An Analysis of The United States Foreign Policy in The Post 9/11 Period

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6 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

Words: 1150|Pages: 3|6 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

US Foreign Policy in the Post 9/11 World

In the preceding chapters, eight traditions of American foreign policy have been discussed at length. However, in relation to contemporary U.S. foreign policies—barring, of course, our new Cheeto in Chief—McDougall’s work predates what is now called the “post-9/11 period,” ending with a very brief discussion of Clinton’s foreign policy flubs. In this post-9/11 period, U.S. foreign relations and policies have changed dramatically. However, it can be said that three of McDougall’s eight foreign policy traditions—Liberty, or Exceptionalism (so called); Unilateralism, or Isolationism (so called); and Global Meliorism—are still relevant in foreign policy discussions and debates today. McDougall’s traditions fit into five rough categories pertaining to (relatively) current U.S. foreign affairs. Without the eloquence of the names of McDougall’s categories, the five rough, terribly named categories of issues facing post-9/11 American foreign affairs that will be proposed are humanitarianism, Islamophobia, democracy building, preventive, not preemptive warfare, and the War on Terror. For the purpose of this paper, the aforementioned categorizations will be defined in the following:

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  1. Humanitarianism shall be defined as the promotion of human welfare.
  2. Islamophobia shall be defined according to the classic definition, that being a dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force. For the purpose of this paper, it will also be used to refer to the general growing global trend of persecuting Muslims, Muslim majority countries, and Islamist countries.
  3. The War on Terror shall be defined as the actions taken by the U.S. government during the W. Bush Era and, consequently, the post-9/11 period which argues a global military, political, legal, and conceptual struggle against both terrorist organizations and against the regimes accused of supporting them.
  4. Democracy building shall be defined as the efforts undertaken by the United States (and company) to promote the formation of democracies overseas, including (c)overt efforts to overthrow the targeted government and subsequently install a Western-positive leader.
  5. Finally, preventive, not preemptive warfare, which is also known as part of the Bush Doctrine, shall be defined as the switch from engaging in preemptive strikes (in which the impending outbreak of violence or the expectation of conflict is unavoidable) to a preventive approach.

Using McDougall’s terms, the tradition of Liberty at home is the oldest of all the traditions as the idea of Liberty is at the core of American Independence. In this first chapter, McDougall explains that “…to the generation that founded the United States, designed its government, and laid down its policies, the exceptional calling of the American people was not to do anything special in foreign affairs, but to be a light to lighten the world” (p. 20). Another part of the construction of this tradition is the justification of American Exceptionalism which is rooted in religion, specifically Protestant Christian, and a sense of the divine intervention of Providence, “the Deity [sic], not some human agency, as the author of freedom” (p.15) continuing insofar as to claim that “Americans were a chosen people delivered from bondage to a Promised Land, and you can’t get more exceptional than that” (p. 18). Three of the five proposed categories fall under the discussion of Liberty in some form or another. These are: preventive, not preemptive warfare; Islamophobia; and the War on Terror. As argued very early on in American politics, engaging in international wars would ultimately infringe on the right to Liberty which belongs to the American citizen. With this fundamental context in mind, the very existence of American military engagement—a necessary component of both “preventive, not preemptive warfare” and “the War on Terror”—is in violation of the original, most basic definition of Liberty as understood by the Founding Fathers. Islamophobia is included under the tradition of Liberty at home, arguably for obvious reasons, because the rampant Islamophobia that has erupted since 9/11 is a blatant infringement on the liberties of Muslim Americans, and those groups that are ignorantly lumped in with them by White Americans™.

The second tradition, Unilateralism, is the concept that the U.S. is “at liberty to make foreign policy [sic] independent of the ‘toils of European ambition’” (p. 40) and thus “[t]he self-evident course for the United States was to avoid permanent, entangling alliances and to remain neutral in Europe’s wars except when our Liberty was at risk” (p. 40). The categorizations that fall under the discussion of Unilateralism are: preventive, not preemptive warfare; the War on Terror; and humanitarianism. Just as with the tradition of Liberty, “preventive, not preemptive warfare” and “the War on Terror” are in violation of the original, most basic definition of Liberty as understood by the Founding Fathers due to, as mentioned before, the very existence of any American military engagement, excluding those taken up in self-defense. While the “preventive, not preemptive warfare” and “the War on Terror” categories are in violation of Unilateralism, the reverse seems to be the case in the relationship between humanitarianism and Unilateralism. With the policy of neutrality or “isolationism” as some may call it, humanitarianism cannot be carried out on a global scale which would also happen to violate the yet to be discussed tradition of Global Meliorism. Whether or not the refusal to actively commit to the promotion of international humanitarianism is good, bad, or neutral is a matter of ideological debate.

In most basic explanation, “Global Meliorism is simply the socio-economic and politico-cultural expression of an American mission to make the world a better place” (p. 173). In contrast to Wilsonianism, Global Meliorism, while suspiciously similar on the surface, “aim[ed] to make the world democratic” (p. 174), rather than just safe for democracy. It also encompassed the economic, cultural, and political aims of foreign intervention, rather than focusing on just one of those areas. It has the honor of falling under four of the five broad categories define in this paper—humanitarianism; the War on Terror; democracy building; and preventive, not preemptive warfare. In a nut shell, Global Meliorism is an effort to spread humanitarianism internationally; the ultimate goal being to change the world for the better. However, humanitarianism can be, has been, and is used as an excuse to invade Third World Countries while covering-up the less agreeable ulterior motives of the U.S. In the same vein, humanitarianism efforts can be used to specifically cover up American intentions of democracy building. Democracy building is integral to Global Meliorism since it aims to make the world democratic, by definition. To avoid any more repetition, simply put, the assertions previously made regarding the categories of “preventive, not preemptive warfare” and “the War on Terror” also apply to Global Meliorism.

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As should be evident, the foreign policy theories that have developed during American history still have relevance today, some more so than others. As the challenges faced on the international stage constantly evolve, we can take into account the legacy and lessons bequeathed to 21st century Americans in order to continue working toward the idealist goal of global peace.

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An Analysis of the United States Foreign Policy in the Post 9/11 Period. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 24, 2024, from
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