Isolation and Security: Ideas and Interests in Twentieth-Century American Foreign Policy

By Alexander Deconde | Go to book overview

Introduction

INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY, used in its broad sense to include the mysterious processes through which nations and their governments devise foreign policies and the ideological assumptions from which these so-called policies are supposed to emerge, has not been a principal or a continuing preoccupation of the American people or, for that matter, of its government until very recent times. There was a period, to be sure, in early American experience when the specter of foreign affairs captured the public and the official eye and ear, but, with the passing of those early years, the direction of American interest turned inward rather than outward and it so remained until into the twentieth century.

Prior to 1900 there were two rather clearly defined periods in the American diplomatic experience. The first of these, encompassing the years from 1776 to 1823, was concerned with the achievement of independence, political and economic. It was a period when Americans were well versed in the vagaries of foreign policy. The great goal of independent nationhood was won by men who knew Europe as well as America. Out of their endeavors were born, along with the nation itself, the historic principles of American foreign policy: independence, the freedom of the seas, neutrality, nonintervention, commercial reciprocity under the conditional most-favored-nation formula, isolation, and the Monroe Doctrine. In the second period, the remainder of the nineteenth century, it seemed that the mere enunciation of these principles was the master key to diplomatic success. The world of Europe became less than a vital interest while the nation at home, all but untouched by foreign involvement, grew to fulness and strength. Foreign

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