Dick Cheney’s Bush-Era National Security Speech at AEI essay
Historically, the foreign policy tradition in the US was determined by domestic policies. What is meant here is the fact that the foreign policy of the US was driven by domestic policies and interests of the US. For instance, the development of close economic and political relations of the US on the dawn of its independence with France, Spain and the Netherlands was determined by the urgent need of the US to enhance its independence of Great Britain.
In the course of time, the foreign policy traditions of the US evolved and changed consistently. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the early 20th century and its first half were marked by the isolationist foreign policy of the US but, by the mid-20th century, the role of the US as one of the major world powers became obvious, while its involvement in World War II contributed to the rise of the US as the leading superpower, whose position could be challenged by the USSR only until its downfall in 1991.
The more recent history of the US reveals the devotion of Americans to their traditional foreign policy with the priority of their domestic policy and national interests over international relations. This is why by the end of the 20th – early 21st century, the US focused its foreign policies on the maintenance of the national security and protection of the US economic interests. Even the status of the only superpower of the world did not change the foreign policy of the US much because foreign policies of the US were driven by concerns of national interests of the US mainly.
At the same time, the post-9/11 era marked the shift in the foreign policy to the excessive use of the US military power abroad. At first, such policy was justified by the national security concerns because the threat of international terrorism and the use of the weapon of mass destruction by outcast-states encouraged Americans to support foreign policies conducted by the Bush administration. However, eventually, the US population has grown dissatisfied with foreign policies of the US because of the alienation of American traditions in the foreign policy of the US. The US population has grown dissatisfied because foreign policies have become prior to domestic ones consuming hugging financial, material and human resources, whereas military operations conducted by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq were perceived by many Americans as pointless. Moreover, such practices as the establishment of the prison for international terrorists and prisoners war in Guantanamo, Cuba, where human rights of inmates were neglected an tortures were applied widely, raised the dissatisfaction of the public with foreign policies.
This is why Barak Obama’s coming to power became the new stage in the development foreign policies of the US and many Americans expected the promised return to the traditional foreign policy of the US. In response to emerging criticism of the US foreign policy, Obama attempted to shut down the prison in Guantanamo but confronted the severe opposition from the part of the Congress because many senators believed Guantanamo to be essential for the struggle against international terrorism, although the main advantage of the Guantanamo detention camp was the possibility of neglecting legal procedures and norms which were essential in the US. Nevertheless, Obama has demonstrated his eager support of the full shut down of Guantanamo as illegal entity, where human rights are violate that contradict to American norms and traditions.
However, as Dick Cheney justly remarks () the Guantanamo detention camp does not really contradict to foreign policy traditions of the US because traditionally the US paid little attention to the violation of human rights of citizens abroad as long as interests and rights of Americans were not under a threat. For instance, the US could undertake sanctions or counter action in response to the threat of interests or rights of some American citizens. Therefore, if Guantanamo detention camp does not violate rights of Americans and helps to protect the US from international terrorists than the US could reasonably maintain Guantanamo in terms of its traditional foreign policy. In this regard, Barak Obama may misinterpret in a way foreign policy traditions of the US as he claims to return the US to its traditions and values. for instance, the US did not interfere in World War I and World War II, until the US citizens suffered from the attack of Germany and Japan respectively.
As for the Obama administration policy in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan, they are also not so perfect in regard to American foreign policy traditions as the US President wants them to be. On the one hand, the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is welcomed by a large part of the society. On the other hand, the withdrawal of America troops may and does evoke criticism of the US foreign policy because such decisions are viewed as the manifestation of the US weakness, while the US has already accustomed to play the leading part in international relations and policies of the US determine, to a significant extent, intentional politics and relations. Therefore, Obama’s decision to withdraw American troops match American foreign policy traditions in terms of the protection of Americans since the further location of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan would have increased the number of casualties among American soldiers. On the other hand, the US should maintain its reputation as the dominant superpower that can keep the situation under control and can use its military to protect national interests of the US.
At this point, it is also necessary to take into consideration the fact that the deployment of the US military is the ultimate but effective tool used by the US in its foreign policy. Obama prefers not to deploy the US military abroad and use diplomacy or economic pressure to protection national interests of the US. However, Iraq and Afghanistan play an important part in the maintenance of the US control over strategically important region, the Middle East which is the major supplier of oil to the US. In such a situation, the decision of Obama to withdraw the US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan seems to match American foreign policies, in a way, protecting the life and health of the US citizens. On the other hand, such policy of the US raises the problem of the failure of the US to protect its national economic interests because if the Middle East goes out of control of the US, the US may face considerable economic problems, in case of the anti-American political or military force coming into power in Iraq or Afghanistan or in case of the enhancement of Iran in the region. In such a situation, the desirable respect to traditions of the US foreign policies conducted by Obama is quite controversial since efforts of Obama to meet traditions of the US foreign policies raise the problem of the emerging new threats to the dominant position of the US in the world. In such a situation, the US foreign policies face considerable problems, while Obama’s efforts to return to traditional foreign policies are not as successful as they were planned to be.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the development of current foreign policies aim at meeting the US national interests and traditional foreign policies of the US. Obama has declared the focus on respect to the traditional American values and return of the foreign policy to the framework of American traditions. However, today, the US cannot implement fully its foreign policies traditions because the policy of isolationism is hardly applicable to the contemporary foreign policies because the US face considerable problems since the refusal from the development of large scale foreign policies, including military operations of the US abroad may put under a threat national interests of the US. If the US weakens its position in the Persian Gulf region, the economic interests of the US may be under a threat. In such a situation, the US foreign policy should maintain its traditions and meet its national interests.
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