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During the Arab Spring Egyptians covered the streets in protest of President Mubarak and demanded a leader change and access to a democracy to give power to the people. After a long wait, the military rule gave power to the elected President Morsi. An operating democracy is a major step for Egypt and the people got what they wanted. Or did they?

On November 22nd, President Morsi decided to give himself sweeping powers that destroyed checks and balances and any real accountability. This led to more protests by the people who demanded the democracy that they thought they had already won. Once again, Egyptian protests were seemingly successful despite 7 people dead and hundreds wounded in a clash between protesters and Morsi’s support, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Mursi renounced his unstoppable powers and ceded to the wishes of the people. However, in doing so he issued a decree that gave the military permission to arrest protesters and hold them and refer them to prosecutors. On top of this, a constitution was written that clearly supports the agenda of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, liberals see it as a stab in the back from Morsi but so far a peaceful vote has been the result. The vote looks to be in favor of the constitution which may cause for more instability.

Morsi is accredited with much of the work that brokered the ceasefire between Israel and Palestine over the Gaza Strip. This could be an indicator that Morsi plans to step up as a major peace maker in the region but at this point he seems a little difficult to get a beat on. His domestic policy and foreign policy approaches appear to be polar opposites. 

Egypt can play a major role in the region and having influence on conflict between Israel and Palestine is not easy to come by. How should the United States judge this? Is Morsi a leader that we can trust and include in future regional peace talks? Many leaders have had differing grand strategies when gears shift from domestic to foreign policy, is that an excuse to accept Morsi for the leader he showed himself to be when dealing with Gaza?

 

Articles:

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-12-10/news/35726305_1_arrest-civilians-mursi-presidential-spokesman-yasser-ali 

http://bostonglobe.com/news/world/2012/12/17/morsi-backers-predict-victory-new-charter/2utc0G2wIABbGUdrkgAb3N/story.html

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Cover of "The Myth of American Exceptiona...

Cover of The Myth of American Exceptionalism

In Friday’s class, we got into a rather lengthy discussion about the meaning of American exceptionalism.  We surmised in class that no candidate for political office will ever support a platform that is opposed to things like the “American dream” or “Freedom.” But there are certainly different brands of what we have come to call American exceptionalism.  Neo-cons have come to promote two different ideals (but interconnected):  That the United States of America should be an active change agent in the international community, and that the military is the way to achieve these goals of domestic prosperity and bettering the international community.  Another side American exceptionalism is rooted in a Wilsonian internationalism; that the US should serve as an example through the world by bolstering it’s own liberal institutions at home, and even help the spread of democracy around the world.

I thought I might explore this concept a bit more.  Stephen M. Walt‘s 2011 piece in Foreign Policy is entitled “The Myth of American Exceptionalism.” The point that really hits home addresses some of the fundamental questions of international politics:  how do we make decisions in the international realm, and what are the driving factors of those decisions? “…the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been determined primarily by its relative power and by the inherently competitive nature of international politics. By focusing on their supposedly exceptional qualities, Americans blind themselves to the ways that they are a lot like everyone else”  A point that was also brought up in class dealt with Realism.  To a Realist, the only thing exceptional about the US would be that it has the most relative power (right now) in the international system.  Any other deductions would cloud our locus of decision-making.

Without delving too much into the 5 myths that Walt brings up, I do agree with several of his points.  Citizens of the US need to stop asking questions like: “why do certain nations hate us?” The answer is usually not so buried in history.  The track record of the USA in places like Nicaragua, Vietnam, and the Philippines is hardly stellar.  Under the guise of American Exceptionalism, President Obama has often been called an “apologist.”  Frankly, people that believe so buy into Walt’s interpretation that the principle that America claims to be the most predominant force for good in the world.  I believe that we need to stop harassing anyone who openly discusses the flaws of American foreign policy.  Doesn’t the path towards better decision making require such questions?

For the full article, click here:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/the_myth_of_american_exceptionalism?page=full

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