U.S. foreign policy

From Citizendium
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is developed but not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
Timelines [?]
This editable, developed Main Article is subject to a disclaimer.
See also: History of U.S. foreign policy

Ultimate responsibility for United States foreign policy rests with the President of the United States of America. For the ratification of formal treaties, he or she must obtain the advice and consent of the Senate.

In the modern practice of foreign policy, formally, the senior foreign policy official below the President is the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. In practice, the critical decisionmakers are the members of the National Security Council, which includes the Secretary of State. Other major influencers are in the National Security Council staff, headed by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, James Jones. The U.S. Department of Defense, under Secretary Robert Gates, obviously has a major effect, as does the United States intelligence community, coordinated by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair.

Foreign policy formulation and execution is structured on regional and functional areas. Over recent years, there has been an attempt to reconcile the regional definitions of the various departments and agencies, so a country is not under one bureau of the State Department but under a different Unified Combatant Command in the military. This is not completely successful; the countries of the Mediterranean littoral as well as the Levant are under one Assistant Secretary of State, but the United States European Command is responsible for the former but the United States Central Command for the latter.

Foreign policy also needs to be considered in relation to the U.S. and world situation of the time.



U.S African policy is principally focused on the Subsaharan part of the continent. For reasons of colonial sensitivity, the United States Africa Command is considered a unified subcommand of United States European Command.

Europe and Eurasia

East Asia and Pacific

North Korea is the hot spot, and the U.S. regional priority is to insist on the Six-Party Talks, which also recognize China as a key broker.

Near East

For more information, see: U.S. policy towards the Middle East.

More than in most areas in the world, policies twist and turn and involve multiple countries. Nevertheless, there are some basic principles both for the region and for countries.


While the U.S. continues to provide major economic support to Egypt, there is increasing concern about succession, with President Hosni Mubarrak reported to be in poor health.


For more information, see: U.S. policy towards Iran.

The Obama administration avoids the military threats implied by the previous administration, by the U.S. or others. While it is giving moral encouragement to the domestic protesters following the 2009 election, it is taking time, establishing a moral position, and waiting on events. It does appear to be holding back on direct engagement at any high level.

It is quite serious about pressuring Iran to stop what is seen as a nuclear weapons program, b as the best means to accomplish this goal. Instead, a consensus is growing, with allies, to use economic warfare, targeted at Iran's lack of internal petroleum refining capacity, and thus, while ironically an oil producer, a gasoline importer. [1]


For more information, see: U.S. policy towards Iraq.
See also: Iraq War




South and Central Asia

Afghanistan and Pakistan

For more information, see: U.S. policy towards Afghanistan.
For more information, see: U.S. policy towards Pakistan.

In many respects, it sees this as one problem; the political geography of the area also supports the argument that the Durand Line border between the two may have been convenient for the British, but does not reflect the boundaries of the Pashtun people.

Western Hemisphere Affairs


A number of these areas will definitely involve more agencies than the Department of State.

  • International Organization Affairs (IO)



Democracy promotion and information


  • Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)

Law enforcement, including drug trade

Human Rights

  • Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)
  • Global Women's Issues (S/GWI)



Nuclear deterrence


See also: Vietnam, war, and the United States of America

While the U.S. had dealt with insurgencies well before World War II, the situation increased significantly in the Cold War. The 1940 U.S. Marine Corps Manual for Small Wars remains a reference based on experience in Latin America and elsewhere.

In Vietnam, which combined both insurgency and proxy war, the U.S. struggled to find an effective counterinsurgency strategy, eventually refocused on conventional military action, and left the country, which was overthrown by a conventional invasion.

Counterinsurgency (COIN) is alive and well in Afghanistan and Iraq, and there is a distinct split among soldier-statesmen as to the correct balance among counterterrorism, "conventional" military forces, and counterinsurgency to include nation-building. Among the best-known counterinsurgents are General David Petraeus. Petraeus' doctoral dissertation dealt with U.S. policy toward Vietnam, [2] a far more active role, than traditional for generals, in developing the Army doctrinal manual on counterinsurgency. [3]

Sometimes informally called the "COINdanistas", this is an influential school of thought that blends political, social and military strategies. The Center for a New American Security, a strategic think tank, has many of its principals in the Obama Administration. Petraeus, now the U.S. commander for the Middle East, has used advisers including David Kilcullen and H.R. McMaster, known for open criticism of policies, even while advising. [4]

Andrew Bacevich is a critic of what he regards as an overemphasis on counterinsurgency in the U.S. military, which he sees as a revisionist belief that the Vietnam War could have been won with the right long-term approach, which he terms that of the "Crusaders" for the new view. He sees a more appropriate lesson as the "Conservative" one from the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine. [5] He favors a "defensive strategy" of "containment." [6] Colonel Gian Gentile is concerned with a decline in conventional military forces, although Gentile recognizes the conventional enemy is not the mass of the Soviet Union.