The relation between ideology and US foreign policy

  • 9 Pages
  • Published On: 8-12-2023

The main objective of this research is to identify the place of ideology in U.S. foreign policy. Many scholars such as Walter (2016), Restad (2012), and Hunt (2009) argue that certain beliefs are a central section of the conduct of American overseas commitments. This research paper will begin with an argument on the term American exceptionalism, even if its existence is verifiable. This paper will explore the discussion that domestic policy has significantly closer tight with foreign policy in the States than in the rest of the world, as a base of uniqueness. Lastly, this paper explores several articles about how the ideological concepts shape privileges in the U.S. foreign act in various timelines since it got its independence.

According to Restad, American Exceptionalism is the bottom-line source of ideological reasoning in the United States foreign regulations. Read further unifies national identities such as exemplary and missionary dichotomies from the eighteenth century and nineteenth century into the basket of American exceptionalism and later applies the foreign policy. Isolationism is earlier on referred to as the first identity, later the aloofness assumptions. In addition, the other identity manifests global international design to associate themselves with the world. Ideally, the isolationists observe affairs concerning the globe at a distance, hence encouraging the other nations from all corners of the world to practice foreign policy. For instance, George Washington questions the prevention of establishing alliances with other states as a true isolationist in his farewell address in 1976. Woodrow Wilson necessitates corporation for safer world politics and democracy between state powers, as an internationalist (2012:56-70).


Read further articulates skepticism in regards to American exceptionalism. The author debates whether American exceptionalism is deceptive or a fundamental existing skillset over other states' perspectives. It is purely an imagination by the people's conviction that the U.S. is unique, and it can distance itself from other states when it is justified or not. There is neither isolationism nor internationalism. However, the author insists on the term unilateral internationalism. The scholar says that the U.S. has consistently adopted expansionism and views itself as God to lead others (2012:56-71). Routinely, Jeffrey Sachs problematizes the exceptionalism thinkers in the American political establishment. He figures out that the American 20th century is over, and the U.S. fails to lead the rest of the world in recent times. The U.S. overseas commitment initiates more issues than providing solutions in the 21st century, such as intervention failures in the Middle East such as Iraq and Libya. A powerful state like China overthrows the leadership from the U.S. (2018).

There exist various disagreements evaluating the admirable foundations of American exceptionalism. One of them is the geographical origin. Mearsheimer manages the term 'distant great power' from the U.S. geopolitical perspective (CIPS, 2012). Hamiltonian diplomacy prefers geographical advantage in opposition to rival European powers that bring prestige and prosperity for American society's future generation (Mead: 2013). Morgenthau argues that isolation from European war politics is a deliberate choice until the end of the 19th century, and it is a fundamental factor for strategic development since independence. Hence, American unlikeness can be determined in the geographical position that evolves the Northern American mindset in the Western Hemisphere. Americans observe several struggles for power outside of its Hemisphere in Europe, Asia, and Africa (1950:837-38).

According to Morgenthau, 1950:839and Souva, 2005:149, they argue that there is an opinion that domestic politics influences foreign policy more significantly in the U.S. than in other States. For instance, the American experiment sources foreign policy from domestic politics from a missionary perspective (Mead, 2013). Walter says that exceptionalism explains why geopolitical conditions do not affect American thinking on foreign policy design as much as they do numerous other states (2016:31).

A structural realist John Mearsheimer declares that only one moment makes a difference between Trump and Biden administration in recent years. The fundamental change in the way of approach to alliances, especially Europe in the containment of Chinese rising is crucial. Despite that, it verifies that there is no dramatic disagreement between Republican and Democrat establishments on foreign affairs even the two parties propose contrasted domestic policies (IIEA:2020).

Besides, Morgenthau fabricates the theorem of U.S. foreign policy in three sections of view. Alexander Hamilton's realist is thinking in terms of power in the first independent decade of U.S. history. Firstly, Thomas Jefferson and Quincy Jones Adams' ideological approach. It focuses on moral values but acts in terms of realism, such as power from the 19th century to the Spanish-American War. The Woodrow Wilson's absolute moralist viewpoint to all overseas commitment until the first half of the 20th century (1950:840).

The thoughts of Hamilton are a piece of clear evidence that the mindset of Americans is unlikeness. Alexander Hamilton's vision prefers various foreign policy interests to Continental Europe because of the military tensions between rival and greedy neighbor states. The political reformer identifies British foreign policy as a good model for developing U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. geographical position allows flexible isolation from Continental powers compared to Britain's short distance to Continental Europe. For instance, Britain practices a more commercial approach than the Continental European powers. Hamilton knows well the U.S. security interest in sea and trade protection.

Furthermore, Hamilton champions for replacement of Britain with the U.S. in the world hierarchy. He strives to establish a commercial relationship with European powers based on economic interest with trade. Hamilton considers morality a vital need for the nation's well-being alongside national interest and honor (Mead, 2013).

While Hamiltonians tend to build a global commercial order with American leadership to protect trade and sea interests, Wilsonian idealism represents a particular part of American culture and historical experience. For instance, the global hierarchy must also need a principle of democratic states and human rights in foreign policy. Woodrow Wilson refers to the idea of American mission activity, which considers ethical and religious beliefs for the nation and individuals. Wilson understands domestic policy better than foreign policy. The missionary experience indicates American engagement with the rest of the world with high moral standards. Democracy can be seen as the most Christian governance model, and the U.S. has a moral obligation to lead the rest of the world (Mead, 2013, pg132-73).

In paradoxical with Hamilton and Wilson's shared values and caution of Continental balance of power, the Jeffersonian thought shows the humanitarian pacifism and skepticism toward other nations. It represents the importance of the system of liberty. The impacts arise from specific social and cultural heritage. This tradition can be well known as the Anglo-American dissent such as English and Scottish. The experience of revolution places Thomas Jefferson's centrality, and he sees the national idea as a revolutionary mission for liberty. In Jeffersonianism, the threat of foreign nation's invasions is their priority. Hence, the conservation of national life norms ought to be made for future references. Due to American life's uniqueness, the foreign policy's essential role is to protect it for internal reasons as opposed to extending it abroad. The foreign policy acts like a tool to achieve internal goals for society. The neutrality and prevention of unfamiliar predicament fairness the approach to geopolitics in cost leads to democracy efficiency (Mead, 2013:174-217).

There are two dominating but contrastive interpretations about the U.S.'s emerging power and foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century. They include realism and open door (Hunt, 2009:221). These thoughts are George Kennan's 'American Diplomacy' (1951) and its alternative perspective William Apple man Williams's 'The Tragedy of American Diplomacy' (1959) works during the Cold War era in both convictions about democracy and capitalism, ideology appears to be the core role. The principal adversary Soviet Union shows a firmly oppositional belief in the interest of politics, propaganda, and economics: communism (Hunt, 2009:5-7).

Mostly, the realist claims in the policy of containment. In his 'long telegram' report, George Kennan majors on the resistance to the Soviet Union, as Soviet leaders manifest the capitalist encirclement to explain the necessity for an autocratic governance model (Leffler, 2017:144). Besides, he says that the American political system becomes unskillful concerning its increasing power worldwide at the turn of the 20th century. The context of a small status quo nation no longer impresses the U.S. position in world politics. Accordingly, the targets to illustrate new national goals, values, and norms. He recommends reducing democratic but extensively influences from earlier legalism and moralism in his work: American Diplomacy (1951). For instance, experts and policymakers’ precondition to make daily decisions based on geopolitical verisimilitudes rather than emotional public opinion in domestic politics (Hunt, 2009:6-8). He is averse to the American global leadership role, as he is concerned about security flexibility in cooperative and multilateral arrangements (Leffler, 2017:290). He asserts the national interest in economic and strategic perspectives. This can be seen in economic reconstruction such as the Marshall Plan in Western European democracies and military policy such as the Truman Doctrine to counter communistic expansion over other parts of Europe by the Soviet Union (Leffler, 2017:309-10).

George Kennan submits business-like reforms to tighten the misplaced U.S. foreign policy in American Diplomacy (1951). William Appleman Williams contends in terms of economic interest that the existing policy is strategically more than coherent in The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959). Williams articulates the interest-oriented approach and recognizes philosophy as a functional capitalistic tool to maintain economic power and socio-political control. The financial interest appears in the open-door policy, which establishes free trade and secondary management of important markets overseas without colonial regimes. For example, the American economic expansion takes place in China at the turn of the 20th century. Williams refers to the Marxist theory to understand better the overproduction phenomenon that forces the U.S. to find new markets (Hunt, 2009:8-11).

According to Hunt (2009), there exists a criticism of Williams's theory of ideology to the economic system and national interests that are uncompleted elaborations. Morgenthau argues the 'open door policy goes strategically further than commercial maintenance with other states in Asia. It comprises Hamilton and Wilson's fundamental concern regarding continental wars. Therefore, the balance of power keeps being a requirement for Asian regions in U.S. foreign policy. For instance, Japan is a military and political threat from the Chinese perspective. The principle of 'open door' is that a possible Japanese occupation of China demobilizes the region, and that accumulation of power concerns the security of the U.S. The 'open-door policy helps to secure China's territorial integrity (1950:835-6).

There is another approach to the historical debate over ideology and economic interest in foreign policy. McDougall maintains that the American Civil Religion 'ACR' considers both concepts applicable to U.S. foreign policy. This is based on the principles of the American dream since the 19th century. The American way of living associates with life, liberty, prosperity, opportunity, and achievable happiness, but also each generation of the nation can redefine priorities within these frameworks (2016:31).

The Cold War introduces a romantic element of foreign policy in the term of soft power as well (Mastanduno, 1997:54). I link the name to the third approach of understanding the ideological impact on foreign policy. Clifford Geertz says that ideology can be seen as a cultural system (Hunt, 2009:12). The soft power attributes such as American culture dissemination influence other state and non-state players to make decisions in favor of the U.S.'s interest from the foreign policy perspective (Fraser, 2005:131). The technic of attraction and persuasion becomes more widely notable with digital networking in the 21st century, but also it appears significantly in the second half of the 20th century. For example, 'Voice of America' broadcasts interprets Western ideas to the Eastern side's civil society. Later, the Eastern part loses faith in communism and sympathizes better with Western culture and way of living. Herein, the American entertainment, Hollywood, and university system play a more influential role than the state can accomplish (FPA: 2016).

The ideology of 'good versus evil' is successful in the containment of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, the same foreign policy fails in the war against communism in the Third World region. The increased neo-conservative leadership produces revolutionary nationalism, it blurs moral boundaries, and there is a loss of politically good judgment during the second half of the Cold War. For example, it has led to abuse of power in Vietnam, where the U.S. devastatingly intervenes in opposition to allies' discouragement (Leffler, 2017:300-2; Hunt, 2009:4).

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Supremely, the research depicts that American exceptionalism is visible as the fundamental belief for the U.S. foreign policy's ideological approach. Exceptionalism has a foundation in national identities such as exemplary and missionary. Scholars identify the American differentness from a geographical perspective compared to Continental European states struggling for power since independence. Others assert that there is an intimate relation between U.S. domestic and foreign policy. The evidence of a distinguished mindset is that, not like other political leaders, American policymakers are strategically resilient to the impact of geopolitical circumstances even though several critics criticize the coherence of exceptional American thinking since the failure of the Vietnam War. The ideology appears essential at various times in U.S. foreign policy. There are the Hamiltonian idea of free trade and sea, Wilsonian moralist values, and Jeffersonian pacifism.

In conclusion, the ideological comprehension of U.S. foreign policy plays an essential responsibility during the Cold War. Kennan announces the restriction of the ideological opponent Soviet Union by Marshall Plan and Monroe philosophy to evade the threat against American democracy and capitalism by Marxism in Europe. On the other side, Williams interprets the 'open door policy, as an efficient economic tool to accomplish the U.S.'s national interest overseas. The conflict of ideology and economic interest points out that the American way of living and acting combines the two approaches, which can be seen as a justification of American exceptionalism. The term soft power presents ideological and cultural influence to effect foreign decision-makings in favor of American interests. For example, the American entertainment corporation attracts public attention on the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain. The foreign policy performs positive outcomes in the ideological tension against the Soviets, but the same influence produces several failures in Third World countries like Vietnam, Iraq, and Libya. However, the responsibility of ideology is beyond doubt in U.S. foreign policy, and it refers to Founding Fathers' early ideas about American unlikeness since independence.

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