US Foreign Policy: Flaws and Contention


Considering that the United States of America is the most formidable in economic and political global influence, foreign policy from planning to implementation serves as a challenge that government leaders, voters, and advocacy groups become passionate about. There are various factors and views to understand. But what transpires between policy research to implementation is usually unseen by the citizens.

This paper will try to discuss the US foreign policy flaws and contentions using three journal articles about US foreign policy with accompanying summary of the various sources consulted, detail how these sources compare and contrast on different issues and an overall comparative assessment of the various sources against one another. This paper will also point out which arguments or argument I found most or least convincing and explain why.


After the Cold War, the US is said to have found an opportunity to re-consider global commitments, resources and policies. Respect for international law and order as well as greater cooperation between powerful countries is much needed. This paper focused on arms proliferation. It further asked how subnational entities of agencies, bureaucracies and even individuals address these changes, and in fact, pointed out foreign policy as the key. The overview had been that the Iraq-US relations from 1982 onwards led to the arming of Iraq that soon challenged the US, thus, the Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm by 1991 (p 242). In addition, the research further pointed out that the economics of arms sales and the continued desire of the US to balance regional power led to provision of arms to smaller countries in guise of “regional stability” (p 242). The financial contribution of arms marketing in fact was favored by leaders and had been successful to sell as many arms as possible. “the USA has sold more weapons in the Middle East than any other country,” (p 242) complicated further by unauthorized middlemen involved in Ira-Contras Scandal.

The Pentagon created a new doctrine in response to the end of the Cold War, examining Third World states as they focus concern on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, thus the identification of enemies as “aggressively-minded Third World powers armed with nuclear and/or chemical weapons and the means of delivering them to distant lands” (as quoted, p 242). From Europe, US policy focused on Third World rogue or outlaw states with anti-Western sentiments. These states were identified as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan (p 242).

The Gulf War signaled the military leaders to pressure the US Congress and the American people to prepare for Iraq-like rogues, thus, the need to set budget for war technology and all military services undermining other substantial lessons that “military victory does not result in political solutions; financial and strategic support of other states is critical; and the Gulf War was unique,” (as quoted, p 243). It was noted further that debate did not center on the doctrine but on the “size that would be necessary to carry it out” (p 243).

Although it posited that proposals had been generic, the article enumerated an earlier argument to improve US policy through changes:

  • That policy-makers should challenge their perceptions regularly
  • Develop a greater cooperation and identification of priorities between bureaucracies
  • Greater cooperation between the legislative and the executive bodies (p 243).

Another reviewed literature on the paper contrasts the above proposal as inadequate and dangerous as there is elimination of military budget savings, greater risk on future regional conflicts intervention, possible miscalculation by policy-makers, and negative impact of US relations to Third World countries (p 243). It outlined other proposals as a need to:

  • Ameliorate global discord and violence
  • Seek resolution of existing conflicts
  • Peaceful resolution of disputes
  • Contract international arms flows
  • Strengthen international peacekeeping
  • Promote social and economic development
  • Prevent continuing environmental decay
  • Diminish international importance of rogue states (p 243).

Incidentally, any sanction against Iraq negatively affects US businesses that lead lobbyists protesting to Congress. In the end, Dokhanchi proposes that between non-proliferation and export promotion, the US has adopted export promotion increasing US arms sales with the author hoping that improved US economy could lead to a civilian economy to influence US foreign policy.

The paper opened with the aim to clarify the extent of re-examination and elaboration of classical theoretical approaches to imperialism as well as to contribute to formulation of strategies on the US intervention policy in the Third World. US intervention of Third World countries have been economically, politically and strategic-military motivated (p 285). Economic imperialism was seen to control foreign raw materials, food supplies, labor, and securing markets for industrial goods. It is driven by capitalists need to infiltrate foreign markets for surplus production of capital or economic goods. As compared to European imperialism, US economic imperialism is seen as:

  • Expansive domination and penetration of Third World countries
  • The obvious role the United States as the capitalist camp
  • Necessary use of state machinery to enforce and secure imperialist goals (p 286).

The multinational corporations (MNCs) in the US exploit resources, dominate natural resources, as well as key industries such as financial, transportation and communication. The MNCs secure government and power elite favors in the Third World as backed by the active US government that uses “dollar diplomacy” to exert influence through foreign aid policies such as use of the US-controlled World Bank. As Clark Clifford considered as a member of the US power elite admitted, “If by default, we permit free enterprise to disappear in the other nations of the world, the very existence of our own economy and our own democracy will be gravely threatened,” (as quoted, p 287). The power elite felt threatened if the model of US society is blocked in their targeted countries. By the 1950s, it aimed to integrate Southeast Asian countries through the US Southeast Asia policy secretly published but which mentioned, “…principle world source of natural rubber and tin, and the producer of petroleum and other strategically important commodities (quoted from Pentagon Papers page 27 ff, p 287). The paper aimed at encouraging the third world countries to restore and expand their commerce with the US and the free world. In 1965, a senior officer of Chase Manhattan Bank claimed that “the US actions in Vietnam this year – which have demonstrated that the US will continue to give effective protection to the free nations of the region […] reassured both Asian and Western investors,” (quoted from Magdoff, 1969, p 179, p 287). This was thinly veiled as a strategy to combat communism in the area. Both Kennedy’s and Johnson’s foreign policy advisor WW Rostow defined their foreign policy as a US strategy as, “Vietnam is the clear testing ground for our policy in the world,” (quoted from Steel, 1971, p 288). The war economy is dragged in the discussion vested on the military-industrial complex that:

  • Provide the security interests of the US and maintain international balance of power for the definite advantage of the US
  • “The military and the defense sector constitute a necessary pre-requisite for the imperialist big-power policy of the United States,” (p 288)
  • It stabilizes the US system for the good of the power elite (p 288).

As General Porter informed businessmen regarding foreign aid, it is a “very modest premium on an insurance policy protecting our vast private investment in the area of tremendous trade and strategic value to our country,” (quoted from Tobin, 1966 p 21, p 288). In fact, the army presence in other countries also helps intensify international tensions, military interventions, and conflict resolution that translate to more US economic gains related to wars and tensions (p 288). Market risk has also been perceived as non-existent in for arms contractors basically financed by Pentagon from research, development, production and procurement making the war industry highly attractive. Arms and wars expenditures preserve the US economic order to counter under employment and stagnation. As a government policy, the war economy stimulates economic activity during recessions and economic stagnation (p 289). Unlike mass transport or low-cost housing seen as socialist tools, military spending preserve economic status quo of the US power elite (p 289). The Southeast Asian countries then become war laboratories where achievements of war technology are tested; a profitable source of income for war investors; the intervention is a system-stabilizing function for prevention of social programs and stimulating economy (p 289).

This paper proposed that the US foreign policy has been seen eroded after the war in Iraq led by the US. US has been seen to have disregarded international law. Doubt was established from European countries which disagree with particular US foreign policies. International law has a close association with US foreign policy as this is viewed as that which accords legitimacy to particular policy choice.

The invasion of Iraq was justified by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 678 and 687, as with the self-defense reason, but mainstream view has considered the invasion illegal due to the UN Charter. The breach of US military on international humanitarian law through foul treatment of Iraqi detainees added weight on the popular call that US is a threat that would force itself on any nation it would brand the way it branded Iraq. The UK Select Committee concluded in 2000 that Operation Allied Force was legally questionable, and still, it escaped public conviction that it was wrong (p 69).

Failure of the US military to present evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) after the Iraq invasion further removed the legality of the war. “The world had been told that war was necessary because Iraq failed to comply with Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to disarm; US policy had been promoted on the basis of ‘smoking gun’ evidence of WMD in Iraq,” (p 70). US rhetoric long proclaimed the rule of law, yet failed to be bound by international law such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, the Landmines Convention and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (p 70).

Scott and Ambler recall the International Law Ideology (ILI) as “a system of inter-related concepts, rules, and principles; and world politics […] used as a diplomatic tool by states and […] political legitimacy,” (p 70), thereby a precursor to policy. By upholding the image of international law, states garner legitimacy for their foreign policy and actions specifically when it does not conflict with ideology and reality. It offers strategic guidance for policy-makers making it integral to the international distribution of power. The US failure to uphold this through the Iraq conflict made the US foreign policy perceived negatively (p 73).

Comparison and Contrast

All three papers assail US foreign policy as flawed, selfish, and needs immediate if not constant re-evaluation and changes. It focuses on the atrocities of war as if US foreign policy itself is centered on invoking war for the good of its power elite, the military industrial complex, and its war-driven economy.

Security reasons as well as balance of power in regions were also pointed out as major veils used by the US government in its foreign policy. However, these are seen as overused guises to serve economies controlled by a power elite group, of which Dokhanchi hopes to invigorate civilian economy.

The third paper questions the legitimacy of US foreign policy using the Iraq invasion as basis against international law. Once again, violations committed by the US become very obvious as it failed not only to uphold human rights during the invasion but also its failure to produce the main reason for Iraq’s invasion: weapons of mass destruction. This is not only seen as misleading but illegal.


The three papers reviewed and analyzed are equally convincing in proposing change and reevaluation of US foreign policy. By providing basis for their assumptions and observations, the papers are at best believable and provide advocacy for change and improvement in policy planning and decision-making. Problems however, remain as there still is an ambiguous process existing between policy-makers as well as decision-makers: US Congress and the Executive body. Between and among them are the power elite who control majority of US businesses, thereby economic lobbyists who will and continue making the public believe that the steps being taken are for the good of the majority as long as the damages are outside the US. It is better that the tax payers and voters use their common sense and speak up: that even if miles away or outside the US for that matter, what comes around, goes around.


Magdoff, H. 1969. The Age of Imperialism, New York.

Tobin, J. E. 1966. National economic policy. New Haven, London.

The Pentagon Papers. 1971. New York Times edition, Toronto, New York, London.

Steel, R. 1971. in New York Review of Books.

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1. DemoEssays. "US Foreign Policy: Flaws and Contention." December 22, 2022.


DemoEssays. "US Foreign Policy: Flaws and Contention." December 22, 2022.