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The United States is one of the world’s super powers and has great influence over other nations. In most cases, the United States has taken different positions in relation to international conflicts. It has previously used various methods to influence and force other nations to stop conflict. At times, the American government plays a direct role in mediation as in the case of Namibia. On the other hand, it tends to take a passive role such as the case in South Africa (Wines, par.12).
The role of the United States in South Africa
The role of America in South Africa was dogged by a lot of controversy. Nonetheless, the American authorities had long condemned the advancement of racial policies by the government of South Africa. There was confusion on how to utilize the minimal influence that the United States had without discouraging the pro-west orientation of the South African government and economy. The Reagan administration was in favor of quiet diplomacy with the South African government. In this case, they collaborated with Pretoria to settle regional disputes and agree on aspects of internal restructuring (Wines, par.13).
This course of action became very unpopular, and in 1986, the comprehensive anti-apartheid law was passed. This opened the way for the American government to impose strict economic sanctions against Pretoria. These sanctions were only reduced during the 1990s when Pretoria finally succumbed to international pressure and embarked on domestic reforms. Lyman saw the importance of using both policies in South Africa. He argued that both policies worked well for the South African case. There was constructive engagement that offered support to reformers and sanctions that tended to isolate the white minority rulers. Lyman observed that the same policies should be used in other similar situations. These policies can be an effective tool that the United States can employ in different situations. Unfortunately, the credibility of this strategy is not clear. Washington has a habit to engage and disregard other governments by virtue of their excesses (Lyman, p. 274).
The American government tried to engage the South African government and the African National Congress as a mediator. However, this request was strongly objected, and the US opted to play the role of a facilitator. This meant that the United States would not be involved in the negotiations. The American government still remained active through offering technical support and expert aid whenever they were requested. The American administration financed the deployment of experts and training of the South African defense forces on crowd control and affirmative action. The government also engaged other stakeholders who were not at the negotiation table. It also assisted in the voter registration process. At times, the American role was figurative such as when the American ambassador attended the funeral of the assassinated ANC leader Chris Hani. Two weeks later, the ambassador attended another funeral service during the burial of Oliver Tambo where Mandela said that he was ecstatic at the attendance of the American delegation (Lyman, p. 85). In the run up to the presidential elections, President Bill Clinton appeared in an interview suggesting that the American people will support South Africa during its transition (Lyman, p. 215). By the mid 1990s, the American diplomatic relations with Pretoria had changed from stern stand to a relatively cordial approach.
According to a state department official who was personally accountable for policies made in South Africa, Chester A. Crocker, he claims that critics of the American regime could not know how far the American government got involved in the South African affair. According to Crocker, the American government facilitated the changes that occurred in South Africa. This was done through various strategies such as solving the crisis in Namibia and Angola. The South African predominantly white government had expressed a lot of fears about the potential military threat from the two nations if they relinquished authority. Although President Reagan’s approach was ridiculed, it was the right approach to use in South Africa. In fact, this approach should be emulated in other conflict resolution negotiations (Lyman, p. 216).
The role of the United States in Israel/Palestine conflict
The United States has been heavily criticized by the international community for failing to take a neutral stand in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The United States has taken a predominantly tough stern on the Palestinian authority. The United States is highly criticized for ignoring the crimes committed by the Israelis against the Palestinians (Shlaim, par. 7-9). In my view, the United States government should employ the same strategy that was used in the South African case. In this respect, the United States should adopt a nonpartisan position in this conflict and encourage the conflicting countries to engage in dialogue to resolve the conflict. The American government should act as a facilitator rather than a mediator in the negotiations. The United States should set the conditions right for negotiations, but leave the actual negotiations to be carried out by the conflicting parties.
The use of military force and intimidation has been overtaken by time. In the resolution of conflict, the mediators and the facilitators should disassociate themselves from the actual negotiations to enable the disputing parties resolve their issues.
Lyman, PrincetonN.Partner to History: The U.S. Role in South Africa’s Transition to Democracy. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2002. Print.
Shlaim, Avi. n.d. The United States and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. n.d.Web.
Wines, Michael.n.d. 1991:The End of Apartheid,New York Times Upfront. n.d.Web.