The United States has maintained an active foreign presence in the period spanning the 18th to the current 21st century. Its active presence has been witnessed in nearly all continents, albeit for many different political, economic, diplomatic and military reasons. Of these reasons, the political reasons have emerged as the key upon which the world’s superpower has established its vital interests. From Democrats to Republican presidencies, all have initiated measures or policies that have gone a great deal in addressing the political interests of the Washington- key amongst them being the desire to ensure the safety of its territory. According to the US, this safety can only be achieved if the instabilities that faced the developing or the underdeveloped countries were addressed. As such, United State’s governments had concluded that creation of sound political institutions, structures and policies in the unstable regions would have helped in creating stability in these nations thus ensuring the security of the United States.
In analysing how the United States facilitated the evolvement of the Liberal International ideology in various regions, this paper reviews the role played by the most active player amongst the US former and current Presidents-former President Wilson. The study expounds on the topic until the period of the Clinton presidency.
The active role played by (former) President Wilson could be traced to his professional days in the institutions of higher learning when he stuck to the opinion that “the United States could encourage the growth of representative democracy abroad with success “(Smith, 1994, p.64).
Upon becoming US President in 1913, Wilson started pursuing democracy in the Latin America when he inherited the policies of imitated military occupation and control of customs houses; economic influence and international agreements from his Republican predecessors (Smith, 1994, 67). He implemented these policies by forcing American banks to withdraw from the consortiums that loaned funds to China and other Latin American states. This was done with the primary intention of maintaining influence over these regions.
Besides, he affirmed the US commitment to the independence of the Philippines in the year 1916. As noted by Smith (1994), he appointed a liberal governor who changed the structure and operation of the country’s civil service (p.64). This act reorganised Philippines politics leading to their self-governance.
Ideally, Wilson announced a radical policy of “non-recognition” of un-constitutionally elected regimes. In this case, he was referring to the Dominican and Mexican republics which had experienced civil strife as a result of ‘rigged’ elections around 1914. He stressed on his action when he refused to recognise the then former Chilean presidency, Diaz Porfirio, who had used a revolutionary tactic to ascend to the position. He believed that by supporting such systems, he would be setting a precedence that could perpetuate instability in future, to the detriment of American interests (Smith, 1994, p.69). Mr Wilson insisted he proposed that the Chilean leader accepts democratic re-election for his recognition as a duly elected president.
For the Dominican case, the former US President legalised the occupation of American forces in the period ranging from 1916 to 1924, when the country held its first and free democratic elections. In these elections, an estimated 850,000 inhabitants participated. Furthermore, the state maintained its military presence to ensure that the new government adopted and implemented its reform agenda.
The succeeding presidency of Warren Harding worked hard to promote the democracy’ vision’. His government coerced other unstable nations into adopting liberal institutions.
The government of Herbert Hoover efforts to promote democracy became evident in the year 1927 when it opposed plans by Cuban leader, President Machado, to extend his stay in power using illegal amendments to the country’s constitution.
On its part, the regime of Harry Truman frequently used the term ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ to different states which had achieved progress in terms of democracy and those which had not respectively. As such, his government was to work or support the democratically rich nations as opposed to autocratic ones.
On his part, former President Ronald Reagan emphasised on the expansion of democracy to the extent that he even opposed the Soviet Communism just because it didn’t allow for the growth of the virtue.
The administration of George Bush (Senior) was characterised by the promotion of democracy programs which were geared towards promoting political evolutions in the autocratic states, the principal target being Iran.
More so, the tenure of Jimmy Carter was marked by the struggle to promote democracy in the Middle East. Mr Carter initiated human rights campaigns that were always accompanied by strong rhetoric leading to his government being branded as an authoritarian government.
After the Presidency of Wilson, the other presidencies have followed the same course of promoting democracy across nations. For instance, as Carothers (2004, p.39) noted, “Bill Clinton made democracy promotion the organising concept of his then proposed foreign policy when his advisers regularly returned to address the theme”. Amongst the contributions of his government, the Clinton administration ratcheted up the place of democracy promotion in the US policy toward Russia soon after taking office and devoted real attention to the issue across the span of Boris Yeltsin’s rule (Carothers, 2004, p.41).
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was seen by many as the final triumph of Liberal Democracy over the other two models of mass organisation that had emerged in the 20th century: Fascism and Communism. These events gave new momentum to the Democratic Peace Theory. Explain referring to the political transformations that took place in Eastern Europe, the discussions over the new role of the United Nations, and the security of the United States in this new world. ( a good read of Smith’s chapter 4 will help
The following political transforms characterised the fall of the Soviet Union in the year 1991:
First on the cue, was the extraordinary change of tune by the Soviet leader-Mikhail Gorbachev’s. In his changed song, Mr Mikhail came to buy into Wilson’s ideologies of promoting literacy and democracy. The then former Soviet leader surprised many people when he stated (and insisted) for the first on the importance of national self-determination, democratic government, and collective security-appeals which had been articulated by Wilson, seventy years later (Smith, 1994, p.108).
Likewise, the fall of the Soviet Union saw President Vaclav Havel, Zzechoslavakia’s President, address an emptional joint meeting of the Congress in which he praised the former US President, Mr Wilson Woodrow for having much supported their efforts of attaining independence (Smith, 1994, p.108). He also surprised analysed when he re-acknowledged Wilsonianism spirit that small nations ought to have been free and that their sovereignty ought to have been on self-determination. This pointed to the fact that they ought to have established constitutional and democratic governments and that nations’ intercourse ought to have been defined based on principles of non-discriminatory. To add, he insisted that “democratic states should defend their common interest against the threat of self-aggrandisement and war” (Smith, 1994, p.108).
In his concluding remarks, he came to re-visit Wilson’s vision for the promotion of democracy when he highlighted that with the absence of global revolutions in the spheres of peoples consciousness, nothing could change or improve in the area for peoples’ existence. He also pointed out the weaknesses that existed in Eastern Europe states when he admitted that the countries in this region were incapable of understanding that the only genuine backbone of all their actions, if they were to be moral, rested in the responsibility (Smith, 1994, p.108). This response was to be expressed right from the family level to one’s success.
Tellingly, the fall of the Soviet Union had made many citizens in Eastern Europe to recognise the spirit of Wilson in promoting democracy and liberalism. As such, many statues, boulevards, and parks in Poland, Yugoslavia, Rumania nad mostly Czechoslovakia had been named by his name. In this case, they had come to acknowledge Wilson as a liberator and indeed as a founding father of their new-born states (Smith, 1994, p.108).
The people of Eastern Europe had come to acknowledge that unlike many politicians, Wilson deserved to be measured not only based on achieving the ends of his policy in their times but also by the magnitude of his efforts and the influence that they continued to enjoy in the years succeeding his death (Smith, 1994, p.108).
Also, the ‘enlightenment’ that followed the fall of the Soviet Union meant that the interests and the concerns of the United States seemed to have been soundly conceived.
Beside the transformations listed above, the following changes as compared with Wilson’s vision, have taken place.
In Wilson’s vision, he had proposed the formation of a League of Nations, which was to constituted by democratic states to ensure ‘balance of power’ (Smith, 1994, p.106). This League of Nations was to have its military and resources and was tasked with amongst others ensuring stability across regions. For instance, it was to prevent the imperialistic tendencies of the then-dominant and ‘un-collaborative’ German state. When analysed from another perspective, Wilsons intended to use the League of Nations to ensure the safety of the Americans. This, in modern-day, has been achieved through the formation of the United Nations Security Council and powerful and ‘independent’ entities such as NATO which check and promote stabilities across regions.
Finally, another transformation which occurred after 1991 and which had been aggressively campaigned for in the Wilsonian vision, is the formation of the Bretton Woods institutions, amongst them the World Bank, to control, or as Wilson put it “absorb”, the power of imperialistic states that wanted to compete with the United States. Critical amongst these states was Germany, whose rapidly growing influence had been a cause of concern to the Americans. In Wilsons vision, the current Bretton Woods institutions control the forces of states by absorbing their rising power into liberal economic, political, and military arrangements thus ensuring a European equilibrium (Smith, 1994, p.105-108).
The central argument of Smith in regards to the Bush doctrine is that it contains elements of the traditional liberal (Wilsonian) thinking and a new conviction that the United States must use its military power in the post-Cold War world. Explain how these two ideas were an essential element of the foreign policy of the United States during the Bush years. (a review of Chapter 1 might help)
According to Smith, the Bush doctrine contains the elements of the traditional Liberal in that it emphasized more on the existence of freedom or democratic principles across states which were considered to be having an autocratic or authoritarian rule. Bush, in justifying his doctrine, had stressed that his countries of interest-namely Iraq and Afghanistan had not embraced any reform changes nor did they embrace any democratic principles.
In justifying his doctrine on Iraq, Bush insisted that the authoritarian rule of the then former President, Saddam Hussein, had engaged itself in the creation of nuclear weapons thus endangering the stability of some states in the world, and specifically the United States. Having warned the Iraq government on the dangers that were manifest in the creation of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’, the Bush administration used the principles associated with the use of military power as manifest in the Bush doctrine to wage war on the Iraq government. In waging this war, the Bush Administration (together with its war ally, Britain) had insisted the reasons behind the war were to disarm the Baghdad government of its weapons of mass destruction, to attain freedom for the Iraqis and end Saddam’s support for terrorist activities. This war was dubbed by the US government as Operation Iraqi Freedom and begun in the year 2003. The battle lasted for an estimated three weeks before the government of the former President, Saddam Hussein was overthrown.
Though Bush had gone ahead to declare victory in the war as early as the start of May 2003, Smith noted that the war had disastrous results to the US treasury and thus the economy. For instance, it was claimed in the Congress that the Iraq war cost the US taxpayer a daily budget of $350 billion. This had affected the efficient and effective delivery of services in the country. For instance, it was claimed that the health sector.
Likewise, the Wilsonian ideologies and the conviction that the US must use military force were the two key elements manifest in Bush’s foreign policy. In waging war on Afghanistan, President Bush had ample reasons to support the war simply because the terrorist attacks of September 11, 1998, had traced their roots the Al-Qaeda terrorist group which had maintained a close relationship with the country’s Taliban Islamic regime. The US thus used its military force to overthrow the Taliban regime and create a viable democratic system in the region. This operation was therefore named ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’.
Having achieved toppled the two regimes, the US maintained its military presence in the two states until the period when elections were held, and duly elected officials take office.
- Carothers, T. (2004). Critical mission: essays on democracy. Washington: Carnegie Endowment.
- Smith, T. (1994). America’s Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy in the Twentieth Century. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
- Smith, T. (2007).” A pact with the devil” Washington’s bid for world supremacy and the betrayal of the American promise. New York: Routledge.