A Post-Wilsonian Foreign Policy

“A Post-Wilsonian Foreign Policy,” Wall Street Journal, August 2, 1996.


Everyone from American scholars to foreign statesmen finds American foreign policy very puzzling. And so the basic tenor of all commentaries on this policy, at any time and from any source, tends to be critical. When was the last time you read an enthusiastic endorsement of American foreign policy? I have no such recollection.

The truth is that American foreign policy is necessarily always perplexing. This has nothing to do with the inadequacies of our presidents or State Departments. Such inadequacies surely exist but they are, at it were, built into their mission and the way they are compelled to execute it. In short, confusion is inescapable. The reason is that American foreign policy is truly exceptional, formed in a way that is quite different from that of other nations.