“We can’t understand contemporary American foreign policy without a better understanding of the driving forces throughout history. You need to look at the whole puzzle, and I feel that we’re only seeing the outside borders in the Swedish debate. We can’t pick out individual events like September 11th and the reactions to that in the US without placing them in a greater historical context,” says Frida Stranne.
In her dissertation Frida Stranne studied US foreign policy from 1776 to modern times. She identifies patterns and driving forces in the country’s foreign policies that do not solely promote peace and stability but sometimes provoke confrontation and conflict in the world.
She feels it’s extremely urgent for Sweden to start problematizing US foreign policy in depth. In the US the discussion is both deeper and more open regarding whether policies promote stability or are counterproductive.
“Now that we’re a part of US wars, we need to perform objective and fact-based analyses of what drives American foreign policy and what it leads to. Their actions can be rational from an American perspective but do not necessarily promote our security interests in Europe or in Sweden,” Frida Stranne, Halmstad University.
“We need to objectively discuss what US foreign policy entails, what its driving forces are, and what consequences it leads to. Otherwise we risk winding up in a situation where we legitimize a war that later proves to be unjust or based on false premises, as was the case with Iraq and its alleged possession of various weapons of mass destruction,” says Frida Stranne.
Frida Stranne has identified some driving logics in American foreign policy that have led the country in the direction of expansion and have often also entailed military interventions for political and economic reasons, which she maintains we should be more cognizant of. She has also identified four phases of expansive policies in which the US has extended its position of power in the world: George W. Bush and also Barack Obama should be understood as part of the fourth phase that started with the end of the Cold War, with George W. Bush acting in accordance with a well-tested logic of expansion and taking the opportunity to expand the US sphere of power when it presented itself.
“However, he broke with tradition when he turned it into an articulated doctrine to formalize pre-emptive war. But waging pre-emptive war is nothing new. It has characterized all of American history. The entire logic behind the Cold War was really about pre-empting various threats—to see to it that countries didn’t fall into the hands of the Soviet Union,” says Frida Stranne.
Frida Stranne sees the current situation as extremely exciting for scholars of US foreign policy. The American success story has previously developed relatively constantly. But now the image of the American Dream is being questioned, which presents new domestic-policy problems that can entail foreign-policy consequences.
“We don’t know how this will develop. We have seen that earlier imperial powers or great powers tend to become more aggressive outwards as they face domestic instability. This doesn’t have to happen. But we need to follow developments in the US very carefully, since they will affect the entire international system in various ways. It’s more exciting than ever to study US policies,” says Frida Stranne.