According to an editorial piece in the Independent by Kim Sengupta, America’s past trials to expand international liberal democracy will be curtailed under his administration. Trump’s campaign was based on a platform of placing America first as a guiding principle of his tenure in leadership. But what is the meaning of placing America first’ when it comes to foreign policy on issues of global politics and security?
The stand is not a novel idea. In fact, it is reminiscent of the isolationist policy pursued in the past to keep America out of the Second World War. In the 1930s, Neutrality Acts passed by Congress emboldened the Nazi regime and the series of events that followed culminated in an international war while President Roosevelt kept his distance to appease the Congress.
Trump’s administration plans to increase the defense budget while cutting foreign military aid. It is unclear how the US will be able to fight its international enemy – terrorism – and ward off possible threats from adversarial states such as Russia and China. It may be challenging for America to counter the might of these states, which are increasing their military might without foreign spending on bases and military aid to its allies in strategic regions. Though President Trump’s foreign policy does not hurt states such as Russia and China, it deals a big blow to young states such as South Sudan, which was trying to develop liberal democracy under America’s foreign guidance and aid.
The failure or success of a nation’s foreign policy and service heavily relies on the resource capacity – both material and human. The US has had more leverage over other nations with regard to these two factors. As such, it has more often than not been a leading policy-maker through its foreign policies, material aid, human resource support, and even military aid through armament and personnel provision as well as training. The irony is that in spite of its advantageous position and role of the world’s superpower, much of its diplomatic performance and foreign policies have left much to be desired. There are numerous expensive foreign policy failures including Iraq, Vietnam, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Libya, Korea, and now South Sudan – just to mention, but a few.
Rwanda’s and Somali’s cases and now South Sudan’s state, reveals the failure of American foreign policy towards African states. There seems to be a lack of preventive diplomacy and double standards, which defeat the core principles of American liberal democracy and freedom. The US had been on the forefront in supporting Sudan People’s Liberation Army (S.P.L.A), which waged decades of a guerrilla war that led to the cessation of Southern Sudan and the development of one of the youngest nations – South Sudan.
However, after the referendum vote and the creation of a new state, the US became indifferent to the needs of the new state as divisions emerged from warring tribal factions within South Sudan. The divisions have to intermittent civil wars. The US has been cold and silent except for a few distant statements. Much of the peace process has been left in the hands of the less able and young A.U (African Union), I.G.A.D (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), and the U.N (United Nations). In spite of all the peacekeeping by the U.N and the peaceful talks from these international bodies, the civil war has never ended and the refugee is ever increasing.
As of 2016, there were approximately 1.5 million internal refugees in various camps. Sadly, some of these camps still get attacked and people get killed, raped, and robbed under the close watch of the UN peacekeeping troops. For instance, on 11th July 2016, government forces attacked one of the refugee camps targeting the members of the Nuer tribe as well as foreign aid workers serving under the U.N. These government forces reportedly went on a rampage of several hours killing, beating, and raping people, yet the UN peacekeepers located just a mile away did not respond to calls for help during the episode.
During the initial stages of US support for S.P.L.A, many South Sudan refugees were given preferential entry into the US as refugees and under other asylum-seeking provisions. But sadly, while the UN and the US are currently failing the South Sudanese people and state, President Donald Trump has virtually banned the entry of refugees into America. According to CNN news, Trump recently signed an executive order, which indefinitely suspends the acceptance of Syrian refugees. The same order limits the entry of any other refugees into America by instituting “extreme vetting.”
In a nutshell, the US has failed Southern Sudan because it is not being vocal in its condemnation of the violence. Also, its material aid in form of basic provisions and military support to end the violence is no evident. The UN seems unable to solve all the human problems including the need for health services, basic needs, and security provision. It is only morally right that a superpower akin to America should intervene because of its material and personnel capability as well as military might. Additionally, the US has a moral duty to perform because it is part of the international forces that were involved in the creation of the state of South Sudan through its support for S.P.L.A.
It is thus rather irresponsible to withdraw such support because of the “America first,” policy-shaping approach, which now defines the state of foreign policy formulation and relations in the United States under Trump’s administration. It is a time for the US to take its place as a global leader and superpower because the past efforts by I.G.A.D, A.U, U.N, and African state leaders have yielded little to no positive results while the South Sudan people continue to hunger, lack medical services, education, and peaceful existence. Prompt and ideal intervention may even make the refugee ban less significant because with a peaceful state people may not need to move to the US for better living.