One of my very favorite topics among the variety that history and politics provide, is foreign policy. The issues in foreign policy have long puzzled observers and political scientists alike. I will try to explain briefly the concepts by which foreign policy is conducted. I may also dive into the rich history of foreign policy. Sometimes, the best way to explain it is through situations that have occurred in the past. In this post, as promised, I will preview what Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will face in foreign policy affairs. The world has changed dramatically since early days after the Revolutionary war. The changes that can be seen even from World War 2 to the Cold War are tremendous. The US has always maintained an aggressive foreign policy with an isolationist tinge. Before diving into some of the issues of foreign policy, I need to explain some concepts.
The first concept is known as political theory. Political theory is rooted in ancient Greek philosophy and ancient roman politics. There are three theories that exist in today’s political world. First, Realism is the theory that says that states act in self interest and put security first. Realism is basically a theory of survival, its uses rational decision making to survive. This theory usually is best seen in early to mid 20th century during the World Wars. The second theory is liberalism. Not to be confused with the Democratic party. Liberalism is the theory that people are by nature good and that non governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations work together. Liberalism is basically a theory of unity and sovereignty among large groups that act similarly. In other words, its a collective society of people that make decisions on consensus. The best example is Woodrow Wilson and his Fourteen Points, this attempt at world peace just before World War 1 is an example of liberalism theory. The last theory is Neoliberalism which builds on liberalism by adding that states are the main actors.
In addition to these theories which you read more about here, there are some terms which I may use that you should be familiar with. Here they are in a list form:
Actor: a person or state participating in international relations
Rational: A logical human or state decision maker
Irrational: An illogical human or state decision maker
Interest or Self interest: The pursues of an actor.
Preferences: The order of outcomes which an actor perceives a better outcome.
Collective: A group of decision makers
Interdependence: The dependence on two or more actors on each other. (usually States)
Power: the capabilities of an actor, the resources, and might.
Sovereignty: ability to make own decisions
So now that the boring part is over, I hope that you learned something. Just keep in mind these words because they are important to remember when discussing foreign policy. You may hear pundits and other news sources say that America is the world’s police. You probably have heard about Benghazi and ISIS. I have written a post or two on terrorism because that is foreign policy, however it significantly changes the game that typical foreign policy dictates. Let’s start with one of the most controversial foreign policy challenges. The upcoming contest with China. As you may know, China is the world’s most populous nation with nearly a billion people. If you recall, Trump has taken an extremely hard stance on the situation with China.
The problem with China is that they have communist oligarchy with a state run capitalist economy. The Chinese also have acquired world power as recently as 2000. China is relatively poorer than the US. However, China’s increased economic production over the past 20 years has given it new world power. The Chinese have not been shy about wielding this power. The fact is that China doesn’t necessarily agree with the US all the time due to the difference in government. It is also a fact that the Chinese are interdependent on the US and vice versa. Part of the Chinese rise has come from selling manufactured products in the US market. The other part has come from China buying up US debt bonds. So whoever becomes President will have a tricky task trying to navigate the tight relationship that bounds the US and Chinese economies together.
Unfortunately for Trump and Clinton, it won’t be that easy to assuage China. Of many complicated situations that arise from China there are two specifically that are worth mentioning. President Obama has devoted much time to what many called the Asian Pivot. One of the part of this trade agreements with Asian countries. The Asian Pivot advances an American agenda into Asian countries surrounding China like Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam. The economic benefits of such trade agreements with these countries is debatable. However, more important it leads to the second issue with the Chinese. China have developed in a similar fashion to the United States, a sphere of influence. The United States’ sphere of influence reaches global because of our past foreign policy exploits, in other words all the wars that we have fought won have further our sphere of influence. The Chinese sphere of influence is mainly all the countries that surround it. With the exception of Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Tawian and others must deal with the power and interests of the Chinese. Japan might be the only country in the sphere that China has a hard time to bully. (long story short, Japan is a sworn enemy and its protection comes from the US exclusively)
Despite, the Chinese influence in these countries, the US still has been trying entice these countries to become closer US allies. President Obama has consistently pursue these trade agreements. As you can tell, the problem is that China and US will eventually clash because the interests of both states are at stake. The counter to this building tension in the eastern pacific is the economic ties that make both Chinese and US markets vulnerable. So what do you think that Trump or Clinton will bring to the table? Here is my opinion, for Trump I think he is a little ambitious with his plan to talk down to China. The Chinese really don’t mess around, they have been building up an a large navy. They aren’t afraid to use the US debt against us. Trump needs to tread carefully. He should in all probability follow President Obama’s lead and advance the Asian Pivot. The fortification of the countries surrounding China could act as an buffer to any Chinese aggression to expand their influence and power.
I know that based on Clinton’s secretary of state tenure that she will almost certainly build on the Asian Pivot. However, what worries me about Clinton is that her campaign support consist of corporations. These big money donors may or may not be involved some type of war contracting companies. Clinton would probably be interested in a potential escalation if it would help her reelection in the future. Now you can call me a skeptic and hater. However, let’s just quickly look back at the Iraq War. If I recall correctly, it was Dick Cheney who encourage George Bush to invade Iraq despite the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Dick Cheney was the former CEO of Halliburton, a military contractor and oil producer. I happen to know about his secret salary he collected during his tenure as Vice President. All I am saying with this little expose is that the preference order of politicians is often hidden. The way that self interest can dictate how a policy is formed and executed is one of the most interesting motives in politics.
I will end here, however, I want to continue to discuss different foreign policies and further apply and explain how they work within the context of international relations. So please stay tuned. Thanks for reading!!!