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. eceived 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 other countries concerned Americans and contributed to U. S. involvement in the war. Concentration camps set up by Nazis, and the inhumane treatment of Jews, were of grave concern for the U. S. as millions of innocent lives were being taken.
So, once again it was our responsibility to show the rest of the world how to live in social harmony with one another, playing the role of global policeman, intervening in foreign crisis in hopes of restoring global and protecting our own domestic tranquility. U. S. involvement in the Cold War did not occur due to any aggressive physical action launched against our nation. Rather, it was the antagonistic views between the U. S. and Soviet Union’s beliefs of universal qualifications of it’s own particular ideology which brought the two countries head to head over a war-torn Europe which once had been the center of world affairs (Bailey, 891).
This tense standoff, known as the Cold War lasted four and a half decades. I will explore the importance of protecting democracy within our own nation, as many citizens feared the spread of communism, and felt the threats both globally and domestically with its expansion. Both humanitarianism and manifest destiny were contributing factors to U. S. ’ involvement in this “war of words” and I will investigate both these objectives more in depth through both the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. “The world must be made safe for democracy.
It’s peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty” (Wilson, Decl. War Germany). This statement was made by Wilson in his declaration of war on Germany speech upon the U. S. entrance into WWI. He stresses the importance of a world that is safe for democracy and the foundation of political liberty, which it was built upon. Without preservation of democracy our nation would lose the classical liberalism in which it was formed, shredding the people’s guaranteed right to rule themselves.
Without democracy, not only would our government crumble, but we would also lose the strength and security upon which our nation prides itself. “We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong done shall be observed among nations and their governments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized states” (Wilson, Decl War Germ).
Through this statement, Wilson addresses the foreign policy objective of manifest destiny and the importance of the U. S. entrance into WWI as our country must set the example to standards of conduct and punishments or misconduct to other nations of the world. “We had even engaged in two wars with European nations and in a number of undeclared wars in the West Indies, in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific for the maintenance of American rights and for the principles of peaceful commerce” (FDR, 4 Freedoms). As mentioned earlier, Roosevelt was primarily concerned with the safety of American democracy after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This was because our national security was being tested.
If our nation was to prevail as one, we must not allow another country to threaten our own well-being, as it would surely lead to a hindering of our democratic system. Within this statement, FDR also addresses the reasons for U. S. participation in the two World Wars as also being preservation of peaceful commerce, which is defined by the foreign policy objective of economic expansion. Preservation of peaceful commerce, which came as a result of both wars, was a key factor in ensuring the U. S. ’ economic growth out of the Great Depression. Without entrance into WWII, it is not certain when the U. S. would have pulled out of the depression.
When President Truman confronted Congress in March of 1947, he asserted that, “The foreign policy and national security of this country are involved. One aspect of the present situation, which I wish to present to you at this time for your consideration and decision, concerns Greece and Turkey. . that assistance is imperative if Greece is to survive as a free nation” (Truman Doctrine). In his doctrine, Truman expresses his fear of a revived isolationism and the Communist threat to European countries. Once again our nation’s security of democracy would be threatened by Communist proliferation throughout Europe.
Truman’s plan to assist European countries at the request of their government reiterates the American foreign policy of humanitarianism as our government would not allow a country to be overtaken by another’s government without U. S. intervention. Furthermore, manifest destiny suggests that the U. S. must intervene and aide these struggling European governments so that they might be able to once again live in social harmony with each other without undue Communist influence. Shortly after the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan was established.
Within the Marshall Plan, all four foreign policies are addressed with special concentration on manifest destiny in order that we might assist European governments. Upon the rebuilding of Europe, the U. S. was once again able to expand its economic markets. In closing, I will discuss the importance of these four major foreign policy objectives as they apply to the middle class. Since the closing of the 19th century the middle class has emerged into the largest class in our society. With the four previously discussed policies, or ideals in place, the middle class would improve and become stronger, which it has.
Otherwise, without protection of U. S. oreign policy, our nations economy and power would deflate, sinking the middle class to becoming a poor working class. Fortunately, our nations leaders sought to protect and uphold foreign policy through out the decades, and as a result turned our society into one built on the foundations of the middle class. Emphasizing diligence in work and in savings, daily life lived on a strong moral basis, and education as the key to economic success, which has emerged into the cornerstone of the U. S. and its people through out the twentieth century.