter, and Reagan – also gave the US nearly unlimited rights to provide security in different regions (Lisiero, 2008).
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The doctrines of Clinton and Bush that were created in the conditions of the post-bipolar world have a great leadership character (Lisiero, 2008). In the basis of the Clinton doctrine, there is a thesis of expansion of democracy. In this case, it was a question of consolidating of the democratic regimes in Eastern Europe with the aim of turning the former socialist states in the strategic reserve of the West (Lisiero, 2008). Acting in accordance with this foreign policy, the US in the framework of NATO operations implemented two armed interventions in Yugoslavia – in Bosnia and Kosovo (Melanson, 2015). It only confirms hard dominance in the policy of Clinton.
If the Clinton doctrine was a reaction to the collapse of the socialist system, the doctrine of George Bush was a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (Lisiero, 2008). It became the most significant revision of the foreign policy of the country since the 1940s (Lisiero, 2008). In the book American Thought and Culture in the 21st Century, it is stated that “As the younger Bush entered the White House in January 2001, the US was poised between ‘unilateralist’ and ‘cooperativist’ conceptions of international leadership” (Halliwell, & Morley, 2008, p. 38). According to the American leader, US foreign policy should be based on three pillars: the best military power, the concept of preventive war and unilateralism.
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Democratic administration of Barack Obama attempted to return to a policy of soft dominance. The new president began the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq (Smith, 2015). The author Robin Niblett (2010) states that “In just its first six months, President Obama announced his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and approved the US joining the UN’s Human Rights Council” (p. 3). Obama’s policy is a departure from the hard course of Bush.