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The Foreign policy of the United States is the policy by which the United States interacts with foreign nations. United States foreign policy is highly influential on the world stage, as it is the only remaining superpower. The global reach of the United States is backed by a $14.3 trillion dollar economy, the largest national economy in the world, and a defense budget of $711 billion which accounts for approximately 50% of global military spending. The United States Secretary of State is the foreign minister of the United States and is the primary conductor of state-to-state diplomacy. The officially stated goals of the foreign policy of the United Statesmarker, as mentioned in the Foreign Policy Agenda of the U.S.marker Department of Statemarker, are "to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community." In addition, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs states as some of its jurisdictional goals: "export controls, including nonproliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear hardware; measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business abroad; International commodity agreements; international education; and protection of American citizens abroad and expatriation." U.S. foreign policy has been the subject of much debate, criticism and praise both domestically and abroad.

Foreign policy powers of the President and Congress

Subject to the advice and consent role of the U.S. Senate, the President of the United States negotiates treaties with foreign nations, but treaties enter into force only if ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. The President is also Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, and as such has broad authority over the armed forces; however only Congress has authority to declare war, and the civilian and military budget is written by the Congress. The United States Secretary of State is the foreign minister of the United States and is the primary conductor of state-to-state diplomacy. Both the Secretary of State and ambassadors are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Congress also has power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.

Brief history


From the establishment of the United Statesmarker after the American Revolution until the Spanish-American War, U.S. foreign policy reflected the country's regional, as compared to global, focus.

During the American Revolution, the United States established relations with several European powers, convincing Francemarker, Spainmarker, and the Netherlandsmarker to intervene in its war against Britainmarker, a mutual enemy. After the revolution, the U.S. moved to restore peace and resume its substantial trade with Great Britain in what is called the "Olive Branch Policy". Following French involvement in the Revolution, led by Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette, the United States maintained significant relations with France, as manifested by presenting the United States with the Statue of Libertymarker in 1886.

In general, though, the United States followed an isolationist foreign policy until attacks against U.S. shipping by Barbary Coast corsairs spurred the country into developing a naval force projection capability, resulting in the First Barbary War in 1801. Early politicians debated the wisdom of developing a navy and becoming involved in international affairs, but the United States Navy was created to prevent further economic losses: payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary pirate states amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800. Following that conflict, the United States engaged in a quasi-war with France and the War of 1812 with Great Britain.

In response to the new independence of Spanish colonies in Latin America in the early 1800s, the United States established the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. This policy declared opposition to European interference in the Americas. Around the same time, U.S. expansion, fueled by "Manifest Destiny" led to the Indian Wars. This also led to the annexation of the Republic of Texas, which had a pre-existing border dispute with Mexico. U.S. Army patrols in the disputed area triggered the Mexican-American War. As a result of this war the US acquired territories that would become New Mexico, Arizona and California. Manifest destiny also led to diplomatic conflict with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker and Russiamarker over the Oregon Territorymarker and with Spain over Floridamarker.

After the end of conflict with the British military in 1815, consolidating its territories following the Civil War and the withdrawal of the last remnants of French influence in the region in 1867 when Mexican forces deposed Emperor Maximilian, the United States was unchallenged regionally. This stability, combined with the country's natural resources and growing population, resulted in substantial domestic prosperity and growth of geopolitical influence.

1893 - 1914

In early 1893 the United States approved the overthrow of the Queen of Hawaii by local revolutionaries. President Benjamin Harrison approved and sent a treaty of annexation to the Senate, but President Grover Cleveland withdrew it and the revolutionaries formed an independent Republic of Hawaiimarker. It voluntarily joined the U.S. in 1898 with full citizenship for the residents.

Victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898, and the subsequent acquisition of Cubamarker, Puerto Rico, the Philippinesmarker and Guammarker, marked the United States' shift from a regional to a more global power and ejected Spain from the Americas, South East Asia and Oceania. The Philippine-American War arose from the on-going Philippine Revolution against imperialism. The 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, proclaiming a right for the United States to intervene to stabilize weak states in the Americas, further weakened European influence in Latin America and established U.S. regional hegemony.

World War I (1914–1918)

Despite its reluctance to directly involve itself in continental European affairs, the United States provided substantial loans to the Allies, but only entered World War I after attacks by German U-boats substantially interfered with U.S. shipping. During the peace conference at Versailles, U.S. attempts to shift international relations to an idealist by President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points,(e.g.Sykes–Picot Agreement) made during the war and geopolitical horse-trading. The United States benefited from its expanded visibility and role in international commerce but did not sign the treaty or participate in the League of Nations, which was created at the conference. U.S. domestic politics turned against idealist, international policies and the country returned to a more isolationist stance. The United States signed separate peace treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary in August 1921.

World War II (1941–1945)

Similar to their involvement in WWI, the United States made significant loans to the Allies, and following the depression, its domestic industries boomed to produce war materials. The United States entered World War II in 1941, again on the Allied side, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbormarker and the subsequent declaration of war against the U.S. by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. After the war and devastation of its European and Asian rivals, the United States completed its transition from regional to global power. The United States was a major player in the establishment of the United Nations and became one of five permanent members of the Security Council, which holds greater power than the General Assembly.

Cold War (1945–1991)

From about the mid-40s until 1991, U.S. foreign policy was dominated by the Cold War, and characterized by its significant international military presence and greater diplomatic involvement. Seeking an alternative to the isolationist policies pursued after World War I, the United States defined a new policy called containment to oppose the spread of communism. The Cold War was characterized by a lack of global wars but a persistence of regional wars, often fought between client states and proxies of the United States and Soviet Union. During the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy objectives seeking to limit Soviet influence, involved the United States and its allies in the Korean War, the overthrow of the Iranian government, the Vietnam War, the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War in the Middle East, and later, the policy of aiding anti-Soviet Mujahideen forces in Afghanistanmarker (Operation Cyclone). Diplomatic initiatives included the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationmarker (NATO), the opening of People's Republic of Chinamarker and Detente.

By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. had military and economic interests in every region of the globe. In March 1992, the New York Times received leaked parts of a "Defense Policy Guidance" document prepared by two principal authors at the U.S.marker Defense Departmentmarker, Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby. The policy document laid bare the post-cold war framework through which U.S. foreign policy would henceforth be guided.

1992 - present

December 1991 marked both the collapse of the Soviet Union and the initiation of the Gulf War against Iraqmarker in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. After the Gulf War, many scholars, such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, claim the lack of a new strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy resulted in many missed opportunities for its foreign policy. During the 1990s, the United States mostly scaled back its foreign policy budget while focusing on its domestic economic prosperity. The United States also bombarded and participated in UN peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavia.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centermarker in New York Citymarker and Pentagon in Washington, D.C.marker, the United States declared a "War on Terrorism." Since then, the United States launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq (Second Gulf War) while pursuing Al-Qaeda and other militant organizations on a global level.

In his first formal television interview as President, Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world through an Arabic-language satellite TV network. He expressed interest and a commitment to repair relations that have deteriorated under the previous administration.

Foreign policy law

In the United Statesmarker, the term "treaty" is used in a more restricted legal sense than in international law. U.S.marker law distinguishes what it calls treaties, which are derived from the Treaty Clause of the United States Constitution, from congressional-executive agreements and executive agreements. All three classes are considered treaties under international law; they are distinct only from the perspective of internal United States law. The distinctions are primarily concerning their method of ratification (by 2/3rds of the Senate, by normal legislative process, or by the President alone) and their relationship to domestic law.

Congressional-executive agreements vs. treaties

Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution grants power to the President to make treaties with the "advice and consent" of two-thirds of the Senate. This is different from normal legislation which requires approval by simple majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

However, throughout U.S. history, the President has also made "international agreements" through congressional-executive agreements (CEAs) that are ratified with only a majority from both houses of Congress, or sole-executive agreements made by the President alone. Though the constitution does not expressly provide for any alternative procedure and although some noted constitutional scholars, such as Laurence Tribe, believe that CEAs are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker has considered these agreements to be valid, and that any disagreements are a political question for the executive and legislative branches to work out amongst themselves. In addition, U.S. law distinguishes between self-executing treaties, which do not require additional legislative action, and non-self-executing treaties which do require the enactment of new laws.

Domestic vs. international law

The United States takes a different view from many other nations concerning the relationship between international and domestic law. Unlike nations that view international treaties and statutes as always superseding domestic law, international agreements instead are incorporated into the body of U.S. federal law. As a result, Congress can modify or repeal treaties by subsequent legislative action, even if this amounts to a violation of the treaty under international law. The 1900 Supreme Courtmarker ruling in the Paquete Habana declared that in the absence of clearly delineated, pre-existing statues (a "controlling executive act"), customary international law is applied. However, this also meant that if a law or statute already expressly allowed an action, it would be legal regardless of international law. This was further codified by the 1986 decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Garcia-Mir v. Meese.

In 1920, the Supreme Court ruled in Missouri v. Holland that international treaties carry the same weight as does any provision of the Constitution, and are binding on all states of the Union regardless of their own individual laws. This was seen as a possibly means of subverting constitutional provisions by way of a bilateral treaty. Nearly forty years later, though, in Reid v. Covert, the Court specified that any international agreement inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution is void under domestic law - the same as any other federal law in conflict with the Constitution - and while the Supreme Court could potentially rule a treaty provision to be unconstitutional and void under domestic law, it has never done so.

The United States is not a party to the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. However, the State Departmentmarker has taken the position that it is still binding, in that the Convention represents established customary law. The U.S. habitually includes in treaty negotiations the reservation that it will assume no obligations that are in violation of the U.S. Constitution, as mandated by the Supreme Court's ruling in Reid. However, the Vienna Convention provides that states are not excused from their treaty obligations on the grounds that they violate the state's constitution, unless the violation is manifestly obvious at the time of contracting the treaty. So for instance, if the Supreme Court found that a treaty violated the Constitution, it would no longer be binding on the United States under domestic law, but it would still be binding on the U.S. under international law - unless its unconstitutionality was manifestly obvious to other states at the time of the treaty's signing. It has also been argued by foreign governments and by international human rights advocates that many of these American reservations are so vague and broad as to be invalid. They are also invalid as being in violation of the Vienna Convention.<<< No="" longer="" true.="" See="" Medellín="" v.="" Texas=""></<<>

Geography of American foreign policy

Diplomatic relations

Map indicating states and territories and their diplomatic relations with the U.S.

The United States has one of the largest diplomatic presences of any nation. Almost every country in the world has both a U.S. embassy and an embassy of its own in Washington, D.Cmarker. Only a few countries do not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States. They are:

In practical terms however, this lack of formal relations do not impede the U.S.'s communication with these nations. In the cases where no U.S. diplomatic post exists, American relations are usually conducted via the United Kingdommarker, Canadamarker, Switzerlandmarker, or another friendly third-party. In the case of the Taiwanmarker (Republic of Chinamarker), de facto diplomatic relations are conducted through the American Institute in Taiwan. United States relations with Taiwan are generally cordial, but are not formal due to the recognition of the Peoples Republic of Chinamarker as the sole Chinese regime. The U.S. also operates an "Interests Section in Havana". While this does not create a formal diplomatic relationship, it fulfils most other typical embassy functions.

Territorial disputes

The United States is involved with several territorial disputes, including maritime disputes with Canadamarker over the Dixon Entrancemarker, Beaufort Seamarker, Strait of Juan de Fucamarker, Northwest Passage, and areas around Machias Seal Islandmarker and North Rockmarker. These disputes have become dormant recently, and are largely considered not to affect the strong relations between the two nations.

Other disputes include:
  • The U.S.marker Naval Basemarker at Guantánamo Bay, which is leased from Cubamarker. Only mutual agreement or U.S. abandonment of the area can terminate the lease. Cuba contends that the lease is invalid as the Platt Amendment creating the lease was included in the Cuban Constitution under threat of force and thus is voided by article 52 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. However, even though the conditions surrounding the lease agreement can be debated, the fourth article of that same treaty specifies the non-retroactivity of its law on treaties made before it.
  • Haitimarker claims Navassa Islandmarker.
  • The U.S. has made no territorial claim in Antarcticamarker (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other nation.
  • The Marshall Islandsmarker claim Wake Islandmarker.

The U.S. maintains a Normal Trade Relations list and several countries are excluded from it, which means that their exports to the United States are subject to significantly higher tariffs.


[[Image:USA military relations 2007.png|thumb|left|A map of allies of the United States


The United States is a founding member of NATOmarker, the world's largest military alliance. The 28 nation alliance consists of Canadamarker and much of Europe. Under the NATO charter, the United States is compelled to defend any NATO state that is attacked by a foreign power. NATO is restricted to within the North American and European areas. Starting in 1989, the United States also created a major non-NATO ally status (MNNA) for five nations; this number was increased in the late 1990s and following the September 11 attacks; it currently includes fourteen nations. Each such state has a unique relationship with the United States, involving various military and economic partnerships and alliances.

The United States, has seven major non-NATO allies in the Greater Middle East region. In particular, Israelmarker is provided by the US with billions in foreign aid annually (see Israel–United States relations). President Bush supported the 2006 Lebanon War and said Israel has a right to defend itself. In January, 2007, the State Department informed Congress of preliminary findings that Israel may have violated agreements by using cluster bombs against civilian populated areas. A final determination has not been made. Israel has denied violating agreements, saying that it had acted in self-defense. Other MNNA and NATO allies include South Koreamarker, Germanymarker, Polandmarker, Turkeymarker, Pakistanmarker, and Japanmarker.

Taiwanmarker (Republic of Chinamarker), does not have official diplomatic relations recognized and is no longer officially recognized by the State Department of the United States, but it conducts unofficial diplomatic relations through their de facto embassy, commonly known as the "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO)", and is considered to be a strong Asian ally of the United States.

In 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a landmark agreement between the two countries on civilian nuclear energy cooperation. The deal is significant because India is not a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and detonated a nuclear device in 1974. The deal will greatly increase strategic and economic cooperation between the world's two largest democracies..The U.S. has refused to give a similar deal to Pakistan, which also has nuclear capability. Barack Obama has pledged to "build a close strategic partnership" between the U.S. and Indiamarker although early sign indicate a deterioration in relations.

U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice signed the Defense Cooperation Agreement with Bulgariamarker, a new NATO member, in 2006. The treaty allows the U.S. (not NATO) to develop as joint US-Bulgarian facilities the Bulgarian air bases at Bezmer (near Yambolmarker) and Graf Ignatievomarker (near Plovdivmarker), the Novo Selomarker training range (near Slivenmarker), and a logistics centre in Aytosmarker, as well as to use the commercial port of Burgasmarker. At least 2,500 U.S. personnel will be located there. The treaty also allows the U.S. to use the bases "for missions in tiers country without a specific authorization from Bulgarian authorities," and grants U.S. militaries immunity from prosecution in this country. Another agreement with Romaniamarker permits the U.S. to use the Mihail Kogălniceanumarker base and another one nearby.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili sees membership of the NATOmarker as a premise of stability for Georgiamarker. On March 9, 2007, President Saakashvili announced his plans to increase total Georgian troop strength in Iraq to 2000, making Georgia one of the biggest supporters of Coalition Forces, and keeping its troops in Kosovomarker and Afghanistanmarker. Following the outbreak of war between Georgia and Russia on August 8, 2008, Mikheil Saakashvili said that Georgia was pulling its entire 2,000-strong contingent of troops from Iraqmarker. During the 10th and 11th of August the US Air Force airlifted the whole contigent out of Iraq. There have been some concerns about Saakashvili monopolizing power since his coming to office in 2004.

Ukrainemarker also has a close relationship with the United States. US President George W. Bush and both nominees for President of the United States in the 2008 election, U.S. senator Barack Obama and U.S. senator John McCain, did offer backing to Ukraine's membership of NATO. Russian reactions are negative. At a Nato summit in Bucharest in April 2008 President Bush pressed NATOmarker to ignore Russia’s objections and back membership for Ukraine and Georgia. Ukraine is currently the only non-NATO member supporting every NATO mission. President Bush noted that the President of Ukraine Victor Yushchenko was the first foreign leader he called after his inaugural address.

The UN Security Council remains divided on the question of Kosovo declaration of independence. Kosovo declared its independence on February 17, 2008, which Serbiamarker opposes. Of the five members with veto power, USA, UK, and France recognized the declaration of independence, and Chinamarker has expressed concern, while Russiamarker considers it illegal. "In its declaration of independence, Kosovomarker committed itself to the highest standards of democracy, including freedom and tolerance and justice for citizens of all ethnic backgrounds," Bush said on February 19, 2008.

United Kingdom-United States relations

United States foreign policy affirms its alliance with the United Kingdommarker as its most important bilateral relationship in the world, evidenced by aligned political affairs between the White Housemarker and 10 Downing Streetmarker, as well as joint military operations carried out between the two nations. While both the United States and the United Kingdom maintain close relationships with many other nations around the world, the level of cooperation in military planning, execution of military operations, nuclear weapons technology. and intelligence sharing with each other has been described as "unparalleled" among major powers throughout the 20th and early 21st century.

The United States and the United Kingdom share the world's largest foreign direct investment partnership. American investment in the United Kingdom reached $255.4 billion in 2002, while British direct investment in the United States totaled $283.3 billion.

Canada-United States relations

The bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States is of extreme importance to both countries. About 75%-85% of Canadian trade is with the United States, and Canada is the United States' largest trading partner. While there are disputed issues between the two nations, relations are close and the two countries famously share the "world's longest undefended border."

Canada was a close ally of the United States in both World Wars (though in both cases Canadian involvement preceded US involvement by several years), the Korean War, and the Cold War. Canada was an original member of NATOmarker and the two countries' air defenses are fused in NORADmarker.

Mexico-United States relations

The United States shares a unique and often complex relationship with the United Mexican States. With shared history stemming back to the Texas Revolution and the Mexican-American War, several treaties have been concluded between the two nations, most notably the Gadsden Purchase, and multilaterally with Canada, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico and the United States are members of various international organizations, such as the Organization of American Statesmarker and the United Nations. Illegal immigration, arms sales, and drug smuggling continue to be contending issues in 21st-century Mexican-American relations.

Australia-United States relations

Americas's relationship with Australia is a very close one, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating that "America doesn't have a better friend in the world than Australia".. The relationship is formalised by the ANZUS treaty and the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement.The two countries have a shared history, both have previously been British Colonies and many Americans flocked to the Australian goldfields in the 1800s. At a strategic level, the relationship really came to prominence in World War 2, when the two nations worked extremely closely in the Pacific war against Japanmarker, with General Douglas Macarthur undertaking his role as Supreme Allied Commander based in Australia, effectively having Australian troops and resources under his command. During this period, the cultural interaction between the Australia and the US were eleavated to a higher level as over 1 million US military personnel moved through Australia during the course of the war. The relationship continued to evolve throughout the second half of the 20th Century, and today now involves strong relationships at the executive and mid levels of government and the military, leading Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt M. Campbell to declare that "in the last ten years, [Australia] has ascended to one of the closest one or two allies [of the US] on the planet" .

Hub and Spoke vs Multilateral

While America's relationships with Europe have tended to be in terms of multilateral frameworks, such as NATO, America's relations with Asia have tended to be based on a series of bilateral relationships where the client states would coordinate with the United States in order to not have to deal directly with each other. On May 30, 2009 at the Shangri-La Dialogue Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged the nations of Asia to build on this hub and spoke model as they established and grew multilateral institutions such as ASEAN, APEC and the ad hoc arrangements in the area.

Raw materials need

Persian Gulf

The U.S. currently produces about 40% of the oil that it consumes; its imports have exceeded domestic production since the early 1990s. Since the U.S.'s oil consumption continues to rise, and its oil production continues to fall, this ratio may continue to decline. President George W. Bush has identified dependence on imported oil as an urgent "national security concern".

Two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves are estimated to be found in thePersian Gulfmarker. Despite its distance, the Persian Gulf region was first proclaimed to be of national interest to the United States during World War II. Petroleum is of central importance to modern armies, and the United States—as the world's leading oil producer at that time—supplied most of the oil for the Allied armies. Many US strategists were concerned that the war would dangerously reduce the US oil supply, and so they sought to establish good relations with Saudi Arabiamarker, a kingdom with large oil reserves.

The Persian Gulf region continued to be regarded as an area of vital importance to the United States during the Cold War. Three Cold War United States Presidential doctrines—the Truman Doctrine, the Eisenhower Doctrine, and the Nixon Doctrine—played roles in the formulation of the Carter Doctrine, which stated that the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its "national interests" in the Persian Gulfmarker region. Carter's successor, President Ronald Reagan, extended the policy in October 1981 with what is sometimes called the "Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine", which proclaimed that the United States would intervene to protect Saudi Arabia, whose security was threatened after the outbreak of the Iran–Iraq War. Some analysts have argued that the implementation of the Carter Doctrine and the Reagan Corollary also played a role in the outbreak of the 2003 Iraq War.


In 2007 the US was Sub-Saharan Africa's largest single country export market accounting for 28.4% of exports (second in total to the EU at 31.4%). 81% of US imports from this region were petroleum products.

Foreign aid

Foreign assistance is a core component of the State Department's international affairs budget and is considered an essential instrument of U.S. foreign policy. There are four major categories of non-military foreign assistance: bilateral development aid, economic assistance supporting U.S. political and security goals, humanitarian aid, and multilateral economic contributions (eg., contributions to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund).

In absolute dollar terms, the United States is the largest international aid donor ($22.7 billion in 2006), but as a percent of gross national income, its contribution is only 0.2%, proportionally much smaller than than contributions of countries such as Sweden (1.04%) and the United Kingdom (0.52%). The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) manages the bulk of bilateral economic assistance; the Treasury Department handles most multilateral aid.


The United States has fought wars and intervened militarily on many occasions. See, Timeline of United States military operations. The U.S. also operates a vast network of military bases around the world. See, List of United States military bases.

In recent years, the U.S. has used its military superiority as sole superpower to lead a number of wars, including, most recently, the invasion of Iraqmarker in March 2003 as part of its global "War on Terror."

Military aid

The U.S. provides military aid through many different channels. Counting the items that appear in the budget as 'Foreign Military Financing' and 'Plan Colombia', the U.S. spent approximately $4.5 billion in military aid in 2001, of which $2 billion went to Israelmarker, $1.3 billion went to Egyptmarker, and $1 billion went to Colombiamarker.

As of 2004, according to Fox News, the U.S. had more than 700 military bases in 130 different countries.

Missile defense

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a proposal by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles, later dubbed "Star Wars". The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD). Though it was never fully developed or deployed, the research and technologies of SDI paved the way for some anti-ballistic missile systems of today.

In February 2007, the U.S. started formal negotiations with Polandmarker and Czech Republicmarker concerning construction of missile shield installations in those countries for a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system (in April 2007 57% of Poles opposed the plan). According to press reports the government of the Czech Republic agreed (while 67% Czechs disagree) to host a missile defense radar on its territory while a base of missile interceptors is supposed to be built in Poland.

Russiamarker threatened to place short-range nuclear missiles on the Russia’s border with NATOmarker if the United States refuses to abandon plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in Poland and the Czech Republic. In April 2007, Putin warned of a new Cold War if the Americans deployed the shield in Central Europe. Putin also said that Russia is prepared to abandon its obligations under a Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 with the United States.

On August 14, 2008, The United States and Poland announced a deal to implement the missile defense system in Polish territory, with a tracking system placed in the Czech Republic. "The fact that this was signed in a period of very difficult crisis in the relations between Russia and the United States over the situation in Georgiamarker shows that, of course, the missile defense system will be deployed not against Iranmarker but against the strategic potential of Russia," Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's NATOmarker envoy, said.

Covert actions

United States foreign policy also includes secret actions, such as covert actions to topple foreign governments, including democratically-elected governments. For example, in 1953 the CIA, working with the British government, orchestrated a coup d'etats against the democratically-elected government of Iranmarker led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh who had attempted to nationalize Iran's oil, threatening the interests of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. See Operation Ajax.

Other covert actions undertaken have not yet achieved their desired outcome. ABC news reported, citing U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources, that U.S. officials have been secretly advising and indirectly funneling funding for a Pakistani Balochi militant group named Jundullah responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran. The U.S. provides no direct funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "presidential finding" as well as congressional oversight; thus the U.S. finds ways to funnel money through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Persian Gulf states, according to tribal leaders. The CIA denies funding the group. Jundullah is suspected of being associated with al Qaida, a charge the group denied. It has been reported that the U.S. already has military commando units operating inside Iran working with the militant Balochi. U.S. policy aims to light "the fire of ethnic and sectarian strife" to destabilize and eventually topple the government of Iran.

More recently, after the Palestinian election in 2006 in which Hamas won the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament, the U.S. provided training and major military assistance for an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and the West Bank which was successful in removig Hamas from power in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas then installed an unelected "emergency cabinet," led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in place of the Hamas government in the West Bank.

Anti Drug Efforts

United States foreign policy is influenced by the efforts of the U.S. government to halt imports of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana. This is especially true in Latin America, a focus for the U.S. War on Drugs. Those efforts date back to at least 1880, when the U.S. and China completed an agreement which prohibited the shipment of opium between the two countries.

Over a century later, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act requires the President to identify the major drug transit or major illicit drug-producing countries. In September 2005 [805], the following countries were identified: Bahamasmarker, Boliviamarker, Brazilmarker, Burmamarker, Colombiamarker, Dominican Republicmarker, Ecuadormarker, Guatemalamarker, Haitimarker, Indiamarker, Jamaicamarker, Laosmarker, Mexicomarker, Nigeriamarker, Pakistanmarker, Panamamarker, Paraguaymarker, Perumarker and Venezuelamarker. Two of these, Burma and Venezuela are countries that the U.S. considers to have failed to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements during the previous twelve months. Notably absent from the 2005 list were Afghanistanmarker, the People's Republic of Chinamarker and Vietnammarker; Canadamarker was also omitted in spite of evidence that criminal groups there are increasingly involved in the production of MDMA destined for the United States and that large-scale cross-border trafficking of Canadian-grown marijuana continues. The U.S. believes that The Netherlandsmarker are successfully countering the production and flow of MDMA to the U.S.
Afghanistanmarker is, as of March, 2008, the greatest illicit (in Western World standards) opium producer in the world, before Burmamarker (Myanmar), part of the so-called "Golden Crescent". As much as one-third of Afghanistan's GDP comes from growing poppy and illicit drugs including opium and its two derivatives, morphine and heroin, as well as hashish production. Opium production in Afghanistan has soared to a new record in 2007, with an increase on last year of more than a third, the United Nations has said. Some 3.3 million Afghans are now involved in producing opium.

Former U.S. State Departmentmarker Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Thomas Schweich, in a New York Times article dated July 27, 2007, asserts that opium production is protected by the government of Hamid Karzai as well as by the Taliban, as all parties to political conflict in Afghanistan as well as criminals benefit from opium production, and, in Schweich's opinion, the U.S. military turns a blind eye to opium production as not being central to its anti-terrorism mission.

The Prime Minister for Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, is alleged to have extensive criminal links. During the period of time when Thaçi was head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), it was reported by the Washington Times to be financing its activities by trafficking heroin and cocaine into western Europe. The Bush administration has consistently supported Kosovomarker independence from Serbiamarker.

History of exporting democracy through military intervention

In the history of the United States, presidents have often used democracy as a justification for military intervention abroad, although on a number of other occasions the U.S. overthrew democratically elected governments (See Operation Ajax, Operation PBSUCCESS, Covert U.S. Regime Change Actions). A number of studies have been devoted to the historical success rate of the U.S. in exporting democracy abroad. Most studies of American intervention have been pessimistic about the history of the United States exporting democracy. Until recently, scholars have generally agreed with international relations professor Abraham Lowenthal that U.S. attempts to export democracy have been "negligible, often counterproductive, and only occasionally positive."

But some studies, such as a study by Tures find U.S. intervention has had mixed results, and another by Hermann and Kegley has found that military interventions have improved democracy in other countries.

Opinion that U.S. intervention does not export democracy

Professor Paul W. Drake writes that the United States first attempted to export democracy in Latin America through intervention from 1912 to 1932. Drake argues that this was contradictory because international law defines intervention as "dictatorial interference in the affairs of another state for the purpose of altering the condition of things." Democracy failed because democracy needs to develop out of internal conditions, and American leaders usually defined democracy as elections only. Further the United States Department of Statemarker disapproved of any rebellion of any kind, which were often incorrectly labeled "revolutions", even against dictatorships. As historian Walter LaFeber states, "The world's leading revolutionary nation (the U.S.) in the eighteenth century became the leading protector of the status quo in the twentieth century."

Mesquita and Downs evaluate the period between 1945 to 2004. They state that the U.S. has intervened in 35 countries, and only in one case, Colombiamarker, did a "full fledged, stable democracy" develop within 10 years.Samia Amin Pei argues that nation building in developed countries usually begins to unravel four to six years after American intervention ends. Pei, quoting Polity, (a database on democracy in the world), agrees with Mesquita and Downs that most countries where the U.S. intervenes never become a democracies or become more authoritarian after 10 years.

Professor Joshua Muravchik argues that U.S. occupation was critical for Axis power democratization after World War II, but America's failure to build democracy in the third world "prove... that U.S. military occupation is not a sufficient condition to make a country democratic." The success of democracy in former Axis countries maybe because of these countries per-capita income. Steven Krasner of the CDDRL states that a high per capita income may help build a democracy, because no democratic country with a per-capita income which is above $6,000 has ever become an autocracy.

Opinion that U.S. intervention has mixed results

Tures examines 228 cases of American intervention from 1973 to 2005, using Freedom House data. A plurality of interventions, 96, caused no change in the country's democracy. In 69 instances the country became less democratic after the intervention. In the remaining 63 cases, a country became more democratic.

Opinion that U.S. intervention effectively exports democracy

Hermann and Kegley find that American military interventions which are designed to protect or promote democracy increase freedom in those countries. Penceny argues that the democracies created after military intervention are still closer to an autocracy than a democracy, quoting Przeworski "while some democracies are more democratic than others, unless offices are contested, no regime should be considered democratic." Therefore, Penceny concludes, it is difficult to know from the Hermann and Kegley study whether U.S. intervention has only produced less repressive autocratic governments or genuine democracies.

Penceny states that the United States has attempted to export democracy in 33 of its 93 twentieth-century military interventions. Penceny argues that proliberal policies after military intervention have a positive impact on democracy.


Critics of U.S. foreign policy suggest that U.S. foreign policy rhetoric contradicts some of the U.S. government's actions abroad.

Some of these criticisms include:
  • The long list of U.S. military involvements that stand in contrast to the rhetoric of promoting peace and respect for the sovereignty of nations.
  • The many former and current dictatorships that receive or have received U.S. financial or military support, especially in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, despite the U.S. claiming to support democracy and democratic principles.
  • The U.S. import tariffs (to protect local industries from global competition) on foreign goods like wood and agricultural products, in contrast to stating support for free trade.
  • Claims of generosity, in contrast to low spendings on foreign developmental aid (measured as percentage of GDP) when compared to other western countries (taking into consideration only government foreign aid, and not donations through private charities)
  • Lack of support for environmental treaties, such as the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Frequent mention of concern for human rights, despite refusing to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the widespread support of dictatorial governments whose military the U.S. may have formerly trained on methods of torture (notably in the infamous former School of the Americas), and support for paramilitary organizations, for example the Contras in Nicaraguamarker.
  • American exceptionalism - the sense that America is qualitatively different from other countries and the pertaining conviction that America cannot be judged by the same standard as other countries. For instance, that America is retaining its own nuclear weapons while trying to prevent nuclear proliferation is often seen as hypocritical.
  • A general opposition to independent nationalism - countries focused primarily on domestic concerns, such as social reform.

Criticisms of the effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy include:
  • An inability to combine strategic military objectives and diplomatic and political objectives. In short, this means an ineffective follow-up to military operations by being unable or unwanting to determine diplomatic and political goals, resulting in unfavorable situations to either the United States or friendly involved parties.

Charges of negative influence have been levied even in countries traditionally considered allies of the United States.

Further, some opinions have stated that under the Nuremberg Principles, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which was not a war to defend against an imminent threat, but rather a war of aggression, constitutes the supreme international crime from which all other war crimes follow. For example, Benjamin Ferencz, a chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg said George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes along with Saddam Hussein for starting "aggressive" wars—Saddam for his 1990 attack on Kuwaitmarker and Bush for his 2003 invasion of Iraq. Similarly, under the United Nations Charter, ratified by the U.S. and therefore binding on it, all UN member states including the U.S. are prohibited from using force against fellow member states (Iraq is a member of the UN) except to defend against an imminent attack or pursuant to explicit UN Security Council authorization (UN Charter; international law). "There was no authorization from the UN Security Council... and that made it a crime against the peace," said Francis Boyle, professor of international law, who also said the U.S. Army's field manual required such authorization for an offensive war. A frequent rebuttal to this criticism is the assertion that the United Nations gave the United States and its coalition partners the legal authority to remove Saddam Hussein from power in UN Security Council Resolution 1441, providing that Iraq would "face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations."
Other realist critics, such as George F. Kennan, have argued that the responsibility of the United States is only to protect the rights of its own citizens, and that therefore Washington should deal with other governments on that basis alone. Realists charge that a claimed heavy emphasis on democratization or nation-building abroad was one of the major tenets of President Woodrow Wilson's diplomatic philosophy (despite not being mentioned in Wilson's Fourteen Points), and the failure of the League of Nations to enforce the will of the international community in the cases of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japanmarker in the 1930s, as well as the inherent weakness of the new states created at the Paris Peace Conference, demonstrated the folly of Wilson's idealism. However, an important explanation for the weakness of the League of Nations was the refusal of the U.S. to join the organization, driven primarily by strong renewed isolationist sentiment at home.

Noam Chomsky writes that Thomas Carothers, who was in Reagan's State Department in the 1980s and who was involved with the Democracy Enhancement programs in Latin America primarily has concluded that the efforts were a failure, and in fact a systematic failure. "Where U.S. influence was the least there you found the most progress towards democracy.... But where the U.S. had influence, it sought only limited, top down forms of democracy that did not risk upsetting the traditional structures of power with which the United States had long been allied."

There is also criticism of alleged human rights abuse, the most important recent examples of which are the multiple reports of alleged prisoner abuse and torture at U.S.-run detention camps in Guantánamo Bay (at "Camp X-ray") (in Cubamarker), Abu Ghraib (Iraqmarker), secret CIA prisons (eastern Europe), and other places voiced by, e.g., the Council of Europe and Amnesty International. Amnesty International in its Amnesty International Report 2005 [806] says that: "the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times" [807]. This Amnesty report also claimed that there was a use of double standards in the U.S. government: the U.S. president "has repeatedly asserted that the United States was founded upon and is dedicated to the cause of human dignity". (Theme of his speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2004). But some memorandums emerged after the Abu Ghraib scandal "suggested that the administration was discussing ways in which its agents could avoid the international ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment" [808]. Government responses to these criticisms include that Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and the network of secret Central Intelligence Agency jails in Eastern Europe and the Middle East were largely isolated incidents and not reflective of general U.S. conduct, and at the same time maintain that coerced interrogation in Guantánamo and Europe is necessary to prevent future terrorist attacks.

U.S. generosity is not demonstrated in the relatively low governmental spendings on foreign developmental aid (measured as percentage of Gross domestic product (GDP) when compared to other western countries. In fact the U.S. ranks 21 of 22 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, assigning just 0.17% of GDP to overseas aid (compared with the most generous, Sweden, which gives 1.03%). This is despite a promise made by OECD countries to raise overseas aid to 0.7% of GDP first made over 35 years ago and most recently reiterated at the 2002 global Financing for Development conference in Monterreymarker, Mexicomarker. U.S. overseas aid was in fact reduced by 15.8% from 2005 to 2006.

Official aid statistics do not include charitable organizations. Through the many tax privileges that the United States grants to its nonprofit organizations, the government implicitly foots some portion of the bill anytime these organizations send money abroad for development purposes. [809] However, though many Americans believe that the U.S. is the only nation which offers tax relief for charitable giving, nearly all of the 22 OECD countries also offer such incentives, in fact only Austriamarker, Finlandmarker and Swedenmarker do not. 79 percent of total foreign aid came from private foundations, corporations, voluntary organizations, universities, religious organizations and individuals, according to the annual Index of Global Philanthropy. According to the index the United States is the top donor in absolute amounts and the seventh of 22 in terms of GNI percentage. [810] However, almost half the aid measured by the Global Philanthropy Index is made up of remittances by foreign nationals in the United States and it is highly questionable whether these can be included as US giving. Another index which ranks countries according to quality-adjusted aid and charitable giving, including private donations but not remittances, ranks the US 20 of 21 in terms of percentage of GDP which is donated to overseas aid.


Regarding support for various dictatorships, especially during the Cold War, a response is that they were seen as necessary evil, with the alternatives even worse Communist or fundamentalist dictatorships. David Schmitz challenges the notion that this violation of core American values actually served U.S. interests. Friendly tyrants resisted necessary reforms and destroyed the political center (though not in South Korea), while the 'realist' policy of coddling dictators brought a backlash among foreign populations with long memories.

Halperin et al. writes that there is a widely held view that poor countries need to delay democracy until they develop. The argument went —as presented in the writings of Samuel Huntington and Seymour Martin Lipset— that if a poor country became democratic, because of the pressures in a democracy to respond to the interests of the people, they would borrow too much, they would spend the money in ways that did not advance development. These poor decisions would mean that development would not occur; and because people would then be disappointed, they would return to a dictatorship. Therefore, the prescription was, get yourself a benign dictator — it was never quite explained how you would make sure you had a dictator that spent the money to develop the country rather than ship it off to a Swiss bank account—wait until that produces development, which produces a middle class, and then, inevitably, the middle class will demand freedom, and you will have a democratic government. The study argues that this is wrong. Poor democracies perform better, including also on economic growth if excluding East Asia, than poor dictatorships.

Many of the U.S.'s former enemies have democratized, and many have become U.S. allies. The Philippinesmarker (1946), South Koreamarker (1948), West Germanymarker (1949), Japanmarker (1952), Austriamarker (1955), the Panama Canal Zonemarker (1979), the Federated States of Micronesiamarker (1986), the Marshall Islandsmarker (1986), and Palaumarker (1994) are examples of former possessions that have gained independence. Many nations in Eastern Europe have joined NATO. (Note, statements regarding degree of democracy are based on the classification at these times in the Polity data series).

Many democracies have voluntary military alliances with United States. See NATOmarker, ANZUS, Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, Mutual Defense Treaty with South Koreamarker, and Major non-NATO ally. Those nations with military alliances with the U.S. can spend less on the military since they can count on U.S. protection. This may give a false impression that the U.S. is less peaceful than those nations. [811] [812]

Research on the democratic peace theory has generally found that democracies, including the United States, have not made war on one another. There have been U.S. support for coups against some democracies, but for example Spencer R. Weart argues that part of the explanation was the perception, correct or not, that these states were turning into Communist dictatorships. Also important was the role of rarely transparent United States government agencies, who sometimes mislead or did not fully implement the decisions of elected civilian leaders.

Empirical studies (see democide) have found that democracies, including the United States, have killed much fewer civilians than dictatorships. Media may be biased against the U.S. regarding reporting human rights violations. Studies have found that New York Times coverage of worldwide human rights violations predominantly focuses on the human rights violations in nations where there is clear U.S. involvement, while having relatively little coverage of the human rights violations in other nations. For example, the bloodiest war in recent time, involving eight nations and killing millions of civilians, was the Second Congo War, which was almost completely ignored by the media. Finally, those nations with military alliances with the U.S. can spend less on the military and have a less active foreign policy since they can count on U.S. protection. This may give a false impression that the U.S. is less peaceful than those nations.

Niall Ferguson argues that the U.S. is incorrectly blamed for all the human rights violations in nations they have supported. He writes that it is generally agreed that Guatemala was the worst of the US-backed regimes during the Cold War. However, the U.S. cannot credibly be blamed for all the 200,000 deaths during the long Guatemalan Civil War. The U.S. Intelligence Oversight Board writes that military aid was cut for long periods because of such violations, that the U.S. helped stop a coup in 1993, and that efforts were made to improve the conduct of the security services.

Today the U.S. states that democratic nations best support U.S. national interests. According to the U.S. State Department, "Democracy is the one national interest that helps to secure all the others. Democratically governed nations are more likely to secure the peace, deter aggression, expand open markets, promote economic development, protect American citizens, combat international terrorism and crime, uphold human and worker rights, avoid humanitarian crises and refugee flows, improve the global environment, and protect human health." [813] According to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, "Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other." In one view mentioned by the U.S. State Department, democracy is also good for business. Countries that embrace political reforms are also more likely to pursue economic reforms that improve the productivity of businesses. Accordingly, since the mid-1980s, under President Ronald Reagan, there has been an increase in levels of foreign direct investment going to emerging market democracies relative to countries that have not undertaken political reforms. [814]

The United States officially maintains that it supports democracy and human rights through several tools [815] Examples of these tools are as follows:
  • A published yearly report by the State Department entitled "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record" in compliance with a 2002 law (enacted and signed by President George W. Bush, which requires the Department to report on actions taken by the U.S. Government to encourage respect for human rights. [816]
  • A yearly published "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices." [817]
  • In 2006 (under President George W. Bush), the United States created a "Human Rights Defenders Fund" and "Freedom Awards." [818]
  • The "Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award" recognizes the exceptional achievement of officers of foreign affairs agencies posted abroad. [819]
  • The "Ambassadorial Roundtable Series", created in 2006, are informal discussions between newly-confirmed U.S. Ambassadors and human rights and democracy non-governmental organizations. [820]
  • The National Endowment for Democracy, a private non-profit created by Congress in 1983 (and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan which is mostly funded by the U.S. Government and gives cash grants to strengthen democratic institutions around the world

See also

Constitutional and International Law




Policy and Doctrine


External links

Further reading

History of exporting democracy

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  • Matthew J. Morgan A Democracy is Born: An Insider's Account of the Battle Against Terrorism in Afghanistan 2008
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  • Finds that democratization is unpredictable in the long-term.
  • Alternative link. International history of exporting democracy. In the United States after idealism fails, the goal becomes a realist focus on stability and the protection of American interests.
  • Uses Herbert K. Tillema, Foreign Overt Military Interventions, 1945-1991: OMILIST Codebook, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO; 1997.
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  • This study points to 19 cases of U.S. intervention "in the last century," including Afghanistan, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Grenada, Haiti, Japan, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, the Philippines, Somalia, South Korea, and South Vietnam. In half of these cases democratic institutions remained, in the other half they did not. To determine the success of Iraq becoming a democracy, this study uses data compiled by Freedom House measuring democracy in 186 countries, during four years, the years 1996 through 2000.
  • The study finds that democracies built by the U.S. begin to unravel in the decade after U.S. forces depart, because political elites begin to change the law to fit their own interests. This study points to 14 cases of U.S. intervention in the twentieth century.
  • This book finds that when the U.S. interventions later supported elections, the democracy was more likely to succeed. This study points to 25 cases of U.S. intervention between 1898 and 1992.
    • Review:
  • PDF file. This study points to 30 U.S. interventions between 1945 and 1991. Also uses Herbert K. Tillema, Foreign Overt Military Interventions, 1945-1991: OMILIST Codebook, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO; 1997.
  • Matthew J. Morgan "The American Military after 9/11: Society, State, and Empire" 2008

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