Drivers of U.S. Foreign Policy Response Paper: 4100A
MAJ Keith Bell, USA
LtCol Curtright, USMC
Dr. Eric Shibuya
Dr. Matthew Flynn
21 September 2014
Since its emergence as a superpower, America has embraced foreign policy that originated from Woodrow Wilson's idealistic view of world peace through a democratic world order. Wilson set this precedence by recognizing that Americans did not see themselves as citizens of an ordinary nation. He knew that Americans would consider themselves an economic and military superpower for many years to come. This fact, coupled with an American culture that longed for good's triumph over evil, led to America making an emotional decision to accept an enduring responsibility as the "beacon of liberty" for all mankind.1 America's consistent commitment to a Wilsonian approach has been made evident by the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.
Theodore Roosevelt attempted to convince America to intervene in Europe at the beginning of World War I on the premise that a German victory would mature into an American security threat.2 As convincing as Roosevelt's argument was, this was not enough to motivate America to enter the war. Roosevelt's problem was that he was focusing on the realistic view of the "world in which he lived."3 What sparked America's interest to enter World War I was Wilson's emotional revolution that focused on the idealistic "future world" that Americans wanted.4 In Wilson's 1913 State of the Union Address, he articulated several principals that would become known as Wilsonianism.5 In this speech, Wilson placed the burden to do the honorable thing and lead the quest for worldwide peace squarely on American shoulders.6 It was through this idealism that Wilson convinced the American people that "security for America was inseparable from the security of all mankind."7
Franklin Roosevelt continued this idea with a very similar foreign policy. Roosevelt publicly praised Wilson for making it clear to the world that American economic advantages would never take precedence over human liberties.8 Roosevelt was convinced that America's involvement in World War I, its leadership role in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and the subsequent creation of the League of Nations had propelled the United States to the throne convening over matters of world peace.9 In a speech at the 1933 Woodrow Wilson Foundation fundraiser, Roosevelt stated that "in every country, the people themselves are more peaceably and liberally inclined than their governments."10 Several years later Roosevelt was quoted saying "it is only through constant education and the stressing of the ideals of peace that those who still seek imperialism can be brought in line with the majority.11 Statements like these ignited the flame on the Wilsonian torch that had been slightly weakened by the great depression. It was this Wilsonian torch that led the way for America's involvement in the second World War.
President Harry Truman carried the same torch while leading the United States into the Korean War. He saw the spread of communism as an assault against democracy and thus against the American way. Although President Truman could have convincingly spoke to national interests as the motivation for entering the war, he did not. He, as Wilson had done, asked Americans to arrive at the conclusion that all people have the right to be free. He convinced the American People that they were defending their core values and ultimately human rights instead of attacking for continuation of international power and economic supremacy.12 He famously stated that while communists "took their friends by occupying territory", America would "win its friends by living up to their commitments and honoring their agreements."13
Even the American Presidents that were considered realists have done enough to keep Wilson's idealistic torch burning. An example of