With a new Presidential Administration, many are wondering what kind of changes we should see in regards to US foreign policy and international relations. President Biden halted the troop withdraws from several countries such as Germany and Syria. He stated in a press conference that “America is back” referring to US involvement in international affairs. You can read the full Biden speech on America’s place in the world here.
Under the Obama Administration, the Department of State issued a statement on the four goals of American foreign policy. You can read the full document here. These goals were adopted by the two following administrations. The issue is that despite the goals remaining the same, the different administrations have had vastly different foreign policies. This leads to the first issue with these goals and that is their interpretability.
List of Goals
- Protect the United States and Americans;
- Advance democracy, human rights, and other global interests;
- Promote international understanding of American values and policies; and
- Support U.S. diplomats, government officials, and all other personnel at home and abroad who make these goals a reality.
Foreign Policy Issues
Americans think of just the states when considering US protection but this policy includes military bases. In the past two decades, the only targets against the US have been the bases we hold in other countries especially in the Middle East. These bases, ironically, are the reason why we are being attacked in the first place. The governments in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan along with many others have voted to remove US troops and bases. The US has ignored these calls of demilitarization which shows that we do not respect the democratic process of the very nations we demand to be more democratic. This leads to the second issue of advancing democracy and human rights.
The US holds a high standard against China, Russia, Syria, and Iran when it comes to democracy and human rights but the US falls behind when it comes to holding our allies to those same standards. Most US allies consist of monarchs, theocratic states, some dictatorships, and many flawed democracies. Most notable is Saudi Arabia who has a monarch, is a theocratic state, and violates human rights within their own country and abroad such as in Yemen where they are backing a civil war. Although the US doesn’t have a military alliance with Saudi Arabia, the US does send millions in aid and military equipment to them. Because of this and the US’ other close relations with similar nations the rest of the world, especially the parts we are criticizing, view the US as being a hypocrite.
This negative view hinders the progress of spreading American values abroad since no country favors the US form of democracy. Not only are we listed as a flawed democracy by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2020, you can read the full report here, but democracies around the world do not share the same trilateral structure that the US has and instead have a unitary parliamentary system akin to the English.
In short, US policies are not achieving their intended goals and the flip-flopping of those policies between administrations makes the US an unreliable ally and a poor example of stability and consistency which further hinders our progress to spread democracy and human rights.
Fixing Foreign Policy
There are several steps the US needs to accomplish in order to fix these issues and they are:
- Establish detailed and codified foreign policy principles.
- Establish detailed goals based on those principles.
- Pass policy that furthers the US to achieve those goals.
- Amend any policy or change any goal that turns out to be detrimental to those principles.
I will go into further details about these steps in my next post.