US Foreign Policy Term Paper

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U.S. Foreign Policy

American foreign policy occupies a unique place in the world. American foreign policy regarding interacting with other nations is a non-homogeneous mixture of politics, economics, and the unique American culture which believes that both the success of political and economic agenda's cannot be separated from the ways which a country treats it's people. To be specific, American has a difficult time forming positive relationships with nations that oppress, imprison, or otherwise trample their people's basic human rights to life, liberty and the individual pursuit of happiness. As he stated during his administration, President Jimmy Carter described the connection between human rights and American foreign policy this way.

Human rights is the soul of our foreign policy, because human rights is the very soul of our sense of nationhood."

American foreign policy is also seen as a function of the president, and the president must take the lead in representing to the world a cohesive message which represents America's past actions, as well as any new initiatives unique to his administration. As a result, when a person of group of peoples travel to another nation, and make statement which can be perceived as representatively of the U.S. government's foreign policy without first receiving clearance, approval and support of the current administration, the political machines rush into action, and each side works to protect itself while at the same time mounting damage control efforts.

Such was the state of international politics when Jimmy Carter traveled to Havana, Cuba in May 2002. He stood shoulder to shoulder in Havana with one of the U.S. government's oldest enemies, Cuban president Fidel Castro, insisting that the U.S. change it's foreign policy, and begin to recognize the needs of the Cuban people. Carter, although on a mission to convey a message of friendship to the Cuban people and to seek some common ground between Cuba and the United States, created a storm of controversy. As a former president, he represented the American government to the Cuban leader.
As a world wide humanitarian, his presence carried weight, and created a newsworthy event. However, his message was contradictory to current American foreign policy. His efforts in Cuba, while built from the heart of the vision and values behind American foreign policy, presented the world with a divided America, and an opportunity to call into question the current foreign policy regarding Cuba.

According to Kane, (2003) Carter made a point of meeting and encouraging local democratic, religious, and human rights activists. In a televised address, he endorsed the rights of dissidents and urged democracy on the island nation (Sullivan 2002). He also advocated an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba. In response, President George W. Bush's administration angrily charged Carter's latest adventure as international arbiter as an inappropriate use of American clout. Bush himself was quick to reaffirm the existing sanctions on trade and travel, and restate the U.S.'s demands for free elections and a liberalization of Cuba's economy as preconditions of U.S. relaxation of foreign policy sanctions. He was also reportedly angry, in a week when he was finalizing an arms reduction deal with the Russians, at being upstaged in the media by the retired elder president. Nevertheless, there was a certain irony in his implied charge that Carter, who had once put human rights centrally on the foreign policy agenda of the United States, was giving aid and comfort to a notorious violator.

In Kane's article, he questions the validity of Bush's criticisms of Carter by suggesting that Bush performed an identical foreign policy mea culpa by visiting China, and issuing a democratic challenge to the Chinese Communist leadership (Allen and Pan 2002). Bush had not conditioned U.S. Chinese trade on democratic progress in China. He had, however, echoed similar themes to the Chinese which Carter had suggested in Cuba. Bush invited the Chinese to consider the course of their historical economic transformation and to draw on specifically "American ideals of liberty, faith….....

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