U. S. Department of State, are to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the

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The foreign policy of the United States is highly influential on the world stage. America's global reach is backed by a 13 trillion dollar economy. The officially stated goals of the foreign policy of the United States, as mentioned in the Foreign Policy Agenda of the U.S. Department of State, are "to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community." In addition, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs states as some of its jurisdictional goals: "export controls, including nonproliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear hardware; measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business abroad; International commodity agreements; international education; and protection of American citizens abroad and expatriation." American foreign policy has been the subject of much debate, criticism and praise both domestically and abroad.

Foreign policy powers of the President and Congress

Subject to the advice and consent role of the U.S. Senate, the President negotiates treaties with foreign nations, but treaties enter into force only if ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. The President is also Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, and as such has broad authority over the armed forces once they are deployed, however Congress has the sole authority to declare war, and the civilian and military budget is written by the Congress. The Secretary of State is the foreign minister of the United States and is the primary conductor of state-to-state diplomacy. Both the Secretary of State and ambassadors are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Congress additionally has power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.

Brief history


Capt. William Bainbridge paying tribute to the Dey of Algiers, circa 1800. From the establishment of the United States after the American Revolution until the Spanish-American War, U.S. foreign policy reflected the country's regional, as compared to global, focus. During the American Revolution, the United States established relations with several European powers, convincing France, Spain, and the Netherlands to intervene in the war against Britain, a mutual enemy. After the revolution, the U.S. moved to restore peace and resume its substantial trade with Great Britain in what is called the "Olive Branch Policy". Following French involvement in the Revolution, led by Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette, the United States maintained significant relations with France, as manifested by France presenting the United States with the Statue of Liberty in 1886. In general, though, the United States followed an isolationist foreign policy until attacks against U.S. shipping by Barbary Coast corsairs spurred the country into developing a naval force projection capability, resulting in the First Barbary War in 1801. Early politicians debated the wisdom of developing a navy and becoming involved in international affairs, but the United States Navy was created to prevent further economic losses: payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary pirate states amounted to 20% of United States government annual revenues in 1800. Following that conflict, the United States engaged in a quasi-war with France and the War of 1812 with Great Britain. In response to the new independence of Spanish colonies in Latin America in the early 1800s, the United States established the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, a policy declaring its opposition to European interference in the Americas. Around the same time, U.S. expansion, ideologically fueled by "manifest destiny", led to war against Mexico, with the U.S. taking what are now the territories of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, and to diplomatic conflict with Britain and Russia over the Oregon Territory and with Spain over Florida and later Cuba. In 1854, the U.S. used its Navy to force Japan to allow international trade. During the American Civil War, the Union states accused Britain and France of supporting the Confederate States. After the end of British military persuasion in 1815, consolidating its territories following the Civil War and the withdrawal of the last remnants of French influence in the region in 1867 when Mexican forces deposed Emperor Maximilian, the United States was unchallenged regionally. This stability, combined with the country's natural resources and growing population, resulted in substantial domestic prosperity and growth of geopolitical influence.

1898 - present

Victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898, and the subsequent acquisition of the Philippines and Guam, marked the United States's shift from a regional to global power and ejected Spain from the Americas. The 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, proclaiming a right for the United States to intervene to stabilize weak states in the region, further weakened European influence in Latin America and established U.S. regional hegemony. Despite its reluctance to involve itself in continental European affairs, the United States entered World War I after making substantial loans to the Allies and after attacks by German U-boats substantially interfered with U.S. shipping. In the peace conference at Versailles, U.S. attempts to shift international relations to an idealist model became bogged down in the secret agreements made during the war and geopolitical horse-trading. U.S. politics also turned against idealist, international policies and the country returned to a more isolationist stance. The United States benefited from its expanded role in international commerce but did not participate in international institutions like the League of Nations. The United States entered World War II in 1941, again on the Allied side, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war against the U.S. by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Similarly to WWI, the United States made significant loans to the Allies and its domestic industries boomed to produce war materials. After the war and devastation of its European rivals, the United States completed its transition from regional to global hegemon alongside the Soviet Union. The United States was a major player in the establishment of the United Nations and became one of five permanent members of the Security Council. From around 1947 until 1991, U.S. foreign policy was characterized by the Cold War. Seeking an alternative to its isolationist policies after WWI, the United States defined itself against the spread of Soviet communism in a policy called Containment. The Cold War was characterized by a lack of global wars but a persistence of regional wars, often fought between client states and proxies of the United States and Soviet Union. During the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy objectives seeking to limit Soviet influence, involved the United States and its allies in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the overthrow of the Iranian government, and diplomatic actions like the opening of China and establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It also sought to fill the vacuum left by the decline of Britain as a global power, leading international economic organizations such as GATT. By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. had military and economic interests in every region of the globe. Despite claims by George Kennan that his idea of Containment had been misused by hawkish policymakers to justify non-peaceful objectives, Containment provided stability for U.S.-international commerce, fostered national security and pushed the United States toward an internationalist policy despite the political popularity of isolationism. August 1991 marked both the collapse of the Soviet Union and the initiation of the Gulf War against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. After the Iraq War, many scholars, such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, claim the lack of a new strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy resulted in many missed opportunities for its foreign policy. During the 1990s, the United States mostly scaled back its foreign policy budget while focusing on its domestic economic prosperity. The United States also participated in U.N. peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavia. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the United States declared a "War on Terrorism", defining itself against terrorism similarly to how it had defined itself against communism in the Cold War. Since then, the United States launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq (Second Gulf War) while pursuing Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations on a global level. Currently, the United States still has forces in Afghanistan and Iraq despite unfavorable domestic and international public opinion, especially concerning Iraq

Foreign policy law

In the United States, the term "treaty" is used in a more restricted legal sense than in international law. U.S. law distinguishes what it calls treaties, which are derived from the Treaty Clause of the United States Constitution, from congressional-executive agreements and executive agreements. All three classes are considered treaties under international law; they are distinct only from the perspective of internal United States law. The distinctions are primarily concerning their method of ratification (by 2/3rds of the Senate, by normal legislative process, or by the President alone) and their relationship to domestic law.

Congressional-executive agreements vs. treaties

Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution grants power to the President to make treaties with the "advice and consent" of two-thirds of the Senate. This is different from normal legislation which requires approval by simple majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, throughout U.S. history, the President has also made "international agreements" through congressional-executive agreements (CEAs) that are ratified with only a majority from both houses of Congress, or sole executive agreements made by the President alone. Though the constitution does not expressly provide for any alternative procedure and although some noted constitutional scholars, such as Laurence Tribe, believe that CEAs are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of the United States has considered these agreements to be valid, and that any disagreements are a political question for the executive and legislative branches to work out amongst themselves. In addition, U.S. law distinguishes between self-executing treaties, which do not require additional legislative action, and non-self-executing treaties which do require the enactment of new laws.

Domestic vs. international law

The United States takes a different view concerning the relationship between international and domestic law from many other nations, particularly European ones. Unlike nations that view international agreements as always superseding domestic law, American law is that international agreements become part of the body of U.S. federal law. As a result, Congress can modify or repeal treaties by subsequent legislative action, even if this amounts to a violation of the treaty under international law. The most recent changes will be enforced by U.S. courts entirely independent of whether the international community still considers the old treaty obligations binding upon the U.S. Additionally, an international agreement that is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution is void under domestic U.S. law, the same as any other federal law in conflict with the Constitution, and the Supreme Court could rule a treaty provision to be unconstitutional and void under domestic law although it has never done so. The U.S. is not a party to the Vienna Convention. However, the State Department has taken the position that it is still binding, in that the Convention represents established customary law. The U.S. habitually includes in treaty negotiations the reservation that it will assume no obligations that are in violation of the U.S. Constitution — a position mandated by the Supreme Court's 1957 ruling in Reid v. Covert. However, the Vienna Convention provides that states are not excused from their treaty obligations on the grounds that they violate the state's constitution, unless the violation is manifestly obvious at the time of contracting the treaty. So for instance, if the US Supreme Court found that a treaty violated the US constitution, it would no longer be binding on the US under US law; but it would still be binding on the US under international law, unless its unconstitutionality was manifestly obvious to the other states at the time the treaty was contracted. It has also been argued by the foreign governments (especially European) and by international human rights advocates that many of these US reservations are both so vague and broad as to be invalid. They also are invalid as being in violation of the Vienna Convention provisions referenced earlier.

Diplomatic relations

The United States has one of the largest diplomatic presences of any nation. Almost every country in the world has both a U.S. embassy and an embassy of its own in Washington, D.C. Only a few countries do not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States. In practical terms however, this lack of formal relations do not impede the U.S.'s communication with these nations. In the cases where no U.S. diplomatic post exists, American relations are usually conducted via the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, or another friendly third-party. In the case of the Republic of China (Taiwan), de-facto diplomatic relations are conducted through the American Institute in Taiwan. The U.S. also operates an "Interests Section in Havana". While this does not create a formal diplomatic relationship, it fulfils most other typical embassy functions. There is Representative Office of Northern Cyprus in Washington, D.C., also there is Representative United States in Nicosia in Northern Cyprus. The U.S. maintains a Normal Trade Relations list and several countries are excluded from it, which means that their exports to the United States are subject to significantly higher tariffs.


The United States is a founding member of NATO, the world's largest military alliance. The 26 nation alliance consists of Canada and much of Europe. Under the NATO charter, the United States is compelled to defend any NATO state that is attacked by a foreign power. This is restricted to within the North American and European areas, and for this reason the U.S. was not compelled to participate in the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The United States has also given major non-NATO ally-status to fourteen nations. Each such state has a unique relationship with the United States, involving various military and economic partnerships and alliances. In recent years, relations between the United States and India, have improved. Shown here are Indian PM Manmohan Singh and George Bush exchanging handshakes in March, 2006. The country's closest ally is arguably the United Kingdom, although Australia and Canada have also proved to be extremely resilient allies. Canada though was criticised by the US for placing it on a list of states where prisoners are tortured. Other allies include South Korea, Israel, Germany, Poland, Turkey, and Japan. The island country of the Republic of China (Taiwan), does not have official diplomatic relations recognized and is no longer officially recognized by the State Department of the United States, but it conducts unofficial diplomatic relations through their de-facto Embassy, commonly known as the "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO)," and is considered to be a strong Asian ally of the United States. In 2005, U.S. President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a landmark agreement between the two countries on civilian nuclear energy cooperation. The deal is significant because India is not a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and detonated a nuclear device in 1974. The deal will greatly increase strategic and economic cooperation between the world's two largest democracies. US State secretary Condoleezza Rice signed the Defense Cooperation Agreement with Bulgaria, a new NATO member, in 2006. The treaty allows the US (not NATO) to develop as joint US-Bulgarian facilities the Bulgarian air bases at Bezmer (near Yambol) and Graf Ignatievo (near Plovdiv), the Novo Selo training range (near Sliven), and a logistics centre in Aytos, as well as to use the commercial port of Burgas. At least 2,500 US personnel will be located there. The treaty also allows the US to use the bases "for missions in tiers country without a specific authorization from Bulgarian authorities," and grants US militaries immunity from prosecution in this country. Another agreement with Romania permits the US to use the Mihail Kogălniceanu base and another one nearby.

Relations with Latin America

In the Cold War era the U.S. feared Communism and in some cases overthrew or opposed democratically elected governments perceived at the time as becoming Communist. Examples include the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état, the 1973 Chilean coup d'état and the support of the Contras. The 80s and 90s saw democratization of many of the Latin American nations. Recently several left-wing governments have gained power through elections. In particular Venezuela has been critical of the US. Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador currently have governments sometimes seen as aligned with Venezuela. Left-wing governments in nations such as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile are more moderate. Governments in Peru and Colombia have closer relations with the US.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is is a semi-autonomous territory of the United States. Puerto Ricans are subject to laws passed by the United States Congress without their consent and they are excluded from elections to Congress and President (although, as US citizens, they are free to move to any of the 50 states and cast votes in elections there). According to the U.S. President's Task Force Report on the Political Status of Puerto Rico, (which was enabled by executive order from President Clinton in 2000 and was expressly endorsed by the George W. Bush Administration), Congress has "Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States". The Report by the President's task force on Puerto Rico's Status states that Puerto Ricans are US citizens. There is an elected local government for internal administration. Puerto Rico is not an US state but this has allowed Congress to exempt the Puerto Rican people from most federal income tax laws and to provide them with other tax preferences. There have been four plebiscites all of which found support for the current Commonwealth status. Almost as many voters have favored statehood. Only 2.54% voted for independence in 1998.

Illicit drugs

United States foreign policy is influenced by the efforts of the U.S. government to halt imports of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana. This is especially true in Latin America, a focus for the U.S. War on Drugs. Those efforts date back to at least 1880, when the U.S. and China completed an agreement which prohibited the shipment of opium between the two countries. Over a century later, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act requires the President to identify the major drug transit or major illicit drug-producing countries. In September 2005, the following countries were identified: Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Two of these, Burma and Venezuela are countries that the U.S. considers to have failed to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements during the previous twelve months. Notably absent from the 2005 list were Afghanistan, the People's Republic of China and Vietnam; Canada was also omitted in spite of evidence that criminal groups there are increasingly involved in the production of MDMA destined for the United States and that large-scale cross-border trafficking of Canadian-grown marijuana continues. The U.S. believes that The Netherlands are successfully countering the production and flow of MDMA to the U.S.

Military aid

The U.S. provides military aid through many different channels. Counting the items that appear in the budget as 'Foreign Military Financing' and 'Plan Colombia', the U.S. spent approximately $4.5 billion in military aid in 2001, of which $2 billion went to Israel, $1.3 billion went to Egypt, and $1 billion went to Colombia. Of 2004, according to Fox News, the U.S. had more than 700 military bases in 130 different countries.

Territorial disputes

The United States is involved with several territorial disputes, including maritime disputes with Canada over the Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Northwest Passage, and areas around Machias Seal Island and North Rock. These disputes have become dormant recently, and are largely considered not to affect the strong relations between the two nations. Other disputes include:

  • The U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, which is leased from Cuba. Only mutual agreement or U.S. abandonment of the area can terminate the lease. Cuba contends that the lease is invalid as the Platt Amendment creating the lease was included in the Cuban Constitution under threat of force and thus is voided by article 52 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. However, even though the conditions surrounding the lease agreement can be debated, the fourth article of that same treaty specifies the non-retroactivity of its law on treaties made before it.

  • Haiti claims Navassa Island.

  • The U.S. has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other nation.

  • The Marshall Islands claim Wake Island.

History of exporting democracy through military intervention

In the history of the United States, presidents have often used democracy as a justification for military intervention abroad, although on a number of other occasions the U.S. overthrew democratically elected governments (See Operation Ajax, Operation PBSUCCESS, Covert U.S. Regime Change Actions). A number of studies have been devoted to the historical success rate of the U.S. in exporting democracy abroad. Most studies of American intervention have been pessimistic about the history of the United States exporting democracy. Until recently, scholars have generally agreed with international relations professor Abraham Lowenthal that U.S. attempts to export democracy have been "negligible, often counterproductive, and only occasionally positive." But some studies, such as a study by Tures find U.S. intervention has had mixed results, and another by Hermann and Kegley has found that military interventions have improved democracy in other countries.

Opinion that U.S. intervention does not export democracy

Professor Paul W. Drake writes that the United States first attempted to export democracy in Latin America through intervention from 1912 to 1932. Drake argues that this was contradictory because international law defines intervention as "dictorial interference in the affairs of another state for the purpose of altering the condition of things." Democracy failed because democracy needs to develop out of internal conditions, and American leaders usually defined democracy as elections only. Further the United States Department of State disapproved of any rebellion of any kind, which were often incorrectly labeled "revolutions", even against dictatorships. As historian Walter LaFeber states, "The world's leading revolutionary nation (the U.S.) in the eighteenth century became the leading protector of the status quo in the twentieth century." Mesquita and Downs evaluate the period between 1945 to 2004. They state that the U.S. has intervened in 35 countries, and only in one case, Colombia, did a "full fledged, stable democracy" develop within 10 years. Samia Amin Pei argues that nation building in developed countries usually begins to unravel four to six years after American intervention ends. Pei, quoting Polity, (a database on democracy in the world), agrees with Mesquita and Downs that most countries where the U.S. intervenes never become a democracies or become more authoritarian after 10 years. Professor Joshua Muravchik argues that U.S. occupation was critical for Axis power democratization after World War II, but America's failure to build democracy in the third world "prove...that U.S. military occupation is not a sufficient condition to make a country democratic." The success of democracy in former Axis countries maybe because of these countries per-capita income. Steven Krasner of the CDDRL states that a high per capita income may help build a democracy, because no democratic country with a per-capita income which is above $6,000 has ever become an autocracy.

Opinion that U.S. intervention has mixed results

Tures examines 228 cases of American intervention from 1973 to 2005, using Freedom House data. A plurality of interventions, 96, caused no change in the country's democracy. In 69 instances the country became less democratic after the intervention. In the remaining 63 cases, a country became more democratic.

Opinion that U.S. intervention effectively exports democracy

Hermann and Kegley find that American military interventions which are designed to protect or promote democracy increase freedom in those countries. Penceny argues that the democracies created after military intervention are still closer to an autocracy than a democracy, quoting Przeworski "while some democracies are more democratic than others, unless offices are contested, no regime should be considered democratic." Therefore, Penceny concludes, it is difficult to know from the Hermann and Kegley study whether U.S. intervention has only produced less repressive autocratic governments or genuine democracies. Penceny states that the United States has attempted to export democracy in 33 of its 93 twentieth-century military interventions. Penceny argues that proliberal policies after military intervention have a positive impact on democracy.


Critics of U.S. foreign policy suggest that U.S. foreign policy rhetoric contradicts some of the U.S. government's actions abroad. Some of these criticisms include:

  • The long list of U.S. military involvements that stand in contrast to the rhetoric of promoting peace and respect for the sovereignty of nations.

  • The many former and current dictatorships that receive or have received U.S. financial or military support, especially in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, despite the U.S. claiming to support democracy and democratic principles.

  • The U.S. import tariffs (to protect local industries from global competition) on foreign goods like wood and agricultural products, in contrast to stating support for free trade.

  • Claims of generosity, in contrast to low spendings on foreign developmental aid (measured as percentage of GDP) when compared to other western countries (taking into consideration only government foreign aid, and not donations through private charities)

  • Lack of support for environmental treaties, such as the Kyoto Protocol.

  • Frequent mention of concern for human rights, despite refusing to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the widespread support of dictatorial governments whose military the US may have formerly trained on methods of torture (notably in the infamous former School of the Americas), and support for paramilitary organizations, for example the Contras in Nicaragua.

  • American exceptionalism the sense that America is qualitatively different from other countries and the pertaining conviction that American cannot be judged by the same standard as other countries. For instance, that America is retaining its own nuclear weapons while trying to prevent nuclear proliferation is often seen as a smug "we have the right to have nuclear weapons and you don't"-attitude.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with George W. Bush inspects the Malacanang Palace Honor Guards during the latter's 8-hour State Visit to the Philippines in October 2003

Criticisms of the effectiveness of US foreign policy include:

  • An inability to combine strategic military objectives and diplomatic and political objectives. In short, this means an ineffective followup to military operations by being unable or unwanting to determine diplomatic and political goals, resulting in unfavorable situations to either the United States or friendly involved parties. Examples include: the absence of any treaties or objectives for post-war Germany and Europe during the Second World War, resulting in the Soviet occupation of most of Eastern Europe; the absence of diplomatic/political objectives to follow-up on military victory in the Korean War resulting in an ongoing preservation of the 1953 status-quo; inadequately defined objectives for the Vietnam War, resulting in a Communist take-over of the region; and most recently the failure to develop plans to rebuild and restabilize Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein, leading to the ongoing destabilization of the surrounding region and huge expenses required by the United States itself.

Charges of negative influence have been levied even in countries traditionally considered allies of the United States. Further, some opinions have stated that since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was not a war to defend against an imminent threat, but rather a war of aggression, and therefore under the Nuremberg Principles it constitutes the supreme international crime from which all other war crimes follow. For example, Benjamin Ferencz, a chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg said George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes along with Saddam Hussein for starting "aggressive" wars--Saddam for his 1990 attack on Kuwait and Bush for his 2003 invasion of Iraq. Similarly, under the United Nations Charter, ratified by the U.S. and therefore binding on it, all U.N. member states including the U.S. are prohibited from using force against fellow member states (Iraq is a member of the U.N.) except to defend against an imminent attack or pursuant to explicit U.N. Security Council authorization (U.N. Charter; international law). "There was no authorization from the U.N. Security Council ... and that made it a crime against the peace," said Francis Boyle, professor of international law, who also said the U.S. Army's field manual required such authorization for an offensive war. A frequent rebuttal to this criticism is the assertion that the United Nations gave the United States and its coalition partners the legal authority to remove Saddam Hussein from power in UN Security Council Resolution 1441, providing that Iraq would "face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations." Other realist critics, such as George F. Kennan, have argued that the responsibility of the United States is only to protect the rights of its own citizens, and that therefore Washington should deal with other governments on that basis alone. Realists charge that a claimed heavy emphasis on democratization or nation-building abroad was one of the major tenets of President Woodrow Wilson's diplomatic philosophy (despite not being mentioned in Wilson's Fourteen Points), and the failure of the League of Nations to enforce the will of the international community in the cases of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in the 1930s, as well as the inherent weakness of the new states created at the Paris Peace Conference, demonstrated the folly of Wilson's idealism. However, an important explanation for the weakness of the League of Nations was the refusal of the U.S. to join the organization, driven primarily by strong renewed isolationist sentiment at home. Noam Chomsky writes that Thomas Carruthers, who was in Reagan's State Department in the 1980s and who was involved with the Democracy Enhancement programs in Latin America primarily has concluded that the efforts were a failure, and in fact a systematic failure. "Where US influence was the least there you found the most progress towards democracy... But where the U.S. had influence, it sought only limited, top down forms of democracy that did not risk upsetting the traditional structures of power with which the United States had long been allied." There is also criticism of alleged human rights abuse, the most important recent examples of which are the multiple reports of alleged prisoner abuse and torture at U.S.-run detention camps in Guantánamo Bay (at "Camp X-ray") (in Cuba), Abu Ghraib (Iraq), secret CIA prisons (eastern Europe), and other places voiced by, e.g. the Council of Europe and Amnesty International. Amnesty International in its Amnesty International Report 2005 says that: "the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times" . This Amnesty report also claimed that there was a use of double standards in the U.S. government: the U.S. president "has repeatedly asserted that the United States was founded upon and is dedicated to the cause of human dignity". (Theme of his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2004). But some memorandums emerged after the Abu Ghraib scandal "suggested that the administration was discussing ways in which its agents could avoid the international ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment". Government responses to these criticisms include that Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and the network of secret CIA jails in Eastern Europe and the Middle East were largely isolated incidents and not reflective of general U.S. conduct, and at the same time maintain that coerced interrogation in Guantánamo and Europe is necessary to prevent future terrorist attacks. U.S. generosity is not demonstrated in the relatively low governmental spendings on foreign developmental aid (measured as percentage of GDP) when compared to other western countries. In fact the US ranks 21 of 22 OECD countries, assigning just 0.17% of GDP to overseas aid (compared with the most generous, Sweden, which gives 1.03%). This is despite a promise made by OECD countries to raise overseas aid to 0.7% of GDP first made over 35 years ago and most recently reiterated at the 2002 global Financing for Development conference in Monterrey, Mexico. US overseas aid was in fact reduced by 15.8% from 2005 to 2006. Official aid statistics do not include charitable organizations. Through the many tax privileges that the United States grants to its nonprofit organizations, the government implicitly foots some portion of the bill anytime these organizations send money abroad for development purposes. However, though many Americans believe that the US is the only nation which offers tax relief for charitable giving, nearly all of the 22 OECD countries also offer such incentives, in fact only Austria, Finland and Sweden do not.


Regarding support for various dictatorships, especially during the Cold War, a response is that they were seen as necessary evil, with the alternatives even worse Communist or fundamentalist dictatorships. David Schmitz challenges the notion that this violation of core American values actually served U.S. interests. Friendly tyrants resisted necessary reforms and destroyed the political center, while the 'realist' policy of coddling dictators brought a backlash among foreign populations with long memories. Halperin et al writes that there is a widely held view that poor countries need to delay democracy until they develop. The argument went —as presented in the writings of Samuel Huntington and Seymour Martin Lipset— that if a poor country became democratic, because of the pressures in a democracy to respond to the interests of the people, they would borrow too much, they would spend the money in ways that did not advance development. These poor decisions would mean that development would not occur; and because people would then be disappointed, they would return to a dictatorship. Therefore, the prescription was, get yourself a benign dictator—it was never quite explained how you would make sure you had a dictator that spent the money to develop the country rather than ship it off to a Swiss bank account—wait until that produces development, which produces a middle class, and then, inevitably, the middle class will demand freedom, and you will have a democratic government. The study argues that this is wrong. Poor democracies perform better, including also on economic growth if excluding East Asia, than poor dictatorships. U.S.-supported dictatorships in the following nations eventually became democratic: Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, and Indonesia. In addition, many communist countries opposed by the U.S. have also become democracies, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia, Albania, Serbia, and Mongolia. U.S.-supported dictatorships that have not become democracies: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco. Many of the U.S.'s former enemies have democratized, and many have become U.S. allies. The Philippines (1946), South Korea (1948), West Germany (1949), Japan (1952), Austria (1955), the Panama Canal Zone (1979), the Federated States of Micronesia (1986), the Marshall Islands (1986), and Palau (1994) are examples of former possessions that have gained independence. Many nations in Eastern Europe have joined NATO. (Note, statements regarding degree of democracy are based on the classification at these times in the Polity data series). Many democracies have voluntary military alliances with United States. See NATO, ANZUS, Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, Mutual Defense Treaty with South Korea, and Major non-NATO ally. Those nations with military alliances with the U.S. can spend less on the military since they can count on U.S. protection. This may give a false impression that the U.S. is less peaceful than those nations. Research on the democratic peace theory has generally found that democracies, including the United States, have not made war on one another. There have been U.S. support for coups against some democracies, but for example Spencer R. Weart argues that part of the explanation was the perception, correct or not, that these states were turning into Communist dictatorships. Also important was the role of rarely transparent United States government agencies, who sometimes mislead or did not fully implement the decisions of elected civilian leaders. That US soldiers have committed war crimes such as rapes and killing POWs is a fact. However, such acts are not approved or supported by the US government or the US military. The same applies even more to acts committed by to foreign groups supported but outside direct US control. Chomsky claims that the United States is a leading terrorist nation. However, actual empirical studies (see democide) have found that democracies, including the United States, have killed much fewer civilians than dictatorships. Media may be biased against the US regarding reporting human rights violations. Studies have found that New York Times coverage of worldwide human rights violations predominantly focuses on the human rights violations in nations where there is clear U.S. involvement, while having relatively little coverage of the human rights violations in other nations. For example, the bloodiest war in recent time, involving eight nations and killing millions of civilians, was the Second Congo War, which was almost completely ignored by the media. Finally, those nations with military alliances with the US can spend less on the military and have a less active foreign policy since they can count on US protection. This may give a false impression that the US is less peaceful than those nations. Niall Ferguson argues that the US is incorrectly blamed for all the human rights violations in nations they have supported. He writes that it is generally agreed that Guatemala was the worst of the US-backed regimes during the Cold War. However, the US cannot credibly be blamed for all the 200,000 deaths during the long Guatemalan Civil War. The US Intelligence Oversight Board writes that military aid was cut for long periods because of such violations, that the US helped stop a coup in 1993, and that efforts were made to improve the conduct of the security services. Today the U.S. states that democratic nations best support U.S. national interests. According to the U.S. State Department, "Democracy is the one national interest that helps to secure all the others. Democratically governed nations are more likely to secure the peace, deter aggression, expand open markets, promote economic development, protect American citizens, combat international terrorism and crime, uphold human and worker rights, avoid humanitarian crises and refugee flows, improve the global environment, and protect human health." According to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, "Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other." In one view mentioned by the U.S. State Department, democracy is also good for business. Countries that embrace political reforms are also more likely to pursue economic reforms that improve the productivity of businesses. Accordingly, since the mid-1980s, there has been an increase in levels of foreign direct investment going to emerging market democracies relative to countries that have not undertaken political reforms. The United States officially maintains that it supports democracy and human rights through several tools Examples of these tools are as follows:

  • A published yearly report by the State Department entitled "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record" in compliance with a 2002 law which requires the Department to report on actions taken by the U.S. Government to encourage respect for human rights.

  • A yearly published "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices."

  • In 2006 the United States created a "Human Rights Defenders Fund" and "Freedom Awards."

  • The "Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award" recognizes the exceptional achievement of officers of foreign affairs agencies posted abroad.

  • The "Ambassadorial Roundtable Series", created in 2006, are informal discussions between newly-confirmed U.S. Ambassadors and human rights and democracy non-governmental organizations

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