American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell

By Edward S. Mihalkanin | Go to book overview
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INTRODUCTION

Expansion, if not empire, has been a consistent goal of the leaders and citizens of the United States throughout its history. This expansionistic impulse has been defined both territorially and commercially, and it has not been limited to the geographic contours that the United States has ended up having. Such expansion has been seen, for the most part, as being integral to the safety and viability of the United States as a state in the global environment comprised of other territorial states and to the safety and viability of our experiment in representative government. At the same time there have been recurrent cautions expressed about the threat to our republican institutions from such expansionism, even if such cautions have not proved to be the dominant refrain through most of our national history.

As to the question of means, unilateralism, not multilateralism, has been the common strategy of U.S. expansionism and the perceived way to protect the institutions of our representative government throughout most of our history. It was only during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt that multilateralism, in effect, was adopted by the United States and became the dominant method for the achievement of the historic goals of the United States, albeit with some unilateralist variations, throughout the post-World War II period. Yet, the administration of George W. Bush has appeared to reject multilateralism and has become the most unilateralist administration the United States has had in over 60 years. This unilateralism has been coupled with a major and sustained projection of U.S. power into southwest Asia and the old southern littoral of the former Soviet Union, which is new in terms of its extent and duration. The United States and its citizens are facing a major crisis to their national security internationally. Permit me to sketch an outline of how the United States arrived at this crossroads.

To begin to understand the U.S. drive for expansion, it is helpful to erase from our minds the current geographical extent of the United States. If we keep the current map in our minds, then the expansion of the United States appears to be merely the placing of the missing pieces, in chronological order, of an already exist-

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American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell
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