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Describe the Development of American Foreign Policy and Military Involvement From the Spanish American War to the Second Gulf War, by Concentrating on American Attitudes Toward War, the Political Means by Which the U.S. Government Waged War, and the Outcomes of Each Conflict

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During the first 50 years of the nation, diplomats were guided by the idea that the United States should observe political isolation from European powers during peacetime and maintain strict neutrality during periods of war. Years before, Benjamin Franklin had summed up this point when he wrote: “A virgin state should preserve its virgin character and not go suitoring for alliances, but wait with decent dignity for the application of others.”

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The period from 1890-1920, known as the Progressive Era, marks a period in U.S. history when the country underwent multiple changes. Population growth, waves of immigrants, advances in industry, and other factors led many Americans to the conclusion that the country’s governmental systems needed to be radically altered in order to better fit the interests of the nation. The country not only amended many of its domestic policies, it also developed a new strategy concerning foreign affairs that differed from the traditional stances of the Founding Era. One such alteration was an increase in the country’s willingness to take military action in foreign conflicts. As such, the Progressive Era marks a time period in which the United States began to practice a foreign policy that was international in its scope and did not focus solely on defending American citizens and their property. The Spanish-American War (1898) epitomized this shift toward global intervention. The United States entered the war for various reasons, but at its heart, the conflict was motivated by the desire to promote the ideals of civilization, democracy, and freedom around the world. The traditional policy the country followed from the founding of the country up until the Progressive Era certainly promoted these principles globally but encouraged neutrality in foreign wars unless U.S

citizens or their property faced duress. Fearing the cost of a large, professional army, as well as the dangers a power-hungry general with a large force behind him might pose to the republic, the Founders favored limiting foreign military involvement. By focusing instead on defending the country, military forces and costs would not need to be so large. Multiple factors, however, including increased military strength, the desire to promote Western civilization, and globalization led to a shift in policy. During the Progressive Era, the United States took a more active role in international affairs by fighting around the world in the name of ideals as opposed to merely the defense of the homeland.

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There was a remarkable increase in U.S

engagement in peace initiatives during the post World War One, and this formed its key agenda in foreign relations. President Wilson came up with guidelines that were used in ending the First World War. The European powers had a meeting in Paris in 1919 in which they discussed the ways of solving the disputes which had previously led to war among them. “The Versailles Treaty was signed by the countries that attended the conference but U.S. government did not” (Hastedt 120). This is because the US government felt that some of the members had contradicted some of steps which governed the treaty. U.S. also managed to carry out the disarmament program successfully in 1920s and it also helped Germany to reconstruct its economy which had been ruined by over engagement in war. U.S. tried to continue pursuing the policy of “isolation” during 1930s. However, President Roosevelt joined the Allied powers during the Second World War and they managed to win it. Japan was forcefully removed from China by U.S. and they also stopped its possible invasion of the Soviet Union. “Japan was greatly humiliated and it reacted by an attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and the United States was at war with Japan, Germany, and Italy” (Carter 190). The economy of U.S greatly improved after the second war, while the other European countries grappled with economic challenges. It was now one of the greatest countries and its power and influence was felt in many countries. Imperialism was also partially practiced by U.S. “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 countries” (Carter 74). The US government in many cases declined to engage in signing treaties. For example it refused to be part of the “League of Nations” (Kaufman 67).

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On balance, United States foreign policy has changed dramatically from George Washington's day. Although Americans always pay attention to the advice of their revered founder, the world is of course not the same. The many people that shape American foreign policy today accept the fact that the United States is a member of a world community that cannot afford to ignore the importance of getting along.

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Carter, Ralph. Contemporary cases in U.S. foreign policy: from terrorism to trade. Washington D.C: Press College, 2010.

Hastedt, Glenn. American foreign policy. New York: Longman, 2010.

Kaufman, Joyce. A concise history of U.S. foreign policy. New York: Rowman and Littlefield , 2009.

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