An Analysis of Post-Cold War Concepts in American Foreign Policy: Continuity or Change?
Venegas, Ana Maria
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This thesis investigates post-Cold War concepts in US foreign policy. At the end of the Cold War, prominent political scientists and commentators argued, for various reasons, that the strategic environment was so dramatically different that the United States would no longer be able to engage the world as it had in the past. In an attempt to understand the ramifications of the evolution of the strategic environment, this thesis asked the question: Have the three post-Cold War presidents, William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack H. Obama, continued to engage the world in ways consistent with previous administrations or have the broken from traditional concepts in American foreign policy? To answer this question, declaratory foreign policy as articulated in national security strategy documents and key foreign policy engagements were analyzed and compared to nine traditional concepts in American foreign policy identified by prominent historians and political scientists. The post-Cold War administrations continued to develop foreign policy consistent with the concepts identified by historians and political scientists suggesting a measure of consistency in the way the United States engages the world. Additionally, each president developed foreign policy that exhibited unique characteristics inconsistent with the traditional concepts. These policies were characterized by the importance placed on multilateral consensus; an emphasis on multilateral agreements and alliances to foster a stable international order; and the reliance on international organizations to address regional and global issues. This emerging concept in US foreign policy, termed multilateralism, supports both Kenneth Waltz’s argument that a unipolar environment incentivizes other states to attempt to challenge a polar state and Robert Pape’s assertion that soft balancing against the United States has begun to emerge. The emergence of multilateralism in all three post-Cold War administrations examined also supports the argument that despite ideological polarization in the American political system, administrations draw upon similar means of engagement to address similar situations or crises suggesting a measure of consistency across administrations.