Methodology Chapter: Foreign Policy and Declining U.S. Influence Under the Bush and Obama Administrations

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Consecutive Executive

George W. Obama & U.S. foreign policy doctrine

When the speech writer for the former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Christian Brose (2009) predicted that the continuum in foreign policy initiatives as undertaken by contemporary U.S. presidents would be advanced by Barack Obama in the Making of George W. Obama, he argued that virtual erasure of bi-partisanship posturing is the domestic raison d'etre to foreign policy, and the impetus to diplomatic secession. Indeed, Brose's claim goes so far to say that Obama would continue to adopt the same international relations posture associated with the administration of predecessor president George W. Bush.

An alternative vision of the transition between the two presidencies where foreign policy doctrine is concerned is offered by way of public media commentary in Britain, and especially regarding what is discussed within the proposal as the Perpetual Theory of War, first posited by Enlightenment political philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Counterpoint perspective is generated through discussion with British allies. As presented by UK Guardian Senior Foreign Correspondent and in-house columnist on international affairs to the news concern, Jonathan Steele (2010) in Defeat in Iraq: The Challenges for Obama and the Region, argues that the Bush administration was already defeated in Iraq on a number of fronts, and that under the Obama administration U.S. influence was set to decline further across the region. Ushering in the new era of 'Soft power' maintains Steele, will serve Obama in the region if diplomatic exercise replaces military might; releasing the nation from its longstanding debacle in the Middle East.

PROBLEM STATEMENT

In retrospect, when political pundits examine the transition of the United States presidential administration of George W. Bush to that of Barack Obama, international relations characterized by an emphasis on U.S. security might be the most persistent thread between eras in the Executive Office. Points of distinction in the history of military force, regulation of national economic interests in response to global capitalism, and multilateral U.S. diplomacy are bound to international law ostensibly; yet as we observe in the capitulation of foreign policy doctrine it has often been difficult to discern where radical deviations from those articulations violate international law (Nau, 2010). While research on the 'preemptive' enforcement of international law is a valuable yet entirely different endeavor, the entrance of U.S. legislative policy into a relationship with the rules and accords of multi-lateral decision making -- especially where NATO and the United Nations are concerned -- is certainly relevant to an analysis of American statecraft in the fields of international relations and political science.

Presidential interest in the promotion of security in recent years has pushed the envelope in the area of international human rights law, where contestation over the legal rights of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, for example, forced the international community to reconsider the legal mechanism by which a "global war on terrorism" might be waged. So too, the continuity of several decades of "new wars" waged in Iraq and Afghanistan in the nightly news has revealed much about the effects of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, amidst wavering domestic and international public support.

In general, continuity in foreign doctrine is largely depicted as a struggle between bipartisan interests at the domestic level, where we can see that "although the Obama presidency is widely heralded as a repudiation of [the neoconservative] agenda" the seeming a priori concept of the United States as a moral power" is deeply rooted in U.S. foreign policy traditions" (Homolar-Riechmann, 2009). The result is that an adherence to social conservatism tends to foster a climate of neoconservatism in U.S. foreign policy abroad. How consistent this is to public perception is a core topic to be covered in the proposed research study. The inquiry also looks at the development of foreign policy doctrine between the Bush and Obama administrations, and examines how it has been transformed through four (4) central tendencies: 1) reliance on multilateral organizations; 2) human rights; 3) historical wrongs; and 4) globalization.

First, the Obama doctrine is exceptionally reliant on multilateral organizations such as the United Nations. Elevating the UN Ambassador's role to a cabinet position was a tell-tale sign. Most significantly, the channeling of U.S. goals through the UN Security Council notwithstanding the veto of any one nation is already seen as a 'custom' in the current administration. This is certainly the case in U.S. led Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as well as the attempt to prevent the nuclear ambition of Iran. Second, Obama reversed the decision of previous presidents, in support of the Human Rights Commission and its monitoring activities; despite the fact that opponents to the commission argue that the body is populated by the most egregious abusers of human rights. Critiques of the exclusion of human rights in democratic principle as part of the Obama foreign policy doctrine still does not go far enough in upholding the legal, moral and ethical expectations of the international community (Muravchik, 2009).

'Historical wrongs' provisions also constitute a unique perspective within the candid ideological ingenuity of the Obama administration. This in fact pertains quite directly to at least one third of the directive in the Obama foreign policy doctrine. As the U.S. attempts to forge a new legacy -- redressing the mistakes of the past -- the priority stands in lieu of assertion of American power. The impetus to the declination of 'war win' thought within the Obama administration is two-fold: 1) it may not present the best case scenario for peace; 2) nor does it inherently support 'historical wrongs' as a priority to policy. The U.S. maintains balance of power interests through support of foreign militaries, however, where it is believe imperative to global peace, as is the case in funding of Lebanon's military. Only through this balance of power might peace with Israel be achieved it is said, and the U.S. is likely to promote resolutions where both militarization and multilateral understanding through diplomacy is required. The consensus is that the dual approach in the most violent contexts will ultimately have a more stabilizing effect.

Finally, the forth theme within the current Obama foreign policy doctrine links U.S. security interests to the economic and political transactions of globalization. Continued reliance on multilateral arrangements such as NATO, made credible through the impetus of unilateral agendas which require consensus and use of established international legal mechanisms. Where foreign policy doctrines frameworks of the Bush and Obama administration give way to theoretical considerations in this scholarly analysis is in instances of war. Interpretations of the proper place of war in foreign policy doctrine is the subject of much debate, and certainly the fuel to furtherance of such discussions in the disciplines of international relations, human rights, and political science, all proposing a different way of reading Political Philosophy, and particularly the incursions into state violence by Immanuel Kant in his Enlightenment philosophy on the nature of state sovereignty, Perpetual War Theory.

The proposed research is a 'situation analysis' made possible through examination of the history, discourse and political-economic impacts to foreign policy during the presidencies of George W. Bush (2001-2003) and Barack Obama (2009-2011) in their first two (2) years in office. Hypothesis to the study of continuity in presidential foreign doctrine in the 21st century, proposes an examination of the evolution of policy, and trends in the international leadership of the U.S. presidency, and asks: how will the change of U.S. president impact U.S. foreign policy decisions and approach, and can a change in style over substance reverse the decline of U.S. power and influence?

Impetus to the investigation is to: 1) described and evaluate the factual circumstances leading to major U.S. foreign policy doctrines, with attendant or lesser-included policy in support of the broader doctrine; and 2) assessment of the consequence to enforcement of those policies. Core methodological consideration to the study uses the Case Study approach, toward evaluation of praxis and qualification of results to foreign policy doctrines when observed in application to external conflicts. Other considerations to the study redeem inconsistencies, where independent evidence may emerge in respect to the variables of policy formation in the contemporary moment, and the volatility and international circumstances where it is evidenced to warrant preemption by way of international law and peace keeping security enforcement.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The proposed study is a comparative cause-and-effect analysis of U.S. foreign policy doctrine during the first two years of the presidential administrations of Bush and Obama, and draws discourse analysis from speeches and interviews taken from the Congressional Research Service into comparison with news reportage and scholarly literature from the disciplines of human rights, international relations and political science. Theoretical assumption to the project is dedicated to queries on the application of Kant's Perpetual War Theory. It will sustain engagement with points of continuity and disaggregation, where consecutive presidential ascension is involved. It also advances discussion on the independent variable of economic globalization and its impact on U.S. foreign policy doctrine, where decisions between trade and war (i.e. oil) are not so apparent.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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