American Foreign Security Policies

American Foreign Security Policies

What are the key points -- the core interests and goals -- of U.S. foreign policy as regards security? The U.S. foreign policy has core interests in containing terrorism, limiting the production and threats associated with nuclear weapons, and promoting democracy and human rights. Meanwhile, according to Vice President Joe Biden -- speaking on behalf of the U.S. Executive Branch at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in 2009 -- there is no conflict "between [U.S.] security and its ideals" because "each reinforces the other." Biden said the United States believes that it is the "obligation of the international community to listen and learn from one another" and also to cooperate together "for a common prosperity and security of all" (Biden, 2009, p. 1).

Biden's generalized remarks were delivered at the very beginning of the Obama Administration, but an updated review of the goals and interests of U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis security reflects great concern about terrorism, arms control, and human rights.

Terrorism: The U.S. Department of State (August 5, 2010) reports that al Qaeda is pursuing a "global agenda" through use of the Internet and meantime the terrorist group is "actively engaged in operational plotting against the United States." Hence, one aspect of the U.S. security policy is to "address the state insufficiencies that allow terrorists to operate freely by promoting effective civilian law enforcement, good governance, and the rule of law" (www.state.gov). The U.S. engagement in hostilities in Afghanistan is purportedly designed to prevent the terrorist organization, Taliban, from controlling a sovereign nation and launching its aggression from that state.

Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Also, the U.S. foreign policy regarding security looks to the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC) to advance "…national and international security through the negotiation and implementation of effectively verifiable and diligently enforced arms control" along with disarmament agreements that relate to weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons as well (www.state.gov). That really means that one pivotal goal of U.S. foreign policymakers is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, if possible. Recently President Barack Obama negotiated an arms reduction treaty with Russia -- not yet approved by the U.S. Senate -- that would reduce the number of nuclear warheads each country has down from 2,200 to 1,550 (Butler, 2010). So the policy of diplomacy is at work in this regard; now it is up to the U.S. Senate (notwithstanding bitterly divided loyalties and polarized political position) to approve the plan.

Promoting Democracy & Human Rights: The U.S. supports the United Nation's "Universal Declaration on Human Rights" as a central component of foreign policy. The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor uses a "wide range of tools to advance a freedom agenda" including bilateral diplomacy, multilateral engagement, economic sanctions, and public outreach.

Through what means should the U.S. pursue these goals? Brookings Institution policy analyst Shadi Hamid (along with foreign policy researcher Steven Brooke) assert that the "most effective way to undermine terrorism and political violence in the Middle East" should be done through "promoting democratic reform" (Hamid, et al., 2010, p. 46). The George W. Bush policy should be replaced by "a more sober, targeted focus on providing technical assistance to legislative and judicial branches and strengthening civil society organizations" (Hamid, p. 46). Hamid quotes Washington Post columnist Thomas Carothers: "It's an appealing notion that democratization will undercut the roots of violent Islamic radicalism. Yet democracy is not an antiterrorist elixir" (Hamid, p. 48). Hamid uses a poll by the Pew organization (taken in 2006) to back his assertion that promoting democracy can indeed hamper the terrorists. Pew reports: "Pluralities or majorities in every Muslim country surveyed say that democracy is not just for the west, and can work in their countries" (Hamid, p. 53).

Shannon Lindsey Blanton explains that the promotion of human rights and democracy is certainly in America's security interest. Indeed, human rights and democracy as "principles of U.S. foreign policy" have been promoted / conducted through: a) sanctions (such as those against Iraq, North Korea, and other nations); b) foreign aid; and c) interventions (Blanton, 2005, p. 651). Blanton also mentions that the U.S. uses "arms exports to influence the behavior of the recipient" but it is "very difficult to get an arms recipient to be more democratic or to respect human rights" (p. 651). However, that having been mentioned, Blanton concludes on page 663 that the "evolving norms" of "linking arms transfers to human rights and democracy" as a basic premise for a "multilateral framework" for reining in the "proliferation of weapons."

The promotion of democracy and human rights is in the national security interest of the U.S. because, as President Obama writes, "…the expansion of democracy and human rights abroad" is necessary because "governments that respect these values are more just, peaceful, and legitimate" (Obama, 2010, p. 37). The success of democracies abroad "fosters an environment that supports America's national interests," Obama continued. America can do a better job taking on "shared challenges" (e.g., global security) when the U.S. works with governments that respect the "rights of their people…" (Obama, p 37).

Democracy and Human Rights in Asia and Latin America: In the Asia-Pacific region the United States must consider shift from a policy of "maintaining strategic primacy" to one that is more pointed towards "engaged partnership" (Tow, et al., 2009, p. 444). Yes, Tow agrees, the U.S. bilateral security arrangements (the "hub and spokes" of democracy promotion) must remain in place, but the U.S. relationships in Asia must respond to "widespread changes in the region's increasing fluid balance of power" (Tow, p. 444). Tow is speaking about the need for the U.S. To "accommodate a rising China" along with defusing "persistent security dilemmas between regional states" in Asia. The Obama approach should be "order-centric" rather than "threat-centric" Tow writes; that means, while the U.S. is still seen as a "key security guarantor in an evolving Asia-Pacific strategic environment" the U.S. should "engineer" a more "sophisticated" policy in that region that eschews threats, either veiled or blunt (Tow, p. 445). By involving the U.S. In regional multilateral institutions (like the East Asia Summit [EAS] and the Asia-Pacific Community [APC]) America will pull back from the "element of containment" and instead engage Asia with diplomacy (Tow, p. 449).

U.S. Senator John McCain writes that human rights are "not just American values; they are universal values…the core of our national creed" (McCain, 2010, p. 11). When Americans observe governments abusing the basic human rights of their citizens we are offended, he explains. And meantime "there is nothing wrong with engaging oppressive regimes" in order to further the security interests of the U.S.; however we need to go beyond thinking of security interests and press abusive governments because of "our interest in human rights" (McCain, p. 13). McCain realizes that the U.S. will "…only get so far by urging abusive regimes…to treat their people better" but in the meantime the U.S. can help empower oppressed people to "prepare for the day when they will govern themselves" (p. 13). McCain doesn't specifically mention China, but it is certainly implied through his narrative that China's human rights should be of importance to the U.S.

In fact China's terrible record on human rights is the reason the U.S. was one of only 4 nations in the UN to vote against the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) because the U.S. objected to "states that have reputations for abuses" -- including China, Cuba, and Pakistan -- as members on the council (Rivlin, 2008, p. 361). The other three countries that voted against the UNHRC: Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau.

Meanwhile in Latin America the U.S. is not doing as much as it could in the way of promoting human rights. The agencies that are pushing democratic reforms and human rights are NGOs like the Human Rights Watch (HRW) (Cardenas, 2009, p. 107). The HRW has published reports on terrible prison conditions, women's rights violations, and the growth of "paramilitary groups," Cardenas explains. The author praises the work of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a group that "has played a historically significant role" in promoting "human rights, democracy, and socioeconomic justice" in Latin America (p. 107).

WOLA Executive Director Joy Olsen testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on December 1, urging Congress to change its approach to Latin America, "even if it means spending some money, using up some political capital…" (Mucino, 2010, p. 1). Olsen said the U.S. "hasn't figured out how to play by the new rules in the hemisphere… and many policymakers haven't learned that the United States Doesn't write those rules anymore" (Mucino, p. 1). Olsen cited human rights abuses related to and caused by violence, poverty, drugs, and immigration.

Conclusion

The United States must reach out to regions where human rights are being violated, and where democracy movements are being smothered, because in the long run it is in the security interests of the U.S. As mentioned in…