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A significant part of international relations for any government is made up by the manner of agreements and understandings a particular government has with other states. The USA utilises three major types of agreements when conducting diplomatic negotiations: Treaties (bilateral and multilateral), executive agreements, and a variety of supplementary, subsidiary and related agreements. Amendments and extensions of treaties are also included in these. The majority of these agreements have a legally binding affect.

For example, “Article 2 of the Constitution recognizes only formal “treaties” and does not acknowledge other types of international compacts” (Pilschke, 1999, p. 526). However, in recent times a new form of agreement has arisen within the United States, this being the notion of Executive agreements. The conclusion and implementation of such treaties is not strictly in congruence with the regular treaty-making process. Such agreements come in two forms: those that have the approval of the congress, and those that are without.

The former breed is those that are approved by enactments by both the houses of Congress under prior legislative authorization and are thus named “congressional-executive agreements”. The latter being those unauthorized by the houses of Congress and are approved as a Presidential or Pure executive agreement. However, this form of agreement has been shrouded in controversy as the legitimacy of Presidential agreements and been under scrutiny by the Congress. Executive agreements do not have the authority to alter existing laws, and on the contrary must conform to it; however this has not deterred them from being established.

In general, executive agreements that are made solely on the basis of presidential authority in relation to military co operation as the Commander in Chief go uncontested. However, “executive agreements negotiated under the President’s general diplomatic or foreign relations authority, which are both numerous and diverse, sometimes evoke disagreements with Congress, especially when they produce important commitments or major foreign policy developments or changes, create obligations to submit international disputes to arbitration or to settle claims against the United States, or require U.

S. funding” (Pilschke, 1999, p. 531). This has inevitably led to Congress taking measures to limit its powers. For example, following the case of Fuji v California in the 1950s when a California court deemed a State law invalid on the ground that’s it was incompatible with a charter of the United Nations which had been earlier agreed by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Senator John W. Bricker led a movement attempting to curb the powers of the Executive including the department of state.

One of his proposals was that all executive agreements in relation to foreign and international organizations would be regulated by the Congress. The vote 60 to 31 in favour was one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. Despite a power upheaval in the 1970s following Vietnam and severe public backlash and the establishment of the Wars Power Act, as recently as 1991, there were a total of 4000 executive agreements compared to the 1000 treaties in the US. Question 2. The US foreign policy has always battled between two schools of thought: Realism and idealism.

Realism in the political sense concerns itself with the notion that a state should be motivated by power, be that economically, in terms of security or in that of military might. They view the international system as one which is anarchic with each state being primarily concerned in their own national interest. They mistrust any long-term alliance with any other state and make comparatives between themselves and others based on their level of power and the resources they have amassed. In contrast, idealism is more synonymous with the ultimate nature of reality which stems from ideas or is based upon values.

It is almost holistic in its approach and looks to unite the external world to the conscious, mind, and reason. Therefore, in politics, idealism is concerned with the way things ought to be rather than the way they actually are. It is different form realism as it accuses the said of having an absolute existence, detached from both the conscience and knowledge. Whilst keeping the above mentioned definitions in mind, it would be safe to argue that Theodore Roosevelt conformed to the realist school of thought. Jeffery Record (2001) wrote the following:

His foreign policy epitomized the “realist” approach to the world based on concrete national interest. Roosevelt accepted the world for what it was in the early 1900s: a Hobbesian struggle for power and influence in which it was foolish to believe in any morality other than that of raison d’etat. The best way to operate in such a world was through the maintenance of a balance of power among the major states, and war was sometimes necessary to maintain that balance. Juxtaposed to this was President Woodrow Wilson’s diplomatic and hence idealist approach to governing a country.

His foreign policy actively promoted the American values internationally blaming tyrannical states for disturbing the natural state of peace. Entering into World War 1 was “the key to making the world safe for democracy was to democratize the world itself, because democracies were morally superior to other states and would not make war upon one another”. Question 3. Covert operations are political activities carried out in a manner by which the sponsor can not be identified. This is done so the enemy is unable to prove the parties responsible.

There are four main types of covert actions: sabotage, assassinations, supporting Coup d’etat or subversion. Sabotage consists of weakening an opposing force by a disruptive or obstructive action. It is unlike terrorism as its main objective is not to inflict casualties. An example of such an act would be akin to Black Tom, the explosion on American ammunition supplies by Germans in July 1916 during World War 1, or similarly, in 1917, when they targeted a Canadian car company in the Kingsland explosion.

Another form of covert action, as mentioned earlier, is that of supporting a Coup d’etat, or commonly known as governmental overthrow which is of an unconstitutional nature and generally by a small part of the establishment (military or civil). If the opponents allow the instigators of the coup to consolidate their positions, they can potentially gain legitimacy. The Iranian revolution of 1979 which saw Iran change from a constitutional monarchy to an Islamic republic under the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini who overthrew the shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

However, it was one without the regular premise of war, defeat or financial crisis, which made it an unusual one. Coup d’etats have been a particularly popular manner of gaining state control in Africa, where during the last 50 years there have been no less than 85 attempts. For example, Francois Bozize assumed the title of President via a coup d’etat in 2003 and established the Central African Republic. Support for subversion can be related to Coup d’etat as such activity is defined as aiding those groups that advocate the overthrowing of a government that is incumbent.

It is usually done by force or violence. Examples of this can be found in the US support for Iraq and Afghanistan and its consequential insurgence with military occupation in the said countries. The fourth type of covert action and arguably the most controversial of all is the act of assassination: “an act that consists of a plotted, attempted or actual, murder of a prominent political figure (elite) by an individual (assassin) who performs this act in other than a governmental role”, (Ben-Yehuda, 1997, Vol38. p. 25).

Recent examples of such an action include that of the former Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto and also the assassination of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Whilst the former was shot, the latter was poisoned by a lethal radioactive substance known as Polonium -210. This makes evident the fact that such an option is still very much available to those who look to undertake covert action. Question 4. In 1944 a new system was created on an international basis in order to exchange one currency for another. It was established to help international trade prosper freely and to fund the reconstruction of the world post-war.

The agreement consisted of 44 nations agreeing to fix their exchange rates in relation to the U. S. dollar, and in turn the U. S. dollar was made dependable by being the only currency with the ability to be exchanged for gold. This, they felt, made it dependable, and thus it became the international reserve currency. However, this utopian idea was cloaked with many difficulties: shortage of gold, exchange rate instabilities, the movement of “hot” money in and out of their realms, and the lack of a mechanism to adjust balance of payments problems. (Braithwaite and Drahos, 2001, p.

97-101) Following the premise of the war in Vietnam where the US created further deficits to fund it, causing other states to lose confidence in the dollar. Further economic instability ensued within the world when these sates looked to convert their reserve currency into gold. The Bretton Woods system was caused to collapse by President Nixon to prevent the US gold reserves being employed. The end of this system gave way too a new type of global trade as most member states that had signed up to the Bretton Woods agreement were forced to float their own currencies.

The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Word Trade Organization were three aspects of the Bretton Woods agreement that are still active today. The IMF today oversees global finances following macroeconomic policies of its member states. It is particularly concerned with those states that have an impact on exchange rates and balance of payment. It is also the international lender of last resort, providing monetary aid to those states that are in need. Similarly, the World Bank’s main focus even today is to lend monetary fund to developing states combat poverty and achieve sustainable development.

The World Trade Organization is the successor of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and deals with regulating trade between countries by implementing trade agreements and policing member countries. They are also responsible for policing economic sanctions on member states. Whilst these sanctions have enabled in certain national industries like that of the sanction placed on China and Russia to preserve their on Steel industry, Sanctions can also aid issues of a political nature which have at times led to impeding basic human rights.

For example, the sanctions placed on Iraq after the Gulf War by the US made it impossible for civilians to access basic medication. Question 5. Human Rights within the US are somewhat of a controversial issue. Whilst the country seeks to actively protect the rights of its civilians, the manner in which it deals with the rights of its foreign counterparts has been criticised countless times. Ironically, the US was one of the first to sign and establish the Universal Declaration of Human rights following the Second World War in 1948.

However, in the latter part of the 20th century the US has failed to participate and agreed upon very few of the human rights treaties created internationally by the United Nations. The current status of human Rights within the US foreign policy is subsequent to the general American ethos towards Human Rights. The US has always felt the personal freedom and liberty is paramount in comparison to all other factors of Human Rights. “The United States sees itself as standing above all for personal freedom. ” (Forsythe, 2000, p. 22) Due to their achievements culturally, economically and politically, most Americans adhere to this view too.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that their foreign policy should mirror this view. Whilst the US claims to be a “gatekeeper” for human rights, in reality, this extend so far as domestically as it’s foremost concern is for its own people and economy. It has been criticized countless times for it’s execution of human rights abroad. A prime example of this is the treatment of non-citizen prisoners in Abu Ghraib Prison where as many as 12 prisoners have been allegedly tortured to death by American Military. However, the US has been known to value it’s sovereignty above human rights.

Its foreign policy has been mainly concerned with military involvement to secure its own interests rather than promoting peace between itself and other sovereign nations. This is problematic as the general long standing argument in contrast of the notion of human rights is that of State sovereignty. Therefore, suffice to say that for the US, out of the too, the former proves to be paramount. Question 6. Throughout history, the US has gone through periods of both isolation and involvement. Generally, it is know that the Foreign Policy of the country has reflected its political stance.

An isolationist state is based on two fundamental principles: Protectionism and Non-interventionism. These prevent political rulers to avoid entangling themselves with the affairs of other nations, wars in particular, and it also enables them to impose laws and barriers on trade and other exchanges with other nations. The idea is more of self-preservation. For example, during the World War 1, when the world was undergoing significant reconstruction, America chose to stay detached from European affairs, as President Woodrow Wilson’s idealist policies failed to sit comfortably in the global domain.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, the US chose to involve itself acutely and was mainly concerned with financial assistance, by providing substantial loans to Allies and by aiding them in manufacturing war materials. After the Wars, it also played one of the significant roles in establishing the United Nations, Peter Duignan (1994) wrote the following: US emerged as the world’s leader and North America as a continent of prosperity. While post-war Europe was anxious and fearful, Americans were full of confidence and optimism in them and in their country.

Americans rejoiced in their federal constitutional system (and wanted to give it to Europe as a model for new democratic states). Americans were proud of capitalism and its wartime performance as the arsenal of democracy. Today, the situation is not as clear. Whilst the US is now the only remaining superpower, and so automatically yields a powerful position, its recent decisions, namely the Iraq and Afghanistan and certain economic choices have placed it in a position where whether it chooses isolationist approach or that of involvement, its rules are the only ones that the world recognizes.

References Ben-Yehuda N. Political Assassination Events as a Cross-cultural Form of Alternative Justice. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. 38, 1997 p. 25 Braithwaite. J. and Drahos. P. (2000) Global Business Regulations. Cambridge University Press. Gann. L. H. and Duignan. P. (1994) The USA and the New Europe 1945-1993. Oxford. Blackwell. Forsythe. D. P. (2000) Human Rights and Comparative Foreign Policy. New York. United Nations University Press Pilschke. E. (1999). U. S. Department of State: A Reference History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press Record. J. A Note on Interests, Values and the Use of Force.

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