American Diplomacy in a New Era

By Stephen D. Kertesz | Go to book overview

19: THE IMPACT OF MILITARY FACTORS ON AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY

Fred Greene

In the bitterness of the cold war, military considerations have gained a prominent place in our foreign policy. The rise in importance of national security is ample evidence of the key role played by issues involving war and defense. Budgetary expenses, technical efforts, contacts and interests abroad are devoted to the relief of our precarious position.

But this does not mean that foreign policy has become the handmaiden of new security requirements. For one thing, security is essentially negative, a condition for the pursuit of other interests and objects which are so important that they demand attention even under trying military conditions. Secondly, military factors and security needs may have a profound effect on the environment in which a nation conducts its foreign policy, but they do not of themselves determine or dominate the policies adopted.1 The choices open to us are many and the selection remains a political act, involving considerations beyond the military-security realm.

Military factors do not control all defense problems, and security considerations are not the essence of foreign policy. Nevertheless, they do change the conditions under which diplomacy operates, requiring at times new rules, often reducing the trustworthiness of traditional approaches.2 Our concern, therefore, is both with the extent and the limit of the military impact on foreign policy.

____________________
1
For an excellent analysis of security in this context see Arnold Wolfers, aNational Security as an Ambiguous Symbol, Political Science Quarterly, LXVII ( December, 1952), 481-502.
2
For a convenient brief summary of American military policy since 1945, including bibliography, see Charles Donnelly, United States Defense Policies Since World War Two, 85th Cong., 1st Sess., House Doc. 100 ( Washington, 1957), and United States Defense Policies in 1957, 85th Cong., 2nd Sess., House Doc. 436 ( Washington, 1958).

-525-

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