U.S. Foreign Policy: A Documentary and Reference Guide

U.S. Foreign Policy: A Documentary and Reference Guide

U.S. Foreign Policy: A Documentary and Reference Guide

U.S. Foreign Policy: A Documentary and Reference Guide


The study of historical primary documents provides a uniquely beneficial and insightful view into history. To that end, U.S. Foreign Policy: A Documentary and Reference Guide presents and interprets important documents from throughout U.S. history, from the administration of George Washington to that of Barack Obama. Examining U.S. foreign policy through this lens identifies the ideals of the United States during different periods, illuminates the intent behind its military actions, and reveals how each American president interpreted his moral responsibilities as leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world.

Organized to allow readers to examine the historical evolution of U.S. foreign policy, the book includes treaties, speeches, and other documents that illustrate important doctrines and decisions over the more than two centuries of American history, covering all presidential doctrines to the current administration. It also highlights various phases of foreign policy, from regionalism to westward expansion, from the Cold War to a New World Order. In addition to the documents themselves, the authors provide invaluable analysis and commentary that will help students understand what the documents mean- both in the context of their time, and in terms of their broader historical significance.


Books about American foreign policy must highlight important debates surrounding important historical events as well as the ultimate goals and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Some argue that throughout U.S. history, the United States has engaged in an unending quest for power and supremacy which culminated in the articulation of the Bush Doctrine as the official national security statement. Others claim that the United States’ primary objective was to dominate the world economically and as such it engaged in an endless battle to reshape and dominate the global economy, especially after World War II and the introduction of the Washington consensus. Still other practitioners and scholars believe that the United States has always been “exceptional” and carries a duty to act in a manner reflecting its role as a world leader. Finally, some consider the United States to be more or less just another superpower (or, perhaps even a “hyper-power”) whose position as a superpower will inevitably come to an end. No matter which position readers take, we suggest that in order to judge the merits of these theoretical camps it behooves readers to consider the evidence that each relies upon to make their case.


Much ink has been spilled on the early years of the American republic and its foreign policy, primarily because it predates most modern theories of foreign policymaking and as such is hard to categorize. Was America an isolationist nation, a pragmatic nation recognizing its limitations, or a regional bully engaging in local expansionist policies on its way to global dominance? Much of the answer to these questions depends on the choices the reader makes in assigning weight to different events, actors, policies, beliefs, and institutions of the time. We argue that it is probable that a mixture of all these elements explains the early days of U.S. foreign policy and, as such, choose to represent the historical development of U.S. foreign policy as a mixed bag up to the end of World War II. Because U.S.

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