An Examination Of Us Foreign Policy Essay

An Examination Of Us Foreign Policy Essay

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Joseph Nye describes soft power as “the ability to get what you want through attraction” (Nye, 2009; p. x); in contrast, hard power allows a state to achieve what it wants through “coercion or payments”. (Nye, 2009, p. x) Both methods are essential in implementing foreign policy. By closely examining US foreign policy from 1947 to present day, this essay will argue that while hard power strategies are still used in foreign policy, soft power has become increasingly more important in supporting a state’s foreign policy due to increased interdependence between states and a decreasing impact of hard power in foreign policy.

An examination of US foreign policy from 1947 to 1991 reveals that hard power tactics dominated foreign policy. The Cold War was an ideological battle between the US and the USSR. Although there was no direct armed conflict between the two, the bipolar nature of the international system limited the use of soft power tactics. This was largely due to the huge differences between the two competing ideologies. In this way, smaller states were drawn into the conflict; forced to side with either the US or the USSR. This limited interdependence as any alliances formed- such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)- were either based on military or economic support. For example, the Bretton Woods agreement could have been an excellent example of interdependence, but the deliberate exclusion of the USSR and its allies shows that its purpose was to support the US’s allies and maintain a physical blockade to soviet expansion. Furthermore, major organisations that foster interdependence were paralysed by the conflict. For instance, the UN was unable to intervene as both the USSR and the US were on the United Na...


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...2003; p. 154). Despite this, the admiration of American values soon spread. According to Hubert Vedrin, former French foreign minister, “[Americans] ‘inspire the drams and desires of others, thanks to the mastery of global images through film and television’” (Vedrin in Nye, 2009, p. 8). This can be related back to the growth of interdependence as media had thoroughly globalised- allowing the US to advertise the American lifestyle through film. However, US foreign policy was still struggling to acclimatize to the changes in the international system. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations were branded as cautious, yet they both responded to international crises through hard power, denoting their inability to move on from the cold war legacy. Bush’s success in Kuwait came at the price of domestic discontent as did Clinton’s aforementioned excursion into Somalia.

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