Discuss the impact of the end of the Cold War on US foreign policy Introduction: When the world famous liberal thinker Francis Fukuyama in his masterpiece declared that we were witnessing the end of the history, he was greeting the new political structure and also the new international environment, which is peaceful. However, developments that occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union showed us that the dissolution of the Soviets was unexpected. The international society was not ready for peace and Fukuyama’s optimistic assumptions were far from becoming real.
Moreover, the international society currently started to realise that the tension and the potential of mass destructive war during the Cold War era had provided a much more stable and securitize world order for any other periods of the history. Recent developments that occurred after 9/11 attacks showed us that the world is not much securer due to the characteristics of this new type of threat which is commonly known and referred as terrorism. As being the flagship of the Western powers during the Cold War, the US is facing with much more pressure than before.
Post- Cold war developments proved that although the US has the leadership features and military superiority against conventional threats or in other words ‘known’ enemies, it is still lacking of showing the same attributes in the Post-cold War era. This paper is going to analyse the impact of the end of the Cold War on US foreign policy. In order to do it so, it will provide historic background information on Cold War era and also the developments occurred after.
Later on this paper will focus on the shifts that occurred in the American foreign policy after the Cold War. Basics of the Cold War Policies: For almost five decades the Cold War was the main stage for the evolution of international relations. Many institutions, political or military organisations and even international norms and regulations of the Cold War are setting the base even for the modern day politics. Hence the legacy of the Cold War era is still shaping the political, economic and social relationships within, and also in between the states.
Although there is no specific agreement between the historians on when it began, the Cold War is the name given to approximately 50 years long conflict between the Communist block led by Soviet Union and the Western nations led by United States of America. Cold War was a conflict, which did not include any direct military engagements between these two parties. On the other hand, it was fought by various types of means including diplomatic, economic and mostly by propaganda. In general basics of the Cold War era can be grouped under 4 categories.
These are: 1) Bipolar System: The primary outcome of the Second World War probably was the emergence of two superpowers which created a new and never been before experienced system anytime in the history of international relations called bipolar system. A bipolar system includes two evenly matched powers in this case The US and the Soviet Union. Once allies during and opponents after the Second World War, these two victorious states have became the main actors of the world politics for over 50 years. 2) The US Foreign Policy of Containment:
The Soviet Union and its supporters were declared as the enemy of the free world by the Western states mostly by the US during the Cold War. Although it has been argued that the first indications of hostility between these two states have emerged during The Yalta and Potsdam conferences, the first arguments on the soviet threat have taken place between the American decision makers in late 1940s. The main idea during these arguments was focusing on the essential importance of containing the Soviets, both politically and geographically in order to save and protect the US interests in overseas.
In his reply to the US Treasury Department, George Kennan a former American diplomat, mentioned the expansionist policies of the Soviets and suggested that the US should follow an active foreign policy approach in order to ‘contain’ the Soviets in its current (by late 40s) geographic borders. In following years, when the Truman Doctrine came into action the idea of containment has also become one of the main strategies of the US against its opponent, the Soviets. 3) Crisis without Major Conflicts:
Dissimilarity between the two blocs have produced a series of international crises during the Cold War such as the Soviets intervention in Germany/Berlin (1948), Korean War (1950-1953), Cuban Crisis (1962), Although both parties did not fight or exchange fire against each other. However, they did support the fighting groups and pick sides during these crises according to their national interests. 4) Second Strike Capability & Mutual Assured Destruction: Both superpowers of the Cold War era were also nuclear powers. They had highly effective and destructive nuclear weapons in their arsenal.
Their nuclear capabilities were the main reason for the tension in the international society, during the Cold War. On the other hand, however this capability of theirs was also the reason why they were no major conflicts or military clashes between these super powers. Each party had the ability to respond to a nuclear attack with powerful nuclear retaliation against the attacking party. This ability is called second-strike capability. Obviously as a result of this nuclear capacity both parties could have completely created a nuclear destruction not only for each other but also for the rest of the world as well.
That is why non- of the superpowers dared to attack the other one with its nuclear powers in order to eliminate the opposition, hostility, competition etc. The competition and increasing awareness on democratic rights did force the Soviets to stand back and make some major policy changes in 1980s. The Soviet Premier of the time Gorbachev tried to set some political and social reforms in the soviet society in order to ease the pressure and help Soviets to continue to survive in the international arena. Moreover, the Soviets did not only make shifts in their internal policies but also in their foreign policy understanding as well.
For instance withdrawal from Afghanistan, signing of various nuclear deterrence agreements with multi parties including the US are some of the key changes that occurred in the 1980s. However, the reforms of Gorbachev did not prevent the Soviets to stop its collapse and eventually after a series of events in 1991 the Soviet Union formally announced its dissolution. The First Ten Years: Although the indications were present well before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world was not completely ready for the end of the Cold War.
The US was left alone without any major balancing opponents. Furthermore, after the dissolution of the Soviets the numbers of newly established independent states have increased significantly. All these new states were lacking of self-governing capabilities and also the Western vision, which was the victorious ideology of the Cold war. Moreover, some researchers courageously support the idea that international environment during the Cold War was much more safer and less hazardous system for the global security issues.
Historian Paul Dukes criticizes the former American decision makers of the Cold War for only “trying to save the day” but not working for the future. He suggests that due to the lack of long-term policies of the US administrators, the world had to face with too many new issues and problems at the same time with of the Cold War. If we generalize the facts before we start analysing the American foreign policy approach to the end of the Cold War, we can see that there are now much more various types of threats then it used to be. The lack of long-term policies has got the world into an uncertainty.
Not only the US but also most of the states got caught out without any preparation to the circumstances of the end of the Cold War. That is way the first decade after the Cold War had a crucial importance for the US to establish, promote and also to maintain its supremacy and leadership around the world. We have seen the effects of the reforms occurred during the 1980s in the Soviet Union on the previous chapters. When these reforms combined with the ne Soviet policy of compromising have eased the tension and created a new dialogue between two superpowers.
The first real challenge of the post-Cold War era was the Gulf War. Despite its historic connections in the UN Security Council meeting the Soviets (later Russian Federation) agreed to take economic sanctions against Iraq. Although it seemed like the first positive international attitude towards a multi polar political system, the US policy makers misinterpreted the facts and started to crate a hegemonic power. The first real post-Cold War indication for America’s attempts to build a hegemonic power is the so-called New World Order (NWO) doctrine of the Senior Bush’s administration.
The NOW came as a response from the US after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi military forces. On September 11, 1990 former US president G. H. Bush addressed the nation prior to a joint session of Congress and underlined the ideals that the US is willing to fight for. Some of the points that Bush underlined are: ? A new structure of international system based on international law and norms under the leadership of the West (particularly the US) ? International cooperation on the issues of nuclear disarmament and the promotion of collective peace ? An integrated international financial structure International cooperation on regional issues. In other words lesser sovereignty and much more international/humanitarian interventions. Bush’s NWO have been criticised by various social scientists. In his 1992 article Joseph Nye categorises the NWO as a traditionally realist documentation, due to key points that was emphasised in it such as the leadership of the US . However, another political scientist Freedman argues that the NWO gives special importance to the UN and other multinational institutions and that is why it should be seen as a statement of liberalism and also the promotion of liberal values and norms.
No matter whose opinion is correct, Bush’s NWO is a fine statement of the US foreign policy makers on the Western leadership in the world politics. There is a significant increase on the numbers of US supported ‘humanitarian interventions’ since the end of the Cold War. One of the main reasons for this suitable environment for humanitarian intervention is the emergence of the newly established former communist states. Since the declaration of the NWO the US got more involved in world politics not only under the Bush administration but also under Bush’s successors.
Many of these humanitarian interventions, took place under the president Clinton’s administration especially in the Balkans. In order to understand the logic of these interventions it is essential to point out the main focuses of the Clinton administration. A few weeks after he took the office President Clinton mentioned the new challenges of the post-Cold War world on a speech at the American University. These challenges and goals are: ? “To restore the American economy to good health; ? to increase the importance attached to trade and open markets for American business; to help the developing countries grow faster; ? to promote democracy in Russia and elsewhere; ? to demonstrate US leadership in the global economy” The former communist states experienced series of problems during their transition periods. They not only suffered from disintegration but also they were also “forced to redefine their national interest and roles in the light of the radical change in the international balance of power”. As a consequence of establishing a sovereign nation state, especially in the Balkans, nationalistic movements grew and tuned into violent acts.
The lack of an opposing superpower helped the US to carry out the flag and start creating its global leadership. The US and its Northern Atlantic allies lunched series of military and civilian actions in order to ease the violence especially in the Balkans. During the Clinton administration US led coalition forces carried out more than 20 military missions in Yugoslavia to put an end to the ongoing violence. Main critics for the US supported missions came from a very familiar place. Although NATO eased the tension in the Balkans with its operations, the Russia was critical of the NATO operations in the Balkans.
Russia prepared a resolution proposal to the UN Security Council to condemn NATO actions in Yugoslavia, though, the proposal was defeated 12-3 during the Security Council meeting, with only Russia, Namibia and China voting in favor of the resolution while NATO member countries along with the temporary members of the Security Council voted against it. Hence, in general due to the sudden changes in the world politics it can be assumed that the uncertain environment and the need of a leading power led the international society to show full support on the US policies and foreign actions.
Post-post Cold War? : The tragic events of the September 11, 2001did not create a new era such as post-post Cold War. However, they did assist to end a decade of positivity. The attacks have generated a new era and a dimension not only for the US policies but also for the rest of the world as well specifically on the issues of global security. Although the G. W. Bush administration got the full support of international society after the attacks and even during the Afghanistan intervention, with the start of the campaign against Iraq and Saddam Hussein regime the US started to lose its supporters.
The US lost its soft power over the other states and even after President Obama took the office in 2008 elections it looks like the decline will continue. Conclusion: Since the declaration of the Truman Doctrine until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the tension between two major blocks led to many crucial events, which have changed the context of the international relations and also re-framed the understanding of the world politics. The effects of these major events, which occurred during the Cold War, are traceable in contemporary world politics and also in the working structure of today’s international society.
On the other hand, it should be noted that no matter how important are these Cold War based policies, the collapse of the Soviet Union has brought up a new dimension to the international relations. In general the international society faced with new radical changes with the end of the Cold War. The World has seen the implementation of various types of new policy changes in both Western and Eastern blocks. For example instead of fighting with communism the US changed its role as the promoter and the fighter of the democracy and also the global security.
Furthermore, the former communist states focused and forced to rethink on issues of transition and liberalisation as well. The US leadership started to lose its connective power within the first decade of the post 9/11 era. Unfortunately the Bush administration misread the consequences of both post-Cold War and also September 11 attacks. The administration acted much more unilaterally then its predecessor and also its successor. The support on the US supremacy/ leadership will continue to decline unless the US foreign policy makers start to interpreting correctly the current world system.
The World is no longer a secure place. International cooperation and partnership is an essential element in order to fill in the vacuum that created after the Cold War. Reference List Cameron, F US Foreign Policy after the Cold War, Routledge, Second Edition, 2006 Crockatt, R ‘The end of the cold war’, in J Baylis & S Smith (eds), The Globalization of World Politics, Oxford Press, Second Edition, 2001 Dukes, P ‘A long view of the cold war’, History Today, vol. 51, issue. 1, 2006, retrieved on 20 September 2011, Evans, G & Newnham, J The Penguin Dictionary of International Relations, Penguin, 1998
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