Essay on US Foreign Policy and the Post World War II International System

Date:  2021-07-05 10:51:27
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The U.S. Pesident Donald Trump came into office promising to dramatically change the American foreign policy as it has been known for decades. According to him, the policy would cease to be aspirational and instead adopt a transactional perspective. An America First approach would be adopted whereby the policies put in place would be those that are beneficial to the country. This essay looks at why the election of Donald Trump as president has altered the way the United States conducts its foreign policy. The President has raised questions about its internal cohesion, external purposes and chances of success that are unlikely to be answered for a long time. Trumps style of governance is likely to alter the post-World War II system of international governance considering the promises he made while campaigning.

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To get the whole picture, it is worth looking briefly at the history of the U.S. foreign policy. A notable function of the U.S. government involves conducting relations with all the other nations in the world. It is foreign policy that determines how the United States goes about these relations. It is aimed at furthering certain goals while seeking to boost the countrys defense and security. According to Rosati & Scott (78), it is a strategy that pursues the power to set forth and protect Americas national interests in various parts of the world. Such interests shape foreign policy and encompass a wide range of economic, political, ideological, humanitarian and military concerns.

US foreign policy has been altered significantly over time depending on changes in its national interests. When America was a new nation following the end of the Revolutionary War, its main national interest was maintaining its independence from some more powerful European countries. The Monroe Doctrine stated that its major national policy was to curtail any further attempts by Europeans to colonize areas located in the western hemisphere. In the course of the nineteenth century, the United States focused on forming a nation that extended across the entire continent while at the same time avoiding foreign entanglements. As soon as the country became industrialized and attained more prosperity, it started searching for colonies and foreign markets (Rosati & Scott, 81).

By the beginning of the twentieth century, America had upgraded to a minor imperial power. It was engaged in a war with Spain over the Philippines and Cuba, while also annexing several territories including Hawaii. The First World War engaged the nation in European affairs, although a wave of isolationist desires swept across the country after the conflict ended. Declining to join the League of Nations, the nation once again turned inwards. Distracted by the prosperity experienced in the 1920s and the economic decline that accompanied the Great Depression of the 1930s, it allowed its military strength to diminish. When the Second World War broke out, America was not prepared as evident by the Japanese attack of its fleet at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

The United States came out of the Second World War as the worlds most powerful economic power, and that a significant imprint on its foreign policy. The USA was at the forefront of the formation of the United Nations. The country then injected billions of dollars to the Marshall Plan in order to assist European democracies that had been devastated by the war in getting on their feet. It also formed a number of alliances, the most prominent one being the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). A top foreign policy priority for America during the post-war period involved containing the Soviet Union and the rise of communism. In the course of the Cold War, the US and its allies competed with the Soviets and their eastern European allies, both economically and ideologically. The two superpowers formed huge military forces and amassed massive stockpiles of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Although the two sides never actually went to war, the United States was drawn into the bloody Korean and Vietnam wars by its policy of containment. The Cold War came to an end when the Soviet Union disintegrated after it became exhausted economically because of competing with the West. The situation left America as the worlds only remaining superpower that did not have to put too much effort to contain the rise of communism.

To understand how President Trump is likely to change the Post-World War II system of International Governance, it is worth looking at what it actually is. According to Andreasen (101), global governance can be defined as the manner in which world affairs are managed. Considering that nothing like global government exists, this governance typically involves a wide variety of actors such as states as well as international and regional organizations. All in all, a single organization is usually given a leading role in a certain issue, for instance, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is tasked with managing global trade affairs. Hence, global governance is perceived to be an international process of creating consensus that comes up with agreements and guidelines affecting national governments as well as international corporations. A good example of such consensus is the policy that WHO comes up with on health matters. The notion behind global governance is that helps in solving any challenges faced by the international system.

Most of the current international institutions were formed at the end of the Second World War. Since that time, they have dealt with numerous challenges that arose within the second half of the twentieth century in many significant ways. They include decolonization, global security, the end of the Cold War, global poverty, and environmental threats. As a direct product of globalization, global governance has progressively strengthened the notion of justice as a common feature of modern societies. All in all, todays complicated economic, political and human relations need not only some continuous public forums but they also require obligatory commitments to enhance and extend beyond the arrangements made by intergovernmental institutions since the Second World War came to an end (Andreasen, 106).

As time has gone by, various intergovernmental organizations have dealt with numerous global needs. For instance, the UN Security Council has passed several resolutions to deal with issues of global concern. Notable examples include conflicts linked to dictatorial regimes, trade and economic sanctions against rogue and nuclear threatening states like North Korea and Iran. The Council has also advocated for judicial action for warlords suspected of orchestrating crimes against humanity. The World Bank has offered technical and financial help to third world countries across the world. It works with the International Development Association, its highly concessional lending facility, to fight poverty, improve private and public cooperation at state level, and create favorable conditions for sustainable growth. In matters to do with trade, the WTO has boosted negotiations on issues such as multilateral trading, competition policies, and regional cooperation. It has also applied its dispute settlement mechanism to mediate disputes between various member states.

In addition to the above-mentioned efforts, global governance has also put in place numerous safeguards related to the merits of deliberative governments and democracy across the world. For example, the monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations and non-governmental organization like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders are active in the Middle East and Africa. These are areas in which poverty, disease, electoral fraud and devastating post-conflict conditions are prevalent; with states either having no means to handle them or just intentionally ignoring them. In addition, the United Nations Security Council plays a crucial role in mediating armed conflicts and facilitating transitional peace. Although armed conflicts always pose a threat, they have significantly reduced in number thanks to the United Nations military enforcement mechanism.

The swearing in of Donald Trump as US president increases the likelihood of fundamental changes in American foreign policy as well as global governance. Since President Franklin Roosevelts administration, thirteen successive presidents agreed that America should take over the mantle of global leadership. Foreign policy may have varied from president to president within that period. However, they all sent a clear message that America was concerned with more than merely its own well-being, and that they did not consider the worlds economy to be a zero-sum game. According to Kroenig (30), all indicators point to the fact that this is about to change. Trump campaigned against US military and NATO alliances in Asia, against international co-operation on climatic change, against ongoing and future free trade agreements, and against detente agreements in Iran and Cuba. In fact, he campaigned against numerous other international policies and commitments. The United States and the world at large are potentially facing the biggest readjustment of American foreign policy since World War II.

President Trump has promised to put in place a foreign policy that is transactional and nationalist, and which is focused on obtaining narrow material gains for the country. He has not hinted on any broader vision of Americas traditional role as the free worlds defender, nor has he outlined how it might play that part. With respect to economics and foreign policy, he has made it clear that his policies will be guided by the quest for narrow national advantage, seemingly regardless of the effect it will have on the liberal world order championed by the United States since the Second World War came to an end. Apparently, President Trumps decision has been influenced by challenges from Russia and China, economic decline in Japan, as well as crises in Europe such as the Brexit vote in 2016 (Kroenig, 30).

It is still too early to know what Donald Trump will do as a president. However, while he was campaigning, he promised to reassess any long-standing American alliances, rip up current US trade deals, renounce the Paris climate agreement, set up trade barriers against China, and retract the nuclear accord made with Iran. If he is true to his words, he will have unleashed forces that are way beyond his control, setting the stage for a western-centered order crisis. Certain nations will definitely resist this new policy. Some will join alliances meant to oppose US influence or thwart its objectives in intergovernmental institutions. Others will just comply and try to maintain their ties with America as they would like to keep certain economic and security benefits, have several ideologies in common, or because they feel they lack any options. All in all, others will respond to an abruptly unpredictable America by hedging their bets.

Just like investors, countries can diversify their portfolios as a way of managing risks. The same way financiers deal with market unpredictability by making side bets, nations can minimize their susceptibility to unpredictable superpowers by giving mixed signals about where their loyalties lie. In a situation where there are two top powers, a country can refuse to side with any one of them. It can then place parallel bets and try to get along with both with the hopes of avoiding either abandonment or domination. Hedging commonly occurs when superpowers are unpredictable and the worldwide distribution of power is changing rapidly, as is the case with Trumps presidency.

In recent times, hedging has mainly been taking place Asia. A number of Chinas neighboring countries have de...

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