Foreign Affairs
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There was a time when the rest of the world was practically nonexistent to American presidents. America’s foreign affairs policy was originally predicated on a strict non-interventionist policy, as outlined by the first American president, George Washington, most memorably, in his 1796 Farewell Address, where he said that “the great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion [sic] as possible.” However, Washington also noted that “we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.”

Several years later, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural address on March 4, 1801, officially included non-interventionism into his foreign policy, advocating “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” Jefferson’s protégé, James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, solidified the foreign policy of the United States of America in 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine, which would go on to guide the actions of subsequent American presidents for almost a century.

The first crack in the United States’ isolationism appeared during World War I, when German U-boats began targeting American commercial vessels, culminating with the sinking of the William P. Frye and Lusitania, and the near-sinking of the oil tanker, Gulflight. However, for all intents and purposes, the American non-interventionist foreign policy officially ended during World War II with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Some indeed still hold to the now somewhat obvious delusion that we of the United States can safely permit the United States to become a lone island, a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force. Such an island may be the dream of those who still talk and vote as isolationists. Such an island represents to me and to the overwhelming majority of Americans today a helpless nightmare, the helpless nightmare of a people without freedom; yes, the nightmare of a people lodged in prison, handcuffed, hungry, and fed through the bars from day to day by the contemptuous, unpitying masters of other continents.” - President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Virginia, June 10, 1940

In the aftermath of World War II, the Cold War (1945-1991) began to take shape. For the next 46 years, the threat of communism and a nuclear apocalypse saw the United States signing military alliances with at least 60 countries and deploying over two million troops around the world. Alongside the Soviet Union, the United States became the biggest player in international politics – a role it hasn’t shed since.

Despite the end of the Cold War in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, global politics has continued to be an exceptionally complex political, economic and cultural minefield. Moreover, the international landscape has changed drastically since the more ‘simple’ days of the Cold War - especially following the September 11 attacks. Threats are no longer limited to centralized states, the actors number in excess of 200 (nations and groups), and the conflicts vary wildly in terms of cause, size and locations.

The United States currently has military assets in 134 nations, and the State Department’s over 15,000 Foreign Service Officers are based in every friendly and neutral countries and territories around the world. While the Secretary of State and the State Department are the ‘public faces’ of - and takes the lead - in U.S foreign affairs, the President of the United States is ultimately in charge of the country’s foreign relations, with the "advice and consent" of the Senate (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution) and support from the 18-member National Security Council.

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Jill Stein


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