David F. Schmitz

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. This commitment is found in the most important documents and treaties of the nation, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has been proclaimed by presidents and secretaries of state since George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In addition, from its inception, the United States has been an expansive nation territorially, economically, and culturally. As a result, the American desire to promote democracy abroad has often conflicted with the support of dictatorships that promised stability, protected American trade and investments, and aligned themselves with Washington against enemies of the United States. American foreign policymakers have often supported right-wing dictatorships in their efforts to protect what they see as the national interest while opposing communist regimes and left-wing dictators. Dictatorships on the left have been seen as opposing both American political ideals and material interests. They have been, therefore, consistently criticized and opposed by the United States.


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See also Containment ; Development Doctrine and Modernization Theory ; Human Rights ; Race and Ethnicity ; Recognition ; Self-Determination .

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