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Foreign Policy Dictionary

Foreign Policy Dictionary

Alliance – a group of two or more countries that agree to work together, supporting each other both economically, militarily, and diplomatically, in order to create a world centered on shared values

Appeasement – a foreign policy approach which seeks to avoid antagonizing threatening countries rather than confronting them

Arms Race – a competition among two or more countries to expand and improve their militaries the fastest; is typically driven by fear of another country’s increasing military strength

Asymmetric Warfare – war between countries who are not equally matched in military power; it often involves extreme or unusual tactics on the part of the less powerful country

Balance of Power – the state of the world when several countries have equal power and work together to check each other, preventing any one country from becoming too powerful

Bipolarity – the status of the world when it is dominated by two superpowers (typically rivals)

Cyber Warfare a form of aggression which attacks the computer networks of other countries

Detente – a period of time during which tensions among countries are decreasing and rivalries are easing in favor of more constructive diplomacy

Diplomacy – peaceful interaction among states across the world, typically conducted by ambassadors or other government officials

Embargo – a foreign policy tool which bans all trade with another country either in order to coerce a country to change its behavior

Espionage – spying, typically to protect a country’s national security or to give it a strategic geopolitical advantage

Foreign Aid – resources, typically financial or military, given from one country to another without any expectation of compensation

Foreign Direct Investment – money put into a business in another country either by a person or a business (if a business, it is often a multinational corporation expanding)

Geopolitics – the confluence of several factors, namely geography and politics, to influence an event, country, a natural resource, or another thing of international significance

Globalization – the increased interaction of people and governments around the world in order to create a more integrated economy with money and goods flowing more freely

Gray Zone – conflicts which increase tension and aggression among countries without escalating to full-scale war

Hard Power – the quantifiable leverage a country has; military and economic strength

Hegemony – the domination of a region(s) or the world by one country, known as the hegemon, or superpower

Imperialism – a foreign policy approach which suggests that one’s own country should influence more of the world, either through direct rule or through other policies, especially economic or military

Interventionism – a foreign policy approach in which a country involves itself in other countries’ affairs, especially domestic, in order to cultivate a global landscape which is favorable for its own success

Isolationism – a foreign policy approach which minimizes interaction with other countries

Liberalism – 

Militarism – an aggressive approach to foreign policy which emphasizes the use of the military as a response to international problems and the expansion of the military in times of peace

Multipolarity – the status of the world when it is dominated by several superpowers

Nation – a group of people who have similar beliefs, needs, or culture; can also be used to refer to all of the people living in a particular country

Nationalism – the belief that the needs of one’s own nation should be prioritized; a collective celebration of shared culture

National Interests – the policies or outcomes which are considered beneficial for a nation (typically include security, economic stability, etc.)

Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) – a group that does work in another country, often with civilians, but is not affiliated with a state

Patriotism – dedication or devotion to one’s country

Primacy – the state of being the strongest or most powerful country, typically within a specific region

Realpolitik – a foreign policy approach which prioritizes the end result over moral considerations

Refugee – a person fleeing their country due to a fear of persecution by the government or due to conflict

Regime – a government in power, typically one with absolute control over the country

Sanction – a foreign policy tool which limits trade with another country (often placing bans on specific industries or corporations) in order to coerce that country into changing its behavior

Self-Determination – the right of a group of people (who usually share a religion, culture, or ethnici background) to choose their own future and situation; often cited as a reason that a group should be able to form an independent state

Smart Power – a foreign policy approach which leverages both hard power and soft power, recognizing that hard power is necessary for credibility while also understanding the importance of being likeable 

Soft Power – the unquantifiable leverage that a country has; strength which comes from its reputation and how much other countries like it.

“Joseph S Nye Jr coined the concept of ‘soft power’ in 1990 to describe the influence a state can enjoy on other states based on the attraction arising from the positive appeal of the state’s culture, political ideals and policies.9 Soft power is expressed through an alignment of approaches and policies because states want to associate with one another cooperatively based on trust, mutual respect and esteem. The concept was an attempt to help explain how the US achieved international leadership based on the admiration that other states had for its values, stability, economic success and political openness. Nye contrasted soft power with the coercive use of ‘hard power’, which revolves around using force, or threatening to use it, to secure compliance with a country’s foreign policy objectives. The distinction between the two is clearly in evidence today in the US. Currently, the Trump administration’s reliance on sanctions and tariffs demonstrates a policy shift towards coercive influence (that is, hard power) and away from earlier administrations’ preferences for using trust and respect (that is, soft power) to secure many of their foreign policy objectives.”  China’s Influence on the Pacific Islands: The Ying and Yang of Soft Power (2019)

Sovereignty – having power, control, and authority over one’s own country

State – a government which acts independently on a world stage; a formal term for country

Surgical Strike – an attack made only on a military target rather than civilian infrastructure or population centers; there is very little resulting damage done to structures besides the intended target

Territorial Integrity – the protection of a country’s borders against encroachment by other countries

Trade – the exchange of goods and money among countries

Unipolarity – the status of the world when it is dominated by only one powerful country

Organizations and Policies

America First – the approach that President Trump has taken to foreign policy, prioritizing the needs of the United States over, and often at the expense of, the needs of other countries

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – a group of ten countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos) which work together towards mutual interests and foster cooperation

Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – China’s plan to make it easier for the world to trade with it by investing in infrastructure projects in other countries

Cold War – the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union from about 1947 to 1991; it also included a rivalry for control of the world (through the spread of democracy/communism) and a space race

European Union (EU) – a confederation of 28 countries in Europe (27 after Brexit is completed) which act as a unit in order to gain more power in the world

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – the portion of water (typically extending about 200 miles from a coastline) in which a country has a monopoly over all economic activity

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) – an international body which tries people for war crimes

International Monetary Fund (IMF) – an organization (with 189 member countries) which monitors the global economy and steps in to resolve major economic problems in certain countries

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – a group of 29 countries committed to protecting each other both militarily and politically; originally formed to combat the USSR’s sphere of influence during the Cold War

Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) – an international body meant to resolve disputes and prevent conflict escalation

United Nations (UN) – an international body including 193 countries which works to resolve disputes among states, makes international law, and takes action to protect civilians around the world

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – an agreement among 167 countries that sets ground rules about borders and conduct in the oceans

World Bank – an organization (made up of 189 countries) which gives grants and zero-interest loans to help countries pay for development projects

World Trade Organization (WTO) – an organization meant to foster and regulate trade among its 164 members

Mira Mehta

Mira Mehta, Co-Founder and Captain of the Westfield (NJ) debate team, is a rising junior and an active member of the debate community both as a competitor on the national circuit and as a coach to middle students. She has reached the elimination rounds of many national tournaments in varsity as a sophomore and attended the TOC. As Director of Public Forum for the NYC Urban Debate League Summer Programming, she wrote curriculum used by students across New York City. She has also authored several articles on foreign policy and civil rights.