Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, April 20th, 2019

Three Visions on Future US Foreign Policy


Three Visions on Future US Foreign Policy

The term foreign policy is defined as a set of political goals that illustrates the interaction of a country with the rest of the world. Attaining and protecting national interest, national security, ideological goals and economics prosperity constitute the primary focus of foreign policy of a state at the international level. In particular, the goal of US foreign policy is to create a more secure, democratic and prosperous world for the benefit of American people . The three possible visions that I put forward on the future of US foreign policy includes the  denuclearization of nuclear states, who are potential threat to global security; sustaining  United States’ global hegemony and the growing tendency of US towards the political isolation from global politics coupled with  protectionism in trade.
Denuclearization of nuclear states and preventing nuclear proliferation have been and continue to be US foreign policy priorities. However, the denuclearization process has followed an uneven and sometimes paradoxical path in post-World War II. From one hand during the Cold War years, the world witnessed proliferation of nuclear weapon technology, mostly within countries with high technical capabilities. For instance, the United States until 2009 designed more than 31000 warheads. From another hand, the US pursued denuclearization of smaller powers as an integral part of its foreign policy. Historical and current denuclearization and disarmament have targeted vibrant measures for bilateral corporation in order to reduce nuclear weapons, their production materials and facilities and their delivery systems. The denuclearization and preventing nuclear proliferation efforts of US have shown two different paths. 
One, the two super powers in order to prevent further proliferations nuclear weapons and preserve the status quo reached several agreements between each other. It includes the formation of International Legal Framework for Denuclearization. In addition to their disarmament agreements, the efforts taken by the two nuclear states can be observed as additional confidence building measure between the two states. Likewise, a large number of denuclearization and nuclear disarmament treaties took place between the United States and Russia. These two states being the two super powers had always utilized their leverage in dealing with denuclearization process globally. Secondly, the denuclearization and preventing nuclear proliferation efforts also focused on preventing smaller states from achieving nuclear weapons. It includes the United States efforts to convince Pakistan and India not to develop nuclear weapons, though it failed to achieve its aims. Though, the US and other countries succeeded in convincing Ukraine to give up its nuclear program, however, the Crimean crises showed that it failed to secure its territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression. This trend of future US foreign policy is applicable to regimes such as Iran and North Korea who are potential threats to international order and the interest of United States. To that end, the US government has escalated economics and political sanctions on the Iranian government. It is highly likely that the Trump administration would go as far as for a preventive war to barricade Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.
The US foreign policy on denuclearization lacks consistency. The Obama administration signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) to stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear programs. However, Trump’s administration left the deal. Exiting from the JCPA left other countries including US allies in a state of ambivalence and uncertainties. It can hinder reaching a productive agreement with the North Korean leader about destruction of North Korean nuclear bases.  The United States is committed to pursue a strong and specific future policy with regards to denuclearization and preventing nuclear proliferations. Former nuclear disarmament and denuclearization agreements and treaties were exclusively decided between the United States and Russia primarily due to having the largest arsenals.  The future US foreign policy with regards to denuclearization probably involves additional parties when it comes to signing agreements.
Preserving the US hegemony is the second priority of the US foreign policy. Powerful countries have always had the capacity and the desire to influence the international system of which they are a part of (Watson 1992). The present era differs from the Cold War years. After the collapse of the USSR, the United States remained the sole superpower in a unipolar world, the unipolar world benefits it greatly.  The US has more stake than any other country in preserving the post-Soviet world order. Thus the US is keen to sustain its hegemonic power.  The hegemonic power of the United States is manifested in the areas which include economy, military, politics and culture. Nothing has happened in the interim to change this basic position, despite widespread concerns in the 1980s about the supposed decline in America’s hegemonic position (Keohane 1984; Kennedy 1989). Without doubt, the end of cold war in 1990s and the economic development of the United States during and after the 1990s settled its hegemonic position and locked in its dominance for the future as well. However, the rise of China would pose tension in the US hegemonic position. On the face of new threat to its position, the US would assert measures to make sure it has the final words in the International affairs. The recent US tariffs on the Chinese imports could be symptoms of hegemonic tensions. This leads us to my third vision which discusses the recent US disregard of the liberal order.  
Recent US foreign Policy behaviors can give us the glimpses of how future might evolve. The US had adopted isolationism in the international politics for most of its history. The visionary US president Woodrow Wilson came up with the idea of League of Nations in the aftermath of World War I. However, he failed to convince his own nation to join the league. The American public views and political elites favored to stay out of European and world politics. It was the World War II which dragged the United States out of its isolation and turned it to an active great power in the world affairs. In post-World War II, US helped creating the United Nations and other international organizations such as World Bank, International Monetary Funds (IMF) and World Trade Organizations (WTO). Since, then it has been the most vocal supporter of these institutions.
However, the US under Donald Trump signals the signs of retreating back to pre-world wars political isolationism and economic protectionism. He is also reversing all the outward looking policies adopted by previous US presidents. It’s manifested in his contempt towards international organizations such as UN, WTO and Trade Agreements like NAFTA which could undermine the liberal order constructed and upheld by the US in post-World War II. This retreat could be the symptom of US public opinions who have become tired of US interventionism and international adventurism.  However, temporary it maybe the absence of US from other parts of the world would create political vacuum which likely will experience political turbulences until the vacuum is filled by emerging regional powers like China and India in Asia.  
These three visions besides lacking consistency and coherence seem paradoxical in some aspects. For instance if the United State is keen to preserve its hegemony at the international level undermining liberal order would be a self-defeating endeavor, the United State as its primary beneficiary has benefited a lot due to its mere existence. When it comes to the third vision, engaging in wars with Iran or North Korea over nuclear issues would contradict United States’ isolationism and inward-looking tendencies. Such inconsistencies is typical of great power politics which contains contradictory elements of foreign policy behaviors in dealing with various challenges. However, there is also the possibility of these three visions would be combined together-adjusting contradictory elements- and establish the future course of US foreign policy.

Ahmad Zubair is holding a master’s degree in International Relations from South Asian University in New Delhi. He has worked with the government of Afghanistan and civil society organizations in various positions.

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