How can the U.S. improve its foreign policy toward Latin America? An American backyard or A Real Partner?

Analytics | Nargiz Hajiyeva | 23-11-2017, 17:30

How can the U.S. improve its foreign policy toward Latin America? An American backyard or A Real Partner?Over the course of history, the relations between Latin America and the United States have undergone an overwhelming number of perplexities  and are still in the process of constant change and evolution. In order to deeply comprehend these  relations, first and foremost, their historical background and possible future perspectives have to be taken into account. In the 1960s, due to intense political, tensions and the rise of radical social movements in Latin America, the U.S. has opted for the strategy of militarized interventions on behalf of its national or homeland security in the backyards. At that time, Washington chose to to implementits hard power toward Latin American countries due to several complexities; on one side, the moral trepidation on the dispersion of Communism throughout the regime, on the other side, the sparking issue of homeland security beyond borders that was on the rise in U.S. However, even in today’s U.S. foreign policy, many things are still the same despite such moves as Obama’s revitalization of the diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015. Basically, it is now clearly realized that if the U.S. is eager to improve its relations with Latin American countries, before all else, it should draw conclusions from its historical mistakes which it did in past towardsthe region, especially during the Cold War era. The antagonistic foreign policy as regards Latin America during the that period should not be implemented or not be repeated again. Otherwise, the implementation of this kind of U.S.-centric foreign policy will not gain anything at all but rather make Washingotn bear arduous costs. 

The big mistake itself arises from the U.S.-centric approach on Latin American countries. As the Secretary of the United States, John Kerry once mentioned: Latin America is the backyard of the United States. This statement symbolizes the ongoing perception of the U.S.-centric hegemony and patronization over Latin American countries still widespread in Washington. During his time in office, President John F. Kennedy once said that Latin America is a completely different issue and will be a critical one for a long time. Therefore, it could be said that if the U.S. is really inclined to improve its relations with Latin America, first of all, it should take far more effective stances in its relations with the region. It is ostensible that there are some overarching features of the U.S. foreign policy with respect to Latin America that could be improved. Even today, the morality that  governed the US politics in the 1960s, persists in the current approach regarding  the region. But in general, are there any alternative approaches  which could be undertaken by the U.S? Will the successful implementation of these stances benefit both the United States and Latin America? In any case, there are some proposals and recommendations for the U.S. that it could adjust its so-called U.S.-centric or unilateralist foreign policy with regard to the regionto make it  much more flexible . In the following part, the pivotal proposals that should have to be taken by the U.S. were listed:          

1. Latin America as a real partner instead of a backyard. Once Bill Clinton said “People are more impressed by the power of our example rather than the example of our power.“ These words apparently demonstrate how the U.S. could improve its foreign policy towards Latin America. Today’s international politics does not favour imperialistic and any other hegemonistic approaches in relation to weaker partners. Instead, the effective operation of soft power not only could bring  benefits for each sides (both for the U.S. and Latin America) but also help the former to forge the image  of a real partner rather than a strongman who wants to keep its backyard under control. What the both sides will get from this real partnership is the moral reconciliation in any fields, including economy, politics, culture and others. 

2. Bilateral or mutual interests rather than U.S.-centric interests and unilateralism. For the sake of reliable partnership, first and foremost, Washington should stop to see the Latin America as a recipient of its dictated policy, instead, it should evaluate the potential power and capacity of the region by considering it as both an economic and political counterpart. It is not the best example of the U.S. foreign policy, that even today it is far more prone to keep its hegemonistic spirit over the region. Since it has been mentioned above that it will not gain any benefits for the U.S. but only put pronounced costs. Therefore, the relations between them have to based on common interests and bilateral actions rather than unilateral ones (the practice of China has to be implemented). 

3. Promoting less militaristic approaches to security issues (less U.S.-centric interests) instead to be involved more in the development of domestic diplomacy of the region. This proposal, in my opinion is the most effective one for the further development and revitalization process of the relations between the U.S. and Latin America. To a large extent, the U.S. should invest in and support the international and regional networks such as NGOs, IGOs and other civic associations. Supporitng the these kind of networks within the Latin American societywould help to implant therepositive perceptions of the States in and promote much more cooperation style of the future U.S.-Latin American relations. It is undeniable that under the condition of the effective accomplishment of a public policy or to be exact, domestic diplomacy(the practice of domestic diplomacy in the example of small states, namely Norway, Denmark and etc.) both the U.S. and Latin America would be able to promote the civil society in the region in order to fight against  terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime, environmental degradation, natural resource and food scarcity at a bilateral level rather than unilaterally. Thus, with the help of an effective apparatus  of domestic diplomacy, the both parties (U.S. and Latin America) could establish the mutual understanding and accountability in their future relations.

4. More engagement rather than confrontation. (Positive sum strategy vs zero sum strategy). Before delving into the deep analysis of the U.S. and Latin American relations from this conception, firstly, it is needed to underline the key elements of engagement theory versus confrontation in order to identify what the theory offers us with respect to the U.S. and Latin American relations. In any cases, engagement is much more beneficial than competition. Collaboration stands on the “win-win” proposition and is inclined to the mutual perceptions of the parties. However,  competition mainly focuses on the success of only one party and does not care about another one. Therefore, it would be better if the relationship between the U.S. and Latin America would be characterized by the pattern of  collaboration rather than competition, because it would endow the both of them with a huge potential forparticipating  in and get “win-win” position within the international system. 

5. Mutual actions than unilateral ones on democracy, human rights, sciences, and energy security issues (the concept of multidimensional partnership). This proposal offers the completely different way in the development of the U.S. and Latin American relations. A multidimensional partnership can be considered as a further action in the U.S.-Latin American relations after the effective management system of public policy, meaning that it will be able to encompass science, energy, democracy, and human rights. The concept at the same time will be able to take new prospects within the region by evolving fight against new threats including terrorism, drug trafficking, uncontrolled population growth, and migration. Hence, this concept could create an opportunity for both sides to reevaluate their relations, but this time on a multidimensional basis. 

In conclusion, the U.S. should avoid considering Latin America as a region for applying antagonistic, patriotic and hegemonistic elements of its political spectrum, rather it should revise its angle of view and stances towards the region, and see it as a real partner for other countries which the U.S. still do. During the high time  of moral imperialism (mainly the Cold War Era), what did the U.S. win from its patronizing attitudes toward Latin America? Although in some way they have maintained economic cooperation between each other. However heavy costs emanating from their relationship is much more than any good mutual benefits. What is truly required is the whole revision of the U.S foreign policy strategy toward the region. Frankly speaking, if the U.S. is eager to close its ties with Latin America, it is highly needed to review its foreign policy priorities toward the region. Otherwise, over high U.S.-centric interests will remain for U.S itself, and will not achieve any gains from this relationship. Thus, the United States has yet to learn from its part. Only via non-interventionist, anti-confrontational, more equitable and flexible diplomacy, Latin America that long used to be considered as America’s backyard will turn into a reliable partner and a good neighbor for the United States.


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Nargiz Hajiyeva

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