Part of "a series on the
|"History of the
|"" "United States portal|
History of U.S. foreign policy is a brief overview of major trends regarding the foreign policy of the United States from the "American Revolution to the present. The major themes are becoming an ""Empire of Liberty", promoting democracy, "expanding across the continent, supporting "liberal internationalism, contesting World Wars and the "Cold War, fighting international terrorism, "developing" or exploiting the Third World, and building a strong world economy.
From the establishment of the United States after regional, not global, focus, but with the long-term ideal of creating an "Empire of Liberty."
The military and financial alliance with France in 1778, which brought in Spain and the Netherlands to fight the British, turned the "American Revolutionary War into a world war in which the British naval and military supremacy was neutralized. The diplomats—especially "Franklin, "Adams and "Jefferson—secured recognition of American independence and large loans to the new national government. The "Treaty of Paris in 1783 was highly favorable to the United States which now could expand westward to the Mississippi River.
Historian "Samuel Flagg Bemis was a leading expert on diplomatic history. According to Jerold Combs:
American foreign affairs from independence in 1776 to the new Constitution in 1789 were handled under the "Articles of Confederation directly by Congress until the new government created a department of foreign affairs and the office of secretary for foreign affairs on January 10, 1781.
The cabinet-level Department of Foreign Affairs was created in 1789 by the First Congress. It was soon renamed the Department of State and changed the title of secretary for foreign affairs to Secretary of State; "Thomas Jefferson returned from France to take the position.
When the French Revolution led to war in 1793 between Britain (America's leading trading partner), and France (the old ally, with a treaty still in effect), Washington and his cabinet decided on a policy of neutrality. In 1795 Washington supported the "Jay Treaty, designed by Treasury Secretary "Alexander Hamilton to avoid war with Britain and encourage commerce. The Jeffersonians vehemently opposed the treaty, but Washington's support proved decisive, and the U.S. and Britain were on friendly terms for a decade. However the foreign policy dispute polarized parties at home, leading to the "First Party System.
Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence therefore it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations & collisions of her friendships, or enmities. Our detached & distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course.
By 1797 the French were openly seizing American ships, leading to an undeclared war known as the "Quasi-War of 1798–99. President "John Adams tried diplomacy; it failed. In 1798, the French demanded American diplomats pay huge bribes in order to see the French Foreign Minister "Talleyrand, which the Americans rejected. The Jeffersonian Republicans, suspicious of Adams, demanded the documentation, which Adams released using X, Y and Z as codes for the names of the French diplomats. The "XYZ Affair ignited a wave of nationalist sentiment. Overwhelmed, the U.S. Congress approved Adams' plan to organize the navy. Adams reluctantly signed the "Alien and Sedition Acts as a wartime measure. Adams broke with the Hamiltonian wing of his "Federalist Party and made peace with France in 1800.
Thomas Jefferson envisioned America as the force behind a great "Empire of Liberty", that would promote "republicanism and counter the imperialism of the "British Empire. The "Louisiana Purchase of 1803, made by Jefferson in a $15 million deal with "Napoleon Bonaparte, doubled the size of the growing nation by adding a huge swath of territory west of the "Mississippi River, opening up millions of new farm sites for the yeomen farmers idealized by "Jeffersonian Democracy.
President "Jefferson in the "Embargo Act of 1807 forbid trade with both France and Britain, but his policy, largely seen as partisan in favor of agrarian interests instead of commercial interests, was highly unpopular in New England and ineffective in stopping bad treatment from British warships.
The Jeffersonians deeply distrusted the British in the first place, but the British shut down most American trade with France, and impressed into the Royal Navy about 6000 sailors on American ships who claimed American citizenship. American honor was humiliated by the British attack on the American warship the "Chesapeake in 1807.
In the west, Indians supported by Britain (but not under their control) used ambushes and raids to kill settlers, thus delaying the expansion of frontier settlements into the Midwest (Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, especially).
In 1812 diplomacy had broken down and the U.S. declared war on Britain. The "War of 1812 was marked by very bad planning and military fiascoes on both sides. It ended with the "Treaty of Ghent in 1815. Militarily it was a stalemate as both sides failed in their invasion attempts, but the Royal Navy blockaded the coastline and shut down American trade (except for smuggling supplies into British Canada). However the British achieved their main goal of defeating Napoleon, while the American armies defeated the Indian alliance that the British had supported, ending the British war goal of establishing a pro-British Indian boundary nation in the Midwest. The British stopped impressing American sailors and trade with France (now an ally of Britain) resumed, so the causes of the war had been cleared away. Especially after the great American victory at the Battle of New Orleans, Americans felt proud and triumphant for having won their "second war of independence." Successful generals Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison became political heroes as well. After 1815 tensions de-escalated along the U.S.-Canada border, with peaceful trade and generally good relations. Boundary disputes were settled amicably. Both the U.S. and Canada saw a surge in nationalism and national pride after 1815, with the U.S. moving toward greater democracy and the British postponing democracy in Canada.
In response to the new independence of Spanish colonies in Latin America in the early 19th century, the United States established the "Monroe Doctrine in 1823. This policy declared opposition to European interference in "the Americas and left a lasting imprint on the psyche of later American leaders. The failure of Spain to colonize or police Florida led to its purchase by the U.S. in 1821. "John Quincy Adams was the leading American diplomat of the era.
In 1846 after an intense political debate in which the expansionist Democrats prevailed over the Whigs, the U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas. Mexico never recognized that Texas had achieved independence and promised war should the U.S. annex it. President "James K. Polk peacefully resolved a border dispute with Britain regarding Oregon, then sent U.S. Army patrols into the disputed area of Texas. That triggered the "Mexican-American War, which the Americans won easily. As a result of the "Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 the U.S. acquired territory that included California, Arizona and New Mexico, and the Hispanic residents there were given full U.S. citizenship.
Every nation was officially neutral throughout the "American Civil War, and none recognized the Confederacy. That marked a major diplomatic achievement for Secretary Seward and the Lincoln Administration. France, under "Napoleon III, had invaded Mexico and installed a puppet regime; it hoped to negate American influence. France therefore encouraged Britain in a policy of mediation suggesting that both would recognize the Confederacy. Lincoln repeatedly warned that meant war. The British textile industry depended on cotton from the South, but it had stocks to keep the mills operating for a year and in any case the industrialists and workers carried little weight in British politics. Knowing a war would cut off vital shipments of American food, wreak havoc on the British merchant fleet, and cause the immediate loss of Canada, Britain, with its powerful Royal Navy, refused to go along with French schemes.
Lincoln's foreign policy was deficient in 1861 in terms of appealing to European public opinion. Diplomats had to explain that United States was not committed to the ending of slavery, but instead they repeated legalistic arguments about the unconstitutionality of secession. Confederate spokesman, on the other hand, were much more successful by ignoring slavery and instead focusing on their struggle for liberty, their commitment to free trade, and the essential role of cotton in the European economy. In addition, the European aristocracy (the dominant factor in every major country) was "absolutely gleeful in pronouncing the and American debacle as proof that the entire experiment in popular government had failed. European government leaders welcomed the fragmentation of the ascendant American Republic."
Elite opinion in Britain tended to favor "the Confederacy, while public opinion tended to favor the United States. Large scale trade continued in both directions with the United States, with the Americans shipping grain to Britain while Britain sent manufactured items and munitions. Immigration continued into the United States. British trade with the Confederacy was limited, with a trickle of cotton going to Britain and some munitions slipped in by numerous small blockade runners. The Confederate strategy for securing independence was largely based on the hope of military intervention by Britain and France, but Confederate diplomacy proved inept. With the announcement of the "Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, it became a war against slavery that most British supported.
A serious diplomatic dispute with the United States erupted over the ""Trent Affair" in late 1861. Public opinion in the Union called for war against Britain, but Lincoln gave in and sent back the diplomats his Navy had illegally seized.
British financiers built and operated most of the "blockade runners, spending hundreds of millions of pounds on them; but that was legal and not the cause of serious tension. They were staffed by sailors and officers on leave from the Royal Navy. When the U.S. Navy captured one of the fast blockade runners, it sold the ship and cargo as prize money for the American sailors, then released the crew.
A long-term issue was the British shipyard ("John Laird and Sons) building two warships for the Confederacy, including the "CSS Alabama, over vehement protests from the United States. The controversy was resolved after the Civil War in the form of the "Alabama Claims, in which the United States finally was given $15.5 million in arbitration by an international tribunal for damages caused by British-built warships.
In the end, these instances of British involvement neither shifted the outcome of the war nor provoked either side into war. The U.S. diplomatic mission headed by Minister "Charles Francis Adams, Sr. proved much more successful than the Confederate missions, which were never officially recognized.
Historian Don Doyle has argued that the Union victory had a major impact on the course of world history. The Union victory energized popular democratic forces. A Confederate victory, on the other hand, would have meant a new birth of slavery, not freedom. Historian Fergus Bordewich, following Doyle, argues that:
Relations with Britain (and Canada) were tense; Canada was negligent in allowing Confederates to raid Vermont. Confederation came in 1867, in part as a way to meet the American challenge without depending on British armed forces.
The U.S. looked the other way when Irish activists known as Fenians "tried and failed badly in an invasion of Canada in 1871. The arbitration of the Alabama Claims in 1872 provided a satisfactory reconciliation; The British paid the United States $15.5 million for the economic damage caused by Confederate warships purchased from it. Congress did pay Russia for the "Alaska Purchase in 1867, but otherwise rejected proposals for any major expansions, such as the proposal by President Ulysses Grant to acquire Santo Domingo.
"James G. Blaine, a leading Republican (and its losing candidate for president in 1884) was a highly innovative Secretary of State in the 1880s. By 1881, Blaine had completely abandoned his high-tariff "Protectionism and used his position as Secretary of State to promote freer trade, especially within the "western hemisphere. His reasons were twofold: firstly, Blaine's wariness of British interference in the Americas was undiminished, and he saw increased trade with "Latin America as the best way to keep Britain from dominating the region. Secondly, he believed that by encouraging exports, he could increase American prosperity. President Garfield agreed with his Secretary of State's vision and Blaine called for a Pan-American conference in 1882 to mediate disputes among the Latin American nations and to serve as a forum for talks on increasing trade. At the same time, Blaine hoped to negotiate a peace in the "War of the Pacific then being fought by "Bolivia, "Chile, and "Peru. Blaine sought to expand American influence in other areas, calling for renegotiation of the "Clayton-Bulwer Treaty to allow the United States to construct "a canal through Panama without British involvement, as well as attempting to reduce British involvement in the strategically located "Kingdom of Hawaii. His plans for the United States' involvement in the world stretched even beyond the Western Hemisphere, as he sought commercial treaties with "Korea and "Madagascar. By 1882, however, a new Secretary was reversing Blaine's Latin American initiatives.
Serving again as Secretary of State under "Benjamin Harrison, Blaine worked for closer ties with the "Kingdom of Hawaii, and sponsored a program to bring together all the independent nations of the Western Hemisphere in what became the "Pan-American Union.
Before 1892 senior diplomats from the United States to other countries, and from them to the U.S., were called "ministers." In 1892 four major European countries (Britain, France, Germany Italy) raise title of their chief diplomat to the US to "ambassador"; the US reciprocated in 1893.
In early 1893 the business community in "Kingdom of Hawaii overthrew the Queen and sought annexation by President "Harrison, who forwarded the proposal to the Senate for approval. But the newly elected President "Cleveland withdrew the proposed annexation; nevertheless, revolutionaries in Hawaii formed an independent "Republic of Hawaii. It voluntarily joined the U.S. as a territory in 1898 with full U.S. citizenship for its residents. It became the 50th state in 1959.
In the late 19th century, the U.S. began investment in new naval technology including steam-powered battleships with powerful armaments and steel decking.
In the mid 1890s American public opinion denounced the Spanish repression of the Cuban independence movement as brutal and unacceptable. The U.S. increased pressure and was dissatisfied with Spanish responses. When the American battleship the "USS Maine exploded for undetermined reasons in the harbor of "Havana, Cuba, on 15 February 1898, the issue became overwhelming and McKinley could not resist the demands for immediate action. Most Democrats and many Republicans demanded war to liberate Cuba. Almost simultaneously the two countries declared war. (Every other country was neutral.) The U.S. easily won the one-sided four-month-long "Spanish–American War from April through July. In the peace treaty of Paris the U.S. and took over the last remnants of the Spanish Empire, notably "Cuba, "Puerto Rico, the "Philippines and "Guam. It marked America's transition from a regional to a global power. Cuba was given independence under American supervision. However the permanent status of the Philippines became a heated political topic. Democrats, led by "William Jennings Bryan, had strongly supported the war but not strongly opposed annexation. McKinley was reelected and annexation was decided.
The U.S. Navy emerged as a major naval power thanks to modernization programs begun in the 1880s and adopted the sea power theories of Captain "Alfred Thayer Mahan. The Army remained small but was reorganized in the "Roosevelt Administration along modern lines and no longer focused on scattered forts in the West. The "Philippine–American War was a short operation to suppress insurgents and ensure U.S. control of the islands; by 1907, however, interest in the Philippines as an entry to Asia faded in favor of the "Panama Canal, and American foreign policy centered on the Caribbean. The 1904 "Roosevelt Corollary to the "Monroe Doctrine, which proclaimed a right for the United States to intervene to stabilize weak states in the Americas, further weakened European influence in Latin America and further established U.S. regional hegemony.
The outbreak of the "Mexican Revolution in 1910 ended a half century of peaceful borders and brought escalating tensions, as revolutionaries threatened American business interests and hundreds of thousands of refugees fled north. President "Woodrow Wilson tried using military intervention to stabilize Mexico but that failed. After Mexico in 1917 rejected Germany's invitation in the "Zimmermann Telegram to join in war against the U.S., relations stabilized and there were no more interventions in Mexico. Military interventions did occur in other small countries like Nicaragua, but were ended by the "Good Neighbor policy announced by President "Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, which allowed for American recognition of and friendship with dictatorships.
American foreign policy was largely determined by President "Woodrow Wilson, who had shown little interest in foreign affairs before entering the White House in 1913. His chief advisor was "Colonel" Edward House, who was sent on many top-level missions. With the outbreak of war in 1914, the United States declared neutrality and worked to broker a peace. It insisted on its neutral rights, which included allowing private corporations and banks to sell or loan money to either side. With the British blockade, there were almost no sales or loans to Germany, only to the "Allies. The widely publicized German atrocities in Germany Shocked American public opinion. Neutrality was supported by Irish-Americans, who hated Britain, by German Americans who wanted to remain neutral, and by women and the churches. It was supported by the more educated upscale "WASP element, led by Theodore Roosevelt. Wilson insisted on neutrality, denouncing both British and German violations, especially those German violations in which American civilians were killed. The German U-boat torpedoed the "RMS Lusitania in 1915. It sank in 20 minutes, killing killed 128 American civilians and over 1000 Britons. It was against the laws of war to sink any passenger ship without allowing the passengers to reach the life boats. American opinion turned strongly against Germany as a bloodthirsty threat to civilization. Germany apologized and repeatedly promised to stop attacks by its "U-boats, but reversed course in early 1917 when it saw the opportunity to strangle Britain by unrestricted submarine warfare. It also made overtures to Mexico, in the "Zimmermann Telegram, hoping to divert American military attention to south of the border. The German decision was not made or approved by the civilian government in Berlin, the by the military commanders and the Kaiser. They realized it meant war with the United States, but hoped to weaken the British by cutting off its imports, and strike a winning below with German soldiers transferred from the Eastern front, where Russia had surrendered. Following the repeated sinking of American merchant ships in early 1917, Wilson asked and obtained a declaration of war in April 1917. He neutralized the antiwar element by arguing this was a war With the main goal of ending aggressive militarism and indeed ending all wars. During the war the U.S. was not officially tied to the Allies by treaty, but military cooperation meant that the American contribution became significant in mid-1918. After the failure of the German spring offensive, as fresh American troops arrived in France at 10,000 a day, the Germans were in a hopeless position, and surrendered. Coupled with Wilson's "Fourteen Points in January 1918, the U.S. now had the initiative on the military, diplomatic and public relations fronts. "Wilsonianism-- Wilson's ideals--had become the hope of the world, including the civilian population Germany itself.
At the "peace conference at Versailles, Wilson tried with mixed success to enact his Fourteen Points. He was forced to accept British, French and Italian demands for financial revenge: Germany would be made to pay reparations that amounted to the total cost of the war for the Allies and admit guilt in humiliating fashion. It was a humiliating punishment for Germany which subsequent commentators thought was too harsh and unfair. Wilson succeeded in obtaining his main goal, a "League of Nations that would hopefully resolve all future conflicts before they caused another major war. Wilson, however, refused to consult with "Republicans, who took control of Congress after the 1918 elections and which demanded revisions protecting the right of Congress to declare war. Wilson refused to compromise with the majority party in Congress, or even bring any leading Republican to the peace conference. His personal enemy, Henry Cabot Lodge, now control the Senate. Lodge did support the league of Nations, but wanted provisions that would insist that only Congress could declare war on behalf of the United States. Wilson was largely successful in designing the new League of Nations, declaring it would be:
The League did go into operation, but the United States never joined. With a two-thirds vote needed, the Senate did not ratify either the original Treaty or its Republican version. Washington made separate peace treaties with the different European nations. Nevertheless, Wilson's idealism and call for self-determination of all nations had an effect on nationalism across the globe, while at home his idealistic vision, called "Wilsonianism" of spreading democracy and peace under American auspices had a profound influence on much of American foreign policy ever since.
In the 1920s, American policy was an active involvement in international affairs, while ignoring the League of Nations, setting up numerous diplomatic ventures, and using the enormous financial power of the United States to dictate major diplomatic questions in Europe.
The Republican presidents, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, avoided any political commitments or alliances with anyone else. They minimize contact with the League of Nations. However, as historian Jerald Combs reports their administrations in no way returned to 19th-century isolationism. The key Republican leaders:
The "Washington Naval Conference, was the most successful diplomatic venture the 1920s. It was held in Washington, under the Chairmanship of Secretary of State "Charles Evans Hughes from 12 November 1921 to 6 February 1922. Conducted outside the auspice of the League of Nations, it was attended by nine nations—the United States, Japan, China, France, Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Portugal "Soviet Russia was not invited to the conference. It focused on resolving misunderstandings or conflicts regarding interests in the Pacific Ocean and East Asia. The main achievement was a series of naval disarmament agreements agreed to by all the participants, that lasted for a decade. It resulted in three major treaties: "Four-Power Treaty, "Five-Power Treaty (the Washington Naval Treaty), the "Nine-Power Treaty, and a number of smaller agreements. These treaties preserved peace during the 1920s but Were not renewed, as the world scene turned increasingly negative after 1930.
The Dawes plan was the American solution to the crisis of reparations, in which France was demanding More money than Germany was willing to pay, so France occupied the key industrial Ruhr district of Germany with its army. The "Occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 Caused an international crisis; Germany deliberately hyperinflated currency, making the occupation highly expensive for France. The crisis was solved by a compromise brokered by the United States in the form of the "Dawes Plan in 1924. This plan, sponsored by American "Charles G. Dawes, set out a new financial scheme. New York banks loaned Germany hundreds of millions of dollars that it used to pay reparations and rebuild its heavy industry. France, Britain and the other countries used the reparations in turn to repay wartime loans they received from the United States. By 1928 Germany called for a new payment plan, resulting in the "Young Plan that established the German reparation requirements at 112 billion marks (US$26.3 billion) and created a schedule of payments that would see Germany complete payments by 1988. With the collapse of the German economy in 1931, reparations were "suspended for a year and in 1932 during the "Lausanne Conference they were suspended indefinitely. Between 1919 and 1932, Germany paid less than 21 billion marks in reparations. After 1953 West Germany "paid the entire remaining balance.
Since the turmoil of the Mexican revolution had died down, the Harding administration was prepared to normalize relations with Mexico. . Between 1911 and 1920 American imports from Mexico increased from $57,000,000 to $179,000,000 and exports from $61,000,000 to $208,000,000. Commerce Secretary "Herbert Hoover took the lead in order to promote trade and investments other than in oil and land, which had long dominated bilateral economic ties. President "Álvaro Obregón assured Americans that they would be protected in Mexico, and Mexico was granted recognition in 1923. A major crisis erupted in the mid-1930s when the Mexican government expropriated millions of acres of land from hundreds of American property owners as part of President "Lázaro Cárdenas's land redistribution program. No compensation was provided to the American owners. The emerging threat of the Second World War forced the United States to agree to a compromise solution. The US negotiated an agreement with President "Manuel Avila Camacho that amounted to a military alliance.
Small-scale military interventions continued after 1921 as the "Banana Wars tapered off. The Hoover administration began a goodwill policy and withdrew all military forces. President Roosevelt announced the ""Good Neighbor Policy" by which the United States would no longer intervene to promote good government, but would accept whatever governments were locally chosen. His Secretary of State "Cordell Hull endorsed article 8 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States; it provides that "no state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another".
In the 1930s, the United States entered the period of deep isolationism, rejecting international conferences, and focusing moment mostly on reciprocal tariff agreements with smaller countries of Latin America.
When the "Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, the United States remained neutral and banned arms sales to either side. This was in line with both American neutrality policies, and with "a Europe-wide agreement to not sell arms for use in the Spanish war lest it escalate into a world war. Congress endorsed the embargo by a near-unanimous vote. Only armaments were embargoed; American companies could sell oil and supplies to both sides. Roosevelt quietly favored the left-wing Republican (or "Loyalist") government, but intense pressure by American Catholics forced him to maintain a policy of neutrality. The Catholics were outraged by the systematic torture, rape and execution of priests, bishops, and nuns by anarchist elements of the Loyalist coalition. This successful pressure on Roosevelt was one of the handful of foreign policy successes notched by Catholic pressures on the White House in the 20th century.  Germany and Italy provided munitions, and air support, and troops to the "Nationalists, led by "Francisco Franco. The Soviet Union provided aid to the Loyalist government, and mobilized thousands of volunteers to fight, including several hundred from the United States in the "Abraham Lincoln Battalion. All along the Spanish military forces supported the nationalists, and they steadily pushed the government forces back. By 1938, however, Roosevelt was planning to secretly send American warplanes through France to the desperate Loyalists. His senior diplomats warned that this would worsen the European crisis, so Roosevelt desisted.
"Adolf Hitler and Franco mutually disliked one another, and Franco repeatedly repeatedly manipulated Hitler for his own benefit during World War Two. Franco sheltered Jewish refugees escaping through France and never turned over the Spanish Jews to Nazi Germany as requested, and when during the Second World War the Blue Division was dispatched to help the Germans, it was forbidden to fight against the Allies, and was limited only to fighting the Soviet.
President Roosevelt tried to avoid repeating what he saw as Woodrow Wilson's mistakes in World War I. He often made exactly the opposite decision. Wilson called for neutrality in thought and deed, while Roosevelt made it clear his administration strongly favored Britain and China. Unlike the loans in World War I, the United States made large-scale grants of military and economic aid to the Allies through "Lend-Lease, with little expectation of repayment. Wilson did not greatly expand war production before the declaration of war; Roosevelt did. Wilson waited for the declaration to begin a draft; Roosevelt started one in 1940. Wilson never made the United States an official ally but Roosevelt did. Wilson never met with the top Allied leaders but Roosevelt did. Wilson proclaimed independent policy, as seen in the 14 Points, while Roosevelt always had a collaborative policy with the Allies. In 1917, United States declared war on Germany; in 1941, Roosevelt waited until the enemy attacked at Pearl Harbor. Wilson refused to collaborate with the Republicans; Roosevelt named leading Republicans to head the War Department and the Navy Department. Wilson let General John J. Pershing make the major military decisions; Roosevelt made the major decisions in his war including the ""Europe first" strategy. He rejected the idea of an armistice and demanded unconditional surrender. Roosevelt often mentioned his role in the Wilson administration, but added that he had profited more from Wilson's errors than from his successes.
Political scientist "Roberta Wohlstetter explores why all American intelligence agencies failed to predict the attack on Pearl Harbor. The basic reason was that the Japanese plans were a very closely held secret. The attack fleet kept radio silence and was not spotted by anyone en route to Hawaii. There were air patrols over Hawaii, but they were too few and too ineffective to scan a vast ocean. Japan Navy spread false information-- using fake radio signals-- to indicate the main fleet was in Japanese waters, and suggested their main threat was north toward Russia. The U.S. had "MAGIC, which successfully cracked the Japanese diplomatic code. However, the Japanese Foreign Ministry and its diplomats were deliberately never told about the upcoming attack, so American intelligence was wasting its time trying to discover secrets through MAGIC American intelligence expected attacks against British and Dutch possessions, and were looking for those clues. At Pearl Harbor, they focused on predicting local sabotage. There was no overall American intelligence center -- the forerunner of the "Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was formed during. In 1941 no one coordinated the masses of information coming in from the Army, Navy, and State department, and from British and Dutch allies. The system of notification was flawed, so the what the sender thought was an urgent message did not appear urgent to the recipient. After the attack, congressional investigators identify and link together all sorts of small little signals pointing to an attack, while they discarded signals pointing in other directions. Even in hindsight there was so much confusion, noise, and poor coordination that Wohlstetter concludes no accurate predictions of the attack on Pearl Harbor was at all likely before December 7. 
The same pattern which emerged with the first world war continued with the second: warring European powers, blockades, official U.S. neutrality but this time President Roosevelt tried to avoid all of Wilson's mistakes. American policy substantially favored Britain and its allies, and the U.S. getting caught up in the war. Unlike the loans in World War I, the United States made large-scale grants of military and economic aid to the Allies through "Lend-Lease. Industries greatly expanded to produce war materials. The United States officially entered World War II against Germany, Japan, and Italy in December 1941, following the Japanese surprise "attack on Pearl Harbor. This time the U.S. was a full-fledged member of the "Allies of World War II, not just an "associate" as in the first war. During the war, the U.S. conducted military operations on both the Atlantic and Pacific fronts. After the war and devastation of its European and Asian rivals, the United States found itself in a uniquely powerful position due to the lack of damage to its domestic industries.
After 1945, the "isolationist pattern characterizing the inter-war period had ended for good. It was Franklin Roosevelt policy to establish a new international organization that would be much more effective than the old League of Nations, and avoid its flaws. He successfully sponsored the formation of the United Nations.
The United States was a major force in establishing the "United Nations in 1945, hosting a meeting of fifty nations in San Francisco. Avoiding the rancorous debates of 1919, where there was no veto, the US and the Soviet Union, as well as Britain, France and China, became permanent members of the "Security Council with veto power. The idea of the U.N. was to promote world peace through consensus among nations, with boycotts, sanctions and even military power exercised by the Security Council. It depended on member governments for funds and had difficulty funding its budget. In 2009, its $5 billion budget was funded using a complex formula based on "GDP; the U.S. contributed 20% in 2009. However, the United Nations' vision of peace soon became jeopardized as the international structure was rebalanced with the development and testing of nuclear weapons by major powers.
From the late 1940s until 1991, world affairs were dominated by the "Cold War, in which the U.S. and its allies faced the Soviet Union and its allies. There was no large-scale fighting but instead numerous regional wars as well as the ever-present threat of a catastrophic nuclear war.
In 1948 the United States enacted the "Marshall Plan, which supplied Western Europe --including Germany--with $13 billion USD in reconstruction aid. Staff on vetoed any participation by East European nations. A similar program was operated by the United States to restore the Japanese economy. The U.S. actively sought allies, which it subsidized with military and economic "foreign aid", as well as diplomatic support. Most nations aligned with either the Western or Eastern camp, but after 1960 the Soviets broke with China as the Communist movement worldwide became divided. Some countries, such as India and Yugoslavia, tried to be neutral. Rejecting the "rollback of Communism by force because it risked nuclear war, Washington developed a new strategy called "containment to oppose the spread of "communism. The containment policy was developed by U.S. diplomat "George Kennan in 1947. Kennan characterized the "Soviet Union as an aggressive, anti-Western power that necessitated containment, a characterization which would shape US foreign policy for decades to come. The idea of containment was to match Soviet aggression with force wherever it occurred while not using "nuclear weapons. The policy of containment created a bipolar, zero-sum world where the ideological conflicts between the Soviet Union and the United States dominated geopolitics. Due to the antagonism on both sides and each countries' search for security, a tense worldwide contest developed between the two states as the two nations' governments vied for global supremacy militarily, culturally, and influentially.
The Cold War was characterized by a lack of global wars but a persistence of regional "proxy wars, often fought between client states and proxies of the United States and Soviet Union. The "US also intervened in the affairs of other countries through a number of secret operations.
During the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy objectives, seeking to limit Soviet influence, involved the United States and its allies in the "Korean War, the "Vietnam War, and in the closing stages the policy of aiding anti-Soviet "Mujahideen forces in "Afghanistan ("Operation Cyclone). Diplomatic initiatives included the establishment of the "North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the opening of "People's Republic of China and "Détente. There were some successes for the U.S. during this period as well as some failures. In the 1980s under a program of extensive military spending led by President "Reagan, as well as by diplomatic overtures between Reagan and Soviet leader "Mikhail Gorbachev, a thaw resulted, which eventually led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union under an intelligent Soviet policy of "glasnost.
By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. had military and economic interests in every region of the globe. In March 1992, the "New York Times received leaked parts of a "Defense Policy Guidance" document prepared by two principal authors at the "U.S. Defense Department, "Paul Wolfowitz and "I. Lewis Libby. The policy document laid bare the post–Cold War framework through which U.S. foreign policy would henceforth be guided.
With the breakup of the Soviet Union into separate nations, and with the re-emergence of the nation of Russia, the world of pro-U.S. and pro-Soviet alliances broke down. Different challenges presented themselves, such as "climate change as well as the threat of "nuclear terrorism. Regional powerbrokers and dictators such as "Saddam Hussein in "Iraq challenged the peace with a surprise attack on the small nation of "Kuwait in 1991. President "George H. W. Bush organized a coalition of allied and Middle Eastern powers which successfully pushed back the invading forces, but stopped short of invading Iraq and capturing Hussein; as a result, the dictator was free to rule unchecked for another twelve years. After the "Gulf War, many scholars, such as "Zbigniew Brzezinski, claimed the lack of a new strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy resulted in many missed opportunities for its foreign policy. During the 1990s, the United States mostly scaled back its foreign policy budget as well as its cold war defense budget which amounted to 6.5% of GDP while focusing on domestic economic prosperity under President "Clinton, who succeeded in achieving a budget surplus for 1999 and 2000. The United States also served as a peacekeeper in the warring ethnic disputes in the former "Yugoslavia by cooperating as a "U.N. peacekeeper.
A decade of economic prosperity ended with the September 11, 2001 attacks on the "World Trade Center in New York City. The surprise attack by terrorists belonging to a militant "Al-Qaeda organization prompted a national mourning and paradigm shift in U.S. foreign policy. The focus on domestic prosperity during the 1990s gave way to a trend of "unilateral action under President "George W. Bush to combat what was seen to be the growing trend of fundamentalist "terrorism in the Middle East. The United States declared a "War on Terrorism. This policy dominated U.S. foreign policy over the last decade as the nation embarked on two military campaigns in the Middle East, in "Afghanistan and "Iraq. Although both campaigns attracted international support, particularly the fighting in Afghanistan, the scale and duration of the war has lessened the motivation of American allies. Furthermore, when no "WMDs were found after a military conquest of Iraq, there was worldwide skepticism that the war had been fought to prevent terrorism, and the "war in Iraq has had serious negative public relations consequences for the image of the United States. The ""Bush Doctrine" shifted diplomatic and security policy toward maximizing the spread of liberal political institutions and democratic values. The policy has been called “democratic realism,” “national security liberalism,” “democratic globalism,” or “messianic universalism.” The policy helped inspire democratic upheavals in the Middle East.
Across the world there was a transition from a "bipolar world to a "multipolar world. While the United States remains a strong power economically and militarily, rising nations such as China, India, and Brazil as well as Russia have challenged its dominance. Foreign policy analysts such as Nina Harchigian suggest that the six emerging big powers share common concerns: free trade, economic growth, prevention of terrorism, efforts to stymie nuclear proliferation. And if they can avoid war, the coming decades can be peaceful and productive provided there are no misunderstandings or dangerous rivalries.
In his first formal television interview as president, "Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world through an Arabic-language satellite TV network and expressed a commitment to repair relations that have deteriorated under the previous administration. Still under the Obama administration, American foreign policy has continued to irritate the Muslim world including one of its main allies, Pakistan.
But serious problems remain for the U.S. The "Mideast continues to fester with religious hatred and "Arab resentment of "Israel. The U.S. position is that the danger of "nuclear proliferation is more evident with nations such as "Iran and "North Korea openly flouting the international community by insisting on building nuclear weapons. Important issues such as "climate change, which require many governments to work together in sometimes tough solutions, present tough diplomatic challenges.