I. American Foreign Policy: Instruments, Actors, and Policymakers (618-626)
A. Instruments of Foreign Policy
Foreign policy is like domestic policy; it involves making choices, but the choices involved are about relations with the rest of the world. The instruments of foreign policy are military, economic, and diplomatic. The United States has often employed force to influence actions in other countries. Economic instruments are becoming weapons almost as potent as those of war are. Diplomacy is the quietest instrument.
B. Actors on the World Stage
Once foreign relations were almost exclusively transactions between nations. International organizations play an increasingly important role. The best-known organization is the United Nations (UN). The Security Council is the seat of real power in the UN. The UN has been especially active in peacekeeping in recent years. Regional organizations have proliferated in the post-World War II era. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed to combine military forces and to treat a war against one as a war against all. The European Union is an economic alliance of the major Western European nations. Multinational corporations (MNCs) are often more powerful and wealthier than the governments under which they operate. Nongovernmental organizations and individuals are also important actors on the global stage.
C. The Policymakers
The president is the main force behind foreign policy. The president negotiates treaties and acts as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president combines constitutional prerogatives with greater access to information than other policymakers and can act with speed and secrecy if necessary. The State Department is the foreign policy arm of the U.S. government. As the departments chief, the secretary of state has traditionally been the key advisor to the president on foreign policy matters. Many recent presidents have found the State Department too bureaucratic and intransigent. Thus they have bypassed institutional arrangements for foreign policy decision-making and have instead established more personal systems for receiving policy advice.
The Department of Defense is a key foreign policy actor. The secretary of defense manages a budget larger than that of most nations and is the presidents main civilian advisor on defense matters. The commanding officers of each of the services, plus a chair, constitute the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose advice is not necessarily hawkish on all matters. The National Security Council (NSC) coordinates foreign and military policies. The presidents national security assistant manages the NSC staff. Conflicts within the foreign policy establishment remain common. The NSC staff has sometimes competed with, rather than integrated, policy advice, as was seen in the Iran-Contra scandal.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was created after World War II to coordinate American information and data-gathering intelligence activities abroad and to collect, analyze, and evaluate its own intelligence. The CIA plays a vital role in providing information and analyses necessary for effective development and implementation of national security policy. The CIA has a long history of involvement in other nations international affairs. Reconciling covert activities with the principles of democracy is a challenge. There is now less pressure for covert activities and a climate more conducive to conventional intelligence gathering. Congress requires the CIA to inform relevant congressional committees promptly of current and anticipated covert operations.
Congress has sole authority to declare war, raise and organize the armed forces, and appropriate funds for national security. The Senate ratifies treaties and confirms appointments. Congress has an important constitutional role in foreign and defense policy.
II. American Foreign Policy: An Overview (626-632)
Throughout most of its history, the United States has followed a foreign policy of isolationism, directing the country to stay out of other nations conflicts. For example, the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the League of Nations treaty.
B. The Cold War
At the end of World War II, the United States was the dominant world power and forged strong alliances with Western Europe. American policymakers feared that their Soviet allies were intent on spreading communism around the world. The containment doctrine called for the United States to isolate the Soviet Union and contain its advances and resist its encroachments. The fall of China to communism in 1949 seemed to confirm American fears that communism was spreading. The 1950s were the height of the cold war when the United States and the Soviet Union were on the brink of war. Brinkmanship was a policy in which the United States was prepared to use nuclear weapons in order to deter the Soviet Union and China from taking aggressive actions. Fear of communism affected domestic policy as well. McCarthyism assumed that international communism was conspiratorial, insidious, bent on world domination, and infiltrating American government and cultural institutions.
The cold war ensured that military needs and massive national security expenditures would remain fixtures in the American economy. Defense expenditures grew to be the largest component of the federal budget. The interests shared by the armed services and defense contractors produced a military-industrial complex or pentagon capitalism linking the militarys drive to expand with the profit motives of private industry. The 1950s experienced an arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States. By the 1960s, a point of mutual assured destruction (MAD) was reached in which each side could annihilate the other, even after absorbing a surprise attack.
During much of the 1960s and early 1970s the Vietnam War dominated the cold war. The war divided the American people and affected domestic politics. The war made American citizens aware of the ability of the government to lie to them.
C. The Era of Détente
Détente, supported by Richard Nixon, represented a slow transformation from conflict thinking to cooperative thinking in foreign policy. It sought a relaxation of tensions between the superpowers, coupled with firm guarantees of mutual security. One major initiative of détente was the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), which tried to limit the growth of the nuclear capabilities of the United States and Soviet Union. The United States applied détente to China as illustrated by Richard Nixons historic trip to China.
D. The Reagan Rearmament
Ronald Reagan did not favor détente and referred to the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire. Reagan argued that we faced a window of vulnerability because the Soviet Union was galloping ahead of the United States in military spending. Reagan proposed the largest peacetime defense spending increase in American history. In 1983 Reagan began a plan for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a global umbrella in space that would destroy all invading missiles. Expectations about the size and capabilities of the SDI were reduced after an onslaught of criticisms.
E. The Final Thaw in the Cold War
In 1989, President Bush announced a new era in American foreign policy, which he termed beyond containment. The cold war ended spontaneously. Forces of change sparked by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev led to a staggering wave of upheaval that shattered communist regimes and the postwar barriers between Eastern and Western Europe. In 1989, change was occurring in China as well, however, the regime suppressed the uprising. The cold war was characterized by a stable and predictable set of relations among the great powers. Now international relations have entered an era of improvisation as nations struggle to come up with creative responses to changes in the global balance of power.
III. The Politics of Defense Policy (632-637)
A. Defense Spending
Defense spending now makes up about one-sixth of the federal budget. Some scholars argue that America faces a trade-off between defense spending and social spending. Defense and domestic policy expenditures appear to be independent of each other. Conservatives fight deep cuts in defense spending, pointing out that many nations retain potent military capability and insisting that America needs to maintain its readiness at a high level. Conservatives argue that when the Soviet Union saw that it could not outspend the United States, it finally decided not to continue to allocate so much of its scarce resources to defense and to loosen its grip on Eastern Europe. Liberals maintain that the Pentagon wastes money and that the United States buys too many guns and too little butter. They argue that the erosion of the Communist Partys authority was well under way when Gorbachev rose to power. They contend that Gorbachev and his fellow reformers were responding primarily to internal, not external pressures. The lessening of East-West tensions has provided momentum for significant reductions in defense spending, often called the peace dividend. Liberals want to allocate the funds to expanded domestic programs. Changing defense spending, however, is not easy as military hardware developed in the 1980s has proven to be increasingly expensive to purchase and maintain.
The structure of Americas defense has been based on a large standing military force. There are nearly 1.4 million men and women on active duty.
The United States has relied on a triad of nuclear weapons: ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers. In 1988 the United States and the Soviet Union signed a treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear forces. In 1991, President Bush signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), mandating the elimination of strategic nuclear weaponry. In 1993, Presidents Bush and Yeltsin signed an agreement (START II) to cut the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Nuclear weapons are only part of Americas arsenal. Jet fighters, aircraft carriers, and even tanks are extraordinarily complex and equally costly.
IV. The New Global Agenda (637-648)
A. The Decreasing Role of Military Power
Military might is no longer the primary instrument of foreign policy. The United States is long on firepower at the very time firepower is decreasing in its applicability as an instrument of foreign policy. Economic sanctions are non-military penalties imposed on a foreign government in an attempt to modify its behavior. They are often a first resort in times of crisis and are less risky than sending troops. Successful sanctions most often have broad international support, which is rare. Critics argue that sanctions are counterproductive because they can provoke a nationalist backlash.
B. Nuclear Proliferation
The spread of technology has enabled the creation of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. American policymakers have attempted to halt the spread of nuclear weapons through international treaties. North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya may particularly be a threat to their neighbors and the United States.
Perhaps the most troublesome issue in national security is the spread of terrorismthe use of violence to demoralize and frighten a countrys population or government. Terrorists have the advantage of stealth and surprise. Improved security and intelligence can help.
D. The International Economy
Todays international economy is characterized by interdependency when actions reverberate and affect other peoples economic lifelines. The International Monetary Fund is a cooperative international organization of 182 countries intended to stabilize the exchange of currencies and the world economy. Since the end of World War II, trade among nations has grown rapidly. The globalization of finances has been even more dramatic than the growth of trade. In a simpler time, the main instrument of international economic policy was the tariff, a tax added to the cost of imported goods, intended to raise the price of imported goods and thereby protect American businesses and workers from foreign competition. Nontariff barriers such as quotas, subsidies, or quality specifications for imported products are common means of limiting imports. In 1992 President Bush signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico to eventually eliminate most tariffs among North American countries. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is the mechanism by which most of the worlds nations negotiate widespread trade agreements. A persistent issue for the president is opening up foreign markets for goods and services. The United States lacks the influence to demand these markets be opened. If we refuse to trade with another nation, it will deny our exports access to its markets, and U.S. consumers will lose access to its products.
The balance of trade is the ratio of what a country pays for imports to what it earns from exports. When a country imports more than it exports, it has a balance of trade deficit, as has been the case in recent years. The excess of imports over exports decreases the dollars buying power. Exports account for more than 10 percent of the GDP and 5 percent of all civilian employment. A poor balance of trade exacerbates unemployment as jobs flow abroad. Sometimes American firms have shut down their domestic operations and relocated in countries with cheaper labor. Cheaper dollars also makes the cost of American labor more competitive so more foreign-owned companies are building factories in the United States. The stability of the U.S. economy as well as the low value of the dollar has made the United States attractive to foreign investors.
E. International Inequality and Foreign Aid
World politics today includes a growing conflict between rich and poor nations. The income gap between the rich nations and poor nations is widening rather than narrowing. Less developed countries have responded to their poverty by borrowing money, which has increased their foreign debt. There is also a large gap between the rich and poor within less developed countries. Presidents of each party have pressed for aid to nations in the developing world. Aside from simple humanitarian concern for those who are suffering, America has wanted to stabilize nations that were friendly or that possessed supplies of vital raw materials. Aid has been given in the form of grants as well as credits and loan guarantees to purchase American goods, loans at favorable interest rates, and forgiveness of previous loans. A substantial percentage of foreign aid is in the form of military assistance and is targeted to a few countries the United States considers to be of vital strategic significance. Foreign aid has never been very popular with Americans. Congress typically cuts the presidents foreign aid requests. Many people believe that the provision of economic aid by other nations serves only to further enrich the few without helping the many within a poor nation. Since the thaw in the cold war, the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia, have sought aid from the West.
F. The Global Connection, Energy, and the Environment
Energy and the environment symbolize the increased dependency nations have on each other. Groups like the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries can and have held the United States hostage because of their dependence of foreign oil. The United States imports half of the oil it uses. Almost every nation faces severe environmental dilemmas that know no political ideology or political boundary. Global issues of environment and energy have crept slowly onto the nations policy agenda. However, issues closer to home are often considered more important and the United States has failed to sign international treaties on the environment because of the cost and threat of losing jobs.
V. Understanding Foreign and Defense Policymaking (648-650)
A. Foreign and Defense Policymaking and Democracy
Some believe that democracy has little to do with the international relations of the United States. Americans are usually more interested in domestic policy than in foreign policy. Public officials seem to have more discretion in making foreign policy. There is little evidence, however, that policies at odds with the wishes of the American people can be sustained; civilian control of the military is unquestionable. The system of separation of powers plays a crucial role in foreign as well as domestic policy. American international economic policy is pluralistic. Agencies and members of Congress each pursue their own policy goals.
B. Foreign and Defense Policymaking and the Scope of Government
Americas global connections as a superpower have many implications for how active the national government is in the realm of foreign policy and national defense. The United States will remain a superpower and continue to have interests to defend around the world. As long as this is the case, the scope of American government in foreign and defense policy will be substantial.