United States Foreign Policy

Topics: Cold War, Containment, Foreign policy of the United States Pages: 5 (1826 words) Published: April 30, 2013
The contemporary foreign policy of the United States represents an evolving continuum of principles, conceptions and strategies that in part, derived from the particularistic American Cold War experience. As such, United States foreign policy is neither a static entity, nor is its intentions or direction uncontested. This essay will examine the underlying issues of identity and how, beginning with the Truman Doctrine, a distinct articulation of the national interest was evinced that has defined America’s role in the world. In doing so, focus will be given to the development of alliance policy, containment and its effect on transforming the US posture in the post-Cold War international order. Firstly, it is pertinent to reconsider the traditional narratives that underpin American identity. Inherent in this is Manifest Destiny, which asserts that Anglo-Saxon American’s are God’s chosen people, with a superior culture and who are pre-ordained to spread civilization to inferior peoples. This tradition offers instructive themes for the formulation of American exceptionalism and its manifestation into a missionary foreign policy. It also raises to the forefront the Manichean character of American policy, its solipsism and tendency to justify geopolitical objectives in moralistic terms. Thus, US foreign policy is a discourse for reproducing American identity, containing threats to its core principles and legitimating global actions. The Cold War era ended America’s historic vacillation between isolationism and internationalism. The Truman Doctrine committed, in part to “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures”. Consonant with American identity, it rapidly became the cornerstone of American Cold War foreign policy. The doctrine enshrined in popular culture the notion that America is vulnerable in a dangerous world. For this reason, it was a statement of both identity and global purpose, signaling to the Soviet Union that the United States was prepared to counter any Soviet expansionism. While the Truman Doctrine articulated an enduring strategic vision, it was National Security Council Report 68 that expressed a posteriori justification for American aspirations to global hegemony. Declaring that the exigencies of the international system compel US intervention - the report emphasized that absence of order is inimical to US interests. It recommends the United States create an international community based on the principles of freedom and democracy to counter the Soviet threat. Implicit in this is the assumption that every situation is controllable and could be resolved in-line with US interest. Furthermore, the imperatives of hegemony were already producing a bifurcation between lofty ideals and policy, with Kennan’s very realist calculation that the US would need to dismiss with sentimentality and altruism if it wanted to attain a superior geopolitical position. Discursively speaking, suspicion and anxiety continue to characterize American identification with the outside world. While specific opinions relating to foreign policy issues have changed, the underlying belief structure remains intact. Where civilization was imperiled by the “red cancer”, the Reagan administration began rejuvenating the civilized versus savagery dichotomy, this time targeting terrorism. Likewise, American exceptionalism remains a central rallying cry with its moral and emotive force used as rationale for American intervention in the Middle East. There is no clearer reaffirmation of the Truman Doctrine than from former President George Walker Bush who declares it the responsibility of the United States, if not its messianic mission to promote freedom worldwide. More recently, the Obama administration maintains the US objective to shape the international order and ensconced within it is justification based on the ingenuity of the American people. American alliance policy is both reflective...
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