American Foreign Policy Essay

It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the United State is one of the major actors in the international relations. That is why its foreign policy, as well as the way in which it is conducted, affects the world dramatically. Foreign policy of the US has always been guided by the concept of “national interest” which is the combination of other concepts such as power, peace, prosperity, and principles; this can be seen in the example of the Cuban crisis, the Vietnam War as well as the Iraq War and the involvement in Syria.

General Overview

To begin with, it may be useful to define the concepts that affect the national interest. Power is the first concept that might be loosely defined as the ability of one part to make another party perform certain actions or override its decisions (Combs 57). It is related the national interest in that way that the US wants to maintain its dominance in the world arena.

The second concept is peace. The most simple definition of peace is the opposite of war, but a more suitable definition is the harmony among the parties and avoidance of conflict (Combs 91). It relates to the national interest in that war is often considered to be a form of diplomacy.

The third concept is prosperity. It is a state where the members of a certain group are able to satisfy their needs (Combs 128). The concept of prosperity relates to the national interest because the state strives to maintain or improve the well-being of the citizens with its actions.

Finally, the principles stand for a set of ideas that guide actions of a party. It is logical that the foreign policy will rely on a specific set of ideas that the state supports (Combs 114). Together, these four concepts affect the national interest.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

The formal issue in this case as the deployment of the Soviet missiles in Cuba in extremely close proximity to the US: potentially, they could reach the capital and the most populated cities. The US leaders had to withdraw missiles from Italy and Turkey in order to ensure that the Soviets will withdraw the missiles from Cuba. In this case, it was clear that the important principle that the state emphasized was power: the US could not let the Soviets threat it in its traditional sphere of influence, the Caribbean. The principles also were extremely important as they dictated the actions of the state. Prosperity and peace were marginal since the two superpowers were literally on the brink of war. The positive consequence of the crisis could be seen in that the two countries established a hotline that they could use to resolve any misunderstandings. The negative consequence is that the US had to remove its missiles that weakened its strategic position. Personally, I do agree with the decision of the Preside at that time since it was important to show that the Soviets cannot penetrate the conventional spheres of influence as that would be a sign of weakness.

The Vietnam War

The issue that was central to this conflict was the spread of communism in South East Asia. Under the Domino doctrine, it was necessary to prevent Vietnam was turning into a communist state as that would result in rapid spread of communism in the region. The trade-off that the state had to make was between power, principles and peace and prosperity: young African Americans were sent overseas for the principles of freedom which they could not enjoy at home. Moreover, this war brought many causalities that harmed the society. It is obvious that the concept of power and principles were seen as important: on the one hand, the US showed that it would contain Communism anywhere on the planet; on the other hand, it shows that it would develop democracy as well. Contrary to that, prosperity and peace were seen as marginal: numerous Americans were sent to South East Asia and killed; the war lasted many years. The positive consequence of this situation can be seen in that the US expressed its determination to oppose communism. However, the negative side of the issue lies in the fact that it brought one of the most devastating wars in the American history. Personally, I cannot fully agree with the actions of the state since I do not believe that the spread of communism in South East Asia was something that directly threatened the Americans. Therefore, I think that this war did more harm than good.

The Iraq War

The US government assumed that Saddam Hussein was relations to Al-Queda and had weapons of mass destruction; so, it launched an invasion to prevent him from doing even more harm. The idea was to replace the government with a more democratic government that would not oppress the people. Once again the trade-off that the state had to make focused on the relationship between prosperity and peace, on the one hand, and power and principles, on other. It was decided that it was logical to send troops to a foreign country to fight for what the people consider to be right. Power and principles were central in this case since this operation shows that the US has the power to affect the governments of the world and make sure that they comply with the principles that the US considers to be the right ones. The concepts of prosperity and peace were seen as marginal. The obvious positive outcome of the invasion was the replacement of Saddam Hussein: he was no longer threatening the Middle East with his actions. However, Iraq is still not capable of coping with the consequences of war and a considerable number of the American soldiers died in the course of the invasion and the subsequent operations. Similarly to the example of Vietnam, I believe that it was not logical to prioritize the power and the principles of prosperity and peace when it came to fighting abroad on a foreign soil. I think that it did more harm than good.

The Involvement in Syria

The most recent example of the American foreign policy is the involvement in Syria. The scenario is rather similar to that of Iraq and, to a certain extent, Vietnam. The President of Syria is accused of oppressing its people and there are attempts to replace his government. In spite of the fact that the consequences of the involvement were not as devastating, it is still possible to assume that the state had to make its regular trade-off: power and principles over prosperity and peace. President Trump has made it very clear that the involvement of the US is about showing its power in the face of Vladimir Putin; the principles democracy must be defended anywhere on the planet. Unfortunately, the prosperity of the citizens and peace in the region are seen as marginalized priorities. The only positive consequence of this involvement that can be seen so far is the lack of aggressive actions from the Syrians and the Russians. However, the negative consequences as the inevitable casualties on both sides, including the civilians. It is clear that the negative consequences outweigh the positive ones. With this in mind, I cannot possibly agree with the government in that the lives of the people should be placed in danger just because it wants to maintain the power on the global arena and defend the abstract principles of freedom. That is why I cannot possibly support not only this trade-off, but also the line of reasoning that makes this possible.

Ranking of Importance

The examples which were discussed above show that it is possible to rank the four concepts that affect the national interest. The rank would be as follows: power, principles, prosperity, and peace. There are several reasons to why these concepts were ranked that way. First of all, in all conflicts power and principles were prioritized over prosperity and peace; however, power was seen as the highest priority. So, it would be logical to assume that it should take the first rank. That is why principles should be seen important, yet not as fundamental to the idea of national interest. Unfortunately, the prosperity of the citizens was not seen as a high priority as the conflicts would often claim lives of the citizens which would divide the society (one might consider the examples of the Vietnam War and the Iraq War). Finally, in all the examples, the principle of peace was marginalized in that war was the execution of power was seen as the best alternatively. Only the Cuban Missile Crisis the actual war was avoided, but all actions there contributing to that. Therefore, it is clear that the concept of peace should be regarded as the least influential.


Having examined all the points that were mentioned in the paragraphs above, one might suggest that four examples are taken from the Cold War era and the present day show that the execution of the foreign policy was primarily affected by the concepts of power and principles rather than prosperity and peace.

Works cited

Combs, Jerald A. The History of American Foreign Policy from 1895. Routledge, 2015.

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