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National Security and Foreign Policy

There are many factors that influence foreign policy. National security is generally one of the most important priorities when nations consider their foreign policy. Regional deterrence is a strategy that the United States uses in order to help prevent an outbreak of hostilities against itself or its allies. It consists of a threat by the U.S. to defend itself with conventional and nuclear weapons if it is ever attacked. In light of national security in foreign policy, regional deterrence has worked historically because the U.S. has ensured that its ability to respond with overwhelming force has remained a credible threat to any potential enemies. Even though limited conflicts have broken out in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, U.S. deterrence policy has been mostly successful in preventing the outbreak of large-scale global hostilities.

Foreign policy is known as all actions a state undergoes in relation to other states. These include but are not limited to the following:

National Security and Foreign PolicyHowever, the U.S. will need to reconsider its use of regional deterrence in the future. Regional deterrence was successful in convincing rational leaders to maintain peace with the U.S. out of fear that war could possibly lead to their nations’ destruction. Unfortunately, the threats facing the U.S. today are of a different kind than in the past. The U.S. now has a group of enemies that consist of small, radical Islamic nations that support terrorism as well as international terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. Many of these enemies do not fear U.S. conventional or nuclear retaliation because they believe they are righteous in their cause and that God would protect any loss of civilian life that might result from a U.S. nuclear retaliatory response. Given this, the U.S. has adopted a policy of preemption where possible to help decrease its reliance on regional deterrence.

In order to insure that new democratically elected governments are not toppled by insurgent forces that want to reinstitute the old system of rule, the US foreign policy includes an American military presence to insure national security. These forces are viewed as necessary in order to promote the development of democracy under the Bush Doctrine and some military presence may be required for an extended period. This component of the Bush doctrine is also controversial domestically and internationally. Some segments of the American public find that the casualty rate for American soldiers is not justified by the foreign policy objectives. Many other nations do not accept the fundamental American premise that democracy is beneficial and resent the American attempt to transform Afghanistan and Iraq according to the norms of Western culture. As a result, some nations perceive the United States as a threat to their traditional governmental forms and way of life. This perception is particularly strong in the Middle East due to the focus of American foreign policy on the threats to American security that are based in the region.

To reduce the perception of the Untied States as a threat to some of the nations in the Middle East, the American government is encouraging these nations to recognize the new government of Iraq. The recognition of the Iraqi government by other nations tends to legitimatize the emergence of democracy in the region. In addition, it creates some degree of retroactive sanctioning of the American invasion of Iraq by neighboring nations. For some nations such as Saudi Arabia, the totalitarian government quietly approved of the invasion of Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a direct threat to Saudi Arabia. The government, however, had to contend with domestic ideologies that support both terrorism and anti-Americanism and as a result could not be openly supportive of American foreign policy.

The component of foreign policy that involves the promotion of democracy and development to insure national security is complex. Under the Clinton administration it was known as nation building and involved the engagement of American resources to increase prosperity and democratic growth in developing nations. It is based on the assumption that democracy and prosperity tends to reduce conflict between nations. The degree of emphasis on this component of foreign policy has increased dramatically since 9/11, however, with the United States committing more financial and diplomatic resources to other nations that are perceived as potential long-term threats to American interests. It now promotes cooperation among the major powers to encourage development in the poorer nations. This component of foreign policy receives relatively little attention domestically and internationally.

An example of the focused engagement of American foreign policy comes from the involvement of the United States in Palestinian-Israeli relations and the reduced attention that the United States gives to nations not perceived as a threat. Secretary of State Rice has recently acted as an intermediary between the two groups to allow the Palestinians to control the border between the Gaza and Egypt. This not only provides the Palestinians with some of the elements associated with national independence, but also allows them access to commercial activity that is not under the direct control of the Israelis. The outcome is consistent with the long-term objective of American foreign policy of increasing prosperity. In addition, it tends to improve the image of the United States among the Palestinians. At the same time, American foreign policy has a lower level of engagement in Latin America than in the past, although it is still promoting economic interests such as the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.

The main area of change that occurred in American foreign policy following 9/11 was the development of the preemptive doctrine and the shift in focus of activities that promote democracy and prosperity to the Islamic nations. The foreign policy changes create a greater emphasis on the security interests of the United States abroad, although they contain components that indirectly support economic interests. An assessment of the effectiveness of the policy changes suggest that they have had mixed results. There have been no subsequent attacks by terrorists on American soil, which suggests that the policy is meeting the objective of enhancing security. At the same time, there are no clear indicators that the policy has been successful ideologically by convincing foreign interests that the United States does not have hostile intentions.

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