February 26, 2018, William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies
This article provides a broad summary of US foreign policy by examining its historical philosophical beginnings and how those have evolved over the 241 years of the nation’s history. It exam-ines the Founders' intentions and concerns for their new system of government. Included in that is the important sense of "exceptionalism" that guides national strategy and "manifest destiny" that justified US continental expansion in the 19th century. The article describes four schools of thought on governance developed during the early decades of the Republic. It briefly describes how foreign policy is developed and which branches of government participate in the process. Related to that, the article describes two important components of how the US creates foreign policy: (1) federalism and (2) the system of checks and balances among government branches. Differences and similarities between the two dominant political parties, Democrats and Republicans, are addressed as are presidential doctrines. Last, the article addresses the previous four presidential administrations – two Democrat and two Republican – to highlight contrasts between the political groups. Particular attention is paid to the Trump Administration and its foreign policy priorities.