Introduction and the identification of the problem
The interaction of countries in the international system is often determined by several factors. As opined in theories of international relations like realism, nations often seek to secure their interests when interacting or advancing a number of courses in the international system.
The question that is asked and which forms the basis of argument by most commentators of the international political economy is the reason why countries uses different approaches when formulating and pursuing foreign policy goals in different regions.
This is one of the most debated issues in the assessment of the foreign policy goals and approaches in relation to the developments in Libya and the contemporary political developments in Syria. A difference has been noted in the United States policy approaches to Libya and the kind of approach that the United States is taking in addressing the developments in Syria.
A critical question that comes out here concerns the factors that drive the United State to pursue a given course in a given country or region.
A number of commentators point to the fact that both internal (country-derived) factors, as well as external factors (the forces that emerge on the international stage) determine the approaches of foreign policy by the United States and can be applied to the case of foreign policy response in Libya and Syria by the United States.
The two cases present a similar situation; Libyans were fighting to remove a dictator from power, which is the same thing that is happening in Syria. It is expected that the United States could have taken a more similar approach due to the similarity of the cases. The response of the United States to the political development in Libya was quite fast.
The United States responded directly by offering direct support to the opposition that was amounting against the late Moammar Gadhafi. On the other hand, the United States seems to be quite careful in as far as its direct actions in Syria are concerned. The United States has often been at the forefront in pressing for democracy in the Middle East reason.
However, it is questionable whether the United States really seeks to promote democracy in the world or whether it just makes use of democracy as a tool for pursuing its deeper seated interest in the region. Therefore, what makes the United States quite inactive when it comes to the issue of autocracy in Syria?
Why is it that the United States finds it easier to pursue its course in other countries while it becomes quite daunting for the country to advance its interests in other countries? This is what the research seeks to bring out. The research seeks to borrow from the theories of international relations in explaining the relations between the United States and other countries.
Of greater relevance in the research is the exploration of the foreign policy of the United States in relation to the developments in Libya and Syria and the reasons why there is a variation in the approach in both countries that present a situation that is alike.
The United States has often been seen taking an active role in a number of countries in the Middle East region, which has ended up changing the course of political events in those countries. Can similar approaches be applied in the Syria and what reasons are making the United States not to deploy the similar active strategies such as the ones it applied to Libya in Syria?
This is a broad question that can only be responded to by the virtue of studying the models of pursuing foreign policy goals and the guiding factors in each approach that are taken by the United States in pursuing its foreign policy in diverse regions in the world.
How do the domestic and international factors play out in the formulation and execution of the foreign policies by the United States and how have they played out differently in Libya and Syria. Are the strategies of the United States in Syria impeded more by the internal factors and interest of the United States or are they affected by other players in the international scene.
Topic Description (Literature)
Duncan, Jancar-Webster, and Switky (2008) observed that there are several theories that were advanced to help in explaining the nature of events in the international political economy. The relation between states can no longer be avoided, especially in the globalized world where there is a lot of cross-national and cross regional transactions across the world.
However, of greater interest to political economists is the observation and analysis of the manner in which states relate to each other in the international system. States advances their relations with other states through their foreign policies.
Foreign policy goals are developed according to the kind of development on the international stage and the interest of a given country in the matter that prevails on the international stage. It is important to echo the systems theory, which attributes the world to a system in which countries are parts or rather the sub-systems of the larger system.
According to the theory of realism that was developed by Hans Morgenthau, countries are the main actors in the international system. Morgenthau opined that nation states are the main actors when it comes to the affairs in the international system and that there is no greater actor than nation states in the international system.
The pessimism in this theory, which is perhaps the true definition of relations between states in the international system is that states often act to protect, pursue and advance their interests in all developments that take place in the international system. Therefore, the development of the foreign policy goals and strategies of states is guided by the interests of that state.
This finds justification in most of the actions that have been advanced by states in as far as the interaction between states in the international system. It should be noted that realism centers on the issue of power and its accolades as a driving force for the interest of states in the international system.
Power is founded in a number of activities among them the pursuance of economic development that acts as one of the main derivatives of power in the international system (Jackson & Sørensen, 2007).
Whether this applies to the United States is a question that can only be answered by looking at the nature of foreign policy goals and strategies that have been pursued by the United States in the world. The United States is considered as the super power, having taken charge due to the collapse of the bipolar system during the cold war period.
The weakening and disintegration of the Soviet Union resulted in the Emergence of the United States as the most powerful nation state in the world, in what is referred to as the unipolar global order. Therefore, as a superpower the United States is seen as the epicenter of most of the developments that take place in different regions of the world (Jackson & Sørensen, 2007).
As a superpower, the main challenge of the United States is the maintenance of its dominance by ensuring that the unipolar system is protected. This is the reason as to why the United States is termed as the world police because it keeps looking into any issue or development that takes place anywhere in the world with the objective of protecting, safeguarding and advancing interests in the place where the developments take place.
However, in doing so the United States comes in contact with other countries in the international scene that are also determined to safeguard their interests. Therefore, what comes out in such situations is referred to as the conflict of interests, where each country has to act in a certain way so as not to cause friction with other players in a similar matter (Jackson & Sørensen, 2007).
The issue of the response of the United States to the situation in Syria can be termed as an example of a situation where there are multiple interests, where different players are also interested in the development.
Payne (2007) observed that for more than two decades now, the theory of international relations has been overtaken by the argument between the neorealists and the opponents of neorealism. Most of the arguments revolve around the organization of the international system and its impacts on the patterns of outcomes in the international system such as peace and war.
Thus scholars have been divided over the real essence of a multipolar and the bipolar system in as far as the maintenance of order on the international system is concerned. Neorealism attempts to explain the results of the interactions that prevail between and among states in the international system.
It is one of the most vocal theories of international politics that attempts to explain the nature of relations between states in the international system and how politics plays out in the interaction between states in the international system (Palmer & Morgan, 2011).
According to Palmer and Morgan (2011), the interaction of states in the international system is an eminent thing, thence, neorealists make an attempt to explain the factors that play out in the interaction between states and the results of such interactions. The action and motivations of individual countries in the international political arena is what is explored by the neorealists.
However, neorealism does not seem to bring out fully the behaviors, actions and motivation of individual countries in international politics. This is the reason as to why foreign policy theories are used to fill the vacuum that is left by the theories of international politics like neorealism.
In the theories of foreign policy, the behavior of individual states is often taken as a dependent variable in the explanation of the outcomes of the relations between states in the international system (Palmer & Morgan, 2011)
Theories of foreign policy attempt to explain what states seek to achieve with the transnational system and how they try to achieve it. It is argued that the foreign policy goals of countries are based on internal, as well as the external factors, all of which are critical in the pursuance of foreign policy goals by countries in the international system.
However, a balance often lacks in the interplay of the external and internal factors in determining the foreign policy goals and actions of states in international affairs. The extent to which the internal or external factors play out strongly is dependent on the strategic issues that stand in the external, as well as the internal environment.
The strategic issues in the external environment are most commonly determined by other players and their interest and position in the same matter. Foreign policy goals, interests and strategies can only be understood though the exploration of the real foreign policy choices that is arrived at and upheld by individual states in international affairs (Bandyopadhyaya, 2004).
The rationale behind this observation above is that foreign policy is an active process that is molded upon the prevailing situation in the international system and the position and interests of the individual state at that point in time.
This implies that countries can shift their foreign policy goals and strategies depending on the prevailing development and the nature of actors that are actively involved in that given situation in international politics. Therefore, goals and interest can shift depending on the situation and the possible outcomes of the nature of intervention in that situation.
What should be noted when talking about international politics and the development of foreign policy goals and strategies by individual states is that interests may prevail in any situation; however, the external situation may necessitate the individual state to act in a given manner.
This is because the international political arena has a lot of actors and the strategies of an individual country are often affected by the strategies and interest of other actors in the same matter (Bandyopadhyaya, 2004).
Several schools of thought have been advanced in order to explain the interplay of domestic and external factors in foreign policy. One such school of thought is the innenpolitik theories. These theories advance more on the role of internal factors in the development of foreign policy. The formulation of foreign policy goals by states is dependent on the domestic policies and goals of states.
The domestic goals portray the internal needs of states that guide the interests of the state in the international system. Whether this is the order of foreign policy choices by states remains to be rhetoric, especially when the issue of power in the international system is concerned. According to moralists, power often corrupts the minds of states, making them to act irrationally in order to secure interest in the international system (Brown, 2000).
It sometimes becomes difficult to measure the level of irrationality or rationality in the issues of foreign policy on a particular issue when there is a diverse locus of interests. Defensive realism opines that the behaviors of states in the international system are driven by systemic factors.
However, not all patterns of behavior by states in the international system are dictated by the systemic factors. This paves way for the advancement of other schools of thought like neoclassical realism, which attempt to incorporate internal and external factors in the formulation and execution of foreign policy by states (Dunne, 2007).
Neoclassical realism is advanced from classical realism and broadens the scope of the arguments that were presented by classical realists concerning the adherents of states in formulating foreign policy. The proponents of the neorealist class of thought argue that the scope of an individual country’s foreign policy is determined by the position of the country in the international system.
Power capabilities are among the key driving forces in as far as the determination of the position of a country and its influence and position in the international system is concerned. However, the impact of power capabilities of individual states in the international system is quite complex.
The complexity resonates from the fact that there are a lot of intervening variables that affect the pursuance of power by an individual state in the international system (Lobell, Ripsman & Taliaferro, 2009). The relative material power determines the level of assertion of a country in international politics through foreign policy.
Power gives a country the strength to pursue its course in as far as order and interests in the international system are concerned. However, there is no constancy in the linkage between power and the pursuance of foreign policy (Payne, 2007).
According to Flibbert (2006), foreign policy goals come from the political process that is shaped by the politics of a country. The political set up of a country play a substantive role in shaping the foreign policy of a country. For instance, the issue of the political regime and leadership, played a resounding role in pursuing a foreign policy that saw the United States invade Iraq.
The United States political regime under the leadership of the then president George Bush was so much determined to go ahead with the plans of invasion, in spite of the sentiments from other players in the global scene like the United Nations that were against such a move. Therefore, what really pushed the United States government to activate such a move (Schmidt & Williams, 2008)?
The possibility of the stopping the United States at that point in time was put in jeopardy by the mere fact that the United States sought to exercise its absolute power. The support from other players on the international stage is said to have backed the United States, thence, enabling it to go ahead with its strategy of invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein from power.
The issue of interest in the case was justified by the fact that the claims that were made by the United States came out negative. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, yet the United States government solidly stood behind that point and used it as a key point for advancing its invasion of Iraq.
However, it can be said that there was an international push for the political regime in the country to advance actions to show that it was responding to the growing global insecurity and the threat of terrorism in the country (Schmidt & Williams, 2008).
There is a belief by moralists that the comprehension of power and its linkage with policy needs a comprehensive inner look into the context within which states formulate and implement foreign policy goals.
This leads to the assumption that the process of formulating and implementing foreign policy by states in the international system is complex and that states have to assess the issues of power balance in the international system prior to implementing several foreign policy strategies. Power is relative and cannot be the main basis on which a country makes decisions in the international system (Payne, 2007).
A country has to consider a ray of other factors, considering the fact that the contemporary international system is quite dynamic and that the interests of states keep changing with time. There is also what is referred to as the balancing of risks while referring to the actions of the powerful states in removing rogue regimes in the developing countries.
States often act with caution while advancing such steps because of the presumed pressures that emanate from the other peripheries of power in the international system. A country has to moderate its approach to such an issue in cases where there seems to be an interplay of several actors that can result in conflict between actors if cautions steps are not taken by a given actor.
This has a close relation to the perceived continued war for the balance of power in the international system and the issue of proxy wars. Therefore, the application of containment strategies depicts a situation where the major players in the international system make attempts to exercise their scales of power and influence in the international system.
Therefore, each power has to pay attention to other main players in as far as the application of containment strategies in a given country is concerned (Taliaferro, 2004).
Research Question & Hypothesis (Methodology)
This paper seeks to bring out the issue that guide the formulation and implementation of foreign policy goals and strategies by countries while responding to the issues in the international system. This is a secondary research paper that is based on literature to explain the foreign policy choices and the theoretical underpinnings in the foreign policy choices.
The paper seeks to bring out a comprehensive and concise argument about the nature of foreign policy choices of the United States in relation to its response to the political situation that occurred in Libya and the political situation in Syria.
Hypothesis: The United States’ foreign policy choices are highly motivated by the domestic interests and shaped by the domestic forces.
Alternative Hypothesis: The foreign policy choices of the United States on the situation in Syria have been greatly affected by the external situation; the interests of other countries like Iran, Russia and China in Syria.
This research seeks to answer two main questions:
- To what level do domestic and external interests in impact on the response of the United States to the political situation in Libya and Syria?
- What justifies the variation between the foreign policy choices of the United States to the political developments in Libya and Syria?
Detailed outcome description
The paper carries out a comparative analysis of the foreign policy of the United States in two countries that present a similar internal political situation. These are Syria and Libya. What is sought for in this paper is a comparison between the factors that influences the nature of foreign policy goals and strategies in response to the two situations that present in Libya and Syria.
Of great importance in this research is the incorporation of the theories of international relations in explaining the interplay of issues as is presented on the nature of responses by the United States in both countries. The two countries that are presented in this research come from the same region of the Middle East region.
However, there is a total variation in the manner in the way the United States develops and implements foreign policy choices in Libya and the way it is approaching the situation in Syria. Therefore, the outcome of this research seeks to explain how domestic and external forces play out in shaping the actions of the United States in Libya and the actions of the United States in Syria.
The direct action of the United States in Libya was facilitated by the high interest of the United States in the country and the support of other international players like the Arab league. Both the internal and external factors steered the direct response of the United States and its actions that resulted in the ousting of the authoritative political regimes in the country.
This will be expounded in the discussion. In the case of Syria, there seems to be less motivation for the United States to act. This is caused by the factor that there is a stronger interplay of external factors in the country.
It is argued that Syria and its position in the region attracts several other competitors of the United States like Iran, Russia and China, which bars the United States from taking a direct approach in responding to the situation in the country. This will also be explored in the discussion.
Thus, it can be said that the foreign policy choices of states among them the United States is determined by domestic forces and shaped by the prevailing factor in the external environment; international system. This is evident in the comparative exploration of the US Foreign policy choices in Libya and Syria.
However, it should be noted that the political situation in Syria is still active and there is a possibility of a shift in the foreign policy goals and strategies. The shift is dependent on the change in the interest of the countries that have an interest in Syria and the actions of the international players like the Arab League and its intervention in the situation.
Comparative Analysis and Discussions
As observed in the literature, the exploration of the political developments and actions of states in international relations is founded on the theories of international relations.
Among the theories are the theories of realism and its resultant theories like neo liberalism that seek to justify the issue of power and interest in the international system and how they affect the choices and responses of states to the political events in the international system.
There is also the theory of foreign policy that seeks to explain the basis on which foreign policy choices are arrived at by the states. According to the literature, both internal factors and external situations influence the choice of strategies by states when they are pursuing their interests in the international system.
Therefore, these theories can be aptly applied in explaining the variation of the United States foreign policy strategies in Libya and Syria.
The difference between Syria and Libya
Syria presents a political situation where the civilians have been increasingly subjected to the brutality of the political regime in the country under the leadership of president Bashar al-Assad. The atrocities against the civilians have been caused by the rising opposition against the political regime in the country by the civilians.
While the talks on how to intervene and rescue the citizens from the humanitarian situation that prevails in the country, a lot of political commentators ask questions about the reason as to why the political developments in Syria have not attracted the kind of intervention by Arab allies and NATO as was witnessed in Libya.
The international response to the political situation in Syria has been quite limited, even amidst the increased scale of violence and calls for intervention in the political situation in the country. Diplomatic censures of the foreign ambassadors and the withdrawal of a number of Syrian envoys in a substantial number of countries in the Arab region and the Western States have been witnessed (Liste, 2012).
A number of countries in the Arab region have expelled the Syrian ambassadors as a sign of showing resentment against the political developments in the country. However, this has not presented any challenge to the Syrian political regime (Sharp & Blanchard, 2013). It has been observed Syria does not heavily engage in foreign trade, thus it is not greatly affected by the sanctions that are imposed on it.
This is one aspect of power that depicts the internal strength of Syria. However, Libya had a stronger internal economy resonating from the availability of large deposits of oil, but there was a direct intervention in the country by the United States when the political regime seemed to escalate its power on the country.
What makes the difference between the political response that was witnessed in Libya in the year 2011 and the seemingly sluggish response by the United States and the international community in as far as the response to the political situation in Libya is concerned.
There was a resounding response by the international community led by the United States to the political situation in Libya, which saw the prevention of the bloodshed that loomed in the country (Chossudovsky, 2013).
According to the political commentators, the foreign policy of the United States and its backing of the local forces were highly motivated by the prevalence of an open environment in the country. The open environment was presented by the fact that there was a lot of periphery support against the Libyan Regime from the Arab world.
The ousted Libyan leader, Gadhafi has accumulated power to an extent that he posed a threat to the balance of power in the Arab League. The Arab League, therefore, has a reason to fully support the United States, making it easy for the United States to directly intervene in the political situation in Libya (Liste, 2012).
United States is often associated with places that are rich in oil and the interest of the United States in a far as the case of Libya is concerned is quite elaborate. This can be likened to the case of neorealism that reiterates that power does not only rely on the military superiority, but also the ability of the state to advance growth in other realms like the economic growth and expansion.
Oil is one of the major steering forces in economic growth and development of states, which in turn enhances the power of the state. The Libyan economy has often depended on oil mining and processing. The massive presence of oil in the country attracts a lot of attention of the external players in the country.
Therefore, the United States had a quite aggressive policy when it came to the political situation in the country, which was guided by the personal interests rather than the interest of eliminating the political threats to the citizenry of Libya. The pursuance of its interests was highly supported by the favorable external support of a substantial number of players that were against the political regime in Libya.
The case that is presented in Libya is, however, different. There is less attention of the United States in Syria. Moreover, the country seems to be one of the protectorates of Russia and China and is strategic in as far as the advancement of the interest of Russia and China in the region is concerned (Sharp & Blanchard, 2013).
The enforcement of a no-fly-zone in Libya was one of the extensive strategies that enabled the NATO forces to pin down the forces of the late Gadhafi in the case of Libya. However, for the case of Libya the NATO has come out openly and claimed that it cannot use such a strategy in Syria without the backing by the Unite Nations.
Russia and China, which are the greatest countries that pose a threat to the superiority and power of the United States in the region, have come out strongly to support the political regime in Syria.
Russia and China are both worried about the possible intervention and the ousting of the authoritarian regime in the country are concerned. This justified the realist school of thought in international relations and the formulation of foreign policy (Sharp & Blanchard, 2013).
The theory opines that countries are merely guided by their interests when it comes to the advancement of relations with other states and the crafting of foreign policy goals. Syria was one of the main allies of the Soviet Union in the Middle East region. The same development has been taken up by Russia, which still considers Syria to be one of its key allies in the Middle East. Russia still directly engages with Syria.
Russia supplies Syria with weapons, which is the reason why it supports the political regime of Syria. The continued existence of the current political regime is, therefore, paramount to the interests of Russia in the country. The removal of the regime in power could come with a substantial number of political changes, some of which may result in the weakening of the political tie between Russia and Syria.
A close comparison can, therefore, be made between the prevailing political situation in Syria and the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where atrocities were being committed against the civilians in the country at the mere watch of the international community.
Issues of power and interests played out strongly in determining the course of events in the cases of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the prevailing case of the political situation in Syria. A similar case was also witnessed in what turned out to be genocide in Rwanda (Liste, 2012).
Liste (2012) observed that there are also other factors that determine the prevailing nature of response by the United States to the prevailing political situation in Syria. The issue of the nuclear developments in Iran has put the United States and Iran at loggerheads.
The presence and participation of Iran in the political developments in Syria is, therefore, a strategic move that forces the United States to act with caution when advancing a military course in the region. Iran allies with Russia and China to form a complex political bond in Syria, which poses a challenge to the pursuance of a political course by the United States in the region.
There are other factors that are also coming out as the influences of the actions the United States in a far as the developments in Syria is concerned. One such issue is the geography of Syria compared to the geography of Libya. It is argued that most of the target regions in Libya lied along the Mediterranean coast, making it easy for the NATO forces to attack the regions from the sea.
On the other hand, it is argued that the Syrian armies are well equipped and more coordinated, having received a lot of support and military equipment from Russia. This poses a challenge to the NATO forces that were used to intervene in Libya.
Most of the countries that surround Syria also seem not to support the United States, unlike the case that was with Libya where most of the neighboring countries offered support to the United States. Iraq and Lebanon, which seem to be the strategic places where the United States can stage its military base are unstable and to a larger extent do not back the United States (Liste, 2012).
This research focuses on bringing out the factors that dictate the variation in the nature of political response of the United States in the political situation in Syria and the response to the 2011 political situation in Libya.
The research has been founded on the application of theoretical developments, especially the theories of international relations in explaining the factors that dictate the foreign policy choices of the United States in the two political situations occurring in the same region.
From the description and analysis of the issues that surround the foreign policy choices and responses of the United States in the two cases, several deductions can be made.
It can be said that foreign policy goals and strategies are strongly shaped by the external environment rather than the internal or domestic forces. This is justified by the variation in the response of the United States in Syria and Libya. In the Case of Libya, the United States was highly supported by a supportive atmosphere in the external environment.
The Arab League and most other countries neighboring Libya supported the United States course of action. The US was also supported by the strategic position of the Libyans, which made it easy to advance its military course.
On the other hand, Syria presents a different situation altogether. There is no massive international support for the United States. There are also other equally strong players in the region, which necessitates a passive action by the United States.
The second important deduction is that the interest of a state plays out strongly in setting the pace of determination in pursuing a course in the international system.
The presence of massive deposits of oil is argued to be the main triggering factor in the response of the United States in the region. On the other hand, Syria does not present an economic attraction to the United States which is why the United States takes a cold approach to the political situation in the country.
Bandyopadhyaya, J. (2004). A general theory of foreign policy. New Delhi: Allied Publishers.
Brown, M. E. (2000). America’s strategic choices. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Chossudovsky, M. (2013). “Operation Libya” and the battle for oil: Redrawing the map of Africa. Web.
Duncan, W. R., Jancar-Webster, B., & Switky, B. (2008). World politics in the 21st century: Student choice edition. Boston, MA: Mifflin Haecourt Publishing Company.
Dunne, T. (2007). International relations theories: Discipline and diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Flibbert, A. (2006). The road to Baghdad: Ideas and intellectuals in explanations of the Iraq War. Security Studies, 15(2), 310-52.
Jackson, R. H., & Sørensen, G. (2007). Introduction to international relations: Theories and approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Liste, T. (2012). How Syria differs from Libya. Web.
Lobell, S. E., Ripsman, N. M., & Taliaferro, J. W. (2009). Neoclassical realism, the state, and foreign policy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Palmer, G., & Morgan, T. C. (2011). A theory of foreign policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Payne, R. A. (2007). Neorealists as critical theorists: The purpose of foreign policy debate. Perspectives on Politics, 5(3), 503-514.
Schmidt, B C., & Williams, M. C. (2008). The Bush doctrine and the Iraq War: Neoconservatives versus realists. Security Studies, 17(2), 191-220.
Sharp, J. M., & Blanchard, C. M. (2013). Armed conflict in Syria: U.S. and international response. Congressional Research Service. Web.
Taliaferro, J. W. (2004). Balancing risks: Great power intervention in the periphery. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.