Post–cold War Policy
Richard A. Melanson
While the precise dates that marked the beginning and the end of the Cold War remain the subjects of scholarly debate, the era's major foreign policy focus was unambiguous: containing the spread of Soviet power and international communism by supporting friendly governments with aid, arms, and, occasionally, troops; deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and its allies; and supporting economic institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund created at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. Deprived of a global enemy, American foreign policy since the Cold War seemingly became more diffuse, perhaps even incoherent. But, though political elites awaited the arrival of a reincarnated "X" (the pseudonym senior State Department official George F. Kennan used in his famous article on the strategy of containment in 1947) to articulate a crystalline, new strategy, several discernible and related themes and concepts have, nevertheless, characterized post–Cold War American foreign policy.
At least six themes and concepts have steered U.S. foreign policy since the Cold War:
- the preservation of American global hegemony
- the fostering of globalization through the continued development of liberal international economic institutions
- the promotion of an ever-growing "zone of democratic peace"
- the repeated employment of military power to ease humanitarian disasters
- the isolation and punishment of a handful of "rogue" states that allegedly threatened regional stability and American security;
- growing concerns about the vulnerability of the United States to attacks from these regimes as well as from transnational terrorist groups.
Efforts to formulate concrete policies from these themes and concepts have provoked both domestic and international dissent about their appropriateness and feasibility.
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Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York, 1999. A spirited defense of globalization that is engagingly written.
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Waltz, Kenneth N. "Globalization and American Power." The National Interest 59 (spring 2000): 46–56. An article by a leading "realist" scholar that debunks globalization as a wildly exaggerated phenomenon that has done little to alter the ways states conduct their foreign policies.
See also Arms Control and Disarmament ; Cold War Evolution and Interpretations ; Cold War Origins ; Cold War Termination ; Cold Warriors ; Containment ; Environmental Diplomacy ; Globalization ; Humanitarian Intervention and Relief ; Internationalism ; International Monetary Fund and World Bank ; International Organization ; Nuclear Strategy and Diplomacy ; Power Politics ; Science and Technology ; Superpower Diplomacy ; Terrorism and Counterterrorism .