Political Science Paper on American Strategy in the Post-Cold War Period

American Strategy in the Post Cold War Period


The post cold-war period has seen various changes in the world international relationships. These changes have resulted in varying rates of economic growth across different countries in the world, with the political dynamics playing a crucial role in the determination of future progress directions. The U.S in particular, has been extensively involved in various growth strategies across the world, offering support to third world countries and beyond. In the recent years in particular, the U.S has been actively involved in the international context, contributing to global growth in various extents. The changes in the political environment has resulted in multiple changes in international relations policies, with each government coming with its own distinctive approaches to governance. In the recent years, the U.S has been recognized and shunned in equal measure from one time to another as a result of the country’s impacts on the international environment. The ensuing article presents a description of the U.S strategy and an evaluation of its relevance and efficiency in the post cold war period.

The U.S Power Strategies- Past and Growth

The U.S has grown notably significant in terms of its impacts on countries across the world, both in the developing world and in the developed countries. Initially, most of the impacts of the United States could be attributed to the imperialist stance taken by most of the United States presidents in the past in a bid to bring about order to the disorderly nations. However, it is difficult to tell whether the imperialist stance has resulted in significant improvements of order across the world. The concern is raised especially around global issues such as terrorism, which still remain significant despite the efforts of America and other imperialist countries to help in reducing and preventing terrorism. Imperialism is just one of the strategies that the U.S has used in the past to not only rise into power but also to remain there. With other countries such as China and Japan coming up strongly among the top 20 countries both economically and in terms of political stability, it is questionable whether the imperialist strategy is strong enough to sustain the country in its position as a global powerhouse.

According to Mallaby (2002), the U.S has for the past two millennia, struggled to impose its own institutions on the disorderly countries alongside other developed countries such as Britain and the United Kingdom. However, through the years, these global powerhouses have realized that the imperialist approach involving imposition yields limited results as observed from the growing difficulty in sustaining the strategies used. In the last decade or so, the U.S and other countries have become particularly more unwilling to impose their institutions on other countries (Ikenberry, 2011). The regime of President Donald Trump has been instrumental in pushing through this complacency towards imposition, under the conviction that the chaotic nations should address their own problems. Needless to say, the problems in those countries have persisted and there is continuous spill over of the impacts of chaotic existence to the U.S as well as to other orderly countries. This could raise concerns on whether the shift from the imperialist stance is a good strategy in world relations on not. From the observations and past experience, non-imperialist approaches to promoting order namely, through foreign aid, and various approaches to nation-building, have not yielded significant impacts on the reduction of disorder in the disorderly countries.

The United States has continued in its growth trajectory through changes in strategy at distinctive times in history, which have yielded different outcomes depending on the political leadership at those times and on the policies in place at the times. The U.S policy making process itself has been influenced extensively through the national strategies in the global space (Anderson, 2015). Through the years after cold war, the U.S has managed to transition smoothly, building a reputation as a leading imperialist in the world. The process through which the imperialist culture was build is explained by Golub (2010), in his argument that the imperialist culture was characterized by force and expansionist theories, through which the U.S imposes its institutions and international policies on other countries in an effort to attain its own gains. The U.S began with the development of deeply rooted belief and assumptions surrounding the U.S primacy and its role in the world’s relations. America, it is imperialist stance places itself as the core of international relations, through the perception that it is indispensable. This same belief can be detrimental to the future growth of the U.S as a power in the world as it is not a sustainable strategy. The consideration of the U.S as the indispensable force in the world is partly linked to the imperialist approach to leadership which is embodied by the U.S and partially in the post cold war perception of the U.S as a world superpower (Golub, 2010). With the changing times, the U.S needs to more than ever, begin thinking of itself in the midst of a pluralist globe in which several nations can collaborate to attain global objectives.

Mann (2013) describes the sources of power in four distinctive categories namely, ideological, economic, military and political power. Each of these source functions effectively in coordination with others, and any nation that can be sustainably powerful must have a strong combination of all the four. In the period immediately post the cold-war, America was characterized by economic, military and ideological power as well as a bit of political power, which influenced the development of the post cold war capitalist state. This capitalist state contributed significantly to the growth of the U.S as a world power given the recognition of the global roles of the nation. The nation-state system is linked intricately to the growth from the capitalist systems and presents a better form of interaction between the state, its leadership and its people. From the nation-state system, countries grow into the empires that they are today, with the U.S considering itself the sole remaining empire after the fall of all others.

With the insistence on the border between imperialist and non-imperialist approaches to creating world order, the U.S will soon be out of consideration among the world’s empires. An essential question that the U.S leadership should be continuously asking is whether the country is aiming for distributive power or collective power. Whatever strategy is chosen in government and national growth should reflect the intended source of power, whereby collective power is attained through attainment of shared goals, or distributive, where power is attained through imposition on others. With the current strategy in which the U.S is recanting its initial tendency to expand through imposition, shifting to the distributive power approach should be fast enough and effective for long term sustainability. The U.S needs to recognize the most sustainable sources of power, and those in which most nations would take without coercion. Those are the approaches to strategy that will be sustainable in the long run. For this reason, it is deductible that while the capitalist and eventually the imperialist strategies could have worked for some time, the national strategies need to change with changing times.

America’s Grand Strategy

From the period following the cold war and America’s growth in the international space, there has been diverging interactions with the U.S foreign policy across different countries. According to Dueck (2004), the U.S foreign policy was hated by different countries in different magnitudes depending on its impacts on the international relations between America and the other countries. A good example of this divergence is observed through the different governments that have been in the United States over the years, their responses to issues of international importance and their approaches to dealing with the international communities. From President George Bush to President Donald Trump, there have been significant variances in the manner in which the U.S foreign policy treats other countries and their citizens. There are periods in which the international relations between the U.S and other countries, particularly those in the Middle East and other Islamic nations was bordering on the hostile. During other periods, there was a somewhat friendly relationship between the U.S and those countries. These differences are all linked to the foreign policies in the U.S more than in those other countries, resulting in the negative attitude towards the foreign policy at those particular times than at any other time in the global community.

Dueck (2004b) further points out that through the years, there have been several strategic readjustments in the U.S. Changes in the mentality of decision makers, which is a function of the specific decision makers in power at specific times, and international structural pressures are cited as part of the contributing factors to the continuous strategic adjustments that occur in the United States. In more recent times however, the grand strategy used by the U.S in its power relations has been based on the choice between four basic alternatives, which are at times used collaboratively. The impacts of those alternatives vary based on the policies in place and the decision makers in place, and also result in distinctive perceptions across the world. The determination of whether the U.S strategy is effective at any particular time therefore depends extensively on the impacts of the strategy at the time it is used. For instance, the primacy strategy may be effective at a given time and considered ineffective at another. This implies that while the U.S has the choice to use any of the four strategies at any given time, there should be a consideration of the implications, targeted goals and the participants to collective power bargains. The four strategies include: disengagement, the balance of power, liberal internationalism, and primacy (Dueck, 2004b).

The United States has used the strategy of disengagement most recently under the power of President Donald Trump in which the U.S policy makers, under the coercion of the president, emphasize the U.S intention to dissociate from global challenges such as poverty in the developing world by limiting foreign aid. This is contrary to the liberal internationalism strategy that was commonly used by both President George Bush and President Barrack Obama, through continuous support of suffering communities, as well as the provision of military, political and social encouragement to the nations in need. The implications of the disengagement and liberal internationalism are both visible, resulting in resentment and respect respectively. The objective of the U.S should be more inclined to ensuring that international relationships are respected, disorder reduced among the chaotic as under an imperialist stance, and that collaborative nation building is propagated. Accordingly, the balance of power strategy seems to be most effective as it promises circumstantial decision making rather than focus on written and bound policies. The balance of power strategy considers the need to help on a humanitarian ground while also emphasizing the need for independence even among the chaotic countries. Under this strategy, which was also used by President Obama to some extent, the U.S gives a hand where there is dire need, yet withholds that same hand until accountability is achieved. This way, the U.S promotes humanitarianism while also discouraging dependence on other nations.

The concept of primacy is probably the worst possible strategic scenario as it portrays a sense of entitlement. Golub (2010) clearly explained that primacy entails the U.S considering itself as the world super power or the only remaining empire without consideration of the actions of other countries, their policies and their decision making process. The implication of this kind of strategy is that it hinders progress towards the intended directions. While other countries grow in technology, expand their manufacturing industries and build stronger and more democratic political systems, the U.S continuously draws attention to itself as the world superpower even when countries such as China are passing it economically. The U.S has used this strategy as much as it has used disengagement and liberal internationalism, through President Donald Trump’s regime.

Conclusion and Recommendation

From the exploration of the different strategies used by the United States during the post cold war period both earlier and more recently, it is clear that the country has been exposed to several strategies, working to different degrees at different times in history. In the early decades following the cold war, the U.S focused first on capitalism and later on the nation-state system before settling on the imperialist system (Layne, 2006). However, the U.S has more recently been balancing between four strategies namely disengagement, primacy, liberal nationalism and the balance of power. From a consideration of the implications of each of these strategies, it is clear that the efficacy of any given strategy in the international context depends to a large extent on the implementation process and the receiving parties. The balance of power strategy seems to be the most plausible and also the most sustainable in terms of power building. For this reason, it is recommended that the U.S should continue using this strategy, adopting values and practices from each of the other strategies at different times for different purposes. While it is impossible for the U.S foreign policy to be pleasant to all other countries, making it serve the intended purpose at the intended time will be one of the steps towards sustainable national growth. The conclusion drawn is that the U.S has the potential for continuous and sustainable growth across all the four facets namely economic, military, political and ideological power sources, but this can only happen with the right strategy.



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