History of U.S. foreign policy
- 1 American Revolution to 1800
- 2 Early National Era: 1800-1860
- 3 Late 19th Century
- 4 1933-39: Isolation
- 5 1939-45: World War II
- 6 1945-1969: Cold War
- 6.1 Initial containment policy
- 6.2 Strategic deterrence
- 6.3 Interventionism
- 7 Ending the Cold War
- 8 Relations with Britain
- 9 Proxy wars
- 10 Change to a multilateral world
- 11 Revolutionary forces
- 12 References
- See also: U.S. foreign policy
History of U.S. foreign policy covers the foreign relations and diplomacy of the United States going back to 1775. Responsibility is held by the president, the Secretary of State and the U.S. Department of State and other agencies such as the departments of Defense and the Treasury.
American Revolution to 1800
American foreign affairs from independence in 1776 to the new Constitution in 1789 were handled under the Articles of Confederation directly by Congress until the creation of a department of foreign affairs and the office of secretary for foreign affairs on January 10, 1781.
The cabinet-level Department of Foreign Affairs was created on July 27, 1789, by the First Congress. Because of the need to provide for the administration of "home affairs," and the reluctance of Congress to add a fourth department, Congress in September 1789, changed the name to the United States Department of State and changed the title of secretary for foreign affairs to secretary of state.
Early National Era: 1800-1860
Late 19th Century
The rejection of the League of Nations treaty in 1919 marked the dominance of isolationism from world organizations in American foreign policy. Despite Roosevelt's Wilsonian background, he and Secretary of State Cordell Hull acted with great care not to provoke isolationist sentiment. Roosevelt's "bombshell" message to the world monetary conference in 1933 effectively ended any major efforts by the world powers to collaborate on ending the worldwide depression, and allowed Roosevelt a free hand in economic policy.
The main foreign policy initiative of Roosevelt's first term was the Good Neighbor Policy, which was a re-evaluation of U.S. policy towards Latin America. Since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. American forces were withdrawn from Haiti, and new treaties with Cuba and Panama ended their status as protectorates. In December 1933, Roosevelt signed the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, renouncing the right to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of Latin American countries.
The rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1933 aroused fears of a new world war. In 1935, at the time of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, Congress passed the Neutrality Act, applying a mandatory ban on the shipment of arms from the U.S. to any combatant nation. Roosevelt opposed the act on the grounds that it penalized the victims of aggression such as Ethiopia, and that it restricted his right as President to assist friendly countries, but public support was overwhelming so he signed it. In 1937, Congress passed an even more stringent act, but when the 1937 Sino-Japanese War broke out, public opinion favored China, and Roosevelt found various ways to assist that nation.
In October 1937, Roosevelt gave the "Quarantine Speech" aiming to contain aggressor nations, that is, Japan, Germany and Italy. He proposed that warmongering states be treated as a public health menace and be "quarantined." 
In the summer of 1938, sensing war would come, Roosevelt began preparations for hemispheric defense and arms production; he asked for far more airplanes than the Air Corps had envisioned.
1939-45: World War II
When World War II broke out in September, 1939, Roosevelt rejected neutrality stance, and made it clear that America detested Nazi aggression. Isolationist sentiment remained strong, however, forcing FDR to find new ways to assist Britain and France militarily. The great majority of Americans opposed Japan and agreed with FDR's efforts to provide military aid to China.
Roosevelt turned to Harry Hopkins for foreign policy advice; Hopkins became his chief wartime adviser. Bypassing the State Department, FDR and Hopkins sought innovative ways to help Britain, whose financial resources were exhausted by the end of 1940. Congress, where isolationist sentiment was in retreat, passed the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941, allowing the U.S. to "lend" huge amounts of military equipment in return for "leases" on British naval bases in the Western Hemisphere. In sharp contrast to the loans of World War I, there would be no repayment after the war. Roosevelt was a lifelong free trader and anti-imperialist, and ending European colonialism was one of his objectives. Roosevelt forged a close personal relationship with Winston Churchill, who became Prime Minister of Britain in May 1940.
In May 1940, Germany overran Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and finally France, leaving Britain vulnerable to invasion. Roosevelt, who was determined to defend Britain, took advantage of the rapid shifts of public opinion. A consensus was clear that military spending had to be dramatically expanded. There was no consensus on how much the U.S. should risk war in helping Britain. FDR replaced his cautious war and navy secretaries with pro-war interventionist Republican leaders, Henry Stimson and Frank Knox, as Secretaries of War and the Navy respectively. The fall of Paris shocked American opinion, and isolationist sentiment declined. Both parties gave support to his plans to rapidly build up the American military, but the isolationists warned that Roosevelt would get the nation into an unnecessary war with Germany. He successfully urged Congress to enact the first peacetime draft in American history in 1940 (it was renewed in 1941 by one vote in Congress). Roosevelt was supported by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, and opposed by the isolationist America First Committee.
Roosevelt used his personal charisma to build support for intervention. America should be the "Arsenal of Democracy," he told his fireside audience. In August, Roosevelt's "Destroyers for Bases Agreement" traded 50 old American destroyers to Britain in exchange for base rights in the British Atlantic islands. This was a precursor of the March 1941 "Lend-Lease" agreement which began to direct massive military and economic aid to Britain, the China and the Soviet Union.
After reelection in 1940, with much of Europe under German domination, Roosevelt cautiously prepared for war by extending the Atlantic neutrality zone, pushing the Lend-Lease Act through Congress, and drawing plans for an enlarged army. Roosevelt used the German submarine attacks on the American destroyer "Greer" on 4 September 1941 and the U-boat torpedoing of the destroyer "Kearny" on 16-17 October 1941 as pretexts to extend naval warfare in the Atlantic without congressional approval or the repeal of neutrality legislation. Through the fall of 1941, Roosevelt continued to plan and assemble the necessary military force to combat Hitler, although he never terminated diplomatic relations with Germany and never intended to appeal to Congress for a declaration of war. While there may have been miscalculations, Roosevelt did not provoke the attack on Pearl Harbor as a means of getting into war with Germany.
Roosevelt's third term was dominated by World War II, in Europe and in the Pacific. Roosevelt slowly began re-armament in 1938 since he was facing strong isolationist sentiment from leaders like Senators William Borah and Robert Taft who supported re-armament. By 1940, it was in high gear, with bipartisan support, partly to expand and re-equip the Army and Navy and partly to become the "Arsenal of Democracy" supporting Britain, France, China and (after June 1941), the Soviet Union. As Roosevelt took a firmer stance against the Axis Powers, American isolationists—including Charles Lindbergh and America First—attacked the President as an irresponsible warmonger. Unfazed by these criticisms and confident in the wisdom of his foreign policy initiatives, FDR continued his twin policies of preparedness and aid to the Allied coalition. On December 29, 1940, he delivered his Arsenal of Democracy fireside chat, in which he made the case for involvement directly to the American people, and a week later he delivered his famous Four Freedoms speech in January 1941, further laying out the case for an American defense of basic rights throughout the world.
Germany and the Soviet Union had been allied in 1939-41, so American Communists demanded neutrality and no aid to Britain; they opposed FDR's reelection in 1940. Increasingly the conservative Republican business and professional community in the Northeast rallied behind Britain, and supported Roosevelt's efforts to aid the British war effort.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Roosevelt extended Lend-Lease to the Soviets. During 1941, Roosevelt also agreed that the U.S. Navy would escort British convoys as far east as Britain and would fire upon German ships or submarines if they attacked Allied shipping within the U.S. Navy zone. Moreover, by 1941, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers were secretly ferrying British fighter planes between Britain and the Mediterranean war zones, and the British Royal Navy was receiving supply and repair assistance at American naval bases.
Thus, by mid-1941, Roosevelt had committed the U.S. to the Allied side with a policy of "all aid short of war." Roosevelt met with Churchill in August 1941, to write the Atlantic Charter in what was to be the first of several wartime conferences. The War Department's "Victory Program," provided the President with the estimates necessary for the total mobilization of manpower, industry, and logistics to defeat Germany and Japan. The program also planned to dramatically increase aid to the Allied nations and to have ten million men in arms, half of whom would be ready for deployment abroad in 1943. Roosevelt was firmly committed to the Allied cause.
1945-1969: Cold War
Initial containment policy
Harry S. Truman had no knowledge or interest in foreign policy before becoming president in April 1945, and depended on the State Department for foreign policy advice. Based on 1947 concepts from diplomat George Kennan, the U.S. began, in the Truman Administration, a "containment policy", which affected U.S. policy throughout the Cold War. Kennan's basic hypothesis was that the Soviet ideology convinced them that their cause was historically preordained to win, so, while they might seem bellicose, they were actually risk-averse and would eventually pull back in confrontations. As a result, it was U.S. policy to strengthen the rest of the world against Communism, with military bases on the borders and in threatened areas, and economic, psychological and political support to nations threatened by Communism.
Truman, in 1947, announced the Truman Doctrine of containing Communist expansion by furnishing military and economic American aid to Europe and Asia, and particularly to Greece and Turkey.
He followed up with the Marshall Plan, which was enacted into law as the European Recovery Program (ERP) and pumped $12.4 into the European economy, forcing the breakdown of old barriers and encouraging modernization along American lines.
Recognition of Israel
On May 14, 1948, Truman announced recognition of the new State of Israel, making the United States the first major power to do so. He did so against the advice of Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who did not believe it to be a viable state and felt Truman's decision was based on domestic political grounds. Marshall, however, considered his advise private for the President.
North Atlantic alliance
After his surprise reelection in 1948, Truman brought in Dean Acheson as Secretary of State, and promoted the Point Four program of aid to underdeveloped countries. The policy of containing Communism was operationalized by the creation, in 1949, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to oversee the integration of the military forces of its member nations in Western Europe and North America. A further step was taken in 1951 with the establishment of the Mutual Security Agency to coordinate U.S. economic, technical and military aid abroad.
The Korean War began at the end of June 1950 when North Korea, a Communist country, invaded South Korea, which was under U.S. protection. Without consulting Congress, Truman ordered General Douglas MacArthur to use all American forces to resist the invasion. Truman then received approval from the United Nations, which the Soviets were boycotting. UN forces managed to cling to a toehold in Korea, as the North Koreans outran their supply system. A counterattack at Inchon destroyed the invasion army, and the UN forces captured most of North Korea on their way to the Yalu River, Korea's northern border with China.
China intervened unexpectedly, drove the UN forces all the way back to South Korea. The fighting stabilized close to the original 38th parallel that had divided North and South. MacArthur wanted to continue the rollback strategy but Truman arrived at a new policy of containment, allowing North Korea to persist. Truman's dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur in April 1951 sparked a violent debate on U.S. Far Eastern policy, as Truman took the blame for a high-cost stalemate with 37,000 Americans killed and over 100,000 wounded.
Policies in the NSC-68 document of 1950 policy paper was the grounds for escalating the Cold War, especially in terms of tripling spending on rearmament and building the hydrogen bomb. The integration of European defense was given new impetus by continued U.S. support of NATO, under the command of General Eisenhower.
Even in this period, U.S. foreign policy was not strictly bilateral, especially in the Middle East.
Nonintervention at Suez
Until fairly recently, it was not generally realized that the unwise-in-hindsight policy of supporting France in the Indochinese revolution, and subsequently South Vietnam, initially reflected a quid-pro-quo for French support in NATO.
Nixon and Kissinger worked to achieve a disengagement of U.S. forces fighting in Vietnam. Balancing a policy of "Vietnamization," aimed at returning the burden of actual combat to the South Vietnamese, with repeated shows of U.S. air strength, notably in the bombings of Cambodia and Hanoi, Kissinger met secretly with North Vietnamese leaders in Paris from 1969 on, finally concluding a cease-fire in January 1973, for which he and chief North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho were awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize.
Escalation in the Arab-Israeli Conflict
One challenge to détente came with the outbreak of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Faced with a threat of Soviet intervention, Nixon put U.S. military forces be placed on worldwide alert. He then employed shuttle diplomacy to secure cease-fires between Israel and the Arab states and to restore U.S. Egyptian diplomatic ties, broken since 1967.
The Nixon administration sought to protect the economic and commercial interests of the United States during a period of heightened Latin American nationalism and expropriations, 1969-74. Though the administration initially adopted a flexible policy toward Latin American governments that nationalized American corporations' assets, the influence of Nixon's economic ideology, domestic political pressures, and the advice of his close adviser, Secretary of the Treasury John Connally, led to a more confrontational stance toward Latin American countries. As the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and Henry Kissinger had warned, however, Latin American countries took an even more anti-US stance and expropriated even more assets. Nixon's "get tough" stance, therefore, had a negative effect on US credibility and influence in the hemisphere.
During the South Asian crisis in 1971, the White House, stood firmly behind Pakistani president Yahya Khan and demonstrated a disdain for India and particularly its leader, Indira Gandhi because of India's tilt toward the Soviet Union. Many analysts believed that Pakistan's role as a conduit of rapprochement with China and Kissinger's focus on geopolitical concerns greatly influenced the American policy decision in 1971. These claims have now been confirmed by recently declassified documents. The US undertook at least three initiatives to dissipate the Bangladesh movement but which backfired and contributed to the bloodshed instead of bringing it to an end.
Nixon and Kissinger were "realists" who deemphasized idealistic goals like anti-communism or promotion of democracy worldwide, because those goals were too expensive in terms of America's economic capabilities. Instead of a Cold War they wanted peace, trade and cultural exchanges. They realized that Americans were no longer willing to tax themselves for idealistic foreign policy goals, especially for containment policies that never seemed to produce positive results. Instead Nixon and Kissinger sought to downsize America's global commitments in proportion to its reduced economic, moral and political power. They rejected "idealism" as impractical and too expensive; neither man showed much sensitivity to the plight of people living under Communism. Kissinger's realism fell out of fashion as idealism returned to American foreign policy with Carter's emphasis on human rights, and Reagan's rollback strategy aimed at destroying Communism.
In 1976 Ford was challenged by Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination. Ford won, but the détente policy was the focus of Reagan's attacks, as the GOP moved to the right. Jimmy Carter continued the détente policy until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979 destroyed that policy and reopened the Cold War at a more intense level.
Ending the Cold War
An "orthodox view" of the end of the Cold War is that "the Soviet Union's capitulation and the Cold War victory for the forces of freedom and democracy were ultimately due to the relentless application of the West's military superiority and the dynamism of its ideas and economic system. These factors revealed communism's moral illegitimacy and highlighted its economic stagnation."  It is broadly endorsed by both Republicans (who emphasize Reagan's role), and by Democrats (who emphasize the containment policies of Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.
Reagan defeated Carter in 1980 by stressing the failures of both foreign and domestic policy, warning America had become weak at home and abroad. Rejecting detente he called for rollback of the decrepit Soviet Empire, whose only strength was in missile power but which was falling apart in terms of economics, politics and society.
European leaders of the 1980s give credit to Reagan for winning the Cold War. Lech Wałęsa, leader of the Solidarity movement in Poland, said in 2004, "When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can't be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989."  Helmut Kohl, chancellor of West Germany, said, "He was a stroke of luck for the world. Two years after Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall, he noted, it fell and 11 months later Germany was reunified. We Germans have much to thank Ronald Reagan for." Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said, "President Reagan was a determined opponent of Communism and he played an important role in bringing an end to Communism and to the artificial division of Europe imposed after the Second World War." Václav Havel, who became the Czech president in 1989, said, "He was a man of firm principles who was indisputably instrumental in the fall of Communism." 
Relations with Britain
Relations with Britain had been strained since the Suez crisis of 1956. Now both countries were led by like-minded leaders who collaborated closely, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Reagan. Their collaboration was based on a striking convergence of ideologically driven conservatives who shared similar domestic agendas and a common foreign policy. Both led domestic political revolutions--supply-side economics, increased defense spending, privatization, deregulation, and an overall conservative agenda. Reagan was the "Great Communicator", Thatcher the "Iron Lady". The two became personal friends.
Strains erupted in 1982 when the U.S. tried to mediate a dispute between Britain and Argentina over ownership of the Falkland Islands, located in the south Atlantic Ocean, far from Britain and close to Argentina. When mediation failed, the U.S. supported Britain by quietly providing logistical support and military intelligence during the three-month conflict. In 1983 Thatcher criticized Reagan's intervention in Grenada, nominally part of the British Commonwealth.
Reagan and Thatcher's mutual trust strengthened Reagan's hand against the Soviet Union. In 1984 Thatcher became the first NATO leader to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev before his ascension to the Soviet presidency. She told the world, "We can do business together." That assessment shifted Western political rhetoric from East-West confrontation to conciliation and support for internal democratic reform in the Soviet Union. Reagan adopted Thatcher's view, and when Gorbachev started to dismantle the Soviet Empire Reagan largely abandoning his own harsh depiction of the Soviet Union as the "focus of evil in the modern world." The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, lessened U.S. military need for a trusty friend in Europe. Thus, American relations with Britain turned more to trade and economic issues.
Kissinger's first priority in office was the achievement of détente with the Soviet Union and China, and playing them off against each other. Recognizing and accepting the Soviet Union as a superpower, Nixon and Kissinger sought both to maintain U.S. military strength and to inaugurate peaceful economic, cultural, and scientific exchanges to engage the Soviet Union in the international system. This policy flourished under Kissinger's direction and led in 1972 to the signing of the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I). At the same time they successfully engineered a rapprochement with Communist China, leading to the astonishing news in 1971 that Nixon would visit China, which he and Kissinger did in 1972.
Aware that China and the Soviet Union were at sword's point, with rival claims to be the true Communists, Nixon and Kissinger used the "Soviet card" to win over Chinba by playing up the Soviet threat to the Chinese as a way of promoting closer relations with China. He even hinted at a US-China alliance to oppose the Soviets, and, with Nixon's trips to Moscow, hinted that China had better come to terms lest the US form an alliance with Moscow. The tactics worked, resulting in a friendly relationship with both Beijing and Moscow. As part of the détente, both powers reduced or ended their aid to North Vietnam, thus allowing a settlement of the Vietnam War.
Change to a multilateral world
A multilateralist foreign policy was a strong plank in the campaign platform of Barack Obama. Many have argued the very early award of the Nobel Peace Prize was less for any specific action than being "not-Bush", especially in the view of Europeans.
Several conservatives, associated and not associated with neoconservatism, rejected it. Francis Fukuyama broke away from neoconservatism with his book America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy,
Andrew Bacevich, who is hard to categorize but closer to paleoconservatism, in discussing Fukuyama 's thoughts on "neoconservatism and successor doctrines" found trends, at least before Obama, based in Wilsonian ambition and Wilsonian certainty, but with a "pronounced affinity for the sword." He regards Ronald Reagan as Wilson's truest disciple, as one who meant to put America on the right side of history, and that Bill Clinton there was a continuation of the idea that there was no alternative to democracy. Even George W. Bush was a product of a Wilsonian revival. The difference was that mainstream politicians treat American military supremacy as an unmitigated good and an evidence of American exceptionalism. Where there were six major military actions abroad between 1945 and 1986, they became almost annual after the fall of the Berlin Wall.Zbigniew Brzezinski counseled a policy of self-restraint and not pressing every advantage, and listening to other nations.
Technology has made global "have-nots" painfully conscious of their relative deprivation. It has also given them the tools to punish those they see as blocking their aspirations. If the United States is to avoid becoming the target of their resentment, its foreign policy must be seen as serving their interests as well as its own. That means exercising self-restraint rather than pressing every advantage that comes to a superpower; it means listening to others and not just working to preserve our own peace and prosperity but helping others to build their own.Anthony Cordesman saw a balance being formed.
Ultimately, the review seeks to answer the question of whether the US should posture its forces and focus its acquisitions on dealing with conventional threats from rising peer competitors or more asymmetric threats emanating from weak and failing states. Secretary Gates’ terms of reference emphasized “balance” between these two competing priorities, stressing the need to institutionalize capabilities such as counterinsurgency while maintaining the existing US conventional technological edge against other countries.
Regional and domestic constituencies can become involved in non-obvious ways. In many respects, Uganda is an economic success story for Africa, but it still has trouble moving toward democracy under President Yoweri Museveni. As U.S. ambassador, James Kolker was critical of Museveni's government, but his successor was less vocal when Uganda sent 1,500 troops as part of an African Union force, short of manpower. 
"Museveni has very cleverly played the U.S. like a violin," said Joel Barkan, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Recently, possibly with pressure from U.S. social conservatives, it has moved to make homosexuality a capital crime.
Just as the U.S. had some unsavory allies that were vehemently anticommunist, role of allies in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism is complex. Some potential allies are undemocratic, or are, such as Salah Gosh of Sudan, involved in active domestic human rights abuses while simultaneously opposed to threats to the U.S. Ethiopia, with U.S. backing, invaded Somalia in December 2006 to oust the Islamic movement, which the United States accused of having ties to al-Qaeda. Ethiopia then installed, in Somalia, a U.S.-backed transitional government headed by Abdullahi Yusuf, who analysts say has used the fight against terrorism as an excuse to attack his political and business enemies.<
- Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech, AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History, 5 October 1937
- Charles F. Romanus and Riley Sunderland (1952), Part I: The United States and China Become Allies; Chapter I — Aid to China Involves the U.S. Army, in Kent Roberts Greenfield (general editor), China-Burma-India Theater — Stillwell's Mission to China, United States Army in World War II
- Mark Skinner Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, (1950), 331-366 at online
- Hal Brands, "Richard Nixon and Economic Nationalism in Latin America: the Problem of Expropriations, 1969-1974." Diplomacy & Statecraft 2007 18(1): 215-235. Issn: 0959-2296 Fulltext: Ebsco
- Ralph Summy and Michael Salla, ed. (1995), Why the Cold War Ended: A Range of Interpretations (Contributions in Political Science), Greenwood, ISBN 978-0313295690, p 3
- Lech Walesa (11 June 2004), "In Solidarity: The Polish people, hungry for justice, preferred "cowboys" over Communists.", Wall Street Journal
- "European Leaders Mourn Reagan's Passing", Deutsche Welle, 6 June 2004
- Margaret Macmillan, Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World (2008)
- Evelyn Goh, "Nixon, Kissinger, and the 'Soviet Card' in the U.S. Opening to China, 1971-1974." Diplomatic History 2005 29(3): 475-502.
- Francis Fukuyama (2006), America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, Yale University Press, ISBN 0300113994
- Andrew Bacevich (2005), The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195173384, pp. 9-17
- James M. Lindsay (book reviewer). The Superpower Blues: Zbigniew Brzezinski says we have one last shot at getting the post-9/11 world right. book review of "Second Chance" by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington Post, March 25, 2007. Retrieved on 2009-12-21.
- Anthony Cordesman, Erin K. Fitzgerald. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Sep 8, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-12-22.
- Stephanie McCrummen. U.S. Policy in Africa Faulted on Priorities: Security Is Stressed Over Democracy, Washington Post, February 22, 2008. Retrieved on 2009-12-22.
- Scott Baldauf (22 June 2009), "Ethiopian troops return to Somalia", Christian Science Monitor