The article brings into debate the plans of the American president Barack Obama to conceive a foreign and security policy that reflects and promotes American democratic fundamental values and interests in a complex international security context. Barack Obama`s foreign policy was also meant to shift and redress the U.S. external behavior and improve America`s image abroad. The American fundamental values and the derived national interests are considered to be the foundation of the American Grand Strategy and as having universal character.
Keywords: fundamental values, spread of democracy, American Grand Strategy, Barack Obama, qualitative analysis.
Main Concepts and the Theoretical Framework of Analysis
From the moment of the U.S. debut on the international political stage until the end of the Cold War, the American political leaders and strategists have shared and envisaged two different perspectives regarding America`s role in the world and how the U.S. foreign policy should be conceived. More precisely, the interventionist perspective, which is appropriate to the idealistic school of thought, envisions an active involvement of the United States on the world scene that is justified by the superiority of American values and the existence of a moral duty to intervene in solving the global issues and in redefining the global system of security. In opposition, the isolationist view, which is appropriate to the realistic school of thought, features a more confined role of the American power in the world, to some degree limited to managing threats and improving democracy at home. Thus, the United States considered that they are able to promote their fundamental values by the power of their own positive example or by acting like a “lighthouse” for the rest of the world, as Kissinger metaphorically suggested. Both approaches, interventionism and isolationism, are based on a common belief that American interests and values have a universal character and they should be shared with the rest of the states in the world, but differ in way they consider the United States should act in promoting these values and interests. Another debate related to the devise of the US foreign policy is the oscillation between the options of “multilateralism” and “unilateralism” that assigns the U.S. a role of supporter of the international actors, or by the contrary a leading role in shaping the global security architecture.
The increasing role of the United Stated in world affairs, especially during the Cold War, has made America “an indispensable nation” in solving the global security issues, as Madeleine Albright remarked, and many Americans came to see the American national security as including the projection of the American values abroad.
With the end of the Cold War, in addition to the idealists and realists, the neoconservatives, or the idealist conservatives, have joined and transformed the debate on “interventionism” vs. “isolationism” and “unilateralism” vs. “multilateralism”. The neoconservatives share with the idealists a series of common views on the goals of the American foreign and security policy but they have different approaches when it comes to how these objectives should be achieved (their view is more similar to the realist one). The assertion and enforcement of the neoconservative perspective on American Grand Strategy took place when President George W. Bush took office in January 2001 and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In practice, the revolutionary neoconservative ideas meant that in parallel with solving the immediate threat represented by the terrorist organization Al Qaida was also implemented the idea of remodeling the Middle East. The reorganization of the region was seen as a long terms solution to address and put to an end major security issues such as terrorism, extremism and WMD proliferation, by using military force to remove from power dictatorial regimes and to replace them with democratic one, as was the case of Iraq. The new American Grand Strategy (Primacy) was initially supported by both political sides in the United States (Republicans and Democrats), but shortly after its implementation it came to be severely criticized by experts and the American public.
Martha Crenshaw considers that the role of the American Grand Strategy is to define and order the American interests, to identify their main threats and to establish political guidelines to protect those interests. If policy concerns with strategic goal setting, strategy refers in particular to strategic concepts or ways of action to be taken to achieve those objectives and the assigned resources. According to experts, the most important aspect in designing the U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. grand strategy is to identify the fundamental values and national interests derived from these values.
The link between national values and national interests is deemed to be complex and subtle. Based on the identified national interests are being developed the statements on final national objectives or strategic objectives.
According to Sarkesian, the American national values represent the foundation of the legal, philosophical and moral American system, while national interests are precisely the expression of these values projected nationally, but also internationally. The American values are deeply rooted in the American political environment and system and they play a major role in how the American public perceives justice in international system and, most importantly, how it is justified recourse to war (“just cause”). These national values provide consistence to American culture and represent the source from which arise the principles behind the national interests.
The main modern American values that define the United States and their role in the world are derived from the Judeo-Christian heritage and the Anglo-Saxon legacy (including Reform, the Renaissance, the philosophical principles of Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the underlying American Revolution), the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution: The right to self- determination, a concept that applies to both national states and their people. According to this concept each nation-state has the right to determine its own policy and to govern as it chooses as long as long as it does not threatens neighbors and also, the people within the nation-state have the right to determine how and by whom they will be ruled through free and fair elections; Each individual represents a moral, legal, and political entity to which the system must respond; Rulers owe their power and accountability to the people and the
right of the people to change the rulers is absolute; These three core values are also the base for policies and change in the international relations; Any system that is professing such values and is trying to function according to this principles must be protected and nurtured; Since the U.S. values are grounded in the Judeo-Christian heritage they instills a sense of humanity and sensitivity to the plight and status of individuals, and a search for the divine guidance.
An important aspect in configuring the American foreign policy, especially in the post-Cold War era, is the influence and the frequent use of the Democratic Peace Theory in addressing the international security context and the democratization process of the former communist states, and of course of the Middle East region. The belief that the Democratic Peace Theory will help the United States to achieve a stable and prosperous democracy in the Muslim world based on the example of Iraq was more deeply rooted during the Bush Jr. administration. The essence of DTP is the well-known statement according to which democratic states rarely or almost never resort to war against each others. The origins of the theory can be identified in the writings of Immanuel Kant (in 1795) who associates stability and international order rather with the existence of liberal democratic norms and institution than with geostrategic agreements. Kant’s ideas were subsequently refined during the `70s and` 80s by a number of researchers and the Democratic Peace Theory has become, since the end of the Cold War, one of the most attractive area of research in the field of international relations.
The research method used in this work is mainly qualitative. For the qualitative research I appealed to historical and comparative analysis, which allowed me to observe and analyze the transformations occurred over time in configuring and implementing the American foreign and security policy, and to discourse analysis. Achieving research objectives involved setting up a prior theoretical framework of analysis that allows a further exploration of the particular issues under investigation. The nature and character of the documentary resources used in this approach are manifold. The primary sources of research are the 2010 National Security Strategy of the United States and other state documents, speeches, statements of key American decision makers and political elites. The secondary sources are: monographs, studies, books and academic articles, interviews and debates published in newspapers or posted on the Internet belonging to experts and analysts in the field of the U.S. foreign and security policy.
Barack Obama`s New Foreign and Security Policy
Considering America as “the last and best hope on Earth” during his election campaign in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama promised American voters the chance to achieve those changes in the U.S. foreign policy that would allow America to lead the world through the power of deeds and example. The campaign was based on the idea of the rejection of neo-conservatism and the foreign policy promoted during eight years of governing by his predecessor George W. Bush.
At that time, in the early stages of its formulation, the Obama doctrine was appreciated by the Republican critics as idealist and naive, especially when it comes to Obama`s rhetoric on the involvement, or rather the lack of involvement of the U.S. in solving the global security issues such as rebuilding failed states, issues considered by Barack Obama as outside the sphere of America`s interests. In outlining this idealistic view on American foreign policy an important role was played by President Obama`s group of advisers during the pre-election period consisting of Samantha Power, Sarah Sewall, General Scott Gration, Susan E. Rice, etc. The purpose of this group was to configure a doctrine that will replace the slogan of “democracy promotion” with one of “promoting dignity”, to fix the conditions that led to the emergence of a wave of anti-Americanism and frustrated the entrenchment of the principles of freedom, justice and prosperity and not least, to end the “politics of fear” that dominated the thinking pattern of his fellow Democrats.
Later, in the 2008 electoral campaign speech, “Senator Barack Obama`s New Strategy for a New World”, President Obama evokes the beginning of the Cold War, when American leaders such as Truman, Acheson, Kennan and Marshall had to make decisions so that the United States adapt to the new adversary (the Soviet Union), considering that similarly in the period that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the emergence of new types of threats, America needed a new strategy to meet the challenges of a new and dangerous world. More precisely, according to the President, the American Grand Strategy, aimed at ensuring the safety of the United States, should be oriented not only to Iraq but to the whole world, and should be focused towards accomplishing five key objectives already specified its his speech on April 2007: ending the war in Iraq in a responsible manner in the summer of 2010; ending the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials against terrorists and irresponsible states; achieving a true energy security; rebuilding alliances to meet the challenges of the XXI century, strengthening NATO and UN reform, and not least the establishment of new types of alliances between nations to strengthen the common effort to destroy networks of terrorists (“Shared Security Partnership Program “).
The foreign policy orientation of President Obama, that was made public during his election campaign, was seen by neocons opponents as a significant departure from the previous foreign policy of his predecessor George W. Bush and other American leaders. A first aspect of novelty was the abandonment of the policy of unilateral threats approach by the United States, a principle that governed most of President Bush mandate, and the return to a multilateral approach of the threats and global challenges, focusing on enhancing negotiation and strengthening partnerships and international institutions, such as NATO and the UN. Another aspect of novelty was the abandonment of interventionist policies even when it comes to solving humanitarian issues or nation building.
Following the example of the former presidents Reagan and Gorbachev, Barack Obama stressed the importance of diplomacy and negotiation in resolving the global matters, both with friends and adversaries, and justified its necessity in pragmatic terms. The emphasis on diplomacy and negotiation has been interpreted as an attempt of the Obama Administration to substitute “hard power” with “soft power”, or to use the two types of power combined in successful strategies (“smart power”).
The 2010 National Security Strategy still stands for the foremost document that offers a major view over the strategic environment, the U.S. Executives priorities in issues related to the U.S. national security and the means to achieve political goals. The strategy has been laid down in a complex context marked by the Global Financial Crisis circumstances, that likewise afflicted the US and the whole world, by the two Iraq and Afghanistan wars broken out under President Bush Administration, that weakened the US power instead of strengthening it, as well as by the Middle East deteriorating situation (the Israeli- Palestinian Peace Talks and the concerns raised by Iranian nuclear program) and, not in the
least, under the China’s rising circumstances.
Admitting the progress made on global level in matters regarding democratic values promoting, the peace among great powers, the economy and global trade, as well as individual rights, the strategy highlights the dangers posed by ethnic and religious conflicts, WMD proliferation, the upturn of inequality and economic turmoil, environment deterioration, food insecurity, and the dangers to public health. Globalization has been regarded as a contributor to miscellaneous
payoffs, but also lead to escalating the threats starting with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Global American leadership promotion has not only been regarded as a goal of the American foreign policy, but also as a mean, and it is eventually subject to the headway of home reform process since what happens home will determine the US power and influence beyond their borders (“building at home, shaping abroad”).
The U.S. national interests have still remained unchanged: the safety of the U.S. and their citizens and of their allies and partners as well; prosperity by developing a powerful, innovative and dynamic economy to promote new opportunities and prosperity on international economic scale; observance of universal values at home and worldwide; a international order firmly backed up by the U.S. that is committed to promote peace, security and (new) opportunities by employing a closer cooperation to cope with the present global challenges.
According to the NSS 2010, America’s security can be ensured not only by using the military force, but through the combined use of the means of national power: the armed forces, diplomats and experts that can help strengthen governance and support human dignity, intelligence and law enforcement that can help foil plots and strengthening the justice system by working with other states.
As the President already stated during the election campaign, the central aspect of the American National Security Strategy is the need to strengthen
America at home. Investments made in order to redress America regards education and human capital, research and technology, sustainable development, which are considered as part of a broader effort that will contribute to innovation and enhancing US power. Supplementary, is added the necessity to fight against poverty and corruption that will ultimately lead to enhancement of human dignity.Since America’s commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law are essential sources of power and American influence in the world, these values must be grown in the United States by rejecting torture, committed to promoting justice under the U.S. Constitution and the determination to expand the American citizens all the promise of America.
Spreading democracy, beyond America, closely related to human rights, remain an important goal of the United States, this time NSS 2010 mentioning that “America will not impose any system of government to another state”. Individual freedoms such as freedom expression, assemble without fear, worship and election of leaders, dignity, tolerance and equality between all people, free and fair justice, are considered universal values, and the United States will work so they are can be promoted worldwide. These beliefs and values represent both the foundation on which were built the United States and the factors that determine the security and prosperity of the United States and will be promoted best through the power of their example. As a result, The United States continues to prohibit without exception and unequivocally torture, to regulate legal issues in the field of counter-terrorism, balancing the imperatives of the protection of secrecy and transparency, protect civil liberties and privacy, support law enforcement, to find power in diversity.
Abroad, the US is committed to back up democratic values and human rights considering that the governments observing these values are more fair, peaceful and legitimate and the political systems protecting the universal rights are more stable, successful and steady. The success in implementing these values abroad will help create of a more favorable environment to American national interests. The promotion of the universal values by the U.S. will involve getting trustful pledge from the newly and fragile democratic countries concerning the existence of a tangible progress already achieved for their citizens, lay down specific rules and conditions in cooperating with non-democratic systems, acknowledging the legitimacy of all peaceful democratic movements, backing up woman’s and girl’s rights, strengthening international rules against corruption, setting up a large coalition of players promoting universal values, promoting new technologies and access to information and knowledge. Pursuing a Comprehensive Global Health strategy, promoting Food Security and Leading Efforts to Address Humanitarian Crisis represents major means conceived to promote dignity around the world.
Promoting the democratic values in the world, and mostly in the Middle East, has been a priority of American foreign policy over the years of George W. Bush administration.
After winning the presidential elections, in his effort to reconciliate the U.S. with the Muslim World, Barack Obama has acknowledge, in his speech at the University of Cairo, “Remarks by the President on a New Beginning”, the tensions between the U.S. and the Muslim world, suggesting a new beginning between America and Muslims from all over the world, this time based on a series of mutual guidelines like justice and progress, tolerance and dignity for all human beings. The President has highlighted as well that America has never been and never will be at war with lslam, but will oppose the violent extremists proved to be a major threat to America’s safety.
Few months later, after beginning the wave of the protest movements in the Middle East (“Arab Spring”) Barack Obama stated that “the United States policy is to promote the reform in that region and to support the transition to democracy”. According to the President, the initial effort should be focused in Egypt and Tunisia, considering that both nations could represent a potent example concerning the organizing of free and fair elections, the existence of a dynamic civil society, the existence of some democratic, responsible and efficient institutions
and above all the existence of a responsible regional leadership. Acknowledging the opportunity of these changes toward democracy, that took place in the Middle East region, they offer for the promotion of the American interests in the region (countering the terrorist threat and halting the proliferation of WMD, the guarantee of a free trade and the region security, the support of Israel and the promotion of the Arab-Israeli peace process) Barack Obama excludes the possibility of a unilateral intervention of the United States in order to end the Libyan massacre and to remove from power Gadaffi regime, taking into account the lraq experience when “it was proved how expensive and difficult would be to try to enforce a forcefully change of the regime, no matter how good would the be its intentions”.
ln Libya, the ceaseless repression of the Gadaffi regime against its own citizens caused the Obama administration to impose some sanctions against the members of the Libyan regime and the support of the United States to agree to a military intervention in order to defend the civilians by adopting the resolution 1973 of the Security Council of UN. The carrying into effect of that resolution was made possible by the intervention of a multinational forces (consisting of Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Norway, Qatar, and Spain) firstly led by the United States and later on by the NATO. The Gadaffi removal from power and later his murder (October 2011) represented the conclusion of a first phase of the civil war in Libya (First Libyan Civil War) a war that was to break out later by the beginning of the year 2014 following the rivalry between various opponent groups which tried to get the control over Libya.
ln lran, only a few days after the breaking out of the protest movements organized by the representatives of the opposition (“Green Movement) in February 2011, as a follow up of the protests in 2009-2010 against the fraudulent elections, Barack Obama stated his support toward the lranian people desire for more liberty and a more representative government, at the same time mentioning that “ America cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside lran”. The President indicated the Egypt as a positive example of the democratic changes and blamed the brutality of the lranian government against the protesters. During the protest movements in lran, the answer of the American Administration was considered as reticent, neutral and especially in contradiction with the expectations of the lranian protesters who relied on the United States support and of the international community to cease the brutality of the Iranian authorities against the protesters and the achievement of their demands.
ln Syria, the protest movements, at first reasonable, which started in March 2011 in Damascus against the President Al-Assad, were repressed by the Syrian authorities, the conflict ultimately escalating in a bloodthirsty civil war between the protesters and the loyal forces of the Ba’ath party. In spite of the blame against the brutal repression of the Syrian regime against the protesters, by the organization of the United Nations, European Union, the Arab League, United States, the international Communion failed in finding a solution to lead to the cessation of the violence in Syria. According to the data supplied by The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the number of the dead persons during the war, four years from the beginning of it, is appreciated at 210.060. To find a solution that could lead to the cessation of the war in Syria is becoming more difficult both for the failure of the great powers to agree on a common denominator, and especially due to the different opinions of both the U.S. and Russia, as well as due to the character of the interior groups involved in the conflict, which should represent an alternative of the Assad Government (including the lSlS). Although it was never applied, the option of a military intervention of the United States in Syria was for the first time alleged by the President Obama in August 2012, fundamentally due to a possible use of the unconventional weapons (chemical and biological weapons) by Assad against the opposition. ln November 2012 the Unites States support the setting up in Qatar of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces founded to replace the regime led by Assad.
The setting up of the National Coalition was considered as an opportunity to increase the assistance received from the Western States by arming the Opposition and offering a financial support. The support of the Opposition forces by United Kingdom and France consisted in the offer of the armored vehicles, armors, communication equipment, medicines and foods.
During the 2012 electoral campaign, within the Virginia Military lnstitute, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney considered the Middle East situation as much worse than it was when Barak Obama took over his Presidential Mandate, pointing out especially the critical situation in Syria and lran’s advanced nuclear program. This situation, in his opinion, was due to the failure of leadership in the international scene, the President choosing to lead the foreign policy ,,from the back”. The idea that the United States would have a strategy of leading from the back” was rumored within the intervention in Libya when NATO took over the control over the removal from power of Gadaffi. It was infirmed by Barack
Obama even in 2011, when, during an interview, the American President stated the Unites States are leading from the front side, meaning the United States still maintained the position of the global leader.
The 2010 National Security Strategy of the United States restates the American global leadership and states the necessity to reinforce, even at home, the principles of the democratic values that represent the foundation of the American nation, so that America to make up a positive example for the rest of the world. The promotion out of the American borders of the democracy, in a tight connection with the respect of the human rights, is considered to be a goal but also a mean of the American Foreign policy, and it is justified by the universal character of the democratic values and by the principle that the “governments that respects these values are more just, peaceful and legitimate, and the political systems which protect the universal rights are stable, successful and secure”. In order to achieve this foreign policy objective, President Barack Obama denounced the unilateral use of “hard power” by the Unites States and suggested the use of combined means of national power, the emphasis being on diplomacy, negotiations, reinforcement of the internal and international institutions, as well as of alliances .
ln the Middle East, President Obama suggested to the Moslem world a new beginning in their relation with the Unites States of America and a new approach of the security issues, that have their roots in the region and which have a direct impact on the security of the United States: the terrorist threat, the Iranian nuclear program, the lsraeli-Palestinian conflict, and last but not least the spreading of the democratic values and the respect of the human rights in the states of that region.
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