Oil was an integral part of U.S. foreign policy in the twentieth century, and its influence has shown no sign of diminishing in the twenty-first century.

Open Door Interpretation

A significant number of historians and other commentators have viewed the Open Door Notes of 1899 and 1900 as the culmination of earlier attitudes, objectives, and policies, and as a coherent and decisive formulation of the major forces affecting American diplomacy during the century after 1865. But such people are too different (and too separated in time) to be jumbled together as a school.

Open Door Policy

As he surveyed East Asian affairs in the first months of 1899, Secretary of State John Hay saw few reasons for optimism. America's main rivals for influence in that part of the world—Russia, Japan, Germany, France, and Great Britain—bristled with imperial ambition as China, weakened by war and rebellion, steadily lost its capacity to resist them.

Organized Labor

An oft-quoted blue collar worker, questioned about international issues by pollsters in the 1940s, quipped: "Foreign Affairs! That's for people who don't have to work for a living." Given the complexity of the world order that emerged in the aftermath of World War II and the long hours that most working people labored, such sentiments are easy to understand.

Outer Space

For years the issue of international competition and cooperation in space has dominated much space exploration policy. Indeed, it is impossible to write the history of spaceflight without discussing these themes in detail.


The meaning of "pacifism" was altered in Anglo-American usage during World War I. Before 1914 the word was associated with the general advocacy of peace, a cause that had enlisted leaders among the Western economic and intellectual elite and socialist leadership.


According to Joseph B. Lockey, the closest student of Pan-Americanism's early days, the adjective "Pan-American" was first employed by the New York Evening Post in 1882, and the noun "Pan-Americanism" was coined by that same journal in 1888.

Party Politics

"A splendid little war," John Hay called the 1898 conflict between Spain and the United States. It was splendid, he told his fellow Republicans Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, because it had moved things "our way." In other words, military victory and overseas expansion were helping President William McKinley and his Republican administration against William Jennings Bryan's Democrats.


"Peacemaking" appears to be a commonplace term, easily understood and frequently used in public discourse and in peace movements. The Internet reports more than 50,000 entries containing the term "peacemaking." On closer examination, it is much more elusive.

Peace Movements

The idea of peace is ancient, reaching back to the beginnings of organized society and perhaps even earlier; but until the Renaissance it had not passed beyond the stage of individual thought. Society was rural, save for a few towns and cities.


The idea of philanthropy, of concern for the welfare of the human race, has from the beginning been so tightly interwoven with other aspects of the American experience that the strand is difficult to disentangle. To many, the survival of the colonies and the success of the new nation were works of philanthropy: John Winthrop, colonial governor of Massachusetts, spoke of the "city on a hill"; aspiring revolutionaries felt themselves to be forwarding "humanity's extended cause"; to the young Herman Melville "national selfishness [was] unbounded philanthropy"; to Abraham Lincoln the nation was the last best hope of earth.

Post–cold War Policy

While the precise dates that marked the beginning and the end of the Cold War remain the subjects of scholarly debate, the era's major foreign policy focus was unambiguous: containing the spread of Soviet power and international communism by supporting friendly governments with aid, arms, and, occasionally, troops; deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and its allies; and supporting economic institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund created at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. Deprived of a global enemy, American foreign policy since the Cold War seemingly became more diffuse, perhaps even incoherent.

Power Politics

On the level of international politics, power can take many forms, from moral suasion to the carrot of economic benefits to the stick of sanctions or military force. "Power politics" is one of the more equivocal terms in the lexicon of international affairs.

Presidential Advisers

In his foreword to Decision-Making in the White House by Theodore C. Sorensen, President John F.

Presidential Power

From the founding of the United States to the present, concerned citizens have debated the breadth of presidential power in foreign affairs. The Founders, from their reading of European history and their experience with the English Crown, feared extensive executive authority.

The Press

Officially, American foreign policy is made by the executive branch of the federal government, led by the president, and by Congress, with rare involvement by the Supreme Court. Unofficially, other institutions—notably interest groups and the press (including electronic media as well as the print media)—typically play a large role in the often lengthy and politically charged policymaking process in Washington.


The United States has utilized propaganda techniques repeatedly through its history, particularly during periods of war and international crisis. As early as the revolutionary period, Americans evinced a shrewd grasp of the utility of propaganda as an instrument of foreign policy.

Protection of American Citizens Abroad

In December 1995 Peruvian police arrested and jailed twenty-one members of a terrorist group, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Among those jailed was Lori Berenson, an American woman, then twenty-seven years old, accused of having conspired with leaders of the MRTA to seize and hold members of Peru's Congress as hostages who would be exchanged for imprisoned members of the MRTA.

Protectorates and Spheres of Influence

The word "protectorate" usually describes the relation between a protecting state and a protected state, though it sometimes may describe the country under protection. In a protectorate relationship, the protecting state normally assumes control of the foreign relations of the protected state in addition to providing for its defense.

Public Opinion

The public's role in the American foreign policy process is a controversial subject. Generations of diplomats, political theorists, and historians have argued about the nature of the elusive opinion policy relationship.

Race and Ethnicity

To many observers one of the surprises of the 2000 census was that fully 10 percent of Americans reported that they had been born in a foreign country. Thirty years earlier the figure had been just 4.7 percent, the smallest in the Republic's history.

Realism and Idealism

Philosophically, realism and idealism comprise opposing approaches to the definition and pursuit of national objectives abroad. Realists tend to accept conditions as they are and to define the ends and means of policy by the measures of anticipated gains, costs, necessities, and chances of success.


Reciprocity in diplomatic negotiations is a process of exchange between nations, a negotiating tool whereby nations bargain with each other for equivalent treatment. It can be either restrictive or open in nature.


Until a global organization competent to extend recognitions binding upon the world can be created, each state handles the question of recognition on the basis of national policy rather than international law. The principle of recognition can be traced back to the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, who asserted that the obligation of a state remains unmodified despite changes made by constitutional, revolutionary, and other means.

Refugee Policies

According to the 1951 Geneva Convention, a refugee is someone with "a well-founded fear of being persecuted in his country of origin for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion." The U.S. Senate accepted this definition sixteen years later, but it was not officially made part of immigration law until the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980.


For national leaders and specialists in the study of diplomacy alike, the notion that religion has affected United States foreign policy is familiar—too familiar. Whereas the Massachusetts Puritan John Winthrop's charge in 1630 to build an inspiring "city upon the hill" came to be quoted almost routinely by presidents as different as John F.


If popular wisdom holds that prostitution is the oldest profession, and spying only a slightly younger occupation, then surely reparations—a country demanding payment or indemnity from another in land, goods, or money for damage inflicted as a result of war—also dates from a very early point in human history. Modern practice on indemnities or reparations has its origins in the late nineteenth century, when statesmen at Hague conferences in the Netherlands began to rewrite the rules for warfare, to limit armaments, to encourage peaceful settlement of international disputes, and, by such indirect means, to fashion a definition of what constituted "a just cause" for war.


The term "revise" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "to re-examine or reconsider and amend faults in." This definition describes the process by which historians have consistently reconsidered and improved upon what had once been standard, often unquestioned interpretations of past events, movements, and personalities. A number of factors ensure this process: new information acquired through research into recently accessioned documents; the posing of new questions; the utilization of new and at times more sophisticated methods derived from disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, or sociology; the exploitation of new research tools such as the computer; the relative detachment provided by chronological distance from the particular event under study; or new insights gained from the impact of seminal thinkers.


Many observers have noted the surprising resilience of certain ideas in American history. "Liberty," the belief that individuals should live free from most external restraints, is one particularly powerful American touchstone.

Science and Technology

Science did not become a major concern of U.S. foreign policy until the twentieth century.


The principle of self-determination refers to the right of a people to determine its own political destiny. Beyond this broad definition, however, no legal criteria determine which groups may legitimately claim this right in particular cases.

Special-Interest Lobbies

Lobbies are generally recognized as those individuals or groups who seek to present the point of view of interest groups to members of Congress, generally with respect to specific legislation. But in the increasingly complicated American democracy of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, lobbying must be seen as a wider and more dynamic phenomenon.

Summit Conferences

The practice of tribal heads, kings, emperors, and princes of the church meeting together has been the normal way of conducting diplomacy for most of recorded history. Identification of the interests of the state with the ruler's personal concerns dictated that rulers eschew the usual device of emissaries, and meet with their peers to deal with grievances, arrange dynastic marriages, proclaim wars, and enforce peace settlements.

Superpower Diplomacy

The concept of a superpower was a product of the Cold War and the nuclear age. Although the word appeared, according to Webster's dictionary, as early as 1922, its common usage only dates from the time when the adversarial relationship of the United States and the Soviet Union became defined by their possession of nuclear arsenals so formidable that the two nations were set apart from any others in the world.

Tariff Policy

The tariff has been a central issue throughout American history. Its importance evolved over the decades, involving politics, economics, diplomacy, and ideology.


Under the cover of darkness on 9 December 1992, U.S. forces went ashore at Mogadishu, Somalia, and got an unexpected reception.

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Terrorism was a matter of growing international concern during the last three decades of the twentieth century, but following the 11 September 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., it became the paramount issue of U.S. foreign policy.


Tracing the history of treaties entered into by the United States provides an illuminating insight into the changing nature, concerns, and direction of United States foreign relations. Given that the Constitution provides that the Senate must be advised and give consent before their ratification, treaties also provide a revealing insight into the ever-changing relationship between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S.

The Vietnam War and Its Impact

On 2 September 1945 at Hanoi's Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh issued the historic Vietnamese proclamation of independence with words borrowed from the American Declaration of Independence: "We hold the truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Ho Chi Minh—who four years earlier had founded the League for Revolution and Independence, or Vietminh—had been preparing his entire life for the opportunity to rid Vietnam of colonial rule, both Japanese and French.


Defining a term like "Wilsonianism" presents the same sort of difficulties one finds in attempting to define virtually any "ism" in world affairs. On the one hand, aspects in U.S.

Wilsonian Missionary Diplomacy

"Missionary diplomacy" is a descriptive label often applied to the policies and practices of the United States in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921). According to Arthur S.