What is the official US foreign policy?

Anonymous asked this question on 5/12/2000:

What are the goals of U. S. foreign policies? To what extent does lack of specificity in these
create problems in our attempts to set forth objectives, create plans, design the right kinds of
weapons systems, and implement key domestic policies? How well do our domestic policies work in
conjunction with our foreign policy goals? What do we need to do to adjust these two sets of

JesseGordon gave this response on 5/12/2000:

We don't really have a unified foreign policy goal any more. The most recent one we had was our Cold War strategy of containment of the USSR and of Communism. That theme permeated our relations with every country.

With the demise of the USSR, we no longer have a theme like that -- we make our policy country-by-country. I'll tell you a few country-specific themes that I know about, and leave the rest to other experts.


Our official policy is called "One China". We pretend that China and Taiwan are one country, and they both play along also. The idea is to maintain stability in a precarious situation where both country's governments claim ownership of the other country. The newly-elected leader of Taiwan may upset this fiction -- he declared that he was renouncing the "One China" policy, and got elected anyway.

Our military policy with regards to China is called "strategic ambiguity." If China invades Taiwan, we won't say whether we will defend Taiwan or not. The intent is to discourage Taiwan from acting too boldly, and simultaneously to dissuade China from invading. George W. Bush may upset this policy too, if he's elected -- he has renounced "strategic ambiguity" in favor of a
declared intent to defend Taiwan.


Here our theme is two-fold: Support Israel, but keep the oil flowing. Those two are often at odds, which is why we spend a great deal of resources there. The resources are both political (we send secretaries of state and former presidents there every month, it seems) and economic (we send billions to Israel for their military; billions to Egypt to maintain the peace accord with Israel; and billions to the Saudis for oil).

We support Israel because they are the only democracy in the region, and because the US was instrumental in Israel's founding. We assisted with the creation of the new "Palestinian Authority" and we'll continue to play a key role in its transition to the nation of Palestine.

Our policy with oil is: Support the moderates, so the oil keeps flowing cheaply. The leaders of Saudi Arabia also want to keep the oil flowing, since it's big money to them, so we have a good working relationship. The Saudis are the largest producer, so many others follow.

Iraq is not a moderate state; Kuwait was. Hence our support for Kuwait against Saddam was in line with our oil policy. In the Iraq-Iran war a decade earlier, we didn't take sides, because neither state was moderate.



Our official defense policy is that we should be able to fight two "near-simultaneous wars", usually predicted as North Korea and Iraq. That means we have to focus on readiness and mobility to get to those places.

Our other defense policy is "non-proliferation," which means we try to keep non-nuclear nations from getting nukes. This was tested sorely in 1998 when India and Pakistan both exploded some nuclear devices. The end result seems to be leading towards our declaration of Pakistan as a "rogue nation." Israel has always hidden its nuclear capability (another fiction -- we pretend to not know) to avoid conflicting with this US policy.



The policy we use in South & Central America is still the "Monroe Doctrine," created by President Monroe (you remember him -- one of the Founding Fathers!). It says, basically, that no other countries can invade any country in the Western Hemisphere, which we declared as our "sphere of influence."

This was cited as a rationale for all sorts of US military interventions, from Grenada to Nicaragua. Mostly, it has worked -- few countries mess with the Americas, including the USSR during the Cold War (Cuba was a notable exception; and really, Castro was home-grown and the Russians came later).

Of course, we ignore the Monroe Doctrine when other allies need us to, like when Great Britain wanted to invade the Falklands. As I recall, we claimed then that Argentina invaded in breach of the Monroe Doctrine first.

Our latest policy in the Americas is expanding NAFTA. G. W. Bush wants a free trade zone from "Alaska to Cape Horn". And Clinton/Gore worked to add Chile to NAFTA. So that's likely to be our theme in the Americas for the next decade.

References: n.htm


The major place where I see domestic policy in conjunction with foreign policy is in terms of trade. "Globalization" of trade and business is likely to be a major theme both domestically and abroad in coming years. Dealing with the problems of globalization at home (especially labor & environment concerns) will define much of our future domestic policy.

Well, there's a start. I'll eave it to others to fill in the blanks.

ckang01 asked this question on 8/22/2000:

Hi. I'm a starter in political science. Can I know what are the types of foreign policies US has, e.g. trade, human rights etc.? (You can also refer me to the relevant websites) Thanks.

npscott gave this response on 8/22/2000:

Dear ckang01,

I never read other AskMe expert's answers before I give my own (to prevent unconscious plagiarism), and Jesse Gordon's responses are always quite good, so I may repeat...but here goes:

Why not go to the 'horse's mouth', that is, The Department of State web site? It's not the most user-friendly website I've ever seen, but by clicking on 'site map' at the bottom, I usually find what I'm looking for.

Additionally, the site has a search engine which permits you to type in a subject (like 'trade') and it will produce a number of officially issued policy papers.

Depart of State web site

Finally, you may want to also look at the White House web site, and use their search engine for press releases on topics of interest to you.

And to examine the on-site "Foreign Affairs" publication, a profession periodical devoted to (as the name says) foreign affairs. (I haven't time to look at the site, it may contain only subscription information, but your library will carry it, and it has a quarterly index).

Finally, if you want to get into Congress's role in foreign affairs, a considerable one by the names of Senator Jesse Helms, that's another question. I'll provide links for that, if needed, and asked.

Good Luck.

npscott gave this follow-up answer on 8/22/2000:


I forgot to proved an 'all-purpose' web site with a collection of links to professional political science web sites:

McGraw-Hill/Ryerson links to Political Science web Resources:

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