The US is a nation of immigrants and the diversity of the constituencies is represented in the functioning of its political institutions. Indeed, not only is it considered legitimate for the interest groups to interfere with the decision making process, but the foreign policy does not constitute an exception and is not beyond their reach.
The legitimacy of organized public interest groups is not obvious. In theory, the national interest is one for all in the country, and therefore the same in all parts of it; in practice, a congressman campaigning in his district does not see it identically to the President, as the former has to consider the specific interests of a very narrow constituency . The dangers of factions in government were perceived by the Founding Fathers who also acknowledged their inevitability in a republic: Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, wrote James Madison. Later, in the XIX century John Calhoun gave the theoretical justification of their role: policies do not affect everyone equally; there is an imbalance between the few who are organized and the many who are inattentive. Special interests are therefore a means for the citizens to get involved and be represented, thereby reducing the risk of a tyrannical majority abusing its power over a minority. Public interest groups act as a counter power in the political system and have their place in the checks and balances. Moreover, such groups are themselves balanced by the creation of competing ones who oppose their claims. Thus, clashes of interests occur and the government's mission is indeed to reconcile them and make the best decision for the nation.
[...] Also in 1996, the Washington Post attacked in an editorial the harmful influence of the Armenian lobby on US foreign policy, but was inundated by outraged Armenians' reactions in response. Later that year, Armenian Americans pushed further in trying to solidify US support for Armenia but also Nagorno-Karabakh by extending US aid to the latter. The proposal, defended by Congressman Porter, was defeated after the successful mobilization of the oil business lobby, as well as for humanitarian considerations (every seventh Azeri being an Internally Displaced Person). [...]
[...] Jewish American organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or the American Jewish Committee acted in consideration of the perceived interest of both the US and Israel: Turkey was a key ally to both and so appeared Azerbaijan (one of the few Muslim countries enjoying good relations with the Jewish state); the energy issue added to the interest for better relations with that country, whereas Armenian ties with Iran and Russia were seen with deep suspicion. That's why in 1999, during a visit in the US, the son of then-president Heidar Aliyev, Ilham, could declare: now have a lobby in the United States and that is the Jewish community”. [...]
[...] The smaller the constituency, the greater the importance of the minority: it is no coincidence that traditionally ethnic Armenians have found their strongest supporters among state legislators, US congressmen and a few senators, the pressure being the most effective on the elected officials with the shortest terms in office (members of the House) and in general during elections with low turnout (primaries). With all these assets, the Armenian American lobby was able to seize the opportunity of public indifference toward the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and pass through Congress an amendment that, to this day, is at the centre of US-Azerbaijan relations. [...]
[...] September 11 and the waiver of section 907 Before the September 11 attacks, there were obvious contradictions in US policy: Azerbaijan was considered an ally but was sanctioned; Armenia was helped but not so much publicly endorsed because considered as not vital to US interests; and from Nagorno-Karabakh to the 1915 genocide, with US relations with Turkey and Israel interfering, all these issues were related. Congressional mutual obstruction allowed the situation to continue, but the new Bush Administration, probably due to its oil background, was deeply concerned by the potentially explosive situation in the Caucasus. [...]
[...] Saideman, The Power of the Small: the Impact of Ethnic Minorities on Foreign Policy, World Politics, SAIS Review Volume 22, Summer- Fall 2002 Thomas Ambrosio, Congressional Perceptions of Ethnic Cleansing: Reactions to the Nagorno-Karabakh War and Influence of Ethnic Interest Groups, The Review of International Affairs, Autumn 2002 Patrick J. Haney and Walt Vanderbush, The Role of Ethnic Interest Groups in US Foreign Policy: The Case of the Cuban American National Foundation, International Studies Quarterly Peter H. Stone, Caspian Wells come in for K Street, the National Journal, March David McKeeby, Caspian Dreams: A Case Study in Modern US Foreign Policy Making, CSIS, Summer 1999, http://www.csis.org/intern/forum991h.html S. [...]
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