America Overcommitted

America Overcommitted: United States National Interests in the 1980s

Donald E. Nuechterlein
Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    America Overcommitted
    Book Description:

    Is the United States seriously overcommitted in its worldwide relationships? Donald Nuechterlein examines the foreign policy priorities of the United States as it enters the latter half of the 1980s and contemplates its future international role; he argues that whether the United States remains a superpower into the twenty-first century depends on how it decides its international priorities in this decade and then marshals its resources to defend and enhance them.

    The hard decisions needed to establish priorities among United States military and economic commitments abroad must be made if the United States is to remain financially strong and emotionally committed to an international rather than an isolationist foreign policy. In this book the author uses a conceptual framework he developed earlier to assess the nature and intensity of specific challenges to United States national interests.

    Nuechterlein analyzes seven geographical areas of the world in terms of the United States historical interests and suggests the future degree of interest that should be assigned to them. He also classifies thirty countries, in various parts of the world, in terms of their national interest value to the United States in the coming decade. Finally, he assesses the foreign policies of the Reagan administration in light of national interest priorities.

    America Overcommittedwill be essential reading for makers of American foreign and national security policy, for journalists reporting on international affairs, for scholars seeking better ways to analyze United States foreign policy objectives, and for informed citizens who ask why the United States is involved militarily in all parts of the world. America Overcommitted is thus a guide to better decision making in foreign affairs in this critical decade.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6411-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of figures
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. 1. National Interest as a Basis of Foreign Policy Formulation
    (pp. 1-30)

    The termnational interesthas long been used by statesmen and scholars to describe the foreign policy goals of nation-states. Although the concept is not new there is ambiguity about its meaning, and most scholars have chosen to use their own descriptions rather than follow formulations offered by others. Today the student of international relations finds numerous definitions of national interest, most of which are not conducive to precision in the making of foreign policy. Before attempting a more adequate definition, however, it is useful to review briefly what major American writers have said about the nature and roots of...

  6. 2. Instruments of Foreign and National Security Policy
    (pp. 31-53)

    Defining the nature and intensity of the national interest in specific cases is a crucial first step in formulating foreign and national security policies. The national interest matrix described in Chapter 1 provides a framework for doing so. The next task of the policy-maker is to select the instruments of policy that are appropriate to the level of interest at stake and to resist using instruments solely because they are available. Taking no action is also a policy, and it may be useful in certain circumstances. Occasionally, a country’s interest may be high, but its government lacks the means of...

  7. 3. North America: The Neglected Heartland
    (pp. 54-78)

    Since World War II the United States has been so extensively involved in world security that it has lost sight of the crucial importance to its defense, economic, world-order and ideological interests of the twenty-odd countries that comprise North America. Policy-makers have used the concept of Latin America or the Western Hemisphere to describe an area that is considered to be of special geographical interest to the United States. Yet, by using “Latin America” to describe the countries of this hemisphere, Americans totally ignore Canada—our most important defense outpost as well as trading partner—and the English-speaking islands of...

  8. 4. Western Europe: Cradle of American Civilization
    (pp. 79-104)

    The United States recognized that Western Europe is an enduring vital national interest when France fell to German armies in June 1940. President Franklin Roosevelt understood that the collapse of French forces meant that Hitler held supreme power on the continent and that this represented so dramatic a shift in the world balance of power that it could prove intolerable to the United States. At a commencement address in Charlottesville, Virginia, on June 10, 1940, Roosevelt stated: “This perception of danger has come to us clearly and overwhelmingly; and we perceive the peril in a worldwide arena—an arena that...

  9. 5. Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf: Containment of U.S.S.R.
    (pp. 105-131)

    The U.S. interest in the eastern Mediterranean dates from President Truman’s decision in 1947 to provide military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey to help them resist the Soviet Union’s pressures to expand southward. The President’s proposal was made before a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947, and it soon became known as the “Truman Doctrine.” In it President Truman went beyond a request for aid to Greece and Turkey and declared that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside...

  10. 6. East Asia: Area of American Ambivalence
    (pp. 132-155)

    The Far East, as it was officially known until the 1960s, was an important economic area for the United States before World War II but was never considered a vital interest. This was so even after the United States gained control of the Philippines, following the Spanish-American War, and established military bases there. Acquiring these islands gave the United States a major stake in what happened in the western Pacific, but it did not imply that the United States was prepared to take a leading role in the international relations of Northeast Asia (Japan, Korea, Soviet Union) or in Southeast...

  11. 7. South America and Southern Africa: Secondary U.S. Interests
    (pp. 156-175)

    Traditional thinking in the United States about U.S. interests in and policies toward South America has been blurred by the Monroe Doctrine legacy, which assumed that everything in the Western Hemisphere was a vital national interest. This view was reinforced by the Rio Pact in 1947, which treated the security of all parts of Latin America as equally important to the security of the United States. The assumption is not valid, however, either in strategic or economic terms, and certainly not in ideological terms. Looking realistically at U.S. national interests in a broader context, the term “Latin America” should not...

  12. 8. The Soviet Empire: An Enduring Competitor
    (pp. 176-203)

    The Soviet Union is the only serious competitor of the United States for power and prestige on a worldwide scale. Despite the earlier speculation of academics and journalists about the emergence of a “multi-polar world,” there are only two powers today that can justifiably be called superpowers. Neither Britain nor France, two European powers with modest nuclear military capability and interests outside Europe, is a competitor of the Soviet Union and the United States. Japan and Germany are world economic powers, and they exert regional political influence as well, but neither is willing at this time to reach for the...

  13. 9. Priorities among U.S. National Interests
    (pp. 204-222)

    During the 1970s, three Presidents of the United States tried to redefine U.S. national interests in a way that would be more consistent with U.S. capabilities and the willingness of the American people to use the armed forces to defend vital U.S. interests. The Guam Doctrine, later called the Nixon Doctrine, made it clear that countries allied with the United States, particularly those in Asia, would be expected to bear the brunt of ground combat if they were attacked by hostile forces and that the United States would rely on its air and naval power to support them. When Great...

  14. 10. Epilogue
    (pp. 223-230)

    The early months of 1984 saw a number of significant international events that directly affected U.S. national interests and foreign policy, and some others that were important but less significant to the well-being of the United States. These key events were: the continuing emplacement of U.S. medium range nuclear missiles in several European countries; the death of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and his replacement by Konstantin Chernenko; the withdrawal of American peace-keeping forces from Lebanon and the continuation of civil war there; the growing U.S. military involvement in Central America; and, perhaps most ominous, the escalation of the Iran-Iraq war...

  15. Index
    (pp. 231-238)