The Wilsonian Impulse: U.S. Foreign Policy, the Alliance, and German Unification


Mary Hampton argues that a set of ideas that influenced American policymakers in the postwar era help explain the unique evolution of the Western Alliance and Germany's rapid unification in 1990. These ideas, called the Wilsonian impulse, derived from the historical lessons concerning World War I and the interwar years learned by prominent American policymakers. The most important lesson was that a trans-Atlantic community of nations must be built that included a democratic and equal Germany. West German leaders were persistent in appealing to the Wilsonian impulse to promote their national interests. In particular, Bonn was able to ensure over time Washington's pledge to aid in the peaceful unification of Germany. The success of that policy became evident in 1990.