Realism vs. Idealism: How American Foreign Policy Has Changed Since World War Ii

2598 words 11 pages
Realism vs. Idealism: How American Foreign Policy Has Changed Since World War II Throughout the first 125 years of her history, the United States was, for the most part, an isolationist nation. After the onset of two world wars, however, America moved from an isolationist stance to become one of the world’s two superpowers. This stance would remain for almost 50 years, until the Soviet Union would come crashing down, leaving America standing as the lone superpower. But how did American foreign policy influence the world over those 50 years? Why did some Presidents take an idealistic approach to foreign policy, while others looked for more realistic approaches? Since World War II, American foreign policy has taken on a global …show more content…

When the South Koreans were attacked by the North, America saw it as an attack that was “Soviet inspired and Soviet-directed” (McCormick 59) and jumped in to stop the spread of communism. This theme of stopping the spread of communism would pervade American foreign policy through the Vietnam War. From the end of World War II until the Vietnam War, the dominating approach to American foreign policy was that of a realist approach. Presidents from Truman to Eisenhower, Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson all sought to combat communism directly. This approach was followed by the realism approach of the Nixon administration. The approach by the Nixon administration believed in the balance of power. The main stance of this was the realistic approach that the United States could not be involved in every regional skirmish that flared up. This more limited role of the United States in regional disputes was announced by President Nixon and signaled a change from previous administrations and their policies toward intervention. The realist approach by Nixon hinged on the belief that power was to be shared among others in order to preserve world order. (106) Nixon’s policy was further advanced by his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger believed in the policy of linkage, by which he meant that all nations must understand that their actions in one area of foreign policy could have an adverse affect on another area. Nixon and