As we approach the next Presidential election the topic of American foreign policy is once again in the spotlight. In this paper, I will examine four major objectives of U.S. foreign policy that have persisted throughout the twentieth century and will discuss the effect of each on our nation’s recent history, with particular focus on key leaders who espoused each objective at various times. In addition, I will relate the effects of American foreign policy objectives, with special attention to their impact on the American middle class. Most importantly, this paper will discuss America’s involvement in WWI, WWII, and the Cold War to the anticipated fulfillment of these objectives—democracy, manifest destiny, humanitarianism, and economic expansion.
To understand the United States’ involvement in these wars, we must first be aware of the role each of these policies plays within our nation and the importance of these four objectives to the American people. Democracy, which is the classic liberal political tradition, ensures the right of the people to determine their own government and is the foundation upon which our nation was founded. Manifest Destiny is defined as the responsibility to work to living in social harmony, or the belief that the U.S. is to show everyone how to live best in mutual striving and social harmony. Humanitarianism is described as the doctrine of ethics and humility toward the welfare of mankind worldwide. Economic expansion refers to increasing the American market overseas, which in turn guarantees jobs for the American middle class. These four objectives have been key factors in the defining and shaping of our country throughout its history, and they continue to influence our nation on the global spectrum as we enter the 21st century.
The U.S.’ involvement in World Wars I and II did not occur immediately following the beginning of the wars. Rather, in WWI, President Wilson, who had built his re-election campaign around the slogan, “he kept us out of war,” entered the U.S. into WWI shortly after his re-election. Although Wilson had not specifically promised to keep the country out of war, he declared that only a negotiated “peace without victory” would prove durable (Bailey, 722). Unfortunately, when the German U-boats sank four unarmed American ships, Wilson was left with no choice than to ask Congress for a declaration of war. Primary objectives of entering the U.S. into the war were not primarily to seek revenge on Germany. Wilson’s more important goal was to preserve democracy within the U.S. and restore manifest destiny to a war-torn world. Furthermore, the U.S. foreign policy of economic expansion contributed to the U.S.’ involvement in WWI due to the fact that tensions were built around both global trade and trade routes used prior to the war. The British propaganda papers played a part in American humanitarianism as the U.S. received word of inhumane treatment by German soldiers of many European civilians. Although the papers were propaganda, the U.S. felt a moral obligation to help those in need.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose primary objectives were both similar to and different from Wilson’s, entered the U.S. into WWII after the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. His two major concerns for doing this were his obligation to protect American democracy, and to increase economic expansion, which had ceased to exist in the decade prior to WWII as a result of the Great Depression. Although all four major foreign policy objectives played a role in the U.S.’ entrance into WWII, I will explore these two policies in depth using speeches of FDR’s that provide his rationale for U.S. involvement. Roosevelt knew that entrance into the war would help boost the crippled economy of the U.S. both at home and abroad. Again, humanitarianism for unfair treatment of citizens in...
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