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The United States and the European Union  

Roberto Dominguez and Joshua Weissman LaFrance

The history of the European Union (EU) is closely associated with the development of the United States. As the process of European integration has produced institutions and gained a collective international presence, the United States has been a close observer, partner, and often critic of the policies and actions of the EU and its member states. A steady progression of events delineates this path: the Marshall Plan, origins of European integration, the Cold War, the post–Cold War, 9/11 and its effects on the international system, the Great Recession, and the deterioration of global democracy. All throughout, the EU and the United States have both cooperated and collided with one another, in line with the combination of three main factors: (a) the evolution of the EU as an independent, international actor; (b) American strategies for engagement with Europe and then with the EU; and (c) the adaptive capacity and cohesion of the overall transatlantic relationship. The EU–U.S. relationship is significant not only for the influential role of the EU in world affairs but also because, as opposed to China or Russia, the transatlantic area hosts one of the most solid relationships around the world. Crises surely have been, and will be, a frequent aspect of the intense interdependences on both sides of the Atlantic; however, the level of contestation and conflict is relatively low, particularly as compared with other areas that smoothly allow the flow of goods, services, people, and ideas. Taken altogether, then, the transatlantic relationship possesses a strong foundation: it is integral, resilient, and enduring over a history of diplomatic disagreements and conflicts. The primary question remains just how this steady stream and confluence of shared challenges ultimately will fare in face of evolving crises and systemic disruptors. In any case, the answer is determined by the enduring nature, and foreign policy choices, of the primary actors on each side of the Atlantic.

Article

Institutional and Organizational Crisis: The CIA After 9/11  

Simon Willmetts and Constant Hijzen

The events of 9/11 profoundly changed the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. To begin with, 9/11 itself was a crisis that came to be regarded by many as an “intelligence failure.” Questions were soon asked about what the CIA had known about the 9/11 hijackers before the attacks and whether they could have done more to prevent them. These questions eventually inspired two separate official inquiries, exposing the CIA to considerable public scrutiny. Soon after, the quality of CIA intelligence was once again called into question. In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq. The Bush administration based its case for war on faulty intelligence that suggested Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. After the invasion, it became clear that he did not. Following another series of inquiries, mounting evidence suggested that not only had mistakes been made by the CIA but also that the Bush administration had exaggerated the intelligence in public and ignored the significant reservations and counterarguments within the U.S. intelligence community, which challenged the conclusion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Ironically, given that these two major scandals in the aftermath of 9/11 focused attention on the quality of the CIA’s intelligence analysis, 9/11 also shifted the main focus of the CIA’s attention away from traditional intelligence work. For obvious reasons, after 9/11, the CIA focused increasingly on counterterrorism. This changed the CIA. Counterterrorism, as opposed to more traditional intelligence work, often involves intervention, and sometimes violent intervention. After 9/11 the CIA led special forces operations and played a leading role in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, and across the globe, the CIA captured terrorist suspects, rendered them to secret prisons in foreign countries, and tortured them. After President Barack Obama closed the CIA’s secret prisons and ended the practice of torture, increasingly the preferred method of dealing with terrorist suspects was to kill them, via drone strikes or through special forces raids. As a result, CIA intelligence collection and analysis became less of a passive activity, where the aim is to understand a particular strategic question, and more “kinetic” in obtaining information that might help target terrorist suspects and mark them for death. As a result, the traditional line within the CIA between operatives and analysts began to blur. Moreover, the CIA’s increasing involvement in these violent, military-like activities exposed them to numerous scandals that became crises of their own.

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The Political Economy of Hegemony: The (Surprising) Persistence of American Hegemony  

Thomas Oatley

First-generation research in International Political Economy focused considerable attention on the relationship between hegemony and global economic stability. This focus was the result of a confluence of scholarly and policy concerns about the impact that the apparent decline of U.S. hegemony would have on international trade and investment regimes. Interest in this hegemonic stability hypothesis waned, however, as deeper explorations of the theoretical logic indicated that hegemony was not a necessary condition for international economic openness, and as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent “unipolar moment” suggested that American hegemony was hardly in decline. Interest in hegemony resurfaced in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The crisis triggered many scholars to proclaim the end of the era of American global hegemony. Scholars argued that the U.S. government’s attachment to a large budget and trade deficits and the resulting growth of foreign debt were likely to weaken foreign confidence in the dollar and encourage the shift to an alternative reserve currency such as the Euro. At the same time, China’s rapid industrialization and emergence as a large creditor nation was creating a new pole in the international economy that constituted a meaningful alternative to a global economy organized around the United States’ economy. Thus, a shift toward a Beijing hegemony was all but inevitable. The predicted decline of American hegemony has yet to materialize. The U.S. economy remains the world’s largest, and the U.S. government continues to play the leading role in system making—creating new rules to govern international economic cooperation—and in privilege taking—manipulating these rules in ways that advantage U.S. public and private sector actors. Moreover, the U.S. government plays this role in all three economic subsystems: finance, knowledge, and production. Empirical scholarship conducted over the last decade encourages one to conclude by paraphrasing Mark Twain: Recent reports of the death of American hegemony are premature.

Article

Congress and Foreign Policy  

Bryan W. Marshall

The U.S. Congress has broad constitutional powers to shape foreign policy. However, Congress rarely shapes foreign policy as an equal partner with the president. Politics has the potential to enhance or lessen Congress’s role. What explains changes over time in congressional power in foreign policy? Why does Congress assert itself on some issues but less so on others in U.S. foreign policy? What strategies or tools does Congress employ to shape the nation’s foreign policy? The lens of New Institutionalism, two presidencies, and presidential unilateralism connect in useful ways to help explain these kinds of key questions in foreign policy. They offer scholars a future framework to continue to enhance theories explaining variation in congressional assertiveness in foreign policy.

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Corporate Lobbying in Foreign Policy  

Amy Skonieczny

More Americans than ever before believe that money in politics weakens our democracy. Public opinion polls show that the number of people who believe that the country is run by a few big interests looking after themselves rose to nearly 80% over the past 20 years. The belief that corporate interests drive public policy is not all that surprising when you consider the growth of lobbying in the United States. According to the Center for Responsive Government, from 1998 to 2016, the amount of money spent on lobbying the U.S. government grew from $1.45 billion to $3.12 billion with well over 10,000 lobbyists in Washington. With this all this money attempting to influence policy outcomes in Washington, it is no wonder that Americans are skeptical of the intentions of government officials. However, political scientists have found a more mixed result when it comes to the actual influence of money on politics. One study asked if the amount of money spent on any given issue really influences policy outcomes. Other studies have shown some benefit to the private parties that lobby. Thus despite significant research on the topic, there is little agreement among political scientists on just how lobbying influences political actors or if lobbying directly impacts policy results. When it comes to foreign policy, corporate lobbies are an ever-present influence in the crafting of government policies. Whether in the European Union or the United States or other countries around the world, corporate lobbies view representing their interests in a truly global fashion. While corporate interests are investing in shaping foreign policy in a variety of issues areas such as defense spending, arms sales, contractors on humanitarian missions, one area is particularly vulnerable to corporate influence—trade and finance. Research shows that U.S. trade politics is heavily influenced by the lobbying of business organizations and trade associations. In fact, the U.S. administration often relies on interested corporate parties to provide it with both the expertise that shapes the agreement itself and the political case for trade liberalization that shapes the public pro-trade campaign. In turn, corporate lobbying for trade agreements is a costly and involved process. For example, during the eight years of negotiations over the TransPacific Partnership Agreement, a regional trade agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, corporations paid $2.6 billion dollars to lobbyists to influence the content of the agreement and to promote it to Congress and the American public. An overview of the literature on corporate lobbying and an examination of the case of U.S. trade shows a particular example of how corporate lobbying works to influence foreign policy.

Article

Democracy Promotion and US Foreign Policy  

David Ryan and Liam O'Brien

Democracy promotion has been a key aspect of U.S. identity and foreign policy, though Washington also has a long history of supporting non-democratic forms of governance; it has both consolidated democratic regimes and intervened to overthrow democratically elected governments. Democracy promotion is a broad term encompassing different activities, undertaken as part of a nation’s foreign policy, which intend to initiate and foster democratic governance abroad. Democracy promotion efforts may include, among other strategies, “traditional” diplomacy, targeted foreign aid and assistance, and both covert and overt military intervention. While democracy promotion has now become an accepted foreign policy norm among many nations, numerous issues and debates continue to surround its deployment, ranging from granular questions concerning how to best distribute foreign aid up to larger, more fundamental disputes centered on the effectiveness and legitimacy of democracy promotion. Such issues have a particular relevance to the history of U.S. foreign policy: the meta-narrative of U.S. foreign policy and its grand strategy is axiomatically associated with democracy and with democracy promotion. Indeed, given its self-characterization as a shining “city on a hill,” charges of inconsistency and double-standards frequently attend U.S. efforts at democracy promotion. Certainly, despite the rhetorical positions of many presidents, democracy promotion has never been the driving factor behind U.S. foreign policy but rather one component of a wider picture. The United States has frequently supported authoritarian regimes, undermined democracy, or supported a form of “low-intensity” or limited veneer of democratic practice. That said, the institutionalization of U.S. democracy promotion has not only set it more firmly on the agenda but also made it a more visible feature of U.S. policy. The democracy promotion efforts that served the Reagan administration’s goals in Latin America—mainly funding quasi-governmental groups that sought to foster opposition to unfriendly governments and strengthen civic society in target countries more generally—have provided a model for the basis of a large democracy promotion industry, providing a genuine substance to U.S. democracy promotion rhetoric in the process. The “industrialization” of democracy promotion, however, has created its own issues; namely an uncritical environment in which the promotion of a relatively shallow form of U.S.–style democracy has been presumed to be best, no matter the individual circumstances and nuances of target countries. The problems formed by such biases, along with a host of other challenges, will likely ensure that U.S. democracy promotion remains a contentious issue for some time to come.

Article

Honduran Social Movements: Then and Now  

Suyapa Portillo and Cristian Padilla Romero

Honduran social movements have historically organized around three important pillars: political parties constituted by both traditional and more radical parties, labor organizing efforts, and campesino-based land struggles. Work and land took formidable shape from the 1900s to the 1930s as workers began pushing back against the unyielding exploitation of U.S.-based banana and mining corporations and resisting. The end of the Tiburcio Carías Andino dictatorship in 1949 gave rise to a militant labor movement and political opposition to the ruling National Party, which came with an uneasy alliance between leftists and the Liberal Party. Workers efforts, bottom up, paved the way for progressive labor and agrarian laws. After World War II (WWII), Hondurans become ensnared by U.S.-led Cold War politics and anti-communism, leading to the 1963 coup d’état against the Liberal president Ramon Villeda Morales and decades-long military rule, rendering the country one of the closest allies of the United States. Military rule and proximity to the United States crushed progressive movements that dared to organize, co-opted the once radical labor movement, and criminalized landless campesinos. In the 1990s, after the peace accords were signed in the Central American region, the Honduran state, following orders by international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), implemented neoliberal policies that rolled back many of the hard-fought gains of the 1950s and 1960s by eroding the public sector. As a result of the corroding democratic nature of the neoliberal governments, culminating in the 2009 coup d’état against progressive president Manuel Zelaya, Hondurans from virtually every sector of society, including Indigenous, Black, and feminists, began mobilizing against state policies and demanding a more participatory democracy in La Resistencia, which has transformed into a vibrant, creative, youthful, and widespread movement.