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Modern, U.S. Foreign Policy Doctrines
“Today we did what we had to do. They counted on America to be passive. They counted wrong.” – Ronald Reagan
In 1793 the (George) Washington administration faced a significant, foreign policy concern. As a result of the French Revolution and the subsequent decapitation of the French king, Louis XVI, the major European nations declared war on France. France, a critical ally of the United States during the American Revolutionary War, sought help from their erstwhile allies.
American citizens were quite divided about the escalating European war. Whereas many Americans were sympathetic to the French people’s quest to rid themselves of the old regime and to embrace the revolutionary rallying cry, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” the subsequent radical turn of the French Revolution soured many Americans to the French revolutionary cause.
President George Washington, based on the unanimous consent of his executive cabinet comprised of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph, decided that the United States must avoid, at all costs, military involvement on the European continent. (Dehler, n.d.)
Yet, compounding the administration’s concerns were the uncertain Constitutional waters regarding the management of foreign policy. Whereas Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution provided Congress the ability “to declare war,” Article II, Section 2 allowed the U.S. president to “make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” (U.S. Constitution)
Washington’s cabinet argued that the administration must issue some sort of statement regarding U.S. foreign policy concerning the escalating, European war. Thus, asserting the President’s ability to conduct foreign affairs, the Washington administration issued the first foreign policy document: a proclamation of neutrality. The opening paragraph of the Neutrality Proclamation on April 22, 1793, stated: “Whereas it appears that a state of war exists between Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Great-Britain, and the United Netherlands, of the one part, and France on the other, and the duty and interest of the United States require, that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers.” (U.S. Archives, 2002) As a result, precedent was set: the executive branch could now conduct foreign policy without the consent of Congress.
In 1823, thirty years after the Proclamation of Neutrality, President Monroe famously introduced the Monroe Doctrine which warned European nations to steer clear of U.S. interests in the Western hemisphere. (U.S. State Department, n.d.) Subsequently, from Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality to the G.W. Bush’s doctrine of military preemption, presidents have introduced foreign policy doctrines that best articulate U.S. foreign policy interests.
- Select a modern, presidential doctrine from the following list:
- Truman Doctrine
- Eisenhower Doctrine
- Kennedy Doctrine
- Johnson Doctrine
- Nixon Doctrine
- Ford Doctrine
- Carter Doctrine
- Reagan Doctrine
- G.H.W. Bush Doctrine
- Clinton Doctrine
- G.W. Bush Doctrine
- Obama Doctrine
- Trump Doctrine
- Provide a brief summary of the foreign policy doctrine.
- Contrast this foreign policy doctrine with pre-WWII U.S. foreign policy.
- Explain the historical circumstances that produced the foreign policy doctrine.
- How did the Cold War or the War on Terror shape this foreign policy doctrine?
- Provide a specific example when the foreign policy doctrine was utilized.
- Analyze the short- and long-term result of this specific example.
- Evaluate the foreign policy doctrine in terms of U.S. self-interest and America’s international reputation.
Dehler, G. (n.d.). Neutrality Proclamation. Retrieved from https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/neutrality-proclamation/.
Founders Online: Neutrality Proclamation, 22 April 1793. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-12-02-0371.
Monroe Doctrine, 1823. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1801-1829/monroe.
The Constitution of the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution.