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By John A. Thompson

Why has the U.S. assumed so vast and expensive a task in international affairs during the last hundred years? the 2 commonest solutions to this query are "because it will probably" and "because it had to." Neither resolution will do, in response to this hard second look of how that the United States got here to imagine its worldwide function. The country's sizeable monetary assets gave it the capability to workout nice effect in a foreign country, yet american citizens have been lengthy reluctant to satisfy the prices of wielding that energy. Neither the country's protection from international assault nor its financial health and wellbeing required the success of formidable international coverage objectives.

In A experience of Power, John A. Thompson takes a protracted view of America's dramatic upward push as an international strength, from the overdue 19th century into the post–World battle II period. How, and extra importantly why, has the US come to play one of these dominant function in global affairs? there's, he argues, no uncomplicated solution. Thompson demanding situations traditional reasons of America's involvement in global struggle I and international conflict II, seeing neither the necessities of nationwide defense nor financial pursuits as deciding on. He indicates how American leaders from Wilson to Truman constructed an ever extra capacious realizing of the nationwide curiosity, and why via the Nineteen Forties such a lot americans got here to aid the cost tag, in blood and treasure, hooked up to strenuous efforts to form the realm. The ideals and feelings that led them to take action mirrored distinct features of U.S. tradition, no longer least the power of ties to Europe. attention of the nation’s designated energy fostered emotions of accountability, entitlement, and aspiration one of the humans and leaders of the United States.

This unique research demanding situations a few largely held ideals in regards to the determinants of usa overseas coverage and should carry new perception to modern debates approximately even if the kingdom should―or must―play so lively a component in global politics.

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2 Realist theory as well as everyday assumptions would lead one to expect that this great growth of the nation’s relative power would produce an expansion of its foreign policy objectives and the devotion of some of the nation’s new wealth to efforts to exercise increased international influence. Such an expectation is to some extent borne out by the conduct of the United States in the half-century between the Civil War and World War I. S. foreign policy generally see expansion as the central theme in this period, highlighting the SpanishAmerican War of 1898 and the subsequent acquisition of an overseas empire.

There had been fierce disagreements over foreign policy earlier, and there certainly have been since, but it was the successive debates of these years that were the most intense and consequential, leading ultimately to an enormous expansion of the nation’s foreign policy commitments. In the American system, public debate matters because it shapes the context within which the elected politicians who have the power to determine the nation’s course make their decisions. Of course, politicians themselves participate in the public debate and seek to shape opinion, presidents being in a powerful position to do this through their deeds as well as through words that carry a special authority.

It seems more appropriate to consider ideology as an explanatory factor in its own right. Missionary Ideology as an Explanation There can be little doubt that the way in which Americans have viewed world affairs and the role their nation should play in them has been inflected by ideology. If there are countries whose foreign policy is entirely shaped by hard-nosed calculations of strategic and material interest, the United States is not one of them. This reflects the character of American nationalism, based as it is not on ethnicity, language, or religion but on allegiance to the land itself, the political system and the values these are seen as embodying.

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