Foreign Policy

Introduction to US Foreign Policy

Since first breaking free from British colonial control and becoming an independent nation, the United States has exercised a wide variety of foreign policies. From war and treaty with our former mother country, to isolation and neutrality the nation has always focused our relations with other through our needs and wants at home. These relations can be clearly viewed via the following themes:


Our nation’s earliest foreign policy was one of neutrality, as declared by George Washington and echoed by many presidents to follow. Partial to protect our growing commercial interests and partially due to the weakness of infancy, we first chose not to choose in the battles of European forefathers. This left the fledgling nation to devote attention and resource to the business of nation building.

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At the dawn of the 20th century technology was shrinking the globe and expanding the industry of the United States. Immigrants had fueled the fires of industrial development and pushed the nation westward in a fulfillment of manifest destiny’s call. The markets and resources of lands overseas called to the hearts and minds of a growing nation sold on social Darwinism and desiring to share her bounty with the world. War with Spain proved the opening of a fifty-year window during which the US’s reach would extend around the world.

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Still aching in body, heart and mind following the First World War, the US retreated into fortress America, cutting ties and obligations with world. Tariffs and quota acts kept out foreign goods and foreign peoples, while Palmer Raids and red scares prosecuted foreign ideas as well as foreign accents. This period of isolation persisted until the world called again in WWII for help against the scourge of nazism.

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The US learned the lessons of history, and following World War Two, refused to again make the mistakes of the twenties. Following WWII, the US did not isolate and retrench, instead helping to create the United Nations and NATO, as well as foster international trade and cooperation.

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Cold War

Also on the heels of the Second World War was the start of a nearly five decade war of ideology known as the Cold War. The politics of the world would be polarized as the USSR and the US pitted communism versus capitalism for hegemony over the world. The arms race and the space race finally leaving one no longer able to run and the other unsure about how to continue with no opponent.

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New World Order

Having been defined by the cold war for so long, US foreign policy makers were uncertain how to reshape the American international agenda following the decline of communism. The ensuing “New World Order” found the US as the sole superpower. The new issues of the new world include terrorism, police actions, humanitarian aid and rescue as well as checking not one large foe, but many smaller rogue threats. This chapter in American foreign policy is still being written.