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National Security Policy and the Strong Executive, Page 2

American Foreign Policy
The foreign policies of both the United States and France are rooted in the belief in exceptionalism. However, this widespread and domestically popular belief in both nations is manifested in divergent fashions. In the United States, exceptionalism was based on the idea that the United States was unique because of a variety of factors including geography, politics and culture. Lepgold and McKeown contend that the belief in this exceptionalism lay in the longstanding manner in which “Americans depreciate power politics and old-fashioned diplomacy, mistrust powerful standing armies and entangling peacetime commitments, make moralistic judgements about other people’s domestic systems, and believe that liberal values transfer readily to foreign affairs.”34

As a result of this exceptionalism, Kerry asserts that successive “American presidents have been addicted to citing the absence of territorial claims as evidence of the high purpose and moral purity with which the U.S. projects power to far places. This virtue is believed by Americans to distinguish the U.S. from any other power in the world, including other democracies.”35 The idea of American exceptionalism was expressed domestically in the doctrine of manifest destiny and its explicit belief in the superiority of Euro-Americans over native peoples.36 In foreign affairs, the notion of exceptionalism can be tied to two contradictory trends: isolationism and internationalism.

George Washington’s oft-quoted admonishment to “avoid permanent alliances” and the principles of the Monroe Doctrine acted as dual constraints on any efforts to project American influence outside of the hemisphere. Dunne suggests that the term most used to describe U.S. foreign policy during this period – “isolationism” – should be replaced with the more accurate phrase “hemispheric unilateralism.”37 This concept holds that Americans may have actively sought to avoid political or security entanglement with Europe, but successive administrations were able to garner public support for expansion and interaction in Central and South America. The ability of the president to rally public opinion lay in the nature of American attitudes toward foreign policy. For instance, Almond asserts that for the most part, Americans are, and have traditionally been, “indifferent” to foreign affairs, but that indifference could quickly turn to “anger” with the right motivations (leading to “dangerous overreactions” on the part of the populace).38

For presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt, and later Woodrow Wilson, who believed in American internationalism, exceptionalism also carried with it an implicit duty to apply uniquely American qualities such as democracy and individual rights to other nations. This belief in “democratic universalism” reflected that the political ethnocentrism at the core of most Americans’ view of the world – “everyone ought to be like us.”39 Such beliefs would be used to justify intervention in Central and South America and the acquisition of territories such as the Philippines since it was incumbent upon the United States to foster democracy in these developing nations. Following this line of reasoning, manifest destiny was rooted in the drive to spread American political and economic values throughout the continent and once the “Americanization” of the continent was fairly secure, ideological forces drove the nation to endeavor to spread these same values throughout Asia and the Caribbean.40 Rosenberg argues that this “liberal developmentalism” was based on five principles: 1) the belief that other nations could copy the development patterns of the United States; 2) the promotion of free enterprise; 3) championing global free trade and open markets; 4) staunch support for the free flow of information (including an open and free media); and 5) an “acceptance” of government actions to protect and promote American business interests.41

One common manifestation of the combination of isolationism and internationalism in American foreign policy is unilateralism since exceptionalism leads policymakers to assume that other nations do not have the same motives or interests as the United States. Hence while isolationism and the potential for a U.S. withdrawal “haunted” the Western Europeans during the Cold War era, Boniface points out that the current fear among European capitals is the “specter of U.S. unilateralism.”42

French Foreign Policy
French foreign policy is also based on exceptionalism. At the core of this concept are the twin, interrelated principles of grandeur and rank.43 Grandeur in foreign policy is inexorably tied to the “civilizing mission” of France whereby it is incumbent upon the French to export the ideals and values of the Revolution.44 Meanwhile, both grandeur and rank revolve around the central axis of global responsibility. Because France continues to promote itself as a great power,French policy is rooted in the assumption that the nation has both international status and duty. For instance, its white papers on defense still speak of the nation’s “world rank.”45

From the mid-twentieth century onward rank and grandeur have been expressed through the evolution of the Gaullist consensus in foreign policy.46 This approach, which has been embraced by both the Left and Right mainstream parties is based on three main principles: 1) autonomy in foreign affairs; 2) the “construction” of a united Europe to enhance French influence and diminish German power; and 3) the preservation of influence in former French colonies and other areas of the developing world.47 The key to all three goals is the first. Preservation of independence in foreign and security policy was the only way to ensure the nation’s global rank (and to counter both U.S. isolationism and later unilateralism).

In light of declining resources and power in the post-World War II era, the principle means to maintain autonomy became power magnification As their national power declined with the loss of the empire, successive French governments endeavored to utilize the growing institutions that marked the transatlantic community to augment the nation’s dwindling power and influence.Thus, as Becker notes, France’s support for the institutional framework of Europe was “a projection of its national aims on a larger scale.”48 This support is described by Treacher as the “transferral of national ambitions to a European collectivity.”49

The periodic assaults on the global prominence of France, such as the defeat in Indochina, the Suez Crisis, and the Algerian quagmire, reaffirmed the Gaullist consensus and ensured its continuation even as specific policies were transformed. As a result, de Gaulle’s “double no” (“no” to NATO and “no” to a federated Europe) would later be translated into support for both NATO and the European Union (EU) as these organizations were seen as a means to maximize French influence and leadership.50 Three major phases can be identified within this transition: “First was the transfer of national ambitions onto France’s European partners and subsequent attempts to mobilize them into a cohesive global political actor under implicit French leadership. With this in mind, promotion of the French “exception” was equally a central tactical tool at the time. The second phase was characterized by a downplaying of the French “exception” and a greater emphasis on working within [italics in the original] NATO. And the third phase has seen the resurrection of the autonomous European project.”51

One manifestation of policy which was designed to both reaffirm autonomy and to elevate global rank was the strategy of acting as an interlocutor. For instance, at the height of the Cold War, France endeavored to develop itself as a third way or alternative to the two superpowers in a bid to maximize its policy independence and world influence.52 In the aftermath of the Cold War, France tried to develop itself as a bridge between the United States and those nations the superpower deemed to be pariahs, including Iraq, Libya and Iran.53 This was particularly true of the events surrounding the Persian Gulf War and would later be replicated during the successive Balkan crises where France endeavored to forestall military action against the Serbs, even though it created a strain in Franco-German relations. The strategy would find its ultimate expression in the diplomatic wrangling over Iraq.

As these efforts to present itself as an interlocutor failed in succession, Rynning asserts that France continued to try to establish a “bridging position that implied neither unilateralism nor alliance integration.”54 Still, by the mid-1990s, there was an emerging acceptance of joint military operations. Under Chirac, Paris even began to reintegrate into the military structure of the Alliance as “joint allied work on military missions was accepted by all political parties (unlike NATO’s political role) and has lost political significance.”55



Hardy Hall
University of Mississippi, Gulf Coast

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