role in the stability of globalization reached a new level when in 1990
President George H. W. Bush declared the “new world order.” His political
rhetoric symbolized a) a notion of progress in United States history; b) a
proclamation of American success in the battle against worldwide communism;
and c) the global parameters by which America would now dictate its
expansion. But the language also invoked something much older; an
implication that America was embarking on a journey, bringing with it the
terms of peace and prosperity that have been idolized in the United States
since its conception. Just over a decade later, rhetoric surrounding the
most recent Gulf War continues to invoke similar language that has
paradoxically extended from father to son. Moreover, both Bush
administrations’ mission to protect and defend American interests has
subsequently come about during a historical period where the US has
possessed absolute global superiority. That the US now operates under this
context is not the sole accomplishment of coincidence.
For one to contemplate the past as prologue for American hegemony, the history of United States’ foreign policy appears to be a good start, primarily because of the ambivalence found among policy makers who attempt to cite original “Founding Father” ideology. Historically, scholars have made implicit distinctions regarding this ideology through terms such as, “isolationism” and “internationalism.” Framed in these terms, the history of US foreign relations has frequently been subjected to false notions of transition. Subsequently, the evolution of the United States from a small and meek “indissoluble” union of thirteen states into a twenty-first century global superpower has been marginalized.
Unfortunately, foreign policy cannot be understood through such naïve definitions. Nevertheless, the language has given rise to some uncontested debates within the US foreign policy arena. At times, they appear to have been the creation of eccentric boxing promoters: Hamilton vs. Jefferson on the issue of States’ rights and the power of the Federal government; Lincoln vs. Polk, the Mexican American War; Imperialist vs. anti-Imperialist during the Spanish American War; Wilson vs. Lodge, the battle over the League of Nations; Truman vs. the Cold War critics; and most recently, George W. Bush vs. World opinion.
Regardless of the debate, history has culminated into a defined “American Century” where the world’s largest economic superpower has been awarded the responsibility of dictating its hegemonic supremacy. This article attempts to unravel some of the ideology and paradigms imbedded within the history of US foreign policy through three distinct eras: 1) from the decades following the American Revolution to the end of World War II; 2) the period commonly referred to as the Cold War; and 3) the current era defined by President George H. W. Bush as the “new world order.” Though highly interconnected, transition between these three periods in American history offers a substantially better analysis for comprehending the present.
From its conception, the leaders of the United States sought to dictate the destiny of their newly created nation. “No taxation without representation” demonstrated the unyielding stance the United States was willing to take when authoritative control would be handed down by foreign powers. The efforts to break free from the dominion of European colonialism manifested in the birth of the new republic whose constitution and policy would define a new type of independence. Throughout the years, this independence has grown into a pejorative phrase, “American exceptionalism.” The “exceptional” role of the United States in history is perhaps one of the most significant forces inherent to the “American System.” What developed as a mighty test within the first decades following the American Revolution was the debate on how to portray and ultimately extend this “exceptionalism” through foreign policy:
The widespread consciousness among the Founding Fathers that they were the architects of a great empire may account in part for the continuity of the debate over foreign policy. The United States, said Alexander Hamilton, was a “Hercules in the cradle.” It was rapidly advancing, said Jefferson, to “destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye.” 
Despite the potent ideological differences among them, the Founding Fathers were faced with the challenge of creating the basis of a new nation’s foreign policy. It is within this context that the continuity for foreign policy has been established, entangled among the early rhetoric of the Founding Fathers: the various Federalist Papers, Washington’s Farewell Address, Jefferson’s presidential speeches, and countless other documents. Together, they distinguish American independence apart from the traditional European establishment, a separation from the old world and the subsequent transformation to a new society, branded on the Great Seal as norvus ordo seclorum. Developed during the height of the Enlightenment, the rationale of the Founding Fathers reflected widespread contemporary works like Common Sense, where, “Thomas Paine held out the promise of a destiny separate from Europe and Europe’s wars as one of the great attractions of independence.”  Consequently, Americans would, “disdain to be the instruments of European greatness.”  As Washington stated in his Farewell Address, “Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course.”  Moreover, the exceptional abilities of the United States to operate outside the archaic boundaries established by European superpowers crossed over the bipartisan line. As the Republican adversary to the Federalists, President Thomas Jefferson stated in his annual message to congress in 1803:
Separated by a wide ocean from the nations of Europe, and from the political interests which entangle them together, with productions and wants which render our commerce and friendship useful to them and theirs to us, it cannot be the interest of any to assail us, nor ours to disturb them. 
However apparent the contemporary fallacies or manipulations of these original doctrines, those decisive in the management of US foreign policy have routinely operated under the pretext of the same “American exceptionalism” outlined by the Founding Fathers.
Corroboration for the continuity of Founding Father ideology in regards to foreign policy lies first and foremost with the second generation of American leaders, most notably President James Monroe. The Monroe Doctrine, 1823, increased the excursion of European dominance within the arbitrary borders of a geopolitical Western Hemisphere. Subsequently, the doctrine echoed the call of Hamilton’s rhetoric in, “…erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic force or influence.”  The perception of Europe as an imminent threat to American prosperity and national interests followed suit during the nineteenth century, although it was paralleled by an internalized notion of isolationism. What can be considered “settled doctrine” for the time, Americans believed, “Our true mission is not to propagate our opinions or impose upon other countries our form of government by artifice or force, but to teach by example and show by our success, moderation, and justice, the blessings of self government and the advantages of free institutions.”  For the contemporary observer, there’s no need to look far into America’s past to find “the providential American mission to be the exemplar to the world.”  In a more recent address to the National Endowment for Democracy, President George W. Bush alluded to an increase in the number of democratic nations in the world:
We've witnessed, in little over a generation, the swiftest advance of freedom in the 2,500-year story of democracy. Historians in the future will offer their own explanations for why this happened. Yet we already know some of the reasons they will cite. It is no accident that the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world's most influential nation was itself a democracy. 
That the “rise” of these “democracies” Bush so adamantly boasts of fall within a sphere of influence outlined by the Monroe Doctrine and is the central theme of Gaddis Smith’s The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine. Smith argues that the US foreign policy concerning the countries of Latin and South America during the Cold War was merely “the modification of the principles of the Monroe Doctrine to the Cold War philosophy of secrecy, covert action, and the defiance of legal and constitutional restrictions on the conduct of foreign policy.” 
The middle of the twentieth century defined a collapse in the “European greatness” Hamilton had observed. The superpowers of Europe suffered from the results of two World Wars and the deterioration of their colonial systems. Marked by the independence of India in 1947, a colony considered to be the “Crown Jewel” of the British Empire, the decline of worldwide colonialism defined a new era for the United States. Up until the years following Word War II, America’s foreign policy had been dictated by the extent to which powerful European nations controlled much of the world. The Monroe Doctrine had enabled the United States to lay claim to only a portion of the globe, and it was reflected by US foreign policy prior to World War II. During this time, US intervention abroad was subsequently limited. Nevertheless, the United States did participate in “superpower” like foreign policy to protect its interests in the Western Hemisphere.
The Spanish American War of 1898 resonated with, “pro-war advocates who invoked the ‘spirit of 1776,’ calling for a war to liberate the Cuban people from Spanish colonialism.”  While public anti-Spanish sentiment was heightened by the sensational yellow journalism of Joseph Pulitzer’s and William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers, the Spanish American War was ultimately a war against European hegemony. Consequently the Treaty of Paris, ratified in 1900, demonstrated the provocative stance US foreign policy would take in dealing with Europe inside the borders of the Monroe Doctrine.
Led by Secretary of State William Day, the treaty forced Spain to retire its colonies of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the US. Critics of the war claimed that the acquisition of colonies contradicted the very essence of Founding Father ideology while its advocates believed they were maintaining original visions. “Such was the power of Washington, Jefferson and Monroe in the minds of American politicians and pundits that the Great Debate on American imperialism at the turn of the 20th century was frequently conducted in the terms of following or abandoning their injunctions.”  The forceful extension of the Monroe Doctrine to the Western Hemisphere gained significant momentum with the Roosevelt Corollary. Latin American countries were henceforth warned that any “chronic wrongdoing” would inadvertently force American intervention. The defensive corollary, instituted to forestall European intervention in Latin America, gave the United States “international police power” in the Western Hemisphere. Consequently, between 1900 and 1917, “American Troops intervened in Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico.” 
The period from the Spanish-American War onward witnessed an expansion in the geopolitical borders of the Monroe Doctrine. By 1914, a Great War had broken out in Europe that was to threaten the balance of power through which the United States had successfully maintained hemispheric supremacy. Subsequently, World War I would ensure the greatest test US foreign Policy had seen since its birth. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson was re-elected under the slogan, “He kept us out of War,” but by 1917, the US had fully committed to a war well outside the borders of any defensive doctrine. Germany announced that their submarines would sink any ship supplying their enemies, including merchant vessels regardless of their neutrality. Wilson identified this as a threat to American interests stating, “I cannot consent to any abridgement of the rights of American citizens in any respect…”  His decision to go to war would once again test the validity of Founding Father ideology.
More than a threat to American citizens wishing to travel the international seas was the balance of power Germany would destroy with victory. The balance of power had remained in tact since the defeat of Napoleon early in the nineteenth century. With Europe under the control of one supreme nation, only time would tell before the incursion of its interests would be tested in the Western Hemisphere. Furthermore, war hawks could hardly deny the economic benefits resulting from intervention. During the period of the War prior to US intervention, supply orders by the Allies (mostly Britain) began to yield outstanding profits. “By 1917 more than $2 billion worth of goods had been sold to the Allies…[as] America became bound up with the Allies in a fateful union of war and prosperity.” 
With an Ally victory came the re-evaluation of America’s involvement. After the War, President Wilson adamantly proposed the creation of the League of Nations. For Wilson, US intervention in the Great War had been to actively “end all wars” and “make the world safe for democracy.”  He understood the creation of such an international organization as vital to the protection of any further threats to American interests outside the Western Hemisphere.
His opponents however, most notably Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, disagreed. While Lodge and his fellow republicans accepted the necessity of intervention, to enter into such entangling alliance and promote Wilson’s vision of collective security, was viewed as a, “betrayal of American diplomatic traditions, of ‘the policy of Washington and Monroe’.” 
Again, the only balance of power in need of containment was the rivaling nations of Europe. To join an international organization which sought to create universal alliances to defeat aggression and subsequently marginalize the power of the United States was nonsense. Instead, it would appear republicans like Lodge believed it necessary to revert to an isolationist status and only periodically allow the United States to internationally align with powers—being that their interests might parallel one another.
Consequently, the aftermath of World War I and the subsequent interwar years resonated with a particular ambiguity in regards to the basis of American ideology. It was first highlighted during the Spanish-American War, a time when the people of the United States as a whole, consciously began to consider the implications of policies outside of the continental borders—when historians have insisted on labeling the transition of US foreign policy from being confined by its isolationism, and growing into internationalism. However, the transition itself was not one of conscious decision but rather the inevitable result of a growing faith in the destiny of America as an “exceptional” nation. Secretary of state Richard Olney put the argument forth in 1900:
That the international policy suitable to our infancy and our weakness was unworthy of our maturity and our strength; that the traditional rules regulating our relations to Europe, almost a necessity of the conditions prevailing a century ago, were inapplicable to the changed conditions of the present day; and that both duty and interest required us to take our true position in the European family and to both reap all the advantages and assume all the burdens incident to that position. 
The world was indeed growing smaller as observed by Olney’s analysis of the changes that had occurred since the country’s conception. Moreover, the telescoping effect of technological evolution since the dawn of the scientific revolution had well extended through the industrial revolution. For the foreign policy elite, the world was becoming a dangerous place. American interests were no longer safe, especially in a world where militaries had adopted such advanced technology that could enable men to take to the sky or use rockets to eliminate their targets from vast distances. Hence, on the eve of World War II, it may be safe to say that the United States along with the world itself had changed more in the years since 1900, than in Olney’s chronology. And once again, America’s isolation would be tested in the European arena, where Germany threatened the vital balance of power.
America’s entrance into the Second World War was marked by many similar circumstances by which it had entered the First. Foreign policy remained devoted to keeping European powers confined to their continental rivalry and subsequent balance of power. Germany’s alliance with Japan however created even larger consequences. Without an American presence on the Allied side, an Axis victory might have entailed the, “combination of hostile powers in control of Eurasia.”  Indeed the threat of Japan and Germany creating one superior military-industrial complex would almost certainly yield a situation leaving America in constant defense of its hemisphere. Isolationism in turn had a negative impact on a foreign policy created to protect American interests. At the time, it seemed naïve to believe that, “the nation’s security was unconditioned by events occurring beyond the Western Hemisphere.” 
The years immediately following World War II developed into a unique consensus inside the US foreign policy arena. Up until this point, America had witnessed victory after victory, and history seemed to be qualifying the Founding Fathers’ vision to erect an American system. As it was briefly mentioned earlier, America’s hegemonic position was significantly altered in the wake of World War II. A decline in Europe’s power and morale marked the end of a unilateral US foreign policy set against the imperial temptations of Europe. The weak economies of the British, French, and Dutch nations created the inability to control the rebellious colonies that were now calling for independence across the globe. Meanwhile, the United States had successfully grown from its birth through geographical isolation, indissoluble statehood, territorial expansion, temporary non-entangling alliance, hemispheric dominance, and technological evolution. Global hegemony was in sight. However, ironically as the first half of the twentieth century would culminate with a decline in European power, coincidentally, it would give rise to an entirely new threat. Worldwide shifts in the balance of power presented new challenges for the United States. Moreover, a “Third World” was on the horizon, and its fate was unknown.
After World War II, the purely strategic wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union quickly deteriorated. The future political status of eastern European countries dictated by the might of a Soviet military presence seemed to overwhelm policy makers in Washington. The imposition of communist-controlled regimes in eastern Europe set up by Stalin were hardly any different from the satellite nations the United States had acquired half a century earlier to protect its interests in the Western Hemisphere.
However, it was not the “exceptional” right of the Soviet Union to control a legitimate sphere of influence. Only the United States would constitute that right. As the Soviet Union continued to incorporate portions of the European continent into their empire, the United States increased their rhetorical condemnation. The culmination for the disapproval of a growing Soviet Empire came in 1947. The same year India declared independence and the process of decolonization was underway, President Harry Truman issued what became the Truman Doctrine.
The context of the doctrine involved two nations, Greece and Turkey, both on the brink of falling to Soviet control. Through much speculation, presidential administrators and State Department experts conjured an intensive argument for the threat of communism that neither Democratic President nor Republican Legislature could deny. Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson noted that with the fall of Greece and Turkey, the Soviets would attempt to gain control of North Africa, the Middle East, and the crucial Dardanelles. George Kennan, a Soviet expert in the State Department, also argued intensely on the need to combat Soviet expansion through:
A policy of firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counter-force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world. 
The Truman Doctrine would be at the forefront of US foreign policy for the next forty years. Additionally, there was the underlying document to corroborate its inception, National Security Council Document Number 68 (NSC-68). The top secret document that reached Truman in 1950 heightened the vulnerability of the United States in stark terms, suggesting that the Soviet Union would in just a few short years possess the nuclear capability to destroy the United States. Subsequently, the document suggested that the United States increase its defense budget and strengthen the military-industrial complex, which had been growing since America’s decision to intervene in World War II.
The contemporary American social critic, Noam Chomsky, offers a unique perception of this crucial document. “[NSC-68],” he states, “has the tone of an unusually simple-minded fairly tale, contrasting ultimate evil (them) with absolute perfection (us).”  Indeed, the speculation of Soviet insurgency formulating in the domestic sphere by men like Senator Joseph McCarthy, plus the inclusion of the apocalyptic rhetoric with NSC-68, constituted that one-day the Cold War would most certainly become “hot”.
Justification behind US foreign policy in the latter half of the twentieth century operated under these pretexts. In order to contain the expansion of Soviet communism, it was argued, there required a necessary intervention. More often than not, this intervention resulted in either military occupation or arms supply to governments who remained faithful to American interests. For nearly two decades, the United States waged war in the jungles of Southeast Asia, attempting to thwart the rise of communist regimes in Vietnam. The basis for the fear of losing South Vietnam consisted of a “domino theory,” implying that if one country fell to communist control, neighbouring nations would soon follow suit. In other parts of the world, primarily Latin and South America, dictators were propped up one day, and systematically torn down the next. Referencing Gaddis Smith’s argument once again, the theoretical extension of the Monroe Doctrine from the Western Hemisphere to the entire globe was unveiling itself through US foreign policy during the Cold War.
There has been little debate regarding the significance of a change in the foreign policy bureaucracy following World War II. By 1950, the US had fully adopted a unilateral foreign policy set to combat Soviet expansion through diplomatic and military endeavours. However, the subsequent end to the Cold War developed into a much more ambiguous debate in the foreign policy arena. For some scholars, the debate yields a particularly simple question: “Are the structures and policies of US foreign policy appropriate to meet the needs of the United States as it heads into the twenty-first century?”  Ironically, the answer seems to lie not in the changes to US foreign policy but rather its continuity.
In 1988, President George H. W. Bush, “came to office prepared to administer over the Cold War…[and] had not assumed power in order to preside over a radical alteration of the nation’s foreign policy, let alone a transformation of its role in the world.”  Moreover was the extensive “Cold War resumé” Bush carried through from his political past. After having head the Central Intelligence Agency during a time when CIA foreign insurgencies and covert operations were at a peak, Bush assumed the vice presidency at the climax of Cold War relations with the Soviet Union. Hence, while the fall of the Berlin Wall and the economic deterioration of the Soviet Union signified a change in geopolitics, foreign policy at the end of the Cold War remained virtually consistent with propagating and therefore protecting American national interests on a global scale. But unlike official Cold War policy, where the constant threat of Soviet expansion could justify harsh or extreme measures to ensure the protection of American interests, the “new world order” entailed hegemonic prospects.
The test case for Bush’s “new world order” came in 1990 when Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait threatened America’s interests in the region. Under the old pretexts of the Cold War, the United States might have cautiously re-considered a full-scale invasion of Iraq given the small country’s ability to confer with the “Evil Empire” for support. However, the lacking presence of a Soviet threat in the “new world order” had seemingly “opened” the door for US foreign policy, irregardless of international scrutiny or a lack of moral compulsion. Furthermore, the role of the President continued to incorporate a justification for the protection of American interest through the similar “exceptional” rhetoric found in the doctrine of the country’s Founding Fathers. In May of 2003, after declaring American victory over Iraq from the deck of aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in his now infamous “flight suit” speech, President George W. Bush commemorated the history of America’s aspiration to combating those forces set to impede the progress of American hegemony:
Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition -- declared at our founding; affirmed in Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms; asserted in the Truman Doctrine and in Ronald Reagan's challenge to an evil empire. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope. When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life. American values and American interests lead in the same direction: We stand for human liberty…Thank you for serving our country and our cause. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless America. 
The great debates over American foreign policy have more often than not involved the notion of expansion, with great consideration surrounding the morality of the issue. However, whether it is the divine right and therefore dictated by omnipotent forces through “manifest destiny,” or the less romantic yet ever so vital necessity of protecting national interests; in one way or another, America has systematically expanded its sphere of influence beyond the eastern seaboard of North America from 1776 to 2004.
In this process, the United States has indeed succumbed to an “imperial temptation” as noted by foreign relation scholars Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson. However, contrary to their analysis that the United States has reverted from an original ideology that would negate the notion of “imperialism” in its classical definition, it has been this paper’s argument that the Founding Fathers instead looked to more simply replace the archaic European empires with something different, something unique. When this vision was initially conceived, a major threat to its prosperity was found in the very structures of colonialism it had escaped. Nevertheless, European supremacy dominated much of the globe until the end of World War II.
But throughout this era, the United States meticulously set in place a foreign policy that would ultimately replace the global grip of Europe’s control. With a shift in the balance of power after World War II came the adoption of the United States’ containment policy. For forty years, while the United States worked to “contain” communism, it also worked to extend its control of the “Third World” which had been a product of the collapsing colonial structures. As the walls of communism literally crumbled in 1989, a “new world order” was declared in light of significant progress made in erecting the American system.
Thus has the past been prelude. Unfortunately, the vision of a nation based on “exceptional” principles which would dictate its historical course now seems to have fallen victim to the universal maxims that govern “empire-driven” nation-states at any historical level. Eighteenth century’s Bernard Mandeville identified the problems incurred by the “exceptional” society when he wrote, “Fools only strive to make a Great an Honest Hive;” more bluntly, “Eutopia [is] seated in the brain.” 
In 2004, the quest for American hegemony appears to be slowly dissipating as the wake of the “new world order” begins to illustrate America’s limited “success.” However, as foreign policy continues to be based on the ideology of the Founding Fathers, and fuelled by a nationalism that corroborates its “exceptionalism,” the United States is perhaps the closest empire in history to ever have “absolute” hegemony in sight. Given the future painted by this outlook, the question arises, “How will historians perceive what can be considered the greatest foreign policy achievement ever?” Will they marvel at the nation’s accomplishments; or will they criticize the atrocities that occurred along the way? Regardless, the reality of jingoism inherent to US foreign policy has always sparked reaction from those who believe in the fallacy of American “exceptionalism.” Reflecting some years after the Spanish-American War, Emma Goldman, an American-anarchist and feminist, whose political consciousness was shaped during a time of extreme “imperial temptation,” said:
How our hearts burned with indignation against the atrocious Spaniards!…But when the smoke was over, the dead buried, and the cost of war came back to the people in an increase in the price of commodities and rent—that is, when we sobered up from our patriotic spree—it suddenly dawned on us that the cause of the Spanish-American war was the price of sugar…that the lives, blood, and money of the American people were used to protect the interests of the American capitalists. 
David Gonzales, 22, a contributor to the radical youth journal Left Hook, attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles last year for his BA in history and is now currently reading for Masters in American History from University of Sussex, England. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Tucker, Robert and Hendrickson, David. Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Oxford Press, 1990. p. viii.