Marc Jay Selverstone

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. Subsequent declarations, often imbued with a millennial vision and a sense of exceptionalism, continued to broadcast the nation's principles far and wide. The emergence of the United States as a global power endowed those statements with increasing authority, for Americans as well as for those abroad. In time they came to take on the status of "doctrine," establishing the precepts of U.S. foreign policy.

For the most part, these doctrines sought to address immediate crises. Each involved diplomatic statements of intent; several of them spelled out specific actions in support of those intentions. For the most part, they sought to ground themselves in the traditions and lore of the American past. In an effort to establish that continuity, presidents have frequently referred to previous statements of policy, offering their own approaches as contemporary applications of enduring principles. Most of these declarations have carried weighty ideological content, venerating "free peoples" and the virtues of liberty. Yet they have been equally grounded in the language of national security, promoting the survival and safety of the American way. As a whole, they offer a thumbnail sketch of the history of American diplomacy.


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See also Colonialism and Neocolonialism ; Containment ; Continental Expansion ; Intervention and Nonintervention ; Isolationism ; The Munich Analogy ; The National Interest ; Recognition .

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