African Americans

Race and foreign affairs have intersected at numerous points in U.S. history.

Alliances, Coalitions, and Ententes

During the end of the 1990s, globalism for most Americans meant an exhilarating combination of political security and economic prosperity. The Cold War had dissipated, while wages and profits seemed on an endless uptick.

Ambassadors, Executive Agents, and Special Representatives

International relations involve negotiations between the governments of nation-states, which are conducted by their executive branches under the auspices of their heads of government. Since each state is sovereign, agreement is reached only when the parties involved in an issue reach unanimous agreement among themselves.


"America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy," Secretary of State John Quincy Adams told his audience during a Fourth of July oration in 1821. "She is the well-wisher of the freedom and independence of all.

Arbitration, Mediation, and Conciliation

American statesmen learned early that the discussions of diplomats and the conclusion of treaties are not always sufficient to settle international disputes peacefully. Their search for other methods of peaceful settlement began during the administration of George Washington and has been a continuing concern in the conduct of the foreign relations of the Republic since that time.

Armed Neutralities

One of the more difficult problems attached to all wars is that of relations between belligerents and neutrals. In land wars the question is not of such magnitude, although Switzerland is probably the only nation to have arrived at a satisfactory solution.

Arms Control and Disarmament

Historians have been slow to grasp the significant, occasionally dominating, role that arms control negotiations played in Cold War diplomacy—a situation undoubtedly the result of the often mind-numbing technical aspects of these lengthy deliberations. In the prenuclear era, political disputes might spark threatening military buildups, but political dimensions remained the focus of subsequent negotiations.

Arms Transfers and Trade

Arms transfers and trade—both imports and exports—have been a significant issue in American foreign policy since the revolutionary war. During the Revolution and in the decades immediately following, the United States was primarily concerned with the import of arms, in order to equip its nascent military forces.


John Bassett Moore, the greatest American international lawyer of his age, wrote in his monumental Digest of International Law (1906): "No legal term in common use is perhaps so lacking in uniformity and accuracy of definition as the 'right of asylum.' " A century later, the same can still be said. Asylum, originally conceived as a right claimed by an individual fugitive, is now more readily regarded as a privilege abused by hordes of foreigners, self-styled refugees seeking to avoid the immigration restrictions of beneficent countries.

Balance of Power

The balance of power appears at first sight a simple concept. It has been defined as "a phrase in international law for such a 'just equilibrium' between the members of the family of nations as should prevent any one of them from becoming sufficiently strong to enforce its will upon the rest." Yet the phrase has always been of more use in political polemic than in political analysis.

The Behavioral Approach to Diplomatic History

When it comes to the ability to understand and predict events of importance, students and practitioners of American diplomacy manifest a fair degree of ambivalence. On the one hand, we find many bold efforts to explain why certain events unfolded as they did, and, on the other, we find frequent statements to the effect that these phenomena are so complex as to defy comprehension.


In the United States, foreign and domestic affairs are inextricably intertwined. Because they are responsible to the electorate, presidents and secretaries of state must take into account public opinion when they shape foreign policy.


Blockade, historically speaking, has been a maritime measure, to restrict entrance to a harbor or its environs. The word has been stretched to include entire countries.

The China Lobby

"China lobby" is a pejorative phrase first applied in the 1940s to a disparate collection of Chinese and Americans who tried to influence the people and government of the United States on behalf of the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jie-shī;) and in opposition to the Chinese communists. Opponents of aid to the Nationalists commonly used the term to imply that Chiang's American supporters were paid and that their activities were coordinated by Chiang and other officials of his government or members of his family.

Civil War Diplomacy

The importance of diplomacy during the American Civil War has long been underestimated. Both Northerners, who were committed to the preservation of the Union, and Southerners, determined to create a new nation, understood that without support from Europe, the secession movement in the United States was doomed.

Cold War Evolution and Interpretations

Interpreting the history of the Cold War has been a notoriously controversial pursuit. New evidence, unearthed in recent years from archives on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific, has not resolved old debates, but it has added immensely to our collective knowledge.

Cold War Origins

Since the astonishing disintegration of its empire in eastern Europe in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union itself, "Cold War" has widely come to designate the entire postwar period in international relations from 1945 onward, during which the tense relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union formed the pivot of world politics. The end of one side, then, evidently ended the relationship as such and thus the period as well.

Cold Warriors

Architects of the conflict that gripped the world for nearly fifty years, cold warriors were the men, and few women, who gave shape to the ongoing conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1989. They built the Cold War's institutions, forged its diplomacy, oversaw its military flare-ups and its diplomatic stand-downs, and supplied its fierce rhetoric and its silent espionage.

Cold War Termination

Most historians and foreign policy analysts in 1981 did not anticipate that within a decade the Cold War would be over and that it would end with relatively little violence and the end of the Soviet Union. Instead, they expected, like this author, to keep teaching their courses on the Cold War with new sections such as "Renewed Containment," "Détente II," and "Cold War IV." The widespread failure to remember the fundamental historical principle that change is continuous no matter how rigid and intractable problems appear to contemporaries led most historians to view the Cold War as an evolving but never-ending reality of international relations.

Collective Security

Collective security may be defined as a plan for maintaining peace through an organization of sovereign states, whose members pledge themselves to defend each other against attack. The idea emerged in 1914, was extensively discussed during World War I, and took shape rather imperfectly in the 1919 Covenant of the League of Nations and again in the Charter of the United Nations after World War II.

Colonialism and Neocolonialism

Traditionally, colonialism is understood to refer to an area of the world acquired by conquering the territory or settling it with inhabitants of the nation holding it in control, thereby imposing physical control over the region and its population. There are two ways this condition may be terminated: the area may be freed of the control of the colonial power by allowing it to become an independent nation, or if the area is absorbed into the borders of the controlling nation.

Congressional Power

Executive agents dominated the international environment into which the newly independent United States entered. Absolute monarchs ruled in Prussia, Russia, and Austria, vested with nearly absolute control of their nation's conduct in world affairs.


As generally found in world affairs, consortia are multinational cooperative ventures designed to cope with some common problem, ostensibly apolitical. The best-known consortia, the socalled China consortiums, were banking syndicates—combinations of banking groups from several countries.

The Constitution

There is no comprehensive grant of a foreign affairs authority in the U.S. Constitution.


The containment doctrine, with its ambiguities and imprecision, was a major strategy and the guiding conception in American foreign policy from shortly after World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989–1991, and some might argue that containment remained a policy into the twenty-first century for the United States in dealing with communist regimes in Cuba, North Korea, and China. In its most general form, containment denotes the American effort, by military, political, and economic means, to resist communist expansion throughout the world.

Continental Expansion

A special providence, some believe, has looked after the affairs of the United States through its history. If this is so, part of the concern has been geographical, for Americans have taken over more than one-third of North America, including much of its best land—a broad swath stretching from sea to sea across almost twenty degrees of latitude.

The Continental System

The continental system was the name given to those measures of Napoleon Bonaparte taken between 1806 and 1812 that were designed to disrupt the export trade of Great Britain and ultimately to bring that country financial ruin and social breakdown. This term likewise refers to Bonaparte's plan to develop the economy of continental Europe, with France to be the main beneficiary.

Covert Operations

Unlike many concepts in foreign affairs, the secret, sub rosa practice of covert operations has a formal definition officially approved by the president of the United States and embodied in a National Security Council (NSC) directive. According to NSC Directive 10/2, approved on 18 June 1948, a covert operation is an activity sponsored by the United States government against foreign states or groups that is so planned and executed that U.S.

Cultural Imperialism

Jamie Uys's humorous yet moving film The Gods Must Be Crazy narrates the story of what happens when a pilot flying across the Kalahari Desert of Botswana drops a Coca-Cola bottle into the midst of a tribal group. The confused aboriginals explain the object as a gift from the gods.

Cultural Relations and Policies

Cultural relations may be defined as interactions, both direct and indirect, among two or more cultures. Direct interactions include physical encounters with people and objects of another culture.

Decision Making

American foreign policy may be studied from a variety of perspectives. Historical narrative, institutional analysis, issue area examination, rational choice theory, study of ideational and legal evolution, gendered perspectives, and Realpolitik accounts are all valid and useful approaches to understanding not only American foreign policy but the foreign policy of any nation.

Department of Defense

A major change in the conduct of American foreign policy after World War II was the growing involvement of the military, represented by the Department of Defense. The explanation stems in part from the heightened concern for national security during the postwar period when much of the U.S.

Department of State


In one form or another, deterrence is a motivational force in many everyday relationships: a child learns not to misbehave for fear of being scolded by its parents; a potential criminal might decide against committing a crime for fear of being caught and punished; a nation may choose one foreign policy course over another out of fear of military or economic retaliation; or an international alliance may threaten war if any one of its members is attacked. In each case, one party has influenced the choice of another by threatening consequences that outweigh gains.

Development Doctrine and Modernization Theory

Modernization theory, sometimes called development doctrine, supplied the working concepts through which the United States understood its obligations to unindustrialized, newly independent nations in the last half of the twentieth century. Described as both an ideology and a discourse, modernization comprised a changeable set of ideas and strategies that guided policies toward foreign aid, trade, nationalism, and counterinsurgency.


One of the most persistent and difficult problems that has faced the makers of American foreign policy, particularly in the twentieth century, has been the conflict between the desire to encourage democracy abroad and the need to protect perceived American interests around the world. Since its founding, the United States has been philosophically dedicated to supporting democracies and human rights abroad.

Dissent in Wars

"These men are not being supported as we were supported in World War I." So the Vietnam War appeared in contrast to the crusade of 1917–1918 to a speaker addressing a reunion of the First Infantry Division in 1969 and reported by the military journalist Ward Just. American military men who fought in Vietnam widely believed that wartime dissent of unprecedented intensity uniquely denied them the support of their compatriots at home.


Since virtually the earliest days of its existence, the United States has seen fit to announce in grandiose fashion its intentions and purposes to the world at large. The Declaration of Independence, for instance, the grandest statement of all, took aim at a foreign audience more than a domestic one.

Dollar Diplomacy

In his final message to Congress on 3 December 1912, President William Howard Taft looked back at the foreign policy followed by the United States during his administration and noted: "The diplomacy of the present administration has sought to respond to modern ideas of commercial intercourse. This policy has been characterized as substituting dollars for bullets.

The Domino Theory

Vietnamese communist leaders founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945, but it took them until 1975 to achieve control of the whole country. For most of that thirty-year period, there were people who argued that communist control of Vietnam must be blocked, not just for the sake of Vietnam itself, but to prevent communism from spreading through Vietnam to other countries.