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Continuity and Change in U.S.-Congo Relations: A critical analysis of post-Cold War U.S. foreign policy toward Zaire-Democratic Republic of Congo Open Access

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At the end of the Cold War, a shifting global political climate began to change U.S. foreign policy. U.S. policymakers soon realized that the United States no longer needed to compete with the Soviet Union for influence around the world. New policy priorities took the place of competition in proxy wars, which meant that Africa began to suffer from declining geostrategic importance. Zaire, which had shared a "special relationship" with the United States during the Cold War, was not exempt from the growing malaise in U.S. Africa policy. This study seeks to analyze the continuity or change in U.S. policy toward Zaire, now Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in the post-Cold War era by examining how different foreign policymaking institutions (White House, Congress, national security bureaucracy) directed the decision-making process to influence situations (routine, crisis, extended crisis) in U.S.-Congo relations from 1989 to 2003. Historically, U.S. policy toward Africa has followed three specific patterns: routine situations correlating with bureaucratic decision-making, crisis situations with presidential direction, and extended crisis situations with domestic politics and Congressional involvement. This study reveals that while post-Cold War U.S. policymaking toward Congo followed the same patterns, the removal of bilateral assistance by Congress, shifting alliances led by the White House, and marginalization of Africa policy within the bureaucracy led to the abandonment of the Congolese state as a priority for the United States. Instead, the absence of a comprehensive strategy and resources to address the ongoing instability in Congo has led to the fragmentation of policy and has not contributed to the resolution of conflict in the country.

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