United States Foreign Policy

Figure 1.--

There has always been a strong isolationist streak in American political life. Americans separated by two great oceans have since the Revolution seen ourselves as different and apart from the rest of the World. From the beginning of the Republic, President Washington warned of entangling foreign alliances. President Adams ruined his chance of reelection by keeping America out of the Napoleonic Wars. President Jefferson became unpopular in his second term by cutting of trade with Europe to keep America out of the Napoleonic Wars. President Madison finally entered the War and the results were near disaster. Gradually the principle of staying out of European Wars became a accepted principle of the American Republic. And it was undoubtedly in America's best interests to do so. While European countries poured ememse treasure and blood into fighing each other in terrible and often pointless dynastic wars. America's energy was devoted to developing a new country and productive economy. Even in the 19th century, there were dangers. Napoleon had planned to seize Louisana and only failed because his troops got bogged down in Haiti and fied in droves from tropical diseases. Incredibly, none of the War HAwks who took America to war in 1812 asked themsekves the basic question, 'What if Napoleon won in Europe? The basic equation changed in the 20th century. Imperial Germany might dominate most of Western Europe as a result of Workld War I (1914-18). And two decades later, Hitler actually conquered most of Western Europe. Incredibly, many Americans did not compreghend the dangers posed. And while many minds were changed by World War II, `isolationist feelings and undercurrents remain a powerful thread in American foreign policy.

Sleeping Giant

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after his First Air Fleet smashed the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and ignited the Pacific War is said to have remarked "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." While the authenticity of the quitation has been questioned, there is not dount that they encapsulated his feeling. And it is a wholly accuate metephor for the American people and the Republic's foreign policy. Perhaps the most insightful American diplomat in American history put it in even more graphic terms. "I sometimes wonder whether a democracy is not uncomfortably similar to one of those prehistoric monsters with a body as long as this room and a brain the size of a pin: he lies there in his comfortable primeval mud and pays little attentio to his environment; he is slow to wrath--in fact, you practically have to whack his tail off to make him aware that his interests are being disturbed; but once he grasps this, he lays about with such blind determination that he not only destroys his adversary but largely wreks his native habitat. You wonder whethr it would not have been wiser for him ton have taken a little more interest in what was going on at an earlier vdate and to have seen whether he could not have prevented some of these situations from arising instead of proceeding from an undiscriminating indifference to a holy wrath equally undiscriminating." [Kennan, p. 66.]

Revolutionary War (1776-83)

Some of the most brilliant achievenents of american diplomts was the work od some of the founding fathere dut=ring the Revolutionary War. The Americans did not fight the Revolutionaru War alone. They had allies. Ironically the Allies were mostly not others who believed in republicanism and the ringing slogans of the Declaration of Independence, but rather European monarchies who were ruled as absolutist soverigns--the very system the Americans were challenging. Of course this was only true in part. The Colonists were challenging the European monsrch with limited powers and actually Parliament as much as the King. For the Europeans, it was opposition to the growing power of Britain that attracted them to the American cause. The French and Spanish saw the opportunity for both revenge as as well as gains. And French opinion beyond the Court had been powerfully changed by the Enlightenment. Benjamin Franklin as the American Commisioner masterfully played a role designed to take full advantage of Enlightenment thinking. The Dutch were different, They were a small republic, but they had also suffered at the hands of Britain's growing naval and mercantile power. Ironically, while America would gain areat deal from the Revolution, each of its three allies would suffer substantially despite the American victory. Not only did American diplomats obtain vital support, but the Treary of Paris ending the War was a brilliant achievement in itself (1783).

Isolationist Foundation

There has always been a strong isolationist streak in American political life. Americans separated by two great oceans have since the Revolution seen ourselves as different and apart from the rest of the World. From the beginning of the Republic, President Washington warned of entangling foreign alliances. President Adams ruined his chance of reelection by keeping America out of the Napoleonic Wars.


French Revolution

France after the stunning American victory at Saratoga signed an alliance against Britain with the rebelious colonies (1778). The French Alliance played a major role in the Washington and the ontinental Army's victory despite this. Washington as president would war agaunst entagling alliances. The huge costs of fighting the British and supporting the Americans would undermine French Government finances and lead to France's own revolution (1789). This was the same year the new Anerican Constitution came into effect and Washingon became president. As the Revolution developed, war broke out against the new French Republic and the monarchies of Europe (1792-93). The French Republicans assumed that the Americans would join their cause. Many Americans wanted to, but were divided politically. The Federalists were horrified with the radical direction of the Revolution. Republicans were more sympathetic to the French. President Washington and Adams were determined to stay out of the escalting European conflict. President Washington was difficult to critize, not so Presidebt Adams who was pilloried in the press. French outrage at America's ingratitude led to some nasty diplomatic encountes such as the XYZ Affair. And it also eventually to the Quasi War--an undeclared naval war with France (1798-1800). Ameican sources also refer to the War as the Undeclared War with France, the Pirate Wars, and the Half-War. The War was fought by the United States, the Batavian Republic (The Netherlands), and Britain against the French Republic and Spain .

Jeffersonian Dichotomy

President Jefferson's presidency was a surprising mix of ideology and realism. He was dubious about the Constitution, especially the powers given the presidency. Yet he would use many of them as wellas some not enumbered. Even in the 19th century, there were dangers. Napoleon planned to seize Louisana and only failed because his troops got bogged down in Haiti and died in droves from tropical diseases. He thus decided to sell Lousiana to the Americans. President Jefferson was a strict constructionist as was the case for most Republicans. Yet he bought Louisuana without any basis for his action in the Constitution. He had opposed the creation of a U.S. Navy and the building if six expensive frigates, yet he used these figates to fight the predatory Barbary Pirates. His Republican ally, James Madison, who also opposed the frigates would use them against the British. President Jefferson became unpopular in his second term by cutting off trade with Europe to keep America out of the Napoleonic Wars. This adversely affected the American economy. It also reduced the number of American seamen impressed bu the British and French.

War of 1812

President Madison finally entered the War and the results were near disaster. Incredibly, none of the War Hawks who took America to war in 1812 asked themselves the basic question, 'What if Napoleon won in Europe?' A century later, fe Americanbs themselves the identical question, 'What if the Kaiser won in Europe?'

European Power Politics

Amweicans from the beginning of the Republic as the world's first modern democracy were cognizant that they were embarking on a great experiment--man's first great experiment with liberty. It was a beginning of the idea of American exceptionalism. Americans who at first looked to Britain as the mothervcountrt began to conceive a new workd view--a Old World shroded inndarkness and the New World as a backon of light . This emerging world view would be the crucible in which American foreign policy would be molded. America as President Washington advised would have a very different foreign policy than that of the European powers. There would be none of poijtless periodic wars mostly enginered by Ruropean despots, read monarhs--often dynastic squables. American would noit oarticipate. America saw itself as a "city on a hil"--an allusion to to Jesus' parable of Salt and Light preached in the Sermon on the Mount. [Matthew 5:14] Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." It became a phrase used by American politicians throughout the generations. There was a large dose of naivity here. It was European power politics that was protecting America--namely the British Royal Navy. A centuries old English policy was to make sure that no single power dominated the continent or that potenrial enemies did not control the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) and they wre sucessful in doing. If any one power such as Philip IIs Spain, Louis XIV' France, or Bapoleon's France threatened, England would throw it's weight behind the weaker side rehardless of the moral issues involved. This effectively protected the American colonies and inadvertedly the new American Republic. If no aspiring hegemon power could evn cross the Channel--America was safe across the Atlantic. Thus rather than threaten the United States, Euopean poer politics and Britain's role in it safeguarderd the new American Republic and its isolationism. It is a great irony that the American moralistic City on a Hill was in fact protected by the power politicsit so despised.

Monroe Doctrine (1823)

The final bttles for Latin American independence were being fought after President James Monroe began his presidency (1821). Spanish royalists controlled only what is now Peru and Bolivia. And Spain also continued to control Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. Developments in Europe concened the Monroe Administration. Spain was a weak and declining power, but The Administraion was concernd that Spain main cede their possessions anbd claims to the now indpendent formner colonie to Frnce or Soain, much stronger powers. Possession of Cuba in paticular was a disturbing prospect, especiall because the Spanosh with British backing had controlled Florida and a Treaty transfering control to the United states was onky achieved (1821). Secretary of State John Quincy Adams addressing hthese concerns dispatched a letter to Hugh Nelson, the American minister to Spain, discussing the issue, "Such indeed are, between the interests of that island and of this country, the geographical, commercial, moral, and political relations, formed by nature, gathering in the process of time, and even now verging to maturity, that in looking forward to the probable course of events for the short period of half a century, it is scarcely possible to resist the conviction that the annexation of Cuba to our federal republic will be indispensable to the continuance and integrity of the Union itself." An there were concerns in the West as well. The Oregon Territory was in question. The Louisiana Purchase had brought the United Srates to the Oregon Territory. There The British and Russians akso had interests. Secretary Adams wrote to the American Ambassador in Russia (July 1823). Cintrary to American assessments, Britain was not thinking of colonizing the newly independent Ltin American republics. It was benifiting from the trade which developed after they were freed from Spanish colonial regulations. And Britain was concerned with her old nemesis--France. The French sent an army accros the Pyrenees to help supress a rebellion against the Spanish monarch. The British worried that this might be the first stepo in a joint French-Spanish expedition to retake the Latin American colonies. British foreign minister George Canning communicated with the American minister in London, Richard Rush, and suggested that a joint declaration opposing such a French-Spanish epedition. Rush informed Secreatary Adams. America proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine (December 1823). It was completely in line with the evolving American concept of isolationism and its own moral superiority. It was a statementbin essencev that the New World wanted nothing to do with the Old World coruption and dynastic wars. .

Isolationist Bedrock

Gradually the principle of staying out of European Wars became a accepted principle of the American Republic. And it was undoubtedly in America's best interests to do so. While European countries poured ememse treasure and blood into fighing each other in terrible and often pointless dynastic wars. America's energy was devoted to developing a new country and productive economy.

American Commerce

The American economy from an early point was based on commerce which required shipping. The English established the Virginia colony to produce products of value and return them to England (1607). Onitially the most important product was tobacco. This could only be done on ships. The Plymouth coloney was differemt. It was established by religious disidents to distance themslvs from the Crown and established Church of England (1620). , but as the colony grew, it economic succes depended on producing products of value and shipping them back to England. English regulations restricted trade to England. As more collonists arrived not only did more livestoick arrive, but more individuals with tools and an increasing range of skills and technology. This meant that a ship building industry gradually developed. The English limited manufacturing, but shipbuilding was permitted. American shipbuolders did not have the facilities available in England, but they had a greater availability of raw material namely wood. As a result, large numbers of crude, but sturdy merchant vessels began to be built in the colonies, especially the northern New England colonies, in part because the area ws ot as condusive to plantation agticulture producing trade crops like tobacco. Agriculture in the North developed primarily as small, largely self-sufficent family farms. Major ports in the Northeast began to specialize in merchant shipping. Ships from the Northeast transported products from the Southern colonies (tobacco as well as smller quantities of rice, indigo and naval stores). Other ships transported products from the Mid-Atlantic colonies (horses, wheat, fish and lumber. New England became the center of a properous shipbuilding industry (18th century). The proceeds were used to purchase manufactured goods from England. As American merchants had their own ships, soon smuggling became a major industry, evading British regulations limiting trade to England. The British were upset by the loss of revenue. The colonists were dusturbed by the limitations imppsed on then by the Admiralty. This would be a major cause of the Revolution when it finally came. Until the Rvolution (1776), American merchants and sailors had the protection of the British Royal Navy. The Revolutuinary War was primarily fought onnland, but the substabtial colonial merchant marine had military potential. The colonies did not have naval vessels. The The Continental Congress and various colonies issued Letters of Marque permitting private ship owners to arm their vessels and essentialybengage in legal piracy. They were known as privateers. While the Royal Navy controlled the seas, it could not be everywhere, all the time. The American privateers manage to interrupted the British supply chain. When the French declared war, American ships were placed under the aegis of France as a result of the Treaty of Alliance (1778).

Ending the Slave Trade

The first significant American naval anti-slave trade operations were conducted by the Monroe Administration. After Congress passed the Slave Trade Act (1819), President Monroe ordered the small U,S. Navy "to seize all vessels navigated under our flag engaged in that trade." [Hagan, 93-94.] The Navy dispatched five ships to African waters (January 1820-August 1821). The first ship deployed was the frigate Cyane. Soon after the brig Hornet, the frigate John Adams, and the schooners Alligator and Shark. Both these scoomers were fast 200-ton Baltimore clippers. They were 86 feet long and carried 12 guns with a crew of 70 men. The speed and armament of these ships made them well suited for seizing slave ships.

Manifest Destiny

The Revolutionary War and Amerivan diplomacy created an American Republic with the Mississippi as the Westrn border (1783), The Emperor Napoleon provided a huge tract to the west of the Mississippi--the Louisian Purchase (1803). The subsequent expansion of the United States hingened on two territories--Oregin and Texas. After the War of 1812 and the increasing realization that Canadians did not want to be part of America, th idea of Manifest Destiny began to take hold, the expasion west to the Pacific Coast. This involved confrontation with foreign powers. The most serious was with Britain which claimed the Oregon Territory. Britain had the military power to prevent further American expansion, but the cost would be high of fighting the United States in such aemote location. In the end the issue woukld be settled by demographics. Large numbers of Americans settled the southern Oregon Territory, tavelling over the Oregon Trail. The path to the south was more complicated. Spain as a colonial power was replaced by the new Mexican Republic. Mexico was not as great a military power as Britain, but the power differential between Mexico and the United States in the pre-0industrial era was not as great as it would later become after America's industrial expansion. There were, however, serious domestic political considerations. After the War of 1812 slavery began to develp as a serious devisive issue. This was temporarily resolved by the Missouri Compromise (1820), but Mexican Territory was outside the area of the territory coverd by that compromise. Thus adding Mexican territory would mean undoing the compromise. As in Oregon, the issue would eventually be partially resolved by demographics, but ultimately a war. American began settling in the norther Mexican territory of Texas which even before the arrival of the Americans resisted control by the Mexican centrl govrnment. American settlement would lead to the war of independemce (1835-36). Resistnce by anti-slave forces meant that Texas fior a decade existed as an independent republic which legalized slavery. The Mexicans did not try to retake slavery, but made it clear that it would not accept annexation by the United States. President Polk (1845-49), a strong Jaksonian, moved forward on both Oregon and Texas. A compromise was reached with Britain over Oregon, but the issue of Texas and the southeast would be settled by war.

Opening Japan (1853)

Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch traders had trades with Japan (16th and 17th centuries). The Shoguns suppression of Christianity. The Shogun decided to liquidate the Christians and expel the Europeans. The Shogun expelled the Europeans (1639). For the next two centuries that followed, Japan limited trade access to Dutch and Chinese ships that wre granted special charters. Foreigners who landed in Japan were executed , including ship-wrecked sailors. This was iften don in a grusome manner. This of course tended to limit foreign commerce. The United states had a large waling fleet operating in the Pacific as well as the China clippers. Thus President Milad Filmoe sent Commodore Perry and his black ships to open up Japan (1853). Commodore Matthew Perry led his four ships into Tokyo Bay, seeking to establish probisions for emergrncy port calls and for the first time in over 200 years regular trade and discourse between Japan and the West. Perry was only acting for the United States Government, but opening to Anerica was of course opening to the West. The Japanese reaction to Western power prived very different thsn that of China. The Shogun's weakness in the face of Western naval power would eventually led to the Mejii Restoration and the rise of modern Japan.

American Civil War (1861-65)

There were two aspects to American diplomacy during the Civil War. One was to precvent secession and once it occurred to bring the Confederacy back into the Union. This might not be called diplomacy, but for 4 years the Confederacy was a separate country. From the Confederate view, unable to obtain recognition from President Lincoln, their mjor goal was to obtain supportanf recohnition from the Ruropean powers, especially Britain and France. The other major aspect of American diplomacy was an effort to stop European aid to the Confederacy and especially reclognition.

Domestic efforts

There were serious efforts to defuse the political crisis and prevent war. Until the South fired on Fourt Sumter, there was the possibility of avoiding war, although some states had begin suceed. There was hope that Senator Douglas of Illinois and Senator Crittenden of Kentucky could fashion a compromise based on Popular Soverignity. Perhaps the nobelest effort was made by Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln's long-time rival in Illinois. Douglas after losing the presidential election, risked his life in an effort to prevent Southern secession. The effort failed because the Ultras in the South had captured the popular mind. And President-elect Lincoln was unprepared to make the kind of concessions to the south that would have secured peace. Douuglas' brave effort cost him his health. [Waugh] Senator Crittenden, a unionist from the border state of Kentucky recognized that the sectional strife could not be resolved by legislation, but only by amendments to the Constitution which would be virtually impossible to change. He authored the Crittenden Compromise—-a comprehensivepackage of six constitutional amendments and four congressional resolutions (December 1860). The compromise package condemned Northern personal liberty laws and confirmed the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law, a part of the Compromise of 1850. The amendment restored the Missouri Compromise line and extended it to California which would have frozen the demarcation between slave and free territories. There was considerable support in Congress for the compromise package, including among some Republicans, but President-elect Lincoln instructed Republican Congessmen to oppose any proposals that would have permitted the extension of slavery into the Territories. This was Lincoln's bottom line. He was not going to attack slavery in the southern states, although he hsd some unrealistic idea on buying slaves from their owners, but he ws determined to block the admission of anyb more slave states. This ou course meant war although Lincoln may not have fully understood it, because the South was determined to create new slave states in the territories. Blocked in Congress, Senator Crittenden proposed a national referendum which was also blocked by the Republicns. One historian writes, "While Crittenden made clear his prsonal stance, he had no illusions,. Realizing that Congress would not pass his propositions, he still cling to 'every word I have said'. But he warned Republican senators not to feel triumphant , for 'I tell you now that, whatever security the apparent peace thar surrounds us may induce you to auppose exists in the country, it is a delusion.'" [Cooper] While it is the Republicans in Congress killed the Crittenden Compromises, there is no reason to believe that they would have been acceptable to the South. Even without them, Southern senators could have blocked any Congressiinal action against slavery. Because of the Abolitionist Movement, many southerners had come to see the north as foreign even alien country and were bent on secession

International efforts

Two countries in the 1860s possessed powerful navies that could had intervened in the Civil War. Both had important economic interests at stake. The American South at the time was the world's primary source of long-fiber cotton used by the textile mills in both countries. The Industrial Revolution in both countries began with the textile industry and textiles were still a major sector of the industrial economy in both countries. The Federal blockade by October 1861 was beginning to effectively close Southern ports and cut off both countries from American raw cotton. The result in Britain, especially Lancastershire where many mills were located in and around Manchester, was the Cotton Famine of 1861-65 which threw thouands of mill workers off their jobs. Mill Owners wanted access to Southern cotton (there were at the time only limited alternatives available) and pressured the Government to recognize the Confederacy and even use the Royal Navy to break the Union Blockade. There was also continued resentment in aristocratic circles over the American Revolution and republican government. (America in 1861 was the only republic of any significance.) Workers identified, however, with the freeing of the Slaves even though many were thrown out of work. There is today in Manchester city centre near city hall a Lincoln Close. It is named after President Lincoln and in the center is a statue to him. It commemorates the Cotton Famine. Despite the personal cost to the people of Manchester, the statue was put up by public subscription as a monument to the struggle for emancipation in America the part ordinary Lancastershire weavers played in it. There was also a strong abolitionist lobby in Victorian Britain. One of the last achievements of Prince Albert in 1861 was to convince the Government not to become involved to support the Confederacy. Even so the Government permitted the blockade runner Alabama to be secretly built. Lincoln for political reasons, primarily to keep the critically important Border States in the Union, did not initially make the conflict a war for emancipation. Once the Emancipation Proclamation was announced (1863), the possibility of European internvention receeded. Emperpr Louis Napoleon in FRance, however, did use the opportunity to intervene in Mexico.


Imperialism, is not a term that Americanhs take kindly to, but was not entirely absent in the meican experience. We suspse the attemp to add Canada to the American Republic was the first example. But this was an attempt to add Canada to American citizenry rather than n effort to rule Canadians. The Louisiana Purchase was certainly an exercize in imperialism, to obtain new lab=nds and o rule the Ntive Americans, but here we are talking bout a stone age people which is a factor that ha to be considered. One of the most important charge of American imperalism is the Mexican-merican War (1845-48). This ws part of Manifest Destiny andwas an imperilidt exercize, but not really aginst Mexico. Very few Mexicans lived in what is now the Anerican Southwest. The Mexiv=can-American War was really a struggle between two imperial powers to control a refion populated primarily by Native Anericans. The Spanish American War (1988-99) was a more clearly imperist war. And resukting in the annexation of Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico., Cuba gained ita indeoendence, albeit underAmerican tutelage. There was political opposition tothis experiment with imperialism. American nrver called its new possessions colones. Some wre incorporated into the Unites States and the residents granted citizensjip. And in onlu a few decades, plans were made tgo grant the Philippines independence, ell before post-World war II de-ilonization. and thepresparations were far better han the European exit from itheir colonies. Despite this very limited imperial exercize, the left has insisted on using the tem American Empire .

Open Door in China

Europeans seized control of treaty ports in China to ensure access to the invaluablke Chinese market. The Opium Wars and the imposition of the opium on China was a great historical injustice. The behavior of foreign powers and the use of gunboat diplomacy to secure favorable trade terms and treaty port concessions profoundly affected Chinese attitudes toward foreigners. Europeans and Americansalso sponsored Christian missionaries in China. Many Chinese saw the missionaries as part of the overall Europe effort to subgegate the Chinese. European racial attitudes was also a factor. The fact that the Europeans used gunoat diplomacy to open access for their merchants and missionaries. [Cohen] The British were by far the most importnt couuntry engaged in the China trade. And the British as part of a policy of free trade adopted after losing the Amnerican colonies pursued an open trade policy in China. The basic principle that all nations should have equal access to any of the ports open to trade in China was established in the Anglo-Chinese treaties of Nanjing/Nanking (1842) and Wangxia/Wanghia (1844). Britain maintained the open door policy for several decades (late-19th century). The United States wa tge greates benbficuary of the policy. The United States never demanded a treaty port and instead supported the British open door policy. This worked well until the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95). The is set in motion a scramble for national 'spheres of influence' over coastal China. The primary contenders were Russia, France, Germany, and Britain. The treaty power claimed exclusive investment rights. The United States was concerned thst they that the treaty powers would monopolize trade. It was unclear just where this woukd lead. China might have been broken up into economic sectors dominated by the various great powers and the eventual colonization of China. These developments in China coresponded to an economic dwnturn in America. American misionries had inspired an interest in China. The 1890s Deoression generated increased interest in foreign markets. And after the Spanish American War and the acquisition of the Philippines, Guam, and Hawaii generated increased interest in China. as a result of the Spanish-American War and was becoming increasingly interested in China. American textile manufacturers were very sucessful selling inexpensive cotton textiles. merican Secretary of State John Hay attempted to counter the spread of treaty ports and increasingly restictive policies. .

European Arms Race and Alliance System

The unification of Germany as a result of the Franco-Prussian War fundamentally changed the European power balance (1871) Prussian had often been a British ally. It was the Prussians narching to Watrllo that save Wellington's army (1815). Germany was unified under Prussian leadership. The Prussian ethos combind with the bombastiv Kaiser II estarnged Germany from Britain, The Kaiser set out to challenge Britain, beginning to build a high seas fleet. he result was a realignment. This force France and Britain together and the Russians. Alliance systems formed and military budgets exploded into an arms race. Given the power of the German rmy backed by a massive heavy industrial and scientific base, it was an open question if it could be contained. America blissfully ignored this development. It built a navy, but the army was minisule and not armd with modern weapons. It was a perfect example og Kenan's sleeping medieval monster waiting forits tail to b wacked.

World War I (1914-18)

The basic equation of isolationism changed in the 20th century. Imperial Germany might dominate most of Western Europe as a result of World War I (1914-18). Completely outside the European alliance system and not participating in the arms race was the United States. By the time of World War I, the United States was potentially the most powerful nation in the world with the greatest industrial econommy as well as vast agricultural production and extensive natural resources. America did not particpate in the European arms race. Thus it had a smaller army that many small European states. As a result, many Europeans especially the Germans) did not take America seriously. An exception here was Chancellor Bismarck who understood that the cultural ties and common language of America and Britain was a circumstance of emense geo-political significamce. Kaiser Wilhem, however, dismmissed Americans as naive. The British unlike the Germans preceived the potential importance of the United States. American at the time did not have a substantial or well equipped army. Apparently this was critical to the German assessment, both of American importance and the need for a foreign policy that took America's potential power intom affect. And across the Atlantic, an axiom of American diplomacy, established by President Washington at the very foundation of the Republic was to avoid entangling alliances and envolvement in foreign wars. Demonstrations large and small accross America reveal the opposition to the War. There is a mountain of images in the photiographic record attesting to the depth of Ameriacan determination to stay out of the War. This was what the British set out to change and which the Germans decided there was no need to placate. By 1917 after a terrible bloodletting, it looked like the Germans might win the War. And a Germany dominating Europe would have been a serious threat to American security. Yet neither President Wilson wanted to enter the War. Inexplicably it was the Grman High Commabd and the Kaiser who litrally forcd Ameica into the War by not only resuming unresticted submarin warfare, but attempting to lure Mexico in a war wkith the United States.

Inter-War Diplomacy

President Wilson after Woirld War I attempted to radically reform the international system, His idea was to replace power politics with collective security enmodied in the League of Nations. The other Allies humored him, but they were intent on both making Germany pay for the damage wrought by the War and in gaining territory. In the end, [arially because of the President's inability to compromise, the Senate rejected the League. And the American people quickly came to the conclusion that abandoing isolationism and entering the War had been a great mistake. President Harding called for a return to 'normalcy'. The public agreed. Congress attempt to blame it on the businessmen--the 'merchants of dath'. Several Congressional investigations failed to find any evidence of this tonthe consternation of crusading Congressmen. And there wastge Quitotic attempt to allow war--the Kellog Briand Pact. Americans seemed to think that this rather thanan armny was all that was needed to guarantee Ameican securiyu. The United States attempted to stabalize the European situation by extending credit to Germany. This ended with the Depression and Hitler's seizure of power. And agaon Germany began to build its military and move toward a dangerous hegemony--this time with a malivinous beyond comprehension. The threat posed by NAZI Germany and the Communist Soviet Union was not appraeciated by a wide majority of Americans. More than anything, Americans were determined to stay out of any new war. President Roosevelt who did recognize the danger was left with the daunting task of bringing reslolutely isolationist nation to its sences. Nritain after the War had to make a momentous choice. Britis policy up to this point was to have anavy nore powerful than the next two natiinal navies. It either had to accept the powerfulmU.S. Navy or confront America. The issue came to a head over the British-Jaoanese Naval Treaty. The United States demanded that Britain abrogate the Treaty and join with it to limit Japanese expansiinism and growth of Japanese naval power. Britain decided to throw its lot in with America. The result was the Washington Naval Conference. Japan was outraged, but even before the militarists seized power began a steady expansion of naval power. The American public was willing to tolerate a more aggressive policy against Japan in the Pacific than Germany in Europe. Various factors were atplay, but one wa sympathy for the Chinese people. This was in large meaure an impact of the missionary effort. Another aspect of American Inter-War policy was its Latin American policy. he United States continued the European policy of Gunboat Diplomacy in the Caribbean and Central America. This began before the War when President Theodore Roosevelt helped separate Panama from Colombia to build the Panama Canal. President Wilson contnued the poicy in the 1910s. Only with President Roosevelt did American policy begin to shift with the Good Neighbor Policy.

World War II )1939-45)

And two decades later, Hitler actually conquered most of Western Europe. Incredibly, many Americans did not compreghend the dangers posed. `World War II histories generally focus on the dramatic German military campaigns during the first 2 years of the War when the United States was neutral. America was theoretically neutral and is often depicted as an impotent bystander. The Roosevelt Administration was, however, far from neutral. The foreign policy of the Roosevelt Administration was constrained by the fact that the great majority of the American people wanted no part of another world war. The Neutrality Acts and powerful Iolationist Mivement were powerful contraints to a foreceful foreign policy. Despite these constrints, among all the World War II combatants, the United States, the country most reluctant to fight, was the only country that had the human and industrial resources to wage a global war. And while America did not intervene militarily, President Roosevelt skillfully pursued a diplomacy that fundamentally altered the course of the War. First, The United States acted to save Britain and enabled the country to continued the War. This assistance would eventually be formalized in Lend Lease. With Britain unassaiable behind the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force shield, Hitler decided that the only way to bring Britain to the peace table was to defeat the Soviet Union, something that was central to his thinking from the beginning. This underlines the deisterous outlook of the Isolationists who fought to abandon Britain. Second the United States destracted the Japanese from joining the NAZI assault on the Soviet Union and with the oil embargo virtually forced the Japanese, who were intent on war, to attack the United States rather than the Soviet Union. This probably saved the Soviet Union and with it the outcome of the War. Thus the President in large measure determined the outcome of the War even before America entered the War. Pearl Harbor of course changed everything, plunging the United States into the War. American diplomacy focused on the war time alliance with Britain and the Soviets.

Cold War (1945-89)

The Cold War at its essence was a struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States. And because the UnitedStates and the Soviet Union never directly confronted each other in combat, diplomacy abd domestic debates over foreign policy bcame a major aspect of the conflict. America's European allies played critical roles in the Cold War, but without America, Western Europe could not have resisted the Red Army and Soviet domination. After World War II, Europe was devestated. Britain which played a major role in winning the War was bankrupt. Only the United States had the capability of saving Western Europe from Soviet domination. This required a fundamental shift in American foreign policy. After World War I, the United Sates following its long-term foreign policy, withdrew from Europe. President Truman was determined that America would not repeat this mistake. And thus from a very early point America made a commitment to resist Soviet aggression. The turning pont came with the Soviet takeover of democratic Czechoslovakia (1948). The result was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which committed the Unites States militarily to the defense of Western Europe. T

Islamic Fundamentalism

World Economic System

Post Communist Tyranies


Cohen, Paul A. China and Christianity: The Missionary Movement and the Growth of Chinese Antiforeignism, 1860-1870 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963).

Kennan, George F. . American Diplomacyh (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951).


Navigate the Children in History Web Site:
[Return to the Main U.S. country page]
[Return to the Main national history pages]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class] [Royalty]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: 7:11 PM 10/22/2014
Last updated: 7:11 PM 10/22/2014