The principles of US foreign policy?

 

Nevertheless, this can be seen as a distinctively positive development. Also with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama pledged active engagement and has already shown a genuine commitment. However, Obama’s approach, while in general correct, lacks a well thought-out strategy with an enforcement mechanism (Ben-Meir, 2010, p. 145). And, as recognized by Indurthy (2010, p. 25), there are more constraints than opportunities; hence its efforts to resolve the conflict are likely to be undermined. Similarly, developments on other issues will be constrained by the decisions made by the previous administrations (Dunn, 2009, p.178-179).

Particularly, the legacy of war in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the wider war on terrorism considerably reduces the possibility for a change. Perhaps, it is not surprise that the strategies adapted, namely a short-term troop increase in Afghanistan followed by a drawdown and a gradual and contingent withdrawal in Iraq are very much in line with what Bush’s administration had advanced (Thayer, 2010, p. 3). Following the recent developments in Afghanistan, however, there has been an increased criticism and doubt about whether the war is really worth the costs (Sanger, 2010).

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Further, one of Obama’s mentors on foreign policy, Richard G. Lugar (2010) has argued that there is a lack of clarity and no clear definition of success in Afghanistan. This notion seems to be consistent with regards to the issues in the Middle East, notably in the first year of the new administration, which could be explained by Obama’s inexperience in the foreign affairs. As Kupchan (2010) points out, the second year has seen an improvement in implementation of policy – ‘less talk and more action’. A distinct departure from the previous administrations appears to be Obama’s approach towards the issue of nuclear proliferation.

He has adopted a view that is popular among many security experts – that the vision of a nuclear weapons-free world along with practical steps to achieve this is the best protection against the rising nuclear threats (Cirincione, 2010, p. 122). However, from a different perspective, Thayer (2010, p. 3-4) argues, that, despite Obama’s initial rhetoric, his administration is a purely realist one. Having realised the problems with Iran, US is quietly preparing for a nuclear-armed Iran and adjusting alliances and military force structure accordingly.

He further identifies similarities between the Bush’s and Obama’s administrations not only with regards to Afghanistan and Iraq but also in the foreign policies towards Russia and China. Riechmann (2009, p. 179,192) goes even further and claims that the agenda of the neo-conservatives that was so influential in Bush’s presidency will continue to exercise considerable influence over the US foreign policy of Obama’s administration at least in the short-term. Finally, some (Goldfarb, 2008; Greenwald, 2009) have refused to accept that there is any change or even a notion of a transformational shift in the US foreign policy principles altogether.

4. CONCLUSIONS To return to the initial question, the 21st century certainly has seen several shifts in the US foreign policy principles, some more dramatic than others. Bush’s and Obama’s administrations, while both following similar goals in general, showed distinctive differences in the approaches to the foreign policy. Bush’s initial approach to the foreign affairs was drastically transformed by the attacks of 9/11 and changed to a hybrid mixture of realism and idealism.

With the policy of pre-emption Bush had rejected the principle of containment, which had been the foundation for US security policy for decades. Bush’s unilateralism was taken to a whole new level and coupled with the extreme ideological promotion of democracy constituted a radical departure from the foreign policy principles of the previous administrations. With the new administration under Obama there has been a change, especially in his commitment to embrace diplomatic and multilateral relations while building partnerships and cooperating with allies.

Although Obama still promotes continued American leadership, development of democratic societies and shows commitment to American values as the foundation for his actions, his approach to the foreign policy is pragmatic and not ideological. This can be seen as another shift from the previous administrations. However, with the second year of the new administration unfolding, it is still to see whether these changes will be lasting and how great the transformation will be at the end. 5.

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