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Post-Cold War American Foreign Policy: What, When, and Why

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Technical Report

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Air University School of Advanced Air and Space Studies Maxwell AFB United States

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This study assesses American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. As the worlds sole superpower, American leadership has followed one of four policies in the post-Cold War period unilateral engagement, multilateral engagement through existing organizations, multilateral engagement through ad hoc coalitions, and non-engagement or engagement through a third party. The author assesses three case studies for each policy category, identifying the intervening variables leading American foreign policy decision-makers to each outcome. The case studies identify six intervening variables American interest, leadership, legitimacy, required capabilities, available multilateral organizations, and alternate willing actors. The author then constructs a framework for American foreign policy decision-making, applying the six intervening variables as they lead to each of the four possible policy outcomes. Following this, the writer uses one case demonstrating the critical need to adequately contextualize the situation in order to avoid inaccurate results emerging from the framework. Finally, two recent cases of American foreign policy, not yet mature enough to allow comprehensive analysis, validate the potential to apply the framework. Ultimately, the author concludes that, while there is no one foreign policy option for the United States to apply as the lone superpower, the correct analysis of the given situation results in predictable policy choices. The policy choices are recognizable not only for the American policy-makers, but also the domestic population as it scrutinizes its government and the international community as it tries to identify what it expects from the global leader. The framework produced offers a lens to examine American foreign policy-making for this purpose.

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