My senior thesis discusses and analyzes American foreign policy through the scope of the Realist theory of international relations. With the works of Realists like Kenneth Waltz and Stephen Walt in mind, I analyze this theory and then explore its implications on United States foreign policy in relation to three specific case studies. The case studies I examined are the contentions surrounding the post-Cold War NATO existence, the ongoing civil conflict in Syria, and the post-Soviet existence of Ukraine. All of which I have viewed as Cold War proxy wars between the United States and Russia.
In the post-Cold War landscape, the United States appeared as the unipolar, dominant power in what was previously a bipolar world. In this role, the United States embarked on a number of military interventions where American interests were arguably not at stake. Oftentimes, the United States intervened in states that posed no strategic, economic, or militaristic benefit. It was in these instances that the United States claimed to be acting on humanitarian concerns and often sought to transform the local political atmosphere and leadership in these countries.
In the contemporary post-post Cold War era, we can observe the global landscape shifting to become increasingly multipolar. As the Realist theory purports, states are self-interested, therefore seeking alliances and actions that bolster their interests. Accordingly, it is advantageous to look at the current state of affairs through a realist lens in which we observe every actor, including the United States, protect their interests and security in a self-serving manner. While policymakers in the United States follow the realist framework, we often judge other actors behaving alike as aggressive or forbidding. My senior thesis highlights this hypocrisy through the three case studies and in light of the dynamic between the United States and Russia as they battle to assert their influence in the respective spheres. Looking to the future, I assert that in order to maintain the dominant role as the unipolar power, the United States should act with more restraint as to not threaten the other actors on the world stage.