Foreign policy of the United States

Foreign policy of the United States
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The foreign policy of the United States is the way in which it interacts with foreign nations and sets standards of interaction for its organizations, corporations and individual citizens. The U.S. is highly influential in the world. The global reach of the United States is backed by a $15 trillion economy,[1] approximately a quarter of global GDP, and a defense budget of $711 billion, which accounts for approximately 43% of global military spending. The U.S. Secretary of State is the foreign minister and is the official charged with state-to-state diplomacy, although the president has ultimate authority over foreign policy; that policy includes defining the national interest, as well as the strategies chosen both to safeguard that and to achieve its policy goals.

The officially stated goals of the foreign policy of the United States, as mentioned in the Foreign Policy Agenda of the U.S. Department of State, are "to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community."[2] In addition, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs states as some of its jurisdictional goals: "export controls, including nonproliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear hardware; measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business abroad; international commodity agreements; international education; and protection of American citizens abroad and expatriation."[3] U.S. foreign policy and foreign aid have been the subject of much debate, praise and criticism both domestically and abroad.[4]

When asked if the WikiLeaks of 2010 would damage American relations with other countries, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that "governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets."[5]


Powers of the President and Congress

The US Constitution gives much of the foreign policy decision-making to the presidency, but the Senate has a role in ratifying treaties, and the Supreme Court interprets treaties when cases are presented to it.

Subject to the advise and consent role of the U.S. Senate, the President of the United States negotiates treaties with foreign nations, but treaties enter into force only if ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. The President is also Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, and as such has broad authority over the armed forces; however only Congress has authority to declare war, and the civilian and military budget is written by the Congress. The United States Secretary of State is the foreign minister of the United States and is the primary conductor of state-to-state diplomacy. Both the Secretary of State and ambassadors are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Congress also has power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.[6]

Historical overview

The Jay Treaty of 1795 aligned the U.S. more with Britain less with France, leading to political polarization at home

The main trend regarding the history of U.S. foreign policy since the American Revolution is the shift from non-interventionism before and after World War I, to its growth as a world power and global hegemon during and since World War II and the end of the Cold War in the 20th century.[7] Since the 19th century, US foreign policy also has been characterized by a shift from the realist school to the idealistic or Wilsonian school of international relations.[8]

Foreign policy themes were expressed considerably in George Washington's farewell address; these included among other things, observing good faith and justice towards all nations and cultivating peace and harmony with all, excluding both "inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others", "steer[ing] clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world", and advocating trade with all nations. These policies became the basis of the Federalist Party in the 1790s. But the rival Jeffersonians feared Britain and favored France in the 1790s, declaring the War of 1812 on Britain. After the 1778 alliance with France, the U.S. did not sign another permanent treaty until the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949. Over time, other themes, key goals, attitudes, or stances have been variously expressed by Presidential 'doctrines', named for them. Initially these were uncommon events, but since WWII, these have been made by most presidents.

Despite occasional entanglements with European Powers such as the War of 1812 and the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. foreign policy was marked by steady expansion of its foreign trade and scope during the 19th century, and it maintained its policy of avoiding wars with and between European powers. Concerning its domestic borders, the 1803 Louisiana Purchase doubled the nation's geographical area; Spain ceded the territory of Florida in 1819; annexation brought Texas in 1845; a war with Mexico in 1848 added California, Arizona and New Mexico. The U.S. bought Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867, and it annexed the Republic of Hawaii in 1898. Victory over Spain in 1898 brought the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, as well as oversight of Cuba. The short experiment in imperialism ended by 1908, as the U.S. turned its attention to the Panama Canal and the stabilization of regions to its south, including Mexico.

The 20th century was marked by two world wars in which the United States, along with allied powers, defeated its enemies and increased its international reputation. President Wilson's Fourteen Points, developed from his idealistic Wilsonianism program of spreading democracy and fighting militarism so as to end wars. It became the basis of the German Armistice (really a surrender) and the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The resulting Treaty of Versailles, due to European allies' punitive and territorial designs, showed insufficient conformity with these points and the U.S. signed separate treaties with each of its adversaries; due to Senate objections also, the U.S. never joined the League of Nations, which was established as a result of Wilson's initiative. In the 1920s, the United States followed an independent course, and succeeded in a program of naval disarmament, and refunding the German economy. New York became the financial capital of the world, but the downside was that the Crash of 1929 hurled the entire world into the Great Depression. American trade policy relied on high tariffs under the Republicans, and reciprocal trade agreements under the Democrats, but in any case exports were at very low levels in the 1930s.

The United States adopted a non-interventionist foreign policy from 1932 to 1938, but then President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved toward strong support of the Allies in their wars against Germany and Japan. As a result of intense internal debate, the national policy was one of becoming the Arsenal of Democracy, that is financing and equipping the Allied armies without sending American combat soldiers. Roosevelt mentioned four fundamental freedoms, which ought to be enjoyed by people "everywhere in the world"; these included the freedom of speech and religion, as well as freedom from want and fear. Roosevelt helped establish terms for a post-war world among potential allies at the Atlantic Conference; specific points were included to correct earlier failures, which became a step toward the United Nations. American policy was to threaten Japan, to force it out of China, and to prevent its attacking the Soviet Union. However, Japan reacted by an attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and the United States was at war with Japan, Germany, and Italy. Instead of the loans given to allies in World War I, the United States provided Lend-Lease grants of $50,000,000,000. Working closely with Winston Churchill of Britain, and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, Roosevelt sent his forces into the Pacific against Japan, then into North Africa against Italy and Germany, and finally into Europe starting with France and Italy in 1944 against the Germans. The American economy roared forward, doubling industrial production, and building vast quantities of airplanes, ships, tanks, munitions, and, finally, the atomic bomb. Much of the American war effort went to strategic bombers, which flattened the cities of Japan and Germany.

After the war, the U.S. rose to become the dominant non-colonial economic power with broad influence in much of the world. Almost immediately however, the world witnessed division into broad two camps during the Cold War; one side was led by the U.S., and the other by the Soviet Union, but this situation also led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement. This period lasted until almost the end of the 20th century, and is thought to be both an ideological and power struggle between the two superpowers. A policy of containment was adopted to limit Soviet expansion, and a series of proxy wars were fought with mixed results. In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved into separate nations, and the Cold War formally ended as the United States gave separate diplomatic recognition to the Russian Federation and other former Soviet states. With these changes to forty-five years of established diplomacy and military confrontation, new challenges confronted U.S. policymakers.[citation needed] U.S. foreign policy is characterized still by a commitment to free trade, protection of its national interests, and a concern for human rights[citation needed].

In the 21st century, U.S. influence remains strong but, in relative terms, is declining in terms of economic output compared to rising nations such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, and the newly consolidated European Union. Substantial problems remain, such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, and the specter of nuclear terrorism. Foreign policy analysts Hachigian and Sutphen in their book The Next American Century suggest all six powers have similar vested interests in stability and terrorism prevention and trade; if they can find common ground, then the next decades may be marked by peaceful growth and prosperity.[9]


In the United States, there are three types of treaty-related law:

  • Congressional-executive agreements are made by the president or Congress. When made by Congress, a majority of both houses makes it binding much like regular legislation. While the constitution does not expressly state that these agreements are allowed, and constitutional scholars such as Laurence Tribe think they're unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld their validity.[citation needed]
  • Executive agreements are made by the president alone.
  • Treaties are formal written agreements specified by the Treaty Clause of the Constitution. The president makes a treaty with foreign powers, but then the proposed treaty must be ratified by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. For example, President Wilson proposed the Treaty of Versailles after World War I after consulting with allied powers, but this treaty was rejected by the U.S. Senate; as a result, the U.S. subsequently made separate agreements with different nations. While most international law has a broader interpretation of the term treaty, the U.S. sense of the term is more restricted. In Missouri v. Holland, the Supreme Court ruled that the power to make treaties under the U.S. Constitution is a power separate from the other enumerated powers of the federal government, and hence the federal government can use treaties to legislate in areas which would otherwise fall within the exclusive authority of the states.

International law in most nations considers all three of the above agreements as treaties. In most nations, treaty laws supersede domestic law. So if there's a conflict between a treaty obligation and a domestic law, then the treaty usually prevails.

In contrast to most other nations, the United States considers the three types of agreements as distinct. Further, the United States incorporates treaty law into the body of U.S. federal law. As a result, Congress can modify or repeal treaties afterwards. It can overrule an agreed-upon treaty obligation even if this is seen as a violation of the treaty under international law. Several U.S. court rulings confirmed this understanding, including the 1900 Supreme Court decision in Paquete Habana, a late 1950s decision in Reid v. Covert, and a lower court ruling in 1986 in Garcia-Mir v. Meese. Further, the Supreme Court has declared itself as having the power to rule a treaty as void by declaring it "unconstitutional", although as of 2011, it has never exercised this power.

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the State Department has taken the position that the Vienna convention represents established law. Generally when the U.S. signs a treaty, it is binding. However, because of the Reid v. Covert decision, the U.S. adds a reservation to the text of every treaty that says, in effect, that the U.S. intends to abide by the treaty, but if the treaty is found to be in violation of the Constitution, then the U.S. legally can't abide by the treaty since the U.S. signature would be ultra vires.



A map of allies of the United States
  NATO member states, including their colonies and overseas possessions
  Signatories of Partnership for Peace with NATO

The United States is a founding member of NATO, the world's largest military alliance. The 28 nation alliance consists of Canada and much of Europe, including NATO's second largest military; the United Kingdom . Under the NATO charter, the United States is compelled to defend any NATO state that is attacked by a foreign power. NATO is restricted to within the North American and European areas. Starting in 1989, the United States also created a major non-NATO ally status (MNNA) for five nations; this number was increased in the late 1990s and following the September 11 attacks; it currently includes 14 nations. Each such state has a unique relationship with the United States, involving various military and economic partnerships and alliances.

United Kingdom

Queen Elizabeth II welcomes President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to Buckingham Palace on April 1, 2009.

United States foreign policy affirms its alliance with the United Kingdom as its most important bilateral relationship in the world, evidenced by aligned political affairs between the White House and 10 Downing Street, as well as joint military operations carried out between the two nations. While both the United States and the United Kingdom maintain close relationships with many other nations around the world, the level of cooperation in military planning, execution of military operations, nuclear weapons technology, and intelligence sharing with each other has been described as "unparalleled" among major powers throughout the 20th and early 21st century.[10]

The United States and Britain share the world's largest foreign direct investment partnership. American investment in the United Kingdom reached $255.4 billion in 2002, while British direct investment in the United States totaled $283.3 billion.[11]


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (right) and President Obama (left) meet in Ottawa in February 2009

The bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States is of fundamental importance to both countries. About 75–85% of Canadian trade is with the United States, and Canada is the United States' largest trading partner, and chief supplier of oil. While there are disputed issues between the two nations, relations are close and the two countries share the "world's longest undefended border."[12] The border was demilitarized after the War of 1812 and, apart from minor raids, has remained peaceful. Military collaboration began during World War II and continued throughout the Cold War on both a bilateral basis and a multilateral relationship through NATO. A high volume of trade and migration between the United States and Canada since the 1850s has generated closer ties, despite continued Canadian fears of being culturally overwhelmed by its neighbor, which is ten times larger in terms of population[13][14] and and eleven times larger in terms of economy.[15][16] The two economies have increasingly merged since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994, which also includes Mexico.


The United States shares a unique and often complex relationship with Mexico. A history of armed conflict goes back to the Texas Revolution in the 1830s, the Mexican-American War in the 1840s, and an American invasion in the 1910s. Important treaties include the Gadsden Purchase, and multilaterally with Canada, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The central issue in recent years has been illegal immigration, followed by illegal gun sales (from the U.S.), drug smuggling (to the U.S.) and escalating drug cartel violence just south of the U.S.-Mexico border.[17][18]


Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, talks with President Obama in Washington

The United States' relationship with Australia is a very close one, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating that "America doesn't have a better friend in the world than Australia".[19] The relationship is formalized by the ANZUS treaty and the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement. The two countries have a shared history, both have previously been British Colonies and many Americans flocked to the Australian goldfields in the 19th century. At a strategic level, the relationship really came to prominence in World War II, when the two nations worked extremely closely in the Pacific war against Japan, with General Douglas MacArthur undertaking his role as Supreme Allied Commander based in Australia, effectively having Australian troops and resources under his command. During this period, the cultural interaction between Australia and the U.S. were elevated to a higher level as over 1 million U.S. military personnel moved through Australia during the course of the war. The relationship continued to evolve throughout the second half of the 20th Century, and today now involves strong relationships at the executive and mid levels of government and the military, leading Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt M. Campbell to declare that "in the last ten years, [Australia] has ascended to one of the closest one or two allies [of the U.S.] on the planet".[20]

Middle East

The United States has seven major non-NATO allies in the Greater Middle East region. These allies are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, Pakistan, and Morocco. Israel and Egypt are leading recipients of foreign aid, receiving 2.75 billion[21] and 1.75 billion[22] in 2010.

United States has invested several hundred billion dollars in re-building Iraq's infrastructure and military in the aftermath of 2003 invasion of Iraq.[23] Turkey is host to approximately 90 B61 nuclear bombs at Incirlik Air Base.[24] Other allies include Qatar, where 3,500 US troops are based.[25]

The U.S. has built a non-NATO alliance with Pakistan to assist with the War in Afghanistan and jointly combat terror in the subcontinent.


Matthew C. Perry in 1852-1854 went with battleships to Japan to open up trade. The United States has several military bases in Japan including Yokosuka, which harbors the U.S. 7th Fleet. The JSDF, or Japanese Self Defense Force, cross train with the U.S. Military, often providing auxiliary security and conducting war games.

South Korea

South Korea–United States relations have been most extensive since 1948, when the United States helped establish capitalism in South Korea and fought on its UN-sponsored side in the Korean War (1950–1953). Although the United States gave heavy foreign aid to South Korea following the immediate aftermaths of the Korean War, South Korea's rapid economic growth, democratization and modernization in the subsequent decades that followed (See also: Miracle on the Han River) greatly reduced its U.S. dependency. At the 2009 G-20 London summit, U.S. President Barack Obama called South Korea "one of America's closest allies and greatest friends." [26]


American relations with the People's Republic of China are complex. A great amount of trade between the two countries necessitates positive political relations, although periodic disagreements over tariffs and currency exchange rates do occur. China's status as a rising world power also strains relations, as many American conservatives see China as a long-term military rival. The U.S. criticizes China on human rights issues. Finally, the political status of Taiwan complicates relations, since the U.S. does not officially recognize the country, but in fact offers the island protection against the threat of any invasion from China.


Taiwan (Republic of China), does not have official diplomatic relations recognized and is no longer officially recognized by the State Department of the United States, but it conducts unofficial diplomatic relations through their de facto embassy, commonly known as the "American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)", and is considered to be a strong Asian ally and supporter of the United States.[27]


ASEAN is important partner for United States in both economy and geostrategic aspects. ASEAN’s geostrategic importance stems from many factors, including: the strategic location of member countries, the large shares of global trade that pass through regional waters, and the alliances and partnerships which the United States shares with ASEAN member states. In July 2009, the United States signed ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, which establishes guiding principles intended to build confidence among its signatories with the aim of maintaining regional peace and stability.[28] Trade flows are robust and increasing between America and the ASEAN region. Since 2002 exports to the United States have gained 40% in value while U.S. exports to ASEAN increased 62%.[29]


As the largest ASEAN member, Indonesia has played an active and prominent role in developing the organization.[30] For United States, Indonesia is important for dealing with certain issues; such as terrorism,[31] democracy, and how United States project its relations with Islamic world, since Indonesia has the world’s largest Islamic population, and one that honors and respects religious diversity.[32] US eyes Indonesia as potential strategic allies in Southeast Asia.[33] During his stately visit to Indonesia, U.S. President Barack Obama has held up Indonesia as an example of how a developing nation can embrace democracy and diversity.[34] [35]




United States ruled the Philippines from 1898 to 1934. The Spanish government, ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War. The United States finally recognized Philippine independence on July 4, 1946 in the Treaty of Manila.[36] July 4 was observed in the Philippines as Independence Day until August 4, 1964 when, upon the advice of historians and the urging of nationalists, President Diosdado Macapagal signed into law Republic Act No. 4166 designating June 12 as the country's Independence Day.[37] Since 2003, the U.S. designated the Philippines as a Major Non-NATO Ally.


Since 2003, the U.S. designated the Thailand as a Major Non-NATO Ally.


United States involved in Vietnam War in 1955 to 1975. In 1995, President Bill Clinton announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Today US eyes Vietnam as potential strategic allies in Southeast Asia.[38]

Eastern Europe

American relations with Eastern Europe are influenced by the legacy of the Cold War. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, former Communist-bloc states in Europe have gradually transitioned to democracy and capitalism. Many have also joined the European Union and NATO, strengthening economic ties with the broader Western world and gaining the military protection of the United States via the North Atlantic Treaty.


The UN Security Council remains divided on the question of Kosovo declaration of independence. Kosovo declared its independence on February 17, 2008, which Serbia opposes. Of the five members with veto power, USA, UK, and France recognized the declaration of independence, and China has expressed concern, while Russia considers it illegal. "In its declaration of independence, Kosovo committed itself to the highest standards of democracy, including freedom and tolerance and justice for citizens of all ethnic backgrounds", Bush said on February 19, 2008.[39][40]

Hub and spoke vs multilateral

While America's relationships with Europe have tended to be in terms of multilateral frameworks, such as NATO, America's relations with Asia have tended to be based on a series of bilateral relationships where the client states would coordinate with the United States in order to not have to deal directly with each other. On May 30, 2009, at the Shangri-La Dialogue Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged the nations of Asia to build on this hub and spoke model as they established and grew multilateral institutions such as ASEAN, APEC and the ad hoc arrangements in the area.[41] However in 2011 Gates said that the United States must serve as the “indispensable nation,” for building multilateral cooperation.[42]


Persian Gulf

The U.S. currently produces about 40% of the oil that it consumes; its imports have exceeded domestic production since the early 1990s. Since the U.S.'s oil consumption continues to rise, and its oil production continues to fall, this ratio may continue to decline.[43] Former U.S. President George W. Bush identified dependence on imported oil as an urgent "national security concern".[44]

Two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves are estimated to be found in the Persian Gulf.[45][46] Despite its distance, the Persian Gulf region was first proclaimed to be of national interest to the United States during World War II. Petroleum is of central importance to modern armies, and the United States—as the world's leading oil producer at that time—supplied most of the oil for the Allied armies. Many U.S. strategists were concerned that the war would dangerously reduce the U.S. oil supply, and so they sought to establish good relations with Saudi Arabia, a kingdom with large oil reserves.[47]

The Persian Gulf region continued to be regarded as an area of vital importance to the United States during the Cold War. Three Cold War United States Presidential doctrines—the Truman Doctrine, the Eisenhower Doctrine, and the Nixon Doctrine—played roles in the formulation of the Carter Doctrine, which stated that the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its "national interests" in the Persian Gulf region.[48] Carter's successor, President Ronald Reagan, extended the policy in October 1981 with what is sometimes called the "Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine", which proclaimed that the United States would intervene to protect Saudi Arabia, whose security was threatened after the outbreak of the Iran–Iraq War.[49] Some analysts have argued that the implementation of the Carter Doctrine and the Reagan Corollary also played a role in the outbreak of the 2003 Iraq War.[50][51][52][53]


Almost all of Canada's energy exports go to the United States, making it the largest foreign source of U.S. energy imports: Canada is consistently among the top sources for U.S. oil imports, and it is the largest source of U.S. natural gas and electricity imports.[54]


In 2007 the U.S. was Sub-Saharan Africa's largest single export market accounting for 28.4% of exports (second in total to the EU at 31.4%). 81% of U.S. imports from this region were petroleum products.[55]

Foreign aid

Foreign assistance is a core component of the State Department's international affairs budget and is considered an essential instrument of U.S. foreign policy. There are four major categories of non-military foreign assistance: bilateral development aid, economic assistance supporting U.S. political and security goals, humanitarian aid, and multilateral economic contributions (for example,, contributions to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund).[56]

In absolute dollar terms, the United States is the largest international aid donor ($22.7 billion in 2006), but as a percent of gross national income, its contribution is only 0.2%, proportionally much smaller than contributions of countries such as Sweden (1.04%) and the United Kingdom (0.52%)[citation needed]. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) manages the bulk of bilateral economic assistance; the Treasury Department handles most multilateral aid.

Although the United States is the largest donor in absolute dollar terms, it is actually ranked 17 out of 22 countries on the Commitment to Development Index. The CDI ranks the 22 richest donor countries on their policies that affect the developing world. In the aid component the United States is penalized for low net aid volume as a share of the economy, a large share of tied or partially tied aid, and a large share of aid given to less poor and relatively undemocratic governments.


The United States has fought wars and intervened militarily on many occasions. See, Timeline of United States military operations. The U.S. also operates a vast network of military bases around the world. See, List of United States military bases.

In recent years, the U.S. has used its military superiority as sole superpower to lead a number of wars, including, most recently, the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 as part of its global "War on Terror."


The U.S. provides military aid through many different channels. Counting the items that appear in the budget as 'Foreign Military Financing' and 'Plan Colombia', the U.S. spent approximately $4.5 billion in military aid in 2001, of which $2 billion went to Israel, $1.3 billion went to Egypt, and $1 billion went to Colombia.[57] Since 9/11, Pakistan has received approximately $11.5 billion in direct military aid.[58]

As of 2004, according to Fox News, the U.S. had more than 700 military bases in 130 different countries.[59]

Estimated US foreign military financing and aid by recipient for 2010:

Recipient Military aid (USD Billions)
 Iraq 6.50
 Afghanistan 5.60[60]
 Israel 2.75[21]
 Egypt 1.75[22]
 Pakistan 1.60[61]
 Colombia .834[62]
 Jordan .300[63]
 Palestine .100[22]
 Yemen .070

Missile defense

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a proposal by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983[64] to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles,[65] later dubbed "Star Wars".[66] The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD). Though it was never fully developed or deployed, the research and technologies of SDI paved the way for some anti-ballistic missile systems of today.[67]

In February 2007, the U.S. started formal negotiations with Poland and Czech Republic concerning construction of missile shield installations in those countries for a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system[68] (in April 2007, 57% of Poles opposed the plan).[69] According to press reports the government of the Czech Republic agreed (while 67% Czechs disagree)[70] to host a missile defense radar on its territory while a base of missile interceptors is supposed to be built in Poland.[71][72]

Russia threatened to place short-range nuclear missiles on the Russia's border with NATO if the United States refuses to abandon plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in Poland and the Czech Republic.[73][74] In April 2007, Putin warned of a new Cold War if the Americans deployed the shield in Central Europe.[75] Putin also said that Russia is prepared to abandon its obligations under a Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 with the United States.[76]

On August 14, 2008, The United States and Poland announced a deal to implement the missile defense system in Polish territory, with a tracking system placed in the Czech Republic.[77] "The fact that this was signed in a period of very difficult crisis in the relations between Russia and the United States over the situation in Georgia shows that, of course, the missile defense system will be deployed not against Iran but against the strategic potential of Russia", Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's NATO envoy, said.[68][78]

Exporting Democracy

In United States history, critics have charged that presidents have used democracy to justify military intervention abroad.[79][80] Critics have also charged that the U.S. overthrew democratically elected governments in Iran, Guatemala, and in other instances. Studies have been devoted to the historical success rate of the U.S. in exporting democracy abroad. Some studies of American intervention have been pessimistic about the overall effectiveness of U.S. efforts to encourage democracy in foreign nations.[81] Until recently, scholars have generally agreed with international relations professor Abraham Lowenthal that U.S. attempts to export democracy have been "negligible, often counterproductive, and only occasionally positive."[82][83] Other studies find U.S. intervention has had mixed results,[81] and another by Hermann and Kegley has found that military interventions have improved democracy in other countries.[84]

Opinion that U.S. intervention does not export democracy

Professor Paul W. Drake argued that the U.S. first attempted to export democracy in Latin America through intervention from 1912 to 1932. Drake argued that this was contradictory because international law defines intervention as "dictatorial interference in the affairs of another state for the purpose of altering the condition of things." The study suggested that efforts to promote democracy failed because democracy needs to develop out of internal conditions, and can not be forcibly imposed. There was disagreement about what constituted democracy; Drake suggested American leaders sometimes defined democracy in a narrow sense of a nation having elections; Drake suggested a broader understanding was needed. Further, there was disagreement about what constituted a "rebellion"; Drake saw a pattern in which the U.S. State Department disapproved of any type of rebellion, even so-called "revolutions", and in some instances rebellions against dictatorships.[85] Historian Walter LaFeber stated, "The world's leading revolutionary nation (the U.S.) in the eighteenth century became the leading protector of the status quo in the twentieth century."[86]

Mesquita and Downs evaluated 35 U.S. interventions from 1945 to 2004 and concluded that in only one case, Colombia, did a "full fledged, stable democracy" develop within ten years following the intervention.[87] Samia Amin Pei argued that nation building in developed countries usually unravelled four to six years after American intervention ended. Pei, based on study of a database on worldwide democracies called Polity, agreed with Mesquita and Downs that U.S. intervention efforts usually don't produce real democracies, and that most cases result in greater authoritarianism after ten years.[88]

Professor Joshua Muravchik argued U.S. occupation was critical for Axis power democratization after World War II, but America's failure to encourage democracy in the third world "prove... that U.S. military occupation is not a sufficient condition to make a country democratic."[89][90] The success of democracy in former Axis countries such as Italy were seen as a result of high national per-capita income, although U.S. protection was seen as a key to stabilization and important for encouraging the transition to democracy. Steven Krasner agreed that there was a link between wealth and democracy; when per-capita incomes of $6,000 were achieved in a democracy, there was little chance of that country ever reverting to an autocracy, according to an analysis of his research in the Los Angeles Times.[85]

Opinion that U.S. intervention has mixed results

Tures examined 228 cases of American intervention from 1973 to 2005, using Freedom House data. A plurality of interventions, 96, caused no change in the country's democracy. In 69 instances the country became less democratic after the intervention. In the remaining 63 cases, a country became more democratic.[81]

Opinion that U.S. intervention effectively exports democracy

Hermann and Kegley found that American military interventions designed to protect or promote democracy increased freedom in those countries.[84] Penceny argued that the democracies created after military intervention are still closer to an autocracy than a democracy, quoting Przeworski "while some democracies are more democratic than others, unless offices are contested, no regime should be considered democratic."[91] Therefore, Penceny concludes, it is difficult to know from the Hermann and Kegley study whether U.S. intervention has only produced less repressive autocratic governments or genuine democracies.[92]

Penceny stated that the United States attempted to export democracy in 33 of its 93 20th-century military interventions.[93] Penceny argued that proliberal policies after military intervention had a positive impact on democracy.[94]

Covert actions

United States foreign policy also includes covert actions to topple foreign governments that have been opposed to the United States. In 1953 the CIA, working with the British government, endorsed the military in a coup d'état against the anti-British government of Iran led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh who had attempted to nationalize Iran's oil, threatening the interests of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.[95] See Operation Ajax.

War on Drugs

United States foreign policy is influenced by the efforts of the U.S. government to control imports of illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and cannabis. This is especially true in Latin America, a focus for the U.S. War on Drugs. Those efforts date back to at least 1880, when the U.S. and China completed an agreement that prohibited the shipment of opium between the two countries.

Over a century later, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act requires the President to identify the major drug transit or major illicit drug-producing countries. In September 2005 [4], the following countries were identified: Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Two of these, Burma and Venezuela are countries that the U.S. considers to have failed to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements during the previous 12 months. Notably absent from the 2005 list were Afghanistan, the People's Republic of China and Vietnam; Canada was also omitted in spite of evidence that criminal groups there are increasingly involved in the production of MDMA destined for the United States and that large-scale cross-border trafficking of Canadian-grown cannabis continues. The U.S. believes that the Netherlands are successfully countering the production and flow of MDMA to the U.S.


Critics from the left cite episodes that undercut leftist governments or showed support for Israel. Others cite human rights abuses and violations of international law. Critics have charged that the U.S. presidents have used democracy to justify military intervention abroad.[79][80] It was also noted that the U.S. overthrew democratically elected governments in Iran, Guatemala, and in other instances. Studies have been devoted to the historical success rate of the U.S. in exporting democracy abroad. Some studies of American intervention have been pessimistic about the overall effectiveness of U.S. efforts to encourage democracy in foreign nations.[81] Until recently, scholars have generally agreed with international relations professor Abraham Lowenthal that U.S. attempts to export democracy have been "negligible, often counterproductive, and only occasionally positive."[82][83] Other studies find U.S. intervention has had mixed results,[81] and another by Hermann and Kegley has found that military interventions have improved democracy in other countries.[84]


Regarding support for certain anti-Communist dictatorships during the Cold War, a response is that they were seen as a necessary evil, with the alternatives even worse Communist or fundamentalist dictatorships. David Schmitz says this policy did not serve U.S. interests. Friendly tyrants resisted necessary reforms and destroyed the political center (though not in South Korea), while the 'realist' policy of coddling dictators brought a backlash among foreign populations with long memories.[96][97]

Many democracies have voluntary military ties with United States. See NATO, ANZUS, Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, Mutual Defense Treaty with South Korea, and Major non-NATO ally. Those nations with military alliances with the U.S. can spend less on the military since they can count on U.S. protection. This may give a false impression that the U.S. is less peaceful than those nations. [5] [6]

Research on the democratic peace theory has generally found that democracies, including the United States, have not made war on one another. There have been U.S. support for coups against some democracies, but for example Spencer R. Weart argues that part of the explanation was the perception, correct or not, that these states were turning into Communist dictatorships. Also important was the role of rarely transparent United States government agencies, who sometimes mislead or did not fully implement the decisions of elected civilian leaders.[98]

Empirical studies (see democide) have found that democracies, including the United States, have killed much fewer civilians than dictatorships.[99][100] Media may be biased against the U.S. regarding reporting human rights violations. Studies have found that The New York Times coverage of worldwide human rights violations predominantly focuses on the human rights violations in nations where there is clear U.S. involvement, while having relatively little coverage of the human rights violations in other nations.[101][102] For example, the bloodiest war in recent time, involving eight nations and killing millions of civilians, was the Second Congo War, which was almost completely ignored by the media. Finally, those nations with military alliances with the U.S. can spend less on the military and have a less active foreign policy since they can count on U.S. protection. This may give a false impression that the U.S. is less peaceful than those nations.[103][104]

Niall Ferguson argues that the U.S. is incorrectly blamed for all the human rights violations in nations they have supported. He writes that it is generally agreed that Guatemala was the worst of the US-backed regimes during the Cold War. However, the U.S. cannot credibly be blamed for all the 200,000 deaths during the long Guatemalan Civil War.[97] The U.S. Intelligence Oversight Board writes that military aid was cut for long periods because of such violations, that the U.S. helped stop a coup in 1993, and that efforts were made to improve the conduct of the security services.[105]

Today the U.S. states that democratic nations best support U.S. national interests. According to the U.S. State Department, "Democracy is the one national interest that helps to secure all the others. Democratically governed nations are more likely to secure the peace, deter aggression, expand open markets, promote economic development, protect American citizens, combat international terrorism and crime, uphold human and worker rights, avoid humanitarian crises and refugee flows, improve the global environment, and protect human health." [7] According to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, "Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other."[106] In one view mentioned by the U.S. State Department, democracy is also good for business. Countries that embrace political reforms are also more likely to pursue economic reforms that improve the productivity of businesses. Accordingly, since the mid-1980s, under President Ronald Reagan, there has been an increase in levels of foreign direct investment going to emerging market democracies relative to countries that have not undertaken political reforms. [8] Leaked cables in 2010 suggested that the "dark shadow of terrorism still dominates the United States' relations with the world".[107]

The United States officially maintains that it supports democracy and human rights through several tools [9] Examples of these tools are as follows:

  • A published yearly report by the State Department entitled "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record" in compliance with a 2002 law (enacted and signed by President George W. Bush, which requires the Department to report on actions taken by the U.S. Government to encourage respect for human rights. [10]
  • A yearly published "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices." [11]
  • In 2006 (under President George W. Bush), the United States created a "Human Rights Defenders Fund" and "Freedom Awards." [12]
  • The "Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award" recognizes the exceptional achievement of officers of foreign affairs agencies posted abroad. [13]
  • The "Ambassadorial Roundtable Series", created in 2006, are informal discussions between newly-confirmed U.S. Ambassadors and human rights and democracy non-governmental organizations. [14]
  • The National Endowment for Democracy, a private non-profit created by Congress in 1983 (and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, which is mostly funded by the U.S. Government and gives cash grants to strengthen democratic institutions around the world

See also

Constitutional and International Law




Policy and Doctrine


  1. ^ Bureau of Economic Analysis,
  2. ^ U.S. Dept of State - Foreign Policy Agenda
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  4. ^
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  30. ^ Jakarta Post Editorial: The ASEAN cage
  31. ^ U.S.-Indonesia Military Relations in The Anti-Terror War
  32. ^ Indonesia: An Important Focus Point for World Security
  33. ^ US Eyes Indonesia, Vietnam as Potential Strategic Allies in Southeast Asia
  34. ^ Obama hails Indonesia as example for world
  35. ^ Obama delivers a speech in the University of Indonesia
  38. ^ US Eyes Indonesia, Vietnam as Potential Strategic Allies in Southeast Asia
  39. ^ Bush Hails Kosovo Independence, U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs
  40. ^ Bush insists Kosovo must be independent and receives hero's welcome in Albania, The Guardian
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  43. ^ Crude Oil and Total Petroleum Imports Top 15 Countries
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  45. ^ Shrinking Our Presence in Saudi Arabia, New York Times
  46. ^ The End of Cheap Oil, National Geographic
  47. ^ Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth
  48. ^ The war is about oil but it's not that simple,
  49. ^ The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf
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  51. ^ Selling the Carter Doctrine, TIME
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  53. ^ Oil giants to sign contracts with Iraq, The Guardian
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  61. ^ Aid to Pakistan
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  65. ^ Johann Hari: Obama's chance to end the fantasy that is Star Wars, The Independent, November 13, 2008
  66. ^ Historical Documents: Reagan's 'Star Wars' speech, CNN Cold War
  67. ^ "How Missile Defense Systems Will Work"
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  69. ^ U.S. Might Negotiate on Missile Defense,
  70. ^ Citizens on U.S. Anti-Missile Radar Base in Czech Republic
  71. ^ Europe diary: Missile defence, BBC News
  72. ^ Missile Defense: Avoiding a Crisis in Europe
  73. ^ Russia piles pressure on EU over missile shield, Telegraph
  74. ^ China, Russia sign nuclear deal, condemn U.S. missile defense plans, International Herald Tribune
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Further reading

  • Bailey, Thomas. A Diplomatic History of the American People (10th ed. Prentice Hall, 1980)
  • Luca Bellocchio. American foreign policy and global governance, in A. Gobbicchi (ed.), Globalization, armed conflicts and security (Rubbettino/CEMISS, Roma, 2004), 112-127,
  • Borgwardt, Elizabeth. "A New Deal for the World" (Harvard UP, 2005)
  • Cohen, Warren I. "The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: Volume 4, America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945-1991'" (Cambridge UP, 1995)
  • Fawcett, Louise, ed. "International Relations of the Middle East'" (2nd ed. Oxford U.P. 2009)
  • Freedman, Lawrence. A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East (PublicAffairs, 2009)
  • Hastedt, Glenn P. Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy (Facts on File, 2004)
  • Hermann, Margaret G.; Kegley, Charles (1998). "The U.S. Use of Military Intervention to Promote Democracy: Evaluating the Record". International Interactions 24 (2): 91–114. doi:10.1080/03050629808434922. 
  • Herring, George C. From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776 (Oxford History of the United States) (2008)
  • Hook, Steven W. U.S. Foreign Policy: The Paradox of World Power (3rd ed. CQ Press, 2010)
  • Ikenberry, G. John, ed. American Foreign Policy: Theoretical Essays (6th ed. Wadsworth, 2010), 640pp; essays by scholars
  • Iriye, Akira. The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: Volume 3, The Globalizing of America, 1913-1945 (Cambridge UP, 1995)
  • Jentleson, Bruce W. American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century (4th ed. W. W. Norton, 2010)
  • Jentleson, Bruce W. and Thomas G. Paterson, eds. Encyclopedia of U.S. Foreign Relations (4 vol 1997), long historical articles by scholars
  • Jones, Christopher M., and Charles W. Kegley. American Foreign Policy: Pattern and Process (2007)
  • LaFeber, Walter. The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: The American Search for Opportunity, 1865-1913, vol. 2 (Cambridge UP, 1995)
  • Lowenthal, Abraham F. (March 1, 1991). Exporting Democracy : The United States and Latin America. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4132-1. 
  • McCormick, James M. The Domestic Sources of American Foreign Policy: Insights and Evidence (2007)
  • McDougall, Walter. "Promised Land, Crusader State" (2004)
  • Mead, Walter Russell, and Richard C. Leone. Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (2002)
  • Meernik, James (1996). "United States Military Intervention and the Promotion of Democracy". Journal of Peace Research 33 (4): 391–402. doi:10.1177/0022343396033004002. JSTOR 424565. 
  • Nichols, Christopher McKnight. "Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age" (2011)
  • Paterson, Thomas G. and others. American Foreign Relations (6th ed. 2 vol, Wadsworth, 2004), a detailed history
  • Perkins, Bradford. The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: Volume 1, The Creation of a Republican Empire, 1776-1865 (Cambridge UP, 1995)
  • Smith, Tony; Richard C. Leone (1995). America's Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy in the Twentieth Century. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-04466-X. 

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