Public Opinion and Foreign Policy

By Lester Markel; Council on Foreign Relations. | Go to book overview
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By Hanson W. Baldwin

TIME WAS when the American military had little influence upon American foreign policy; in past generations, the civilian leaders of government formed foreign policy and the military leaders framed a military policy adequate to support that foreign policy. The military policy, however, was approved (or, more usually, emasculated) by Congress. But today the military help to frame foreign policy and to influence public opinion in peace as in war.

1. The Importance of Military Opinion

"Our God and soldier we alike adore,
When at the brink of ruin, not before;
After deliverance, both alike requited,
Our God forgotten, and our soldiers slighted."

So wrote Francis Quarles in 1635 of the public's vacillating attitude toward the soldier.

This cyclical variation in public opinion long has been characteristic of democracies. The soldier has been extolled in war, forgotten in peace. His opinions, heeded with respect in the midst of trial, are ignored in the case of security.

Until World War II, the United States followed this traditional pattern. A nation thoroughly republican in its sympathies, a nation immune to serious attack behind the ram

Some of the material on which this chapter is based was gathered by Avery Leiserson, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago.


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