The systemic and ideological sources of grand strategic doctrine : American foreign policy in the twentieth century
Author(s)Green, Brendan Rittenhouse
American foreign policy in the twentieth century
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Barry R. Posen.
MetadataShow full item record
What explains the puzzling variation in America's foreign policy posture? This study proposes and tests a theory of American grand strategy that places an emphasis on two key variables: the ideological content of American liberalism and geopolitical conditions abroad. It distinguishes between two varieties of thought within the American liberal tradition-termed negative liberty and positive liberty-and deduces implications for American foreign policy from their content. Differing concepts of liberty cause American statesmen to adopt different interpretations of international threats, different choices in managing strategic trade-offs, and different preferences for military and diplomatic policy tools. Systemic pressures also integrate strategic ends and means, making foreign policy more coherent over time. These propositions are united together with several insights from geopolitical theories to form a Theory of Liberal Foreign Policy (TLFP), which predicts America will pursue distinct grand strategies under different ideological and systemic conditions. This study uses a variety of primary source documents to measure TLFP's variables and assess its theoretical power. TLFP is tested through five structured, focused comparisons of American grand strategy towards Europe in the twentieth century: American foreign policy in the period of the Great War (1914-1920); under the interwar Republicans (1921-1932); in the run-up to World War Two (1937-1941); during the origins of the Cold War (1945-1952); and at the strategic transition of America's Cold War strategy (1953-1963). Each case tests for congruence between TLFP's independent variables and its predicted strategic outcomes, as well as searching for process-tracing evidence expected by the theory. The general finding is that TLFP does indeed explain the major variation in American grand strategy during the twentieth century, although other factors do exert an impact. The study makes several contributions. First, it explains an empirical puzzle that has previously resisted a unitary interpretation. In so doing, it suggests that existing realist, liberal, and domestic political theories of American foreign policy are in need of revision. Second, it advances scientific knowledge by synthesizing the best elements of past theorizing into a new theory that generates unique predictions. Third, and novelly, it advances our understanding of liberal ideology by suggesting that variation in liberal approaches to foreign policy is caused by variation in the content of liberalism itself, rather than changes in the international environment.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2011.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology