The Foreign Policy of the USA: Obama and Trump’s Administration

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Shaping the US Foreign Policy: The Historical Context

The development of the US foreign policy is based on American history. Thus, to understand the present, it is important to know the past, in which the USA had the characteristic features of an empire. That is why the US foreign policy is to be discussed based on the country’s history. Americans like to think of themselves as a powerful nation that has been built of completely different states, nations, or tribes. The history of the American nation changed from 1776 after Washington, Jefferson, and other founders created a new country. However, they already referred to it as a to new empire that no longer was a part of the British one. Such a historical development made Americans grew into a continental power, which led to the industrial and agricultural development as well as wars with other states.

Later, this imperial factor had an important impact on the development of the US foreign policy. Robert Kagan argues that Americans tend to be less patient with diplomacy in comparison to Europeans since they divide everything into good and evil (4). However, the founder’s main goal was to create a decent and democratic empire, unlike the British one. The growth of the USA into a continental power later led to the Civil War of 1861-65 that in some way had the impact on the industrial and agricultural development in the 1900s. The extensive production boosted the country’s economy. After WWII, the USA defeated the Soviet communism and won the Cold War. Moreover, Kagan concluded that the USA had managed to develop to the status of an empire due to expressing its power in regards to weaker states (5). However, the outcome of the US foreign policy based on the imperial aspect ended up with the terrorist attacks in 2001.

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The United States is not an ordinary country and it never has been such. It has an impact on every corner of the world, which can be noticed in the country’s historical development and its tremendous success. Thus, the US policy system was formed and developed, Cox and Stokes argue, on the “executive infrastructure of departments and agencies” (113). Moreover, the federal constitution of the country created the type of foreign policy based on strategic ambiguity. Consequently, all decisions, made in the country, are based on the thorough discussions of quite a number of different agents, including the President.

The series of success in wars, which led to the development of self-confident relation to enemies and competitors, resulted in President Bush’s declaration of the War on Terror, which meant a war against Osama bin Laden and radical Islamism as well as the war against Iraq in 2003. Cox and Stokes believe that the fact that Communism and Fascism have not touch America and the fact that the country has survived several wars, including the Cold Ones, has made the nation consider itself the strongest in the world (7). In 2011 killing of Osama ben Laden very clearly expressed that America will continue to be involved in the war with the aim to support some nations or, as M. Cox and D Stokes have stated, to increase interest in the international affairs. The terrorist attacks made America be involved in the global war on terrorism, while it was also heavily influenced by the distribution of power in the world. The domestic sources influencing the US foreign policy cannot be neglected as well. Many authors concluded that the strongest impact on the US foreign policy has “the international distribution of power”. (Cox, Stokes 8) So, the wish of the US leaders to have power over other states resulted in the troubles the country faces now.

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The current domestic situation of the USA, for example, the problems with natural resources and pollution of the environment, has an impact on its foreign policy. These problems may have an influence on the concerns about the Middle East since it is seen as a major part of the foreign policy of the USA. Thus, Friedman and Mandelbaum consider that the USA has great possibilities for the growth from different perspectives including the creation of similar companies such as Apple, and this can be achieved by changing the political approach, which is the weak side of the US policy (1). Further, they claim that Barack Obama has “showed the rhetorical willingness to embrace the budgetary changes we need” (Friedman and Mandelbaum 1). Thus, as it can be easily perceived, the roots of the foreign policy problems are also in the domestic problems that the country tries to solve.

Terrorism and the US Foreign Policy: Obama vs Trump Administration

It is important to note that the USA has a problem with terrorism because of American close ties with Israel. Specifically, when discussing the question of terrorism, the problem of Israel and Palestine should be considered. As for Israel, among many world countries, the United States is the country, appreciating such a state as Israel the most (Katel 549). Since Israel had become a nation in 1948 and many Jews left Europe and other countries to move to Israel, the Arabs could not consider Israel a legitimate nation because it occupied the territory of historic Palestine (Mearsheimer and Walt 29). Due to many conflicts, both countries agreed on a ‘two-state solution’ that demands from Israel to accept the independent state of Palestine on the territory of Israel (Katel 549). However, this solution has been the subject to discussions and disputes. Thus, the Obama Administration’s response to the problem has been as follows. President Obama has asked Israel for many years to stop building settlements on the Palestinian territories. As the result, the USA should deal with terrorism because it is punished by Islamic State for the support of Israel.

The Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu clearly expressed his unwillingness to live in peace with the neighboring states. Thus, he claimed that there would be no Palestine state while he was still in power. In this case, President Obama had no choice but to stop supporting Israel, even though the USA has been supporting it for many years. Even though Israel had been a long-time strategic partner for the USA, President Obama was the first to make a difference. Thus, for the first time in 36 years, Barak Obama decided to accept the fact that Israel illegally built settlements on the Palestinian territory (Lake). His decision was based on ethical and strategical aspects, and it should not be considered the weakening of support but rather a strategy to force Israel to change its policy. Thus, declining to veto the anti-Israeli resolution made a drastic change in the US foreign policy. Even though the relations between Obama and Netanyahu can be considered cold, the US foreign policy regarding Israel is still seen as a very friendly one. However, Obama’s decision was aimed at punishing Netanyahu in such a way (Lake). Thus, even though the USA has supported Israel for many years, stopping further assistance could solve the current problem with terrorism.

President Obama saw the solution of Israel’s problem mainly in supporting a two-state solution. At the same time, Israel claimed that they would seek for a more open support from the Trump Administration. President Trump argues that peace in the form of a two-state solution is not possible. What is more, Trump has mentioned that he will veto everything that is biased towards Israel. However, the international community will send Trump a warning concerning the response of Palestine, especially related to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. The European community tries to warn Trump about the problems with the Arab community. Therefore, if one compares the foreign policy of the Obama Administration with the Trump one, it is clear that Obama has used all means to stop Israel’s illegal actions and lost patience with the further open support of Israel. At the same time, he tried to keep a positive relationship with Israeli leaders, at least not openly (Ketel 548). However, President Trump’s decision to support Israel in all actions taken has depicted his self-confident manners in comparison to careful and well-thought decisions of the previous president. In such a way, President Trump probably tries to increase the value of the USA on the world arena. However, President Trump’s goal in the foreign policy is not limited to the friendship with Israel. He decided to control the finance leakage in terms of banning Mexicans as well as Muslims from certain countries from entering the USA. This is his way of trying to control the minor possibility of terrorism in the United States. Therefore, it is important to note that the two-state solution has lost its preliminary value and it may no longer be supported by the US leaders.

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Regarding the relation of the Trump Administration to the Islamic State, his main goal is to destroy this terrorist organization completely. It was the same goal for the Obama Administration. Donald Trump expressed his willingness to succeed in the following way: “defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups will be our highest priority” (Blanchard and Humud 5). Thus, Trump’s above-mentioned actions towards Muslims can be considered as the first steps to solving the problem to terrorism. Moreover, on January 27, 2017, President Trump issued a memorandum, developing a new plan “to defeat ISIS” (Blanchard and Humud 6). There have also been some reports, saying that Trump would reorganize the State Department elements to focus more on counterterrorism. However, other representatives, including the Secretary of State, consider that defeating the Islamic state will be very challenging since it has the tendency for morphing into the next version. If one compares Obama’s focus in terms of counterterrorism and Trump’s current focus, it is worth noting that President Obama has paid much attention to eliminating the Islamic State leaders, whereas Trump’s goal is to stop the development of the Islamic State troops by means of blocking their recruitment process.

Obama’s Doctrine in Relation to Terrorism

Barack Obama came to the Oval Office, promising that he would change the American history, and he tried to achieve that by avoiding the mistakes of his predecessors. President Obama promised end the global war on terrorism, but instead, he opened it. Thus, as Coffman Wittes observes, “Ironically, however, Obama’s fixation on closing one chapter led him to decisions that opened a new one that reads very similarly.” Based on what has been done by President Obama in terms of fighting terrorism, one could conclude that the efforts have been tremendous. Obama’s main target was weakening the Islamic State’s control in Iraq and Syria. The goal was to “degrade and ultimately destroy” (Blanchard and Humud 8) the Islamic State organization by means of reducing such resources as manpower, financial power, and geographical space by partnering with some Arab and European states, and eliminating terrorist leaders. Even though President Obama tried hard to stop the spread terrorism, his attempts only resulted in its further development.

Barack Obama used all means to fight terrorism. The actions of the Obama Administration were aimed at supporting inclusive security forces, strengthening the forces, affiliated with the Kurdistan Regional Government, and preserving Iraq’s political and territory unit as well as the political and territory integrity of Syria (Blanchard and Humud 8). However, some mistakes have also been made. Jeffrey Goldberg, the author of the article “Obama’s Doctrine” argues that Obama’s mistakes have happened due to his wish to keep promises to the American people (Coffman Wittes). Some authors argue that the first mistake made by Obama was the withdrawal of the US military forces from Iraq. His another mistake can be the fear to go against Bashar Assad. Thus, as noted by Coffman Wittes, “Obama feared a slippery slope going up against Assad – but the war against ISIS is the slipperiest slope of them all.” It is important to note that Barack Obama’s decisions regarding the US foreign policy can be the indication of his carefulness and circumspection.

The Trump Administration Regarding Combating Terrorism

The newly elected president must face serious challenges in the US foreign policy. Thus, Hoffman claims that the Trump Administration will have to solve the problem of counterterrorism and it should develop a completely new strategy to achieve the result (1). The new Administration should consider such aspects as the influence of Russia on terrorism in Syria as well as the impact of mass media on the development of terrorism. President Trump should deal with a new form of terrorism, not the one existing before 2015 in the form of the so-called lone wolves, but the one that has developed into serious attacks in some European cities such as the one happened in Paris on November 13, 2015.

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Another problem that the new Administration, as well as the world, will face is a need to understand the full capabilities of the Islamic State, to see this problem from its complexity to solve it. That is why the Trump Administration has started to pay close attention to the recruitment process in the Islamic State. The major problem is the fact that the Islamic State leader easily spreads the information among people to attract potential soldiers by means of media and social networks and makes the prospect soldiers believe in the necessity to obey the leaders in favor of Allah (Hoffman 2). Thus, Trump tries to find the way to control the IS with the help of technology. Therefore, it is important to note that Trump’s personal qualities such as confidence, strength in actions, and ambitiousness are required to be able to fight terrorism.

There is also another point of view in terms of Trump’s foreign policy as related to the restricting of visa holders and refugees to enter the United States. Moreover, nowadays, this policy is considered even un-American. Thus, as Byman claims, banning Syrian refugees from entering the USA is considered not logical since the terrorist attacks, conducted by Syrian refugees, are close to zero. One of Trump’s main goals is to “infiltrate terrorists among refugees seeking assistance” (Byman) in the US. Another mistake, as experts see, is sending an open message to all Muslims that the USA does not like them. However, during the presidency of Bush and Obama, it was clearly stated that the USA had problems with the Islamist terrorist organizations, not Islam as religion. However, Trump has made a decision to alienate the country from Islam as religion.

Therefore, Trump’s current foreign policy positions in regards to the national security, terrorism, and the Islamic State are as follows. The USA should support Israel and avoid supporting Palestine, while at the same time trying to convince Israel to stop the further settlements on the Palestinian territory. The USA must destroy the Islamic State completely from inside by numerous means, for example, information security, technology, etc. The USA should limit and control people entering and leaving the country, including banning Syrian refugees from entering it. Therefore, it is important to note that on the one hand, Trump’s decision to declare a war on the Islamic State directly without them invading the USA could put the country at risk. The same refers to his decision to continue supporting Israel, even though the country’s actions are illegal. On the other hand, the decisions of President Trump might only be aimed at stopping the war with the Islamic State that was already started by his predecessors and to boost the US economy. Thus, even though the approach of both leaders may be different, the goal they have is the same.

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Conclusion

The characteristic features of every nation form its domestic and foreign policy. It is important to state that the historical development of the USA has put the country into the position of a constant battle with other states. Some US leaders developed a self-confident manner in regards to the foreign policy as they were willing to have an impact on the international distribution of power. The terrorist attack in September 2001 can be regarded as the culminating fact of some foreign policy mistakes. It turned out that President Obama had a tremendously positive and, at the same time, negative impact on the US foreign policy. Thus he aimed to destroy the Islamic State as he promised his nation to do so, but instead, he only started the war with it.

The decisions made by Donald Trump indicate either the his fear of insecurity or the desire to prove that the Unites States is willing to have an impact on the power distribution in the world. On the other hand, the research has presented the way that the Unites States tries to assist other states that are in the state of war. It is possible to conclude that President Trump has started his presidency rather ambitiously, but, at the same time, he keeps the promises he gave to American people during his election campaign. On the one hand, Trumps’ foreign policy actions seem very risky in terms of national security. Moreover, his recent actions are aimed at strengthen the international perception of the USA. The outcome can only be seen with time.

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