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Essay: Which factors have accounted for U.S foreign policy towards Africa?

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After the end of the Cold War, changes in global political climate led to a shift in U.S. foreign policy. United States policy makers realized that, there was no longer need to compete with the Soviet Union for influence around the world. New policy arrangements took the place of competition in proxy wars and different regions began to see a shift in the special relationship they had shared with the United States during the Cold War, which meant that Africa began to suffer from declining geostrategic importance. Studies of U.S relations with individual African countries have been addressed in the context of U.S relations with the entire continent. U.S-Africa relations are a subject of interest, they are not out of the blue, and they follow a historical pattern, as Duignan and L.H Gann’s study of American- African relations since the slave trade era shows (Peter Duignan and L. H. Gann 1984). Since the end of World War 11, the U.S has undeniably had enormous influence in the world; it became the leader of the western world in the ideological war against the Soviet Union. It also took on the role of policing the world to ensure international peace and order, The U.S sees itself as the guardian of international peace and order, the promoter and protector of democracy and its values. It has a great influence in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations (where it’s a permanent member of the Security Council), institutions that have played an important role in the development of the African continent and other regions of the world.

United States foreign policy towards Africa can be traced from the Wilsonian times; On January 1919 President Woodrow Wilson of the United States delivered a speech during the Versailles peace conference treaty. The points that related to Africa were, the question of colonies, the formation of an international organization that would guarantee the independence of all states both great and small (Nanjira 2010). This is because most of Africa with the exception of Ethiopia was under colonial rule. This marked the beginning of U.S influence in Africa.

During the Cold War, containment of the Soviet Union and non-isolationism served as guideposts of the American foreign policy and played an important role in ordering priorities at home and as well as abroad. I concur with Schraeder who posits that Africa was one of the many theatres in which the U.S and the Soviet Union acted out the Cold War (Schraeder 1994). With the weakening and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, the tenets of U.S foreign policy changed. The policy of soviet containment was replaced with the concept of Americanization, the spread of liberal democracy, self determination and expanded trade became crucial elements of U.S’s active foreign engagement abroad. Unfortunately, Africa’s rank on the U.S agenda declined. United States has had to rediscover Africa at several junctures during the post cold war era. U.S policy makers have tended to ignore the African continent until some sort of political-military crisis grabs their attention (Schraeder 1994). As the African policy advisory panel noted that “after the of the cold war, Africa’s rank on the U.S agenda declined, this is because U.S had won the ideological war and containing the spread of communism was no longer top priority” (Walter Kansteiner and Stephen Morrison 2004). However, this policy changed as a result of the transformation of America’s strategic concerns especially after September 11th 2001 attacks, U.S enlisted a number of countries in Africa especially in the horn of Africa and great lakes region in the coalition of the willing in its war against terror (Pauly 2013).

Consequently, this thesis examined the continuity and changes in the United States foreign policy toward Africa by identifying the dominant patterns of U.S interventionist practices on the continent during the post-Cold war period. Specifically, the research explained why Washington has strengthened or weakened foreign relationships with African regimes over time using Uganda as a case study. Several questions in this regard where important: which factors have accounted for U.S foreign policy towards Africa, under what circumstances has the United States become involved with a particular regime on the African continent? Who have been the key actors within the foreign policy establishment? The major constraints in U.S foreign policy towards Africa,

In doing so, I discussed four different theories that could explain U.S foreign policy towards Africa and Uganda in particular, these are: realism, liberalism, dependency and democratic peace theory. The theoretical approach serves the purpose of organizing the driving factors of U.S. foreign policy towards Africa into models to help structure a very complex issue. These models serve as tools to analyze the driving forces, and are means to an end, not an end in themselves. The results from thesis indicate that the United States should not be mistaken for an altruistic actor in perusing democracy promotion in the world. It is mostly concerned about its own security, stability and prosperity. U.S policy makers believe that they can only be safe in an open world, a world shaped by liberal and democratic ideologies.

The discussion is divided into several sections. Chapter one presents a review of the available literature on the subject area, the theoretical and conceptual framework analysis. It examines the literature on U.S foreign policy. The chapter then outlines the origins and assumptions of the selected international theories and how they relate to U.S foreign policy in particular. Chapter two examines U.S interests in Africa, the factors which have influenced US foreign policy towards the continent. Chapter three provides the analysis of U.S foreign policy towards Uganda after the end of cold war; it covers the changing trends in U.S foreign policy towards Uganda after the collapse of the Soviet Union and in era of international terrorism. Chapter four is the concluding chapter of the thesis; it draws together and synthesizes the conclusions from the previous chapters

The thesis employs a qualitative research methodology of a case study analysis. Only one case has been selected and it is the U.S. foreign policy towards Uganda in the post-Cold War era. The discussion is also based on four additional sets of primary sources variety of books, public documents and statements, organizational reports, articles in newspapers, journals and internet articles were used to examine the continuity and changes in the United States foreign policy towards Africa. All of these sources have been weighed against much of the substantial secondary material that has been written about US Africa policies during the last forty years.


This chapter explores the literature, theories and concepts underlying the study. The first section deals with the literature review. The second section examines the theoretical framework of analysis. The third section looks at the conceptual framework of analysis. The first part of the literature review looks at the definition of the foreign policy in general. The second part of the review examines the U.S foreign policy as a whole and the key objectives of U.S foreign policy in its relations with other states. The second part of this chapter dealt with theories that can explain U.S foreign policy towards Africa. These theories are realism, liberalism, dependency and democratic peace theory.

1.1 The concept of foreign policy

As with most concepts in political science and international relations, there are different debates on foreign policy. Hill defined foreign policy as as the sum of official external relations conducted by an independent actor usually a state in international relations (Hill 2003). Apart from actions, Hill proposed that “broadly interpreted, foreign policy is about the fundemental issue of how organized groups at least interrelate to each other”. Beach defines foreign policy as “both the broad trends of behavior and the particular actions taken by a state or other collective actor as directed towards other collective actors within the international system” (Beach 2012). According to Walter Carlsnaes foreign policy consists of those actions which, “expressed in the form of explicitly stated goals, commitments and or directives and pursed by governmental representatives acting on behalf of their sovereign communities are directed toward objectives, conditions and actors both governmental and non-governmental which they want to effect and which lie beyond their territorial legitimacy” (Carlsnaes 2002).

The definitions presented above confine foreign policy as only being between sovereign units or states, a notion that very much reflects the influence of the realist tradition of state centered approach perceiving state as a unitary actor in the international system. Those conceptions do not conform with the evolving reality that the international system has become increasingly complex due to the emerging importance of non-state actors (Beach 2012). For purposes of this study, therefore the concept of foreign policy will be understood to consist of statements and actions taken by the state to its relations with other external actors, state or non- state actors. It is responsive to the actions of other state and taken to fulfill national interest outside territorial boundary.

There are various factors that are crucial to a states foreign policy, they include the individual leader, lobby groups, media, civil society, prevailing circumastances among others. Perhaps no other country displays the myriad influence that go into creating a nations foreign policy than the United States. Viotti and kaupi argued that to speak of U.S foreign policy is really to speak of a number of foreign policy decessions determined by competition among a number of actors because foreign decessions are not made by some abstract entity called the United states but by some combination of actions with in foreign policy establishment (Paul Viotti and Mark Kauppi 2013).

The executive and the president in particular is central to actual policy making and strategizing, Dueck observed that the President act as a focal point for their party when it comes to foreign policy and the latitude they enjoy when making foreign policy ensures their central role in the process. He argues that after all external forces are taken into consideration, the triumph of one foreign policy tendency over another is crucially shaped by the Presidents own choice (Dueck 2010)

Thus, the personal beliefs and biases of a President and his immediate staff are important to understand which policies he is likely to favor. However, the author attributes too much power to the president. The president is not onmipotent, and foreign policy is not made in an immaculate vacuum, deaf to the clamouring voices of public discourse. Rather, policy issues and proposals are filtered through various levels of government that are open to external pressure to varying degrees.

The role of lobby groups, media and congress is extremely important in U.S foreign policy making system, Brzezinski observed that foreign policy lobbies have through increased access to congress, become more influential in American politics. These lobbies, especially those finanacially well endoweded have promoted legislative intervention in foreign policy making, be it in military or more successfully economic (Brzezinsk 1997). The media, in its role as an intermediary between the American public and Federal government helps to create the political environment and even consensus in which politicians at every level must operate. To deviate too starkly from this consensus can have negative repercussions.

The legislative branch of the government ( the congress and senate) is supposed to focus on domestic issues and policy, but frequently attempts to influence foreign policy when it comes to approving funding of innitiatives. American foreign policy must therefore contend with domestic forces operating in and around the federal government.

Throught out its history, like all other nations of the world, the U.S has acted in defence of its national interests. Wittkopf, Jones and Kegley analyzed the enduring interests and goals of U.S foreign policy. The authors state that the enduring values and interests of U.S foreign policy are peace and prosperity, stability and security, democracy and defence. They further highlight three persistent foreign policy objectives tied to these values and interests. These are freedom from the dictates of others, commercial advantages and promotion of American ideas and ideals (Kegley, Jones and Wittkopf 2007).

LaFeber observed that America’s mission of extending democracy worldwide was not altruistic. Rather it grew out of the belief that American liberties could not exist for long at home unless the world was made a safer place for democracy (LaFeber 2006). According to Forsythe, the U.S foreign policy elites have traditionally been afflicted by a pervasive sense of U.S vulnability which is a bye-product of American “exceptionalism” (Forsythe 2012). This is the belief in the exceptional freedom and goodness of the American people. He believed that “the nation was explicitly founded on particular sets of values which made the United States view itself as different from the nations of the old world from which it originated”, the U.S has special responsibilities and obligations to others (Ibid). Important contemporaray political circles have seen the U.S not as an ordinary nation but as a great experiment in personal liberty which has had implications for the entire planet.

The U.S has different approaches to every part of the world, according to its interest. This applies to the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Schraeder (1994) and Copson (2007) argue that Africa has been historically treated as a “backwater” in official U.S policy making circles as measured by the time and resources allocated to Africa in comparison with other regions of the world. Cold war security concerns persuaded the U.S to intervene in African affairs, Nyunya examined U.S-Africa relations during the Cold War era in the context of the nature of the super power rivarly, according to Nyunya, U.S interactions with African states were guided largely by the goals of the Cold War U.S designs for global hegemony and interests in Africa’s raw materials (Nyunya 1995).

Similary, Keller observed that beginning with the Cold War, the United States followed a policy of “selective engagement” towards Africa. It selectively engagaed with those countries where it felt that their national interests were involved. Keller argued that for example in the horn of Africa, the U.S pursued an encirclement strategy with regard to Ethiopia, this policy was designed to provide countries sorrounding Ethiopia with economic and military assistance and thereby hold Communism at bay in the horn of Africa. The U.S at the same time asked Kenya, Egypt, Somali and Oman to allow their territories to be used by American forces as grounds for the U.S rapid deployment into the Middle East and Persian gulf (Keller 2006).

The U.S foreign policy differed during and after the Cold War as America’s own interests shifted. Diamond argues that the policy of the United States and other democracies towards Africa began to change dramatically around 1990 towards a greater concern for democracy, accountability and human rights. He attributes this shift to the end of Cold War and the reversion of United States to its democratic ideal, the internal demand for political freedom and democracy by Africans themselves and disillusionment on the part of Western aid donors who increasingly began to link economic development with accountability and good governance (Diamond 1995).

In his essay, “Can established Democracies Nurture democracies abroad” Joel Barkan argues that, the end of Cold War had significant implications for United States Policz towards Africa, that once the Soviet Union threats faded, the U.S was at liberty to assert moral preferences through international diplomacy by embarking on a crusade of global democracy (Barkan 1994). Thomas argues that the promotion of American values such as freedom, democracy and human rights in Africa is rooted in the idealist strain in U.S foreign policy. He says the promotion of democracy has been given additional support by democratic support thesis that democratic states dont go to war against each other (Thomas 1998).

Similary, Epstein, Serafino and Miko argued that democracy promotion has been a long standing element of U.S foreign policy. They observe that since world war one, when United States fought to make the world safe for democracy, various U.S administrations have been interested to verying degrees in promoting democracy around the world. The authors give examples of President Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton who viewed democracy promotion as an important component of their foreign policy efforts (Epstein, Nina and Miko 2007). Lancaster observed that both the Bush and Clinton administration emphasized the promotion of democracy as a key element of U.S foreign policy (Lancaster 2006).

The global democratic thesis was strengthened further by arguments from American scholars stating that democracy is not only the key to international peace but also to international prosperity and development. Henry Nau argues that stability and nation building in Africa through non-democratic means such as one-party and partrimonial rule is ephemeral and costly. It leads to unacceptable human rights abuses and unnecessary mercantilist and nationalist conflicts with industrial countries. Hence, African states cannot develop or have cordial relations with the United States unless they embrace democracy (Nau 2003).

As a result of the democratic thesis arguments, United States post- Cold War aid to Africa was based on the willingness of the recipient government to protect basic human rights and promote participatory rights including access to politics as well as the improvement of the socio-economic conditions. In their book, Micheal Cox, John Ikenbery and Takashi Inoguchi refer to this new type of aid as “democracy promotion” understood in the fullest senses of not only facilitating free and fair elections but also building up the capacities of individual citizens to participate in the life of the nation (Michael Cox and Takashi Inoguchi 2000).

Huntington provides a similar line of arguments to justify United States support for third world democracies. In his article “Will more Countries Become Democratic”, he argues that democracy leads to more freedom, one of the most important values to American society. He also argues that with continued interdepedence, it is essential to establish a more congenial environment for United States policies. Since democracies are more peaceful, they are likely to deal with sociao-economic problems that rise from interdepedence and an unstable international economy in a more cooperative fashion (Huntington 1984).

In her article, “Exporting Democracy”, Margot Light takes a positive look at the globolization of democracy. Although she admits that government exports democracy for self-interested motives, she also argues that democracy is a necessary prior condtion for succesfull economic reform and development. Democracy is therefore just not exported selfishly, but wilh an aim of making aid assistance programms more effective and promoting congenial conditions for aid and investment (Light 2001).

However, not all analysis of U.S-African relations subsribe to the claims that democracy is the basis of U.S post Cold War foreign policy towards Africa. Guyat, argues that the practise of U.S foreign policy has not changed much since the end of the cold war. He applies realism to the question of American alliances and partnerships abroad. He argues that the one indispensable factor that governs U.S relations with other countries is not democracy or the lack of it but rather U.S self interest. Hence, the promotion of domestic interests is the key strategy of U.S foreign policy in Africa (Nicholas 2001).

Similarly, Bandow argues that any form of assistance by the U.S to the third World is aimed at promoting U.S national interests within the receipts of U.S assistant. The assistance provides “bargaining chips” to be used when discussing issues considered to be of importance to Washington (Bandow 1992).

In his book Africa and the international system:The politics of state survival, Christopher Clapham analyzes the contribution of western powers to the democratic process in Africa. He points out that the opposition parties that received support from Western governments have been careful not to put forward programs that might seem threatening to the lords of the new international order. Therefore, in order to maintain cordial relations, the opposition parties upon acquiring power had to adopt to the new global realities (Clapham 1996).

Schraeder in United States Foreign Policy towards Africa: Incrementalism, Crisis and Change points out two major contradictions about the assumption that democratization in Africa is linked to U.S foreign aid assistance. First, he argued that the end of Cold War was marked with a steady decline in U.S aid to Africa in favor of Eastern Europe despite enormous reforms that was taking place through out the continent. His second argument was that the containment of Islamic fundementalism replaced the containment of Communism on the African continent (Schraeder 1994). Concerns posed by the spread of Islamic fundementalism in Africa were highlightened after the end of cold war. Many U.S official privately noted that one of the outcomes of the Cold War was a power vacuum on the African continent that could easily be filled by radical forms of islamic fundementalism particulary the Shia variat espoused by Iran. Schraeder notes that U.S efforts to contain the spread of islamic fundementalism on the continent lead to a situation whereby, US. administration were willing to downplay the internal shortcomings of a variety of U.S allies, as was the situation during the Cold War (ibid).

In another article “African international relations” Schraeder identfies rivarly between industrialized nations as another outcome of the post Cold War era. He argues that the ideologically based Cold war between the US. and the former Soviet Union was replaced by a cold peace in which major northern industrialized states struggle for economic supremacy in a highly competitive international economic environment. The expectations that the New World Order would promote democracy and human rights as cornerstones of a new democratic international order has been surpassed by competition among industrialized democracies for markets and influence throught out the African continent. In the case of the U.S, the end of the Cold War fostered the decline of ideologically based policies in favor of the pursuit of trade and investment (Schraeder 2013). In 1996, the Clinton administration unveiled the first formal U.S trade policy for aggressively pursuing new markets throughtout Africa including Francophone Africa. This policy was preceded in 1992 by a series of highly publicized speeches rejecting Washingtons past support for Frances privilleged role in Francophone Africa in favor of a more aggressive approach to promoting U.S trade and investment (ibid).

Schraeder gives an example of how rivarly for American and French trade and investment interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo surpassed the democratic and moral dimensions of U.S foreign policy. In may 1997, Mobutu Seso Seko’s regime, no longer significant to U.S interest, was overthrown by the guerilla insurgency led by Laurent Desire Kabila who was strongly supported by and allied with the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni. Musevenis government was closely allied with the U.S and the victory of Kabila as the president of the Congo-Kinshasa constitued a clear victory for Anglo-Saxon influence at the expense of Francophone influence. This raised the possibility that Congo-Kinshasa could serve as a spring board for the further spread of Anglo-Saxon influence throughout Francophone Africa. Schraeder also notes that the Clinton administrations veto against any UN sponsored force that included peace making in its mandate towards the DRC, was a signal that the U.S was either unwilling or perceived itself unable to impose peace in the country.

Pinkney highlights the contradictions of the claims that political pluralism is one of the important values in U.S foreign policy, he mentions that Ugandas refusal to permit multiparty competions and its adventures in the DRC elicited less disapproval from the U.S compared to imperfections for example in Kenya’s multiparty system. This, he argues that the main concern of western countries in Africa is achieving results that improve economic prosperity and reduce the need for aid (Pinkney 2001)

According to Pinkney, skeptism about political pluralism emerged after the first wave of multiparty elections in Africa. Throughout the 1990s, a majority of African states adopted multiparty politics. However, the end result of their first elections often brought about electoral democracy without liberal democracy. As a result, the U.S and other western states concluded that political conditionality had failed. They decided to down play the importance of political reforms and instead emphasized economic liberalization as a precondition for finanacial assistance. Pinkney argues that western interests in democracy is only skin deep as compared with the desire for a competent administration that would avoid the worst excesses of corruption and not stand in the way of the disbursement of aid which would in turn serve the interests of global capitalism (Ibid). While Western governments and international finacial institutions (IFIs) pay minimal bills for aiding sick economies. Therefore, democratisation is important only in so far as it achieves these ends.

An independent analysis by Robert Anthony Waters, traces U.S support to President Museveni to the early 1990s, when AIDS programs and development efforts aroused American interest, Promises of aid, which, when combined with other foreign assistance from international donors almost provided 40% of the Uganda national budget (Waters 2009). Also Jeffrey Herbst in his analysis of United States economic policy towards Africa states that economic support towards Uganda was based on the reform in the relationship between the United States and Uganda since the 1990s, however, he recognizes that there was financial undercut by the United States due to Uganda support of Rwanda in the Congo invasion, violations of human rights and constitution amendments that allowed the President to run for third term (Herbst 1992). In his criticism of Museveni, Joshua B. Rubongoya suggests that United States continued support to Uganda has allowed its undemocratic institution to continue unchecked despite the violations mentioned (Rubongoya 2007).

John W. Sewell, in “Aid for a new World Order” highlights the ethnocentric nature of globalization. He argues that the post Cold War US Policy makers view free trade and free market economies as not only essential ingredients for sustained growth in the developing world, but also a major factor in expanding and protecting markets for U.S exports.

In weak states in the international system, Handel explains the relationship between powerful states such as the United States and developing countries in terms of patron-client relationship. In such a relationship, the developing country, which he refers to as the client state, makes its decisions’ regarding foreign policy by conforming to the wishes of the great power (Michael 1990). Therefore, the client state behaves like a politically penetrated system and makes decision on foreign affairs as if a foreign state were participating in its decision making process

Kofi in his analysis of United States-Uganda relations suggests that the recent militarization of the United States foreign policy with Africa reflects the strategic interest of the U.S in preventing the spread of terrorism and to ensure access to natural resources such as oil, copper, gold and uranium (Kofi 2014). However Pepra was not the first to suggest that the United States interest in containing Sudan and Somali was one of the overriding factors in Supporting President Museveni, Robert waters also indicated that U.S overlooked Uganda government human rights violations in favor of allying with him in the war on terror. However, other factors have to be considered especially access to material resources (Waters 2009).

John Jean Barya applies the patron-client concept to the domestic policies of countries in Africa. In his article “Internal and external pressure in the struggle for pluralism in Uganda” he argues that good relations with the west can only be maintained when African states implement policies that serve western interests (Barya 1996). His main line of argument to support this is the insistence that Africa must embrace multiparty politics. Barya says that this was not simply a post Cold War quest to democratize Africa but also a strategy to entrench the basis of the liberal order and institutions of privatization and market forces (ibid). Towards the end of the Cold War, liberalism in Africa appeared to be under threat from social movements and popular democratic struggles opposed to the implementation of the structural adjustment programs (SAPs). This opposition was a threat to the capitalist system. Therefore, an order to ensure that the riffraff workers and peasants did not hijack the liberal bourgeois definition of democracy; the west derailed the struggle for broad based democracy by reducing it to economic liberalism. In the long run, it does not matter if a government is acting undemocratically as long as it implements policies that serve the west.

Godfrey Okoth elaborates on the patron-client relationship between Uganda and the U.S in “Uganda’s foreign relations from 1962 to the beginning of the Twenty first century”, he argues that Uganda’s foreign economic relations consists of a situation whereby the U.S controlled International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and to a lesser extent the “national bourgeoisie” benefit from international finance capital rather than the masses of Uganda (G. Okoth 2000). Okoth describes Museveni as the perfect prefect for U.S-led imperialism in its post Cold War policies in Africa.

In another article, “Uganda’s foreign policy towards the United States of America”, Okoth explains why it is crucial for Yoweri Museveni to maintain good relations with succeeding U.S administration (Okoth 1995). According to Okoth, Museveni’s hold on the Ugandan presidency is dependent on U.S political, diplomatic, economic and military support. In order to nurture this close relationship, Uganda’s foreign policy towards the U.S is based on good public relations at the expense of the country’s national interest.

Terrence Lyons and Gilbert M.Khadiagala, in “African foreign policy making at the millennium”, look at how some African leaders have been able to overcome some of the restrictive constraints caused by the passive subordinate role African states play in international relations. One such leader is President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, a man whose description as one of the “new generation of leaders” in Africa, has earned him international assistance and visits by U.S officials that have bestowed legitimacy on his regime (Lyons and Khadiagala 2002).

In his article “Weak Democracy and the Third World” Robert L. Rothstein states that in the past the U.S supported authoritarian regimes not just as an anti-Communist strategy, but because it assumed that economic development would lead to political development and that authoritarian leaders would be better at enforcing the necessary sacrifices for development (Rothstein 1992). This rationale proved to be fallacious and the U.S shifted to direct support for institutionalization of democracy and a redefinition of U.S Third World policy.

The review of literature shows that the United States provided democracy related assistance to many African countries in a variety of circumstances and with mixed degree of success after the cold war. The range of U.S democracy promotion activities and programs also varied greatly from assistance to aid in developing institutions and to funding of civil society groups. Diamond (1995) outlined a number of U.S institutions that promoted democracy in Africa. These included the United States agency for development (USAID); the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) among others.

1.2 Theoretical Framework

The theoretical approach serves the purpose of organizing the driving factors of U.S. foreign policy towards Africa into models to help structure a very complex issue. These models serve as tools to analyze the driving forces, and are means to an end, not an end in themselves. When we view the world, we are looking through different sets of lenses and these lenses are organizing concepts (Holsti 1995). I have chosen to outline four different theories that can explain U.S foreign policy towards Africa and Uganda in particular, these are: realism, liberalism, dependency and democratic peace theory.

The realist theory of international relations presents a state centric approach to foreign policy. It became a dominant theory in the 1940s and 1950s by effectively critiquing the liberal idealism of the interwar period (Jackson Robert and Georg Sørensen 2003). The theory personifies states as unitary rational actors whose behavior is determined by the structure of international anarchy. The guru of thinking about national interests in post-war America foreign policy Hans J. Morgenthau states that political realism is defined in terms of national interests, which are synonymous with power. Realists assume that the international system is anarchic and that states think strategically about how to survive in the international system (Mearsheimer 1995). National security and state survival are the values that drive the realist doctrine. Hence the national interest is the final arbiter in judging foreign policy and the national interest precedes moral norms. Due to the uncertainty of the anarchic system, states fear each other and constantly seek to maximize their relative positions over other states (Mearsheimer 1995). This is because the protection of national interests comprises the means through which states act to acquire economic and military power with an aim of ensuring national survival. Realists are skeptical about the idea that universal moral principles exist. They warn state leaders against sacrificing the interests of the state in order to adhere to indeterminate notions of international ethical contact.

Traditionally, the realist school has understood security in terms of state security, and governments have used this to legitimize all actions taken in apparent defense of the nation-state. Consequently, classical definitions of security are closely tied to a state’s defense of sovereign interests by military means. Geopolitics according to Dodds is the study of how geography and patterns determine power and the connection between geographical attributes and the distribution of power (Dodds 2004). Geopolitics can be understood as a variant of realism in the study of international politics (Donnelly 2000). To what degree is U.S. foreign policy towards Africa influenced by geopolitics? According to Dodds geopolitics is deterministic in the sense of the surroundings, size and resources to a country are important in its foreign policy. Based on the definition of fragile states by the United States Agency for International Development, most nations in Africa are either failed or potentially failing. USAID claims that the region could pose a serious threat to the United States goal of achieving democracy, prosperity, and security in the hemisphere (USAID 2005). In my analysis, the political and economic instability on the African continent has become a source of widespread concern to U.S. policymakers and influences U.S. foreign policy making towards the continent. Moreover, Africa has the largest undeveloped oil deposits in the whole world and Washington and U.S. corporate interests have a mutual desire to increase access to the continent’s markets. Instability on the continent would affect U.S. interests, Hence it is in the U.S. interest to make the region safer and easier to access.


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