The Importance of External Factors In Influencing The Conducting Of US Foreign Policy To answer the essay question, external factors are indeed important in influencing the conducting of American foreign policy, as they are for all countries. They are important because they determine the direction American foreign policy takes, and with it, can drastically alter the futures of entire countries (Iraq & Afghanistan post 9/11).
This essay will devote itself to exploring and explaining how each external factor is important and influential, and proceed to back it up by providing historic and modern examples detailing its effect on US foreign policy, and the end results. These external factors that will be explored are (sequentially) strategic interests of other nations, geographically-based vulnerabilities of the USA in relation to economic and military interests and finally the successes of grass roots revolution in the Arab Spring in upending both long-standing allies and enemies, and its effect on traditional US foreign policy stances.
The first external factor is the strategic interests of both allies and enemies across the world. Due to the USA’s current position as a hyper-power with a global presence, its influence and interests often collide with those interests or spheres of influence of other nations, ranging from allies such as the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland, to long-time rivals such as the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China or find itself involved in a conflict between two different nations (such as the Falklands issue or the current Israel-Iran crisis).
In such situations where the USA must interact with other involved nation-states, the USA has either attempted to compromise with the other parties involved in an attempt to reach an amicable solution or fully backed a local ally/pursued its own objectives to the detriment of local nation-states.
One of the more notable examples of the first is in the long-running negotiations with North Korea, where six-country negotiations (featuring Russia, America, China, Japan and both Koreas) have been ongoing since 2003, primarily concerning North Korea’s nuclear program but also the normalization of trade, demilitarization and normalization of diplomatic relations.
In no less than six different rounds of negotiations (with a seventh one starting in 2012), the United States has sat down for talks with the isolationist North Koreans, attempting to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all the regional powers involved, an agreement that would see international concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program addressed, as well as pave a way towards future reunification.
While talks have continually broken down or bore little fruit, this is more so due to unrealistic North Korean demands and various violations than the USA negotiating under false pretenses or seeking personal advancement. The North Korean talks in particular stand as a specific case where the USA has and continues to work alongside regional powers for the benefit of all involved. The second approach taken by the USA is that of fully favoring one side or party in a conflict or situation (usually a long-term ally or one of more relevance) over the other side, sometimes to its own eventual detriment.
A prime example of this would be the Israel-Palestine situation in the Middle East today. While the United States has several allies among the Arab nations (Jordan, the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, formerly Egypt…), it has always prioritized Israel as its main ally in the region, providing it with billions of dollars yearly in grants, equipping it with some of the most advanced military technology in the world and sharing intelligence since the 1950s.
As a result of these incredibly close ties to the Jewish state, the United States is often viewed as responsible or linked to Israel’s actions, while at the same benefiting from its use as a local proxy. So mutually linked however are the two nation-states, that it has directly anchored the USA into the morass of the Israeli-Palestine situation, an action that has often invited Arab rage against the Americans, most infamously concerning Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attack.
While pure political/strategic matters are a critical and pervasive external factor in US foreign policy, there is also a backdrop of geography-based concerns that are particularly dangerous to the US’s foreign policy aims. The first element of geographic factor is an economic concern relating the international shipping lanes such as those of the Persian Gulf, while the second element is a military one, involving the supplying of NATO military forces in the land-locked status of Afghanistan.
The first element is the more globally threatening one, as shipping lanes such as those of the Panama Canal (Central America), the Horn of Africa (East Africa) and the Hormuz Straits (Persian Gulf) are economic chokepoints, important to not only a hyper-power as the USA but the entire world economy. They are important because they are integral waterways in the world economy, shipping massive amounts of Persian Gulf oil daily across the world to countries such as India, China and the USA (nearly 46% of the world’s seaborne petroleum is shipped through both areas together).
For the US specifically however, the Persian Gulf is a life-line that cannot be severed, even for a brief period. In 2006 for example, U. S. gross oil imports from the Persian Gulf were 2. 2 million barrels per day, accounting for 17 percent of the US total net oil imports. As such, oil-client states such as India, China, America, and Britain among others have warships detailed to the regions to protect and ensure safe shipping, as well as dealing with piracy.
The USA specifically maintains its 5th Fleet in the area, being responsible for the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Gulfs of Aden & Oman. The second element, the military one is far more US-centric, however. Ever since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, NATO forces in the country have been reliant on supply routes going through Pakistan in order to continue operating. As reported by CJ Radin, the supply route starts at the Pakistani port of Karachi, where ships dock and offload their supplies onto trucks.
The trucks then drive through Pakistan and enter Afghanistan through either the Khyber Pass near Peshawar or through the Chaman crossing near Quetta. However, due to multiple incidents (the OBL Abbottabad raid, drone airstrikes killing Pakistani citizens, various cross-border raids, Pakistani covert support to Taliban cells, Taliban ambushes of supply convoys from the Pakistani border, etc…), the relationship between Pakistan and the USA has grown strained, first limiting and then stopping the supplies landing from Karachi.
As a whole, the Pakistani route was quite crucial to the NATO military effort, being the closest and most developed friendly port/road network into Afghanistan. Without supplies, NAO faced a struggle to continue their operations against resilient Taliban cells, a struggle that was slowly relieved by the slow build up of a northern network over the course of the last four years through Russia, Turkey and various Baltic, Caucasian & Central Asian states.
This network has two different routes, one starting at a Baltic port, then by rail through Russia, Kazakhstan, and then to Uzbekistan before reaching NATO, while the other brings supplies by ship or rail to a Georgian port on the Black Sea, then by rail through Georgia and Azerbaijan, by ferry across the Caspian Sea, and by rail again through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, though it is reportedly by far the most limited.
Overall, nearly 35% of US supplies in April 2010, 50% in April 2011, and 55%-65% in July-Sept 2011 came from the new northern network, while other NATO forces received roughly 40% the northern network. These instances both indicate the striking lengths that the USA is affected by such vulnerabilities, as well as how strongly they are tied to American economic and military instances. In discussing American interests in regions such as Central Asia and the Middle East, one cannot ignore the effects of the Arab Spring.
While much ink has devoted to this subject since 2011, here in this essay I will only focus on its affect on traditional US foreign policy stances. To put it simply, since the Cold War, the United States has gained a habit of often backing authoritarian or despotic regimes, monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Iran (prior to the Islamic Revolution) or strongman republics such as Yemen and Pakistan.
These countries repressed their citizenry, yet as long as they were American allies, they were celebrated, or even praised as loyal and as champions of stability and good, while other authoritarian regimes received lambasting and sanctions and other punishments. While Iraq received democracy and liberation from Saddam, while Condoleezza Rice spoke of the violence wrecked upon Hamas-ruled Gaza and Hezballoh-influenced Lebanon as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East”, it was the Arab Spring that brought forth a new Middle East.
Over a dozen homegrown instances of civil resistance, of rebellion, of revolution, successful or otherwise, all attempted and/or achieved without US prompting. In Libya, in Egypt, in Tunisia, Yemen, long-standing regimes have fallen. Authentic democracies are starting to develop, democracies with no inherent ties or links to the United States, with no reason to reach out to them directly. If I can quote Noam Chomsky on one thing, it’s that the USA cannot count on these new governments to be as friendly or welcoming as their predecessors.
It can’t treat these new governments as their predecessors, it can’t control their opinions on Israel or Iran, it can’t easily buy their loyalties, not as things are still unfolding. In effect, the United States now has to come up with new policies, new strategies to deal with these countries, to decide on continuing pre-existing deals or renegotiate new ones. In conclusion, there are several very important external factors that influence how American foreign policy is conducted, and they are truly important.
Learning to how to recognize and compromise in order to accept the strategic interests of other nations, how to handle the geographic limitations and vulnerabilities that often define or control the options available in a situation, and how to adapt to dealing with lesser, developing nations that while democratic are not favorable to you or your interests. Bibliography CJ Radin, 2011, Focus ‘Analysis: The US-Pakistan relationship and the critical factor of supply’ [online] 4 December. Available: <http://www. longwarjournal. org/archives/2011/12/us_pakistani_relatio. hp> Daily Mail Reporter, 2011, Focus: ‘Pakistan gives US two week ultimatum’ [online] 8 November. Available: http://www. dailymail. co. uk/news/article-2066488/Pakistan-gives-US-2-week-ultimatum-abandon-secret-airbase-closes-border. html Cox, M. and Stoke, D. , 2008, US Foreign Policy, Oxford: Oxford University Press Lansford, T. , 2003, A Bitter Harvest: US Foreign Policy & Afghanistan, Ashgate Holsti, O. , 2006, Making American Foreign Policy, Routledge DeAlkatine, N. , 2012, American Diplomacy: Interpreting the Arab Spring, Journal, Range 1996, Available from UWE Library