Foreign Policy Case Study Questions
Foreign Policy Case Study Case #1: The crisis in Syria– The current crisis in Syria began on March 15, 2011 with nationwide demonstrations demanding an end to nearly 50 years of Ba’ath Party rule and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the current leader who inherited his father’s one-party regime. In April 2011, al-Assad ordered the Syrian Army to put down the uprising, the army opened fire on demonstrators. Al-Assad’s actions sparked armed rebellion and some rebel groups received military aid from foreign countries. Reports circulated of up to 28,000 civilians missing; allegedly, many of those missing were forcibly abducted by government troops or security forces. Also alleged by multiple sources was widespread torture in state prisons where tens of thousands of protestors were incarcerated. The United Nations has labeled the conflict with the legal definition of civil war and in January 2013 put the death toll at over 60,000. Meanwhile, some rebel groups have also been accused of human rights abuses and in February, 2013 an unidentified rebel group exploded three car bombs in the capital killing dozens of civilians. Assad’s use of violence has been condemned by the Arab League, United States, European Union and Arab Gulf States. The US and its NATO allies have insisted that al-Assad’s regime must go and al-Assad himself must step down. Russia and China have consistently blocked any UN resolutions that would impose sanctions on Syria to force al-Assad out. Al-Assad along with his domestic and foreign supporters claim that al-Assad’s removal from power would not only fail to end the civil war but would in fact make it even worse as Syrian factions long hostile to one another would fight to fill the vacuum left in the absence of Ba’ath Party rule.
Case #2: Cuban-U.S. relations: The commercial, economic and financial embargo that the US imposed on Cuba in the wake of the island’s successful 1962 Communist revolution against the anti-communist dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista was supposed to undermine the totalitarian rule of Fidel Castro and, according to the US State Department, “promote a peaceful transition to a stable, democratic government and respect for human rights in Cuba”; in the past 50 years since, the embargo has failed to achieve its intended goal. The communist government of Cuba under the leadership of Fidel Castro and his designated successor, brother Raul Castro, is a one-party regime that denies basic political freedoms and rights to Cuban citizens. Cuba imposes tightly restricted avenues for political expression; political dissent is quickly silenced and often harshly punished. Political parties opposed to Castro’s Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) are outlawed by the Cuban constitution- would be organizers and leaders of parties other than the PCC are imprisoned as criminals. Although the Cuban government has helped the tiny Caribbean nation achieve one of the highest rates of literacy in the world and has established health care and advanced medical research surpassing all other Caribbean nations, Cubans enjoy no guarantees of freedom of the press or freedom of association and they can be dismissed from their jobs if they express dissident political views. However, the United Nations has denounced the US embargo on Cuba; all other countries have established normal relations with Cuba. Some foreign policy experts say it is time for the US to end the embargo and negotiate normal trade agreements; others say we must not reward a communist dictator with the benefits of trade with the US.
Foreign Policy Case Study Case #3: The use of drones: The Obama administration has taken credit for successful attacks on al-Qaeda hideouts and bases and killing individual leaders of terrorist cells in Somalia, Yemen, and especially Pakistan- successes achieved through stepping up the use of reaper and predator drones. Drones are used for these operations because they are unmanned aerial weapons that are operated remotely and can strike with great accuracy but little or no warning for the targets. But in a 2012 report by legal experts at Stanford and NYU harshly criticizes the drone program for its affect on non-combatant civilians. Under international law, nations at war must take greater precautions to make sure that civilians are not killed. According to the numbers in the 2012 report, US precautions to prevent the killing of civilians are failing. The reports claim that over the past 8 years more than 345 strikes have hit Pakistan’s tribal areas, but barely 2 percent of the strike victims were known militants. Contrary to the report, the Obama administration claims that civilian casualties and deaths are rare and that the drone program has been a success. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta argues that the military has been “very successful at going after the leadership” of al-Qaeda. While supporters of the drone program assert that it is necessary to allow the US to take out threats to our security without risking the lives of military personnel, opponents say that the drone program sets a bad precedent for extra judicial killings and violence against civilians- unintended though it may be-at a time when many nations are building up their own arsenals of unmanned weapons.
ANSWER THE QUESTIONS BELOW REFERRING TO ONE OF THE CASES ABOVE.
- What issues involving U.S. interests were raised in the case study you read?
- Imagine that you could make U.S. foreign policy recommendations to the president; what would you say to explain your idea of national interest and how it relates to this case? What goal would you recommend the president pursue in addressing the issues raised in the case you read?
- Looking at the Tools of Foreign Policy case study, what tools do you think would be most effective in achieving your goal? What tools would you recommend the president use in addressing the issues in this case?
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