Political Science Reflection Paper
America’s Foreign Policy Approach
Recent developments in the war against global terrorism suggest that the United States foreign policy has shifted again under the new administration of President Donald Trump. A particular incident was covered in The New York Times under the title, “U.S. Strikes Shabab, Likely a First Since Trump Relaxed Rules for Somalia.” According to the article, the United States has emboldened its direct offences against the Al-Qaida-affiliated terror group, Al-Shabaab, which operates largely within Somalia and the East African region. An assessment of the Al-Shabaab incident and many other anti-terrorist incidents in Somalia and elsewhere shows that the Trump administration shares President Bush’s idea of a more robust and aggressive preventive military campaign against global terrorism (Savage, Helene, and Eric). In fact, the approach is consistent with President Trump’s campaign manifesto, which favored such robust approaches against global terrorism.
The fact that Trump’s administration has embraced a forthright approach against international terrorism shows that the administration is intent in suppressing terrorism activities in the rest of the world as a long-term strategy of curtailing terrorists’ efforts to strike at the homeland. President Obama preferred the option of empowering neighboring countries to fight the threats of terrorism in areas around their borders. Although, he often engaged the Special Forces in international assignments, his overall focus on terrorism favored some element of restraint since he was disinclined to the idea of committing American forces to drawn-out wars in many of the restive areas of the world. The Trump administration appears to share the widely held view that the threat of terrorism in any part of the globe represented some form of an existential threat to the United States.
Proponents of this kind of approach within the administration believe that the escalation of the threat of terror in the world could be countered through preemptive measures that target the elements at the source. The evident policy shift from Obama’s diplomatic approaches to aggressive military campaigns could be studied in terms of a renewed commitment by the United States to protect its allies and interests from the threats of terrorism. Terrorists have often targeted United States interests and citizens in many parts of the world. Trends in global terrorism have shown that elements of terror tend to target malls, beaches, hotels, and other public places that are popular with American and western tourists. Al-Shabaab terrorist group targeted a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which was popular with tourists from western countries and killed dozens of people (Savage, Helene and Eric).
Successive American governments have always acknowledged the challenge of relying on allies to protect its citizens and interests in foreign countries. Many countries that are under a constant menace of terrorism lack the capacity to engage threat. Besides, dishonest elements in such governments and vested interests among certain political, religious, or ethnic groupings have often undermined the capacity of some of the countries to act in a manner that would effectively curtail the level of the threat. Poor cooperation between many countries and the United States has necessitated the kind of aggressive military campaigns that the United States seems to have adopted under the Trump administration. Both Obama and Trump’s administrations engaged the United States forces in joint training exercises in areas largely perceived as highly susceptible to the threats of terrorism. However, the Obama administration tended to limit such involvements on exercises and the provision of intelligence of logistical support, which was aimed at empowering the countries to engage the terrorists.
The Somali incident compares closely with the recent bombing of an Al-Qaeda hideout in Afghanistan within weeks of Trump’s administration. The administration has also escalated its attacks on ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, and other parts of the world. On various occasions, President Trump has expressed his displeasure at the counterterrorism strategies and the foreign policies that were adopted by previous administrations and some European countries such as France and Germany. Generally, his sentiments foster the impression that his policy is more inclined towards strict preventive strategies. His attitude towards the immigrant problems in both Europe and the United States is also consistent with a preventive strategy. Trump’s Muslim ban policy is premised on the fact that he needs to put in place measures that would ensure that the bad elements are prevented from reaching the United States.
I hold the impression that the current policy can be highly effective when conducted together with strategic allies and some of the most vulnerable countries. It would be important for the Trump administration to proceed with the policy with due consideration of the long-term adverse effects of collateral damage on civilians, which often tend to whip up public anger against the United States counterterrorism approaches. An example is the Yemen incident in which many civilians were killed in a commando raid that was targeted against some suspected terrorist cell. However, it would be appropriate for the administration to combine the aggressive military campaigns with diplomatic approaches in order for the counterterrorism initiative to achieve maximum impact against the terrorist group. Experience has shown that a combination of strategies yields greater results than a single strategy.
Savage, Charlie., Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt. (June 11, 2017). U.S. Strikes Shabab, Likely a First Since Trump Relaxed Rules for Somalia. The New York Times. June 11, 2017. Accessed https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/11/us/politics/us-airstrike-somalia-trump.html