Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post - Cold War Era

Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post - Cold War Era

Article excerpt

Mission failure: America and the world in the post-Cold War era By Michael Mandelbaum, Oxford University Press, 2016, 504 p., ISBN-13: 978-0190469474

After the end of the Cold War, the United States tirelessly sought to maintain its steadfast footprint in world affairs. The bipolarity of the post-World War II era was gone, and America emerged as the sole superpower. Unbeknownst to the foreign policy stakeholders at that time, it did so during a period when superpower status was defined not by the sheer number of nuclear weapons but rather by a willingness to respond to the world's emerging crises. The United States became "the multibillionaire among nations." (p. 7] During the 1990s the interconnectedness of the world increased dramatically. Michael Mandelbaum, the author of Mission failure: America and the world in the post-Cold War era, describes this period as the post-Cold War world. This book review will argue, on the basis of Mandelbaum's book, that Barack Obama's foreign policy represents a new type of foreign policy that draws on the mistakes of the immediate postCold War period as described by Mandelbaum.

The post-Cold War period was a kind of laboratory of foreign policy. It was a Petri dish of new technological advances, from democracy to unipolarity. US foreign policy can be divided into three phases. First, the exploration and selective intervention that started with the presidency of George H.W. Bush after he took over the country's leadership at the end of the bipolar era. The second wave of foreign policy started with the post-9/11 interventions implemented by Bush's son and the neoconservatives in his inner circle. This period was characterized by an idealistic and vigorous show of muscle and power. In 2009 Barrack Obama became president and with him a group of wise kids equipped with social media skills and a new vision of foreign policy making entered the White House. Despite the strong retrenchment towards the conventional use of military in the world, US foreign policy goals did not change under the new administration - all the presidents, Obama included, pursued international criminals and terrorists, and condemned and infrequently intervened to stop ethnic and religious atrocities, while passionately supporting the right of nations to their independent aspirations. The means of achieving them, however, changed extensively. Apart from the first surge in Afghanistan, Obama decided to pursue his foreign policy goals with limited use of power, preferring diplomacy over confrontation and reducing the role of Special Operations in large interventions. With technological advances, countries in the Middle East and North Africa began to experience an unprecedented number of drone attacks. In Yemen, Obama approved the targeted killing of a US citizen, the first of its kind in American history. These targeted killings combined with diplomatic efforts have done little to calm either the foreign policy hawks or the doves. Nevertheless, they are among the most plausible and durable policies tried during the post-Cold War era.

Three Lessons Unlearned

According to Mandelbaum, one of the mistakes of post-Cold War foreign policy is the failure of nation building. America is careful when allocating resources and personnel to make sure it is entirely committed to "building" new countries and nations. The lack of long-term commitment by the US is not in itself to blame. Combined with the lack of interest from other countries, be they US allies or important players in the neighborhood, and the all but possible decision making process at the United Nations, one can understand why the world has not seen a success story in this regard following the end of the Cold War. The second reason nation building often fails is the domestic system of the targeted country. Mandelbaum argues that president Bill Clinton failed to seek and promote a better human rights policy in China because it was the Chinese who controlled the country, not the Americans. …

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