Unilateralist Foreign Policy and the American Public

Something I’ve been putting a lot of thought into lately is the Unilateralist tendency in the United States. The tendency to say, “This is how it is. We’d like you to agree with it, however this is how it is.”, I’ve found it striking that many of my friends who lean pretty far left tend to be more accepting of this idea, even if not wholly embracing it. I myself who tends toward pacifism on most things have even found myself thinking that this might be a good thing.

For me at least this is a major reason why I believe that civil liberties cannot be relaxed and why we must take the high road no matter what the circumstances. In fact our lack of taking the high road in many matters is one of the things that keeps my unilateralist tendency in check.

So the debate that I am presenting is this; Is there a strong unilateralist tendency among the American people at this point in time? Does the United States HAVE the power and influence to excercise this, and what kind of impact do you see this having on the future of the world political scene as a whole? Most importantly do you think that the US public has the will to support unilateralist initiatives in the near term that will inevitably have global consequences that will reach far into the next few hundred years and will be remembered as what the United States did when it was the pre-eminent power on the planet.


What is the connection between civil liberties and unilateralist foreign policy?

Of course. The US has always had a strong unilateralist streak in foreign policy. The Monroe Doctrine is a classic example of extreme unilateralism - the British (the premier power of the time) wanted it to be a joint declaration and Monroe told them to take a hike, and we didn’t consult the Latin Americans about it.
George Washington himself gave the stamp of approval to unilateralism with his admonition against “entangling alliances”.

The unilateralist streak likely has its roots in American exceptionalism, was nursed along by American distaste for the scheming, undemocratic imperialism of the European powers of the 19th Century, and reached its peak with American isolationism in the inter-war period.

Quite frankly, the multilateralism of the Cold War period is the abberation in American diplomatic history.


Ah, Manifest Destiny.

From Sua sponte:

Basically the idea that we stick to our ethics, is what I was trying to get at. Such as trying war prisoners who are in Guantanemo and not holding people in prison just because they are arab and have visa irregularities. Those sorts of things. However, let’s not hijack it to be about this particular statement.


Actually it was Jefferson’s turn of words that justified an ‘isolationist’ policy of avoiding foreign entanglements, not George Washington.

He warned against “permanent alliance” in his Farewell Address in 1796; it was Tom Jefferson who wrote in 1801 for his Inaugural Address:

“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship, with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”

Small point, but an important one I think.

So with these little cites of historical data on American Unilateralism. What do you think of the current non-isolationist unilateralism that we are engaging in. I mean as far as future ramifications. Also do you see that there is a very major trend toward it? Or am I basing my observatiosn on too small of a spectrum? If there is a trend is it widespread enough to have a major long term impact do you say?