US foreign policy evolution: Past & present


Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
IS America heading for a declining power? Whereas in the past the American power had demonstrated its capability of ensuring an integrated world order; presently, in the pretext of his America first doctrine or a policy of transformative narrative, president Trump seems to have actually sown the seeds of dissension and disarray thereof undermining US’ role as the constructive global power. Unpredictability, surprise and diversion are the hallmarks of Trump’s foreign policy volte-face. Nonetheless the future American power can no longer be sustainable by design of its current policies of creating a global turmoil.
Put historically and strategically, it appears that while being physically protected from the Old World, the United States had never really been isolated. The pivotal importance of the Greater Caribbean to the Mississippi River system became very significant for America to strategically dominate what has been called the American Mediterranean. And consequently the Greater Caribbean strengthened the potentiality of the entire Western Hemisphere. Subsequently the process of domination started with the very concept of the Monroe Doctrine, and was completed with the building of the Panama Canal.
Accordingly whilst becoming a dominant hemispheric power, the United States was then in a position to help determine the balance of power in other parts of the globe, and that is what the history of the 20th century was all about. And yet a US’ role in the global affairs virtually indicates that fighting two world wars and the Cold War was about— not letting any power or alliance of powers dominate the Old World to the extent that the United States ruled the New World. More broadly, despite the fact that the Cold War was an era of bipolarity wherein the two power the US and the then USSR equally dominated the world. But in the post Cold War era, America significantly moved from its previously notions of balance of power —richly reflective in its policy deliverance in Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, and Europe. NATO’s eastward enlargement has been an index of US’ new power game started during the past administrations of Bill Clinton George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Veritably, the US’ dreamt policy surge— in the post-Cold War era— to forestall the Russo-Sino influence in the global affairs has met a great fiasco since both China and Russia are driving significant clouts in today’s world. The US’ quest for this ambition was based on the idea that Russia and China were heading irreversibly down the path of political and economic liberalization, and that they could eventually be induced to define their interests in a way compatible with America’s own.
Christopher Davidson’s latest book, ‘Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for Middle East’ exposes the dark side of US foreign policy. Most shockingly, his assertion— that US intelligence agencies continue to regard the Islamic State, like al-Qaeda before it, as a strategic but volatile asset to be wielded against their enemies—is absolutely irrefutable. There have been severe symptoms of hollowness and capriciousness regarding the US policy in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. And now Trump’s national security team draws a strategy on the parallel lines of the old Richard Nixon era Kissinger team apprehending the threat of overpopulated poor people countries undermining US accession to the world’s nutrient , energy and raw material resources?—?for which the solution could be to ‘cauldronize’ countries of strategic importance.
Apparently Trump took the initiative to move from the post-war orthodox doctrines – pursued by both Democratic and Republican presidents – such as building US-led alliances to expand the liberal democratic order. But Trump has unwisely nullified Obama’s positive initiatives: The Iran Nuclear Deal , the Transpacific Trade Partnership ( TTP), and the Paris Climate Accord. Trump has also changed the Cuban liberalisation initiative. By no reasonable accounts, these moves are positive. The three generals— the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and US National Security Advisor H.R. Mc Master —are mentors of new foreign policy strategy. Though McMaster is one of several powerful generals in Trump’s orbit who hail from the Republican foreign policy establishment, Trump seems to have been equally sympathetic to the views of the war fanatics like the former White House Strategist Steve Bannon, who has been the pioneer of Trump’s “America First” doctrine. And the growing division in establishment’s three tiers— the US State Department, the Pentagon and the Capitol Hill— is indicative of an incoherent foreign policy.
There is, however, much truth in this analysis: a US’ disdain for the global norms or international law clearly shown under the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump accompanied by Washington’s mysterious silence over the human right violations in Kashmir and Palestine, and its passive interest in the conflict resolutions of these disputes, and its refractory stand on controversial war on terror, its illegal drone policy, and most significantly, Washington’s escape from striking a balance of power system in South Asia -all these are alarming signs to deviate from the credo of a foreign policy, once ardently advocated and promised by US’ founding fathers.
While in the 21st century America needs such a foreign policy which advocates legitimacy and balance of power, the question arises that despite a no vote by the American people with regard to the promiscuous military intervention of Trump’s predecessors, will President Trump be able to transform the present character of his foreign policy from the Kissingerian deconstructive paradigm to a Wilsonian constructive model?
— The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.

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