The Evolution of Ideology and American Foreign Policy
The United States of America has had a profound impact on global affairs ever sense it gained its independence following the American Revolution. As a new nation, the United States saw itself as “God’s American Israel.” As a new nation full of ideals, the United States saw it as its God-given duty and right to spread the ideals and institutions that the republic was founded on. These ideologies however, would change with time. Manifest Destiny, which was coined by John L. O’Sullivan in the 18th century, would lead the United States (U.S.) to justify its expansionism, and would be followed by a New Manifest Destiny in the 19th and 20th centuries, that would see the emergence of the United States on the global stage. Following World War I the United States would be guided by the old ideology of isolationism, which had prevented our immediate entry into World War I and World War II. World War II, would bring about a major shift in America’s governing ideology that has shaped the nation’s foreign policy, which is still evident and relevant today. This paper outlines the ideologies that dictated America’s foreign policy from the 18th century to the early 20th century. Section one focuses on American ideology in the 18th century, Section two the 19th century into the early 20th century, and Section three the mid-20th century into the early 21st century. Section One: 18th Century
The United States, from its beginning, was a collection of self-governing states; the Articles of Confederation limited the power of the government, merely allowing the United States to provide itself a sense of legitimacy to fight the American Revolution. However, colonists had fear the creation of an all-powerful government; the only real authority that the Articles of Confederation had was through the ability of the government to send appeals to try and influence change. George Washington, the first president of the United States, would signify the ideals that the United States held following the American Revolution. During his Farewell Address, Washington would warn against the United States involving itself in foreign affairs, especially, European affairs. He felt that these treaties and/or obligations could have undue influence in domestic affairs. Washington understood that treaties were an unavoidable aspect of diplomacy, but he bitterly warned against long-term alliances. The United States saw itself as exceptional; in essence the United States was the “great experiment,” the ideal that the United States had gained its independence through revolution, and this made it unique. This “American Exceptionalism” is what made the United States a truly unique country, a government based on: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, and populism.” This governing ideology meant that the United States limited itself from long-term treaties, seeking isolationism from the European continent; this would be evident through the United States’ demand that others nations respect its neutral rights. More importantly, the United States saw how war and alliances had devastated the European continent. The United States sought to distance itself from this chaos; the ideology of exceptionalism drove the United States to refrain from taking a global hegemonic role, or at least to readily challenge the French and British. Exceptionalism would guide United States foreign policy towards taking a regional and not a global focus, creating the “Empire of Liberty,” reflecting John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill.” The United States Constitution exemplified the very ideals that the United States sought to portray on the global stage; however, this era of American foreign policy would be characterized by neutrality and refraining from taking a leadership position amongst the other great powers in the world. Cases such as the Embargo Act of 1807 would depict that...