US HISTORY: US Foreign Policy

Quote of TRUTH“Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.” – John F. Kennedy

What is Foreign Policy?: “Foreign policy???” you may find yourself asking. I shall soon clear up the definition for you. Foreign policy is the “goals, values, and strategies that guide how a nation acts towards other nations”. Basically, nations have neighbors (which are the other nations) and foreign policy is what they want to achieve and how they do it involving their “neighbors”.

Who creates Foreign Policy in the US?:  We have the constitution divide the power of foreign policy between the Congress (legislative branch) and the President (executive branch) so that no one branch becomes too strong. The president:

  • is the commander of the military
  • decides who should run the military
  • decides what actions to take
  • has the power to make treaties
  • meets up with leaders from others nations

While the Congress:

  • regulates trade with other nations
  • has the power to declare war
  • maintains the military
  • decides whether or not to approve treaties

Who influences Foreign Policy in the US?: 

  • Government advisors
  • Military officials
  • Businesses
  • Corporations
  • Interest groups in the US:
    • Journalists
    • Missionaries
    • Anti-war Protestors
    • Environmentalists
    • Digital Citizens
  • Other nations & their leaders

What are the goals and values of US foreign policy?:  Remember how I mentioned that foreign policy involves and is compromised of the goals our nation wants to achieve? Well, here is a list of those goals:

  • Increase wealth, land, or power of the US
  • Protect US citizens from outside threats
  • Spread democracy to people in other countries 
  • Help other nations
  • Help people who are suffering 
  • Respecting self-determination (this is the nations right to govern themselves)

What are the strategies to achieve these goals?: Since we’ve gone through some of the goals, we shall now look at the different ways and strategies taken to achieve them:

  • Diplomacy:
    • This is usually the first option when approaching a goal (and, in my opinion, should always be the first option)
    • This is used to persuade and negotiate with other nations
    • This would be a peaceful and humane way of dealing with a subject 
  • Financial:
    • This is giving or withholding financial help or trade with other nations
  • Military
    • This option is most likely used as last resort
    • This would be used to:
      • Invade
      • Defend
      • Occupy
      • Threaten other nations

Presidents & their Foreign Policy:

Theodore Roosevelt’s Foreign policy: Carry a big stick

Roosevelt would say to “speak softly and carry a big stick, [and] you will go far.”. Roosevelt Corollary was preventative intervention. The US would intervene in Latin America in order to keep European powers out of the Western Hemisphere. The result of the Corollary would be the justification of all interventions. US Marines will be sent multiple times to Latin America countries, which then Latin American countries would view this as American oppression.

Roosevelt was not afraid to show how Americans were strong. He acted as a mediator in the Russo-Japanese War. He even sent the US Navy to protect the Panamanian revolt in 1903. And, to show of American Naval power, Roosevelt ordered the Great White Fleet on a highly visible voyage around the world in 1907.

William H. Taft’s Foreign policy: Dollar Diplomacy

Wall Street bankers and other major US corporations were being encouraged by the federal government to invest in foreign countries which were a strategic concern to the US. The idea was that the dollar would replace Roosevelt’s big stick.

The Caribbean was the main area of US strategic importance. The US kept putting more and more money into this area to keep other countries out and uphold the Monroe Doctrine. However, the policy failed when civil distress broke out in Cuba, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. President Taft had to send in the Marines to protect American investments due to the situation.

Woodrow Wilsons’s Foreign policy: Moral Diplomacy

President Wilson had the belief that the US would be the world’s conscience. He strongly knew that the goal of American foreign policy would be to spread democracy and the promotion of peace. He despised Roosevelt’s big stick and Taft’s dollar diplomacy.

Wilson sent the Marines to Haiti (1914-1933) and the Dominican Republic (1916-1924). The spread of democracy sometimes required military action.


Milestones of US Foreign Policy:

  • 1796, Washington’s Farewell Address:
    • President Washington promoted neutrality
    • President Washington advises Americans to avoid entangling alliances with European nations
    • Due to this policy, US was able to keep out of the war with France and England in 1812
  • 1812, War of 1812:
    • Congress declared war against British to stop impressments of American sailors
    • a.k.a the “Second War of Independence”
    • Americans were able to preserve their freedom
    • This war ended in December 1814
  • 1823, Monroe Doctrine:
    • President Monroe announces that American would oppose attempts by European powers to re-conquer former colonies which are independent
    • European nations were warned to stay out of the Western Hemisphere
    • This doctrine was used by the US later on to justify its interference in the Caribbean
  • 1840s, Manifest Destiny:
    • President James Polk used aggressive foreign policy
    • Treaties, purchases, and the war with Mexico were included in this
    • The goal was to gain all lands to the Pacific ocean and to fulfill America’s Manifest Destiny
  • 1898, Spanish American War:
    • Americans went to war with Spain to help Cuba win its independence after the sinking of the Maine
    • The US won the war and gained the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and others

And, that’s just the beginning! Foreign Policy is still used today. Very interesting, right? Indeed. That’s it for now 🙂

Yours truly,


© Elizabeth Anne Villoria