Foreign policy of the United States refers to the various ways in which the country integrates with foreign nations in order to create a harmonious, cohesive, and prosperous global community. Different administrations use varied strategies aimed at achieving effective foreign policies. President Obama has been in the limelight for the strategies enacted when the globe is facing terror threats. Amid some of the achievements, his administration has been rocked with lapses that have deprived his rank when it comes to the American foreign policy.
Obama’s Administration on U.S. Foreign Policy
The United States of America aims at coordinating with the rest of the world for the benefit of its people and the international community. Therefore, the foreign policy of the United States refers to the various ways in which the country integrates with foreign nations in order to create a harmonious, cohesive, and prosperous global community (Nancy, 2005). The policy sets standards on how organizations, governments, and individual citizens cooperate from all over the worldto safeguard Americans who are abroad and foreign citizens. The U.S. President with the consent of the senate makes treaties and contracts with other nations through this policy. The United States Secretary of States acts as the foreign minister and aids the president in appointing ambassadors who are supposed to enact these policies in the foreign land. Additionally, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs aids in overseeing global trends in respect to international human rights such as education, trade, security (e.g. nuclear power), and foreign aid(Ambrose & Douglas, 2012).
Weisbrot (2013) asserts that after Obama’s administration took office in the year 2009, there were several expectations on his position on foreign policy. Based on his campaignpromises, he was ready to loosen travel and remittance restrictions, address human rights issues together with the freedom of the press and political prisoners among others. However, with only one year left for Obama’s administration, there are numerous debates that argue against his success on foreign policy. Most of the critics cite the ever continuing war on Middle East countries, the breakdown between Russia and Ukraine, security issues in Latin America which seems to downplay the success of Obama administration in terms of foreign policy. The main question remains whether the republican administration would have done it differently from the democrats and the changes enacted by Obama administration in ensuring U.S.A remains the central nation. Therefore, this paper looks at the history of foreign policy in U.S., current government’s position on the policy,and an analytical evaluation of Obama’s administration in regard with the U.S. foreign policy.
History of U.S. foreign policy
The history of U.S. foreign policy documents primal trends that affected the U.S. foreign policy from the American Revolution period to date. The policy can be traced back to the 18th century when President George Washington had made a policy of neutrality on foreign countries and this laid a pipeline to integration with other nations. Significantly,the country formed a treaty with Morocco in 1786 and initiated theDepartment of Foreign Affairs in 1789. According to the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, President Washington tried to set America’s interests away from the Europeans who were looking for colonies and political subjects. His ideology was referred to as isolation and neutrality in making friendship with all nations.However, the impacts of the American foreign policy were mainly manifested in the 20th century when President Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913. During the World War I in 1914, there was a great rift between the European countries and also some Asian countries. As a result, countries such as Germany were blocked from trading with other European countries; they were denied loans and other injunctions. Wilson played a neutral role in bringing up peace by providing funds and foreign aid to all sides irrespective of their affiliations(Nancy, 2005). He aided in the formation of League of Nations whose main focus was to resolve the underlying conflicts and prevent future skirmishes. He spread the ideologies of peace, tolerance, and democracy across the world; hence, his regime laid the foundation for the American U.S. foreign policy.
In 1941, the world entered into a conflict once again known as the World War II. This time U.S.A employed neutrality from a different dimension as guided by President Roosevelt. The American policy played sides by favoring Britain and its allies which means it was against Japan, Germany, and Italy. This benefited America through mass production of war machinery and managed to end the war by a surprise attack on Japan. As a result, the US, Russia, China, Britain, and France formed the Security Council with veto power; and the U.N. was inaugurated as an organization for regulating world conflicts (Ambrose& Douglas, 2012). Physical battles were succeeded by the Cold war in 1947 where countries attacked each other ideologically. The United States and Soviet Union (Russia) were involved in a battle of global supremacy through military presence, socio-cultural influence, and economic sphere. U.S.A propagated for a capitalist strategy against the communist contested by the Soviet Union. There was tension across the globe as countries were worried on which path to follow and they feared an outbreak of another war. This resulted to unnecessary civil wars where one party was for capitalism and the other communism; for example, the Korean War that led to the emergence of North and South Korea(Ambrose & Douglas, 2012).
There were numerous threats of using nuclear weapons which had been discouraged based on the destruction and adverse impacts witnessed in japan during the Second World War.This period was characterized by numerous regional wars and there was need for an American policy intervention. President Reagan employed diplomatic missions that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 weakening the communist countries. The American policy wasdeterring the nuclear war, containment of communism, and supportingthe international economic institutions.
The cold war was succeeded by the rise of dictatorial leadership, terrorism, civil wars, boarder conflicts, and the re-emergence of the pro-soviet alliances(Don, 2014). Leaders such as Saddam Hussein attacked a relative peaceful Kuwait in 1991, September 11 U.S attack; the gulf war among other events increased the need for the American policy. America was forced to declare war on terrorism and offering foreign aid to the civilians in conflicting countries. President Bill Clinton managed to make U.S.A a peace-keeper in the warring ethnic disputes in Yugoslavia by convincing it to be part of the U.N. peacekeeper. The country also engaged in combatant mission in the Middle East countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. Policy post-cold war aimed at maintain U.S global dominance, pursuit of free trade through organizations such as the World Trade Organization, encouraging democracy and peace, and use of military troops in supporting humanitarian missions. United States has been aided by its strong economic position, industries’ prosperity, and public relations (Don, 2014). However, the emerging economic giants such as China, Brazil, and Russia are posing a threat to the efficacy of this policy. Similarly, the embedment of terrorism with religious affiliation, climate change, emerging issues such as cyber-crime and threats on nuclear weapons still present numerous challenges to the American foreign policy.
Obama’s Foreign Policy mainstream position
Dubbed Obama-Biden Plan, the Obama’s foreign policy mainly focused on renewing the America’s security by ending the Iraqi’s war and countering Taliban and Al Qaeda. It was supposed to secure nuclear weapons and curbing them from reaching harmful regimes; renewing the American diplomacy via striking an alliance between Israel and Palestine. Obama also aimed at sensitizing the world the need of embracing renewable and alternative energy source. The Obama-Biden plan also promised to indulge Americans on making decisions on foreign policy. This also sorts to enhance the executive-legislature relationship and bipartisan unity on foreign policy. Therefore, the underlying are some of the aspects that the Obama administration has achieved in regards to the American foreign policy.
The White House website quotes president Obama during the U.N. General Assembly in 2014 saying that he rejects fatalism when it comes to human affairs. He also asserts that counterterrorism strategy will ultimately degrade and destroy the terrorism threat. A report on Obama’s foreign policy gives a credit on the capture of Osama Bin Laden where no civilian was hurt and it brought to an end a decade long manhunt. When Obama was inaugurated as a president,he promised bringing to an end the combat missions in Iraq. This was successfully achieved on October 2011; the democrats saw this as a win while the republicans called it “an astonishing failure.” In 2010, the U.N. Security Council with Obama’s persuasion managed to signed multilateral sanctions on Iran under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) (Chaudhuri& Farrell, 2011). The ultimate results were a reduction in Iranian weapon-zed program as it became difficult for the country to acquire uranium, pistachios andcaviar used in weapon’s production.
Obama’s administration boasts on the Cuban thaw as the most successful foreign policy achievement during his second-term in office on Latin America front. The tussle between the United States and Cuba dates back to the 20th century during the worldwide conflicts (Woodward, 2010).Cuba was accused of supplying arms to the communist regimes and supported production of nuclear weapons. Cuba on the other side accused America of playing sides and being hypocritical on their foreign policy (Weisbrot, 2013). Peace negotiation took around 18 months where meetings were held in secret and the outcomes were displayed at the seventh summit. President Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro decided to dismantle the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Another contested issue on foreign policy is the U.S. Immigration policy. Traditionally, the American soil has been a land of opportunities to an array of people from different parts of the world. They come in to quench their education thirst, look for employment, visit their families, and even seek asylum from warring nations. There have been arguments on pros and cons of the immigration policy as it contributes to economic growth and the same time replenishes the social amenities. As guided by the foreign policy, America is supposed to be accommodating and lending a hand to persons in need(Chaudhuri& Farrell, 2011). Obama’s administration has lived to this promise by allowing immigrants in the countryconflicts (Woodward, 2010). However, this has remained a challenging decision to make forcing the government to enact an orthodox formula of calculating the number of immigrants allowed in the country. According to the American Immigration Council, the Immigration Naturalization Act (INA) allows a maximum number of 680,000 immigrants annually. This is the largest figure that America has accommodated showing the direction that Obama’s administration took on offering foreign aid domestically.
According to McCrisken (2011), Obama promised to stop the rhetoric decade of war by embracing enduring peace and security without perpetual war. These words echoed his campaign mantra in what he termed as an end to Bush’s “war on terror” administration. The promise was to enact foreign policies that were morally acceptable and more effective (McCrisken, 2011). Obama promised Americans cooperation with allies and foes in order to amicably put to an end the long years of squabbles. Significantly, therehas been continuity in world conflict with the renewed Russia-Ukraine conflict, the ISIS, Iraq war, civil war in Congo among others. Ledwidge (2014) believes that some of these problems were inherited from the previous Bush administration. For instance, bush responded to the September 11 attacks with arson to Iraq and capturing Saddam Hussein.Ledwidge et al. (2014) says that linking the attacks with Iraq has not provided empirical evidence to these allegations. Another issue was the enactment of imprisonment without trial for terrorism suspects in the Guantanamo bay. All these challenges were left unresolved and passed on to the democrats in 2008. Crying for vengeance and revenge, terrorists have retaliated by attacking Americans and their allies, holding them hostage and conducting suicide bombings. It has therefore become difficult for Obama to combat these challenges with the effective and non-violent strategies as promised. The consolidation of presidential powers, imperial overstretches, and American militarism has tarnished the U.S. foreign policy. Similarly, the economic front was also adversely affected especially during the great depression in 2008.
The election of Obama was graced with hopes of healing Americas’ afflictions and creating a reputation abroad. During his tenure as a senator for Illinois, he vehemently argued against the war on Iraq and inhumane acts on civilians. Most of his patriots expected a peaceful nation that would be in the forefront in enhancing an inclusive foreign policy. However, the opposite seems to be the order of the day based on various arguments raised by scholars, philosophers, opinions, political critiques among others. For example, Engelhardt (2010) terms Obama’s administration on foreign policy as “COIN” (counterinsurgency doctrine).
“COIN policy logically demands a decade-long war, involving labor-intensive (and military-centric) nation-building, waged village by village and valley by valley, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and countless U.S., NATO, and Afghan casualties, including civilians. That idea does not in the least square with the idea that significant numbers of troops will start leaving Afghanistan next summer.” Engelhardt (2010).
Bentley and Holland (2013) says that the decision on whether to withdraw or to add troops in Afghanistan have prolonged at the expense of waging war in the country. MacCrisken (2011) believes that Obama’s tough stance on America’s enemies contradicts with his promises and draws back on bush administration. He gives an example of a 23 year old Nigerian, Umar Farouk, who boarded a plane with explosives irrespective of his father earlier warnings to the U.S. Embassy in Lagos. Ali (2010) cries foul on the persistent use of drones and air strikes that hurts the civilian. He claims on his book The Obama Syndrome that the same old-fashioned and orthodox methods such as torture and appeasement of Israel are being employed in a government that claims to be liberated (Ali, 2010). Even though there are positive impacts that can be drawn from Obama’s administration foreign policy, there are numerous challenges that need to be addressed. Therefore, it is important to look at some issues that have led to the lapses in the U.S. Foreign policy.
Obama’s Transition team and personnel
Ledwidge (2014) states that in order to ascertain whether Obama had intentions of improving the U.S. foreign policy, it is important to look at his transition team and his major appointments. Pamar (2011) points out that the appointments that Obama made in his inner circle indicated the conservative approach he had undertaken. To begin with, he retained Bush’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who had steered the combatant mission in Iraq. He also appointed General James Jones as the national security adviser despite being a close friend to Obama’s opponent John McCain.Ledwidge (2014) continues to say that he made Hilary Clinton the secretary of state and Joseph Biden the vice-president and they as pro-war democrats. According to Parmar (2011), Obama maintained leading militarists who are close to bush administration and republicans. This was just a bent of the American political system which did not present new ideologies to the foreign policy. Ledwidge (2014) calls Obama’s administration as a continuity or inherent rigidity of a modern militarized national security state. It is quite clear that the transition team that Obama appointed could not help him relinquish the “war on terror” status quo.
Indyk et al. (2012) says that Obama realized that the American economy required closer attention as compared to other agendas. The world was experiencing a recession whose impacts were hard on the United States economy. Indyk et al. (2012) indicate that the U.S. experienced a $ 1 trillion deficit in 2009 and it was traced back to Bush administration’s foreign policy that triggered a collective action from the G-8 countries. He therefore had to prioritize on repairing the global and local economy before focusing on foreign policies. Significantly, with such economical blow it would become difficult to establish Obama’s campaigns strategies on foreign policies. It would be difficult enhancing foreign aid and humanitarian missions in foreign countries under such construed budget. Critics put this economic burden to Obama’s administration a he is the president and was supposed to be equipped with strategies of countering the menace. The economic failure in U.S. and the global front brings Obama’s score down on the U.S. foreign policy.
Guantanamo bay and torture
Bentley and Holland (2013) faults Obama for not living up to his campaign promises in the closure of the detention center at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay. He had insisted that torture would no longer be used in interrogations by the US officials and Ali (2010) questions Obama’s efforts in embracing morally acceptable counter-terrorism approach. Obama’s 2009 order decreed stated that the closure and disposition of individuals held at the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S and its effort in enhancing justice (Bentley & Holland, 2013). However, there are two major challenges that hinder Obama from enacting this rule. The first one involves the degree of the detainees held and the facility and the reluctance of the US Congress. Forty six of these suspects allegedly pose a great threat to the US and its security and they cannot be tried since evidence was garnered through improper means. Obama also is against usage of federal resources to move Guantanamo detainees for trial and effective control of foreign countries. McCrisken (2011) says that Obama will find it difficult closing the Guantanamo bay which was one of the ties that had won him trust with some of the foreign countries. It could have contributed to a moral principle that would have contributed to rejecting unlawful counterterrorism policies that have been there in the past. Conversely, this has proved to be a difficult milestone to achieve and this deepens the “war on terrorism” reducing Obama’s achievements on foreign policy.
Drones and targeted killing
Seizing terrorist suspects and incarcerating them is quite a challenge based on the fact that they inter-mingle with normal civilians. Countering the continuous threats from international terrorism has forced Obama to employ deadly and permanent methods of dealing with these threats. Approximately 118 unmanned drone attacks were released to Pakistan in 2010. The behavior has spread to the western countries agitating the Middle East countries who view it as a western versus eastern supremacy battle. For example, the recent attack on France has called for an immediate retaliation from the government.McCrisken (2011) questions this method saying that the Obama administration may be using killing and not capture methods in dealing with terrorist suspects. The drone attacks fire remotely and they are risk free from reprisal; hence, the attackers may not be worried of their targets. Drones and targeted killings have been characterized as Obama’s strategy on countering terrorism which deprives his contribution to the foreign policy.
What changes could have the republican done?
It is quite evident that foreign policy is heavily embedded on security and global conflict issues. The United States being the super power is centrally placed in bringing solutions aimed at addressing these issues. Terrorism and global conflict is a serious threat that could have been experienced by any government whether the democrats or the republicans. It is difficult to assert that the republicans could have brought new ideas in countering these issues bearing in mind they have been in control for the last few decades and terrorism has withstood. Obama managed to capture Osama bin laden who was connected with the 9/11 attacks weakening the presence of Taliban and Al Qaeda.The problem is that these groups keep in re-emerging where the ISIS is the new global threat. It is imprudent to argue that these events could have been prevented by the republicans. Drones attacks could have been employed as they protect the life and security of the combatants who are either American citizens or allies. Ledwidge et al. (2014) gives credits to the Obama administration in enhancing an American relationship to the non-white world. For instance, Africans and Asian may have been plunged into anti-colonial struggles and viewed the white world as a hindrance to their progress. Obama’s presidency helped in removing these ideologies and creating a reputable relationship with the non-white world. McCrisken (2011) believes that the republican government could have not managedthis achievement.
The American foreign policy aims at bringing integration and cohesiveness around the globe. The policies enacted should bring people together and uphold their dignity and human rights. It should protect civilians from dictatorial regimes and prevent terrorist from enacting their atrocities. The U.S. foreign policy can be dated from the inception of the United States as it gained independence amid struggle for gaining colonies. The U.S.A tried to distance itself from these trends and decided to offer help to any affected countries and individuals. This continued up-to the World War I when U.S.A decided to watch the war from a distance. However, they decided to indulge into the war during the second time. It is documented that the country aided in stopping this war although there were adverse consequences. The 20th century presented numerous global issues that drew the attention of the American foreign policy. The beginning of the 21st century was marked with an attack in 2001 on American soil.
Obama administration took over in 2008 and these challenges continued to rock the globe. How he handled these challenges forms a framework to his performance on the U.S. foreign policy. Some of the issues that have been highlighted include the transitional team appointed by president Obama, continuous use of drones, the closure of Guantanamo bay and use of torture, and economic crisis.These issues overshadow the achievements that the Obama administration has made in regards to the foreign policy. Similarly, the study concludes that if the republican took power, no major changes that could have happened since the security challenges and threats are a global concern.
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