Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Foreign Policy and Woodrow Wilson

We'd Be Better Off If Our Foreign Policy Was Less Woodrow Wilson and More Colonel House by Godfrey Hodgson

This article addresses that recent US Presidents are harkening back to Wilsonian policy, so Mr. Hodgson’s feels its time to discuss Wilson and his foreign policy (and of course, we at the APB never mind that!). Hodgson defines Wilsonian policy as “the idea, that is, that it is the destiny and the duty of the United States to use its great power to spread American ideas of democracy and also the American version of capitalism throughout the world.”

Wilson’s foreign policy was heavily influenced by Colonel Edward House, as Wilson himself had little experience or knowledge of foreign policy. Hodgson sees Wilson as an idealist, while House was a realist. The article goes on to discuss this in terms of world politics:
The difference was that Wilson saw politics not as a map, with stubborn, irremovable features — rivers and mountain ranges to be crossed — but as a theorem inscribed with the luminous simplicity of his own moral purity on a sheet of blank paper. House saw political leadership as a matter of dealing with people as they were, warts and all.

Hodgins ends with this thought:
At a time when an American administration is inspired with a Wilsonian vision of a world transformed by American democracy, it is time, I believe, to reexamine the debate at the heart of the Wilson Administration’s foreign policy between Wilson himself, with his faith in the transforming power of American ideals, expressed in blazing, biblical rhetoric, and the more patient, realistic skills of Colonel House, with his nose for politics, whether in Europe or in Washington, as the art of the possible.

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