views updated May 11 2018


Randall Woods

In the United States, foreign and domestic affairs are inextricably intertwined. Because they are responsible to the electorate, presidents and secretaries of state must take into account public opinion when they shape foreign policy. Under the Constitution, the legislative branch is a partner, albeit a junior one, with the executive in the conduct of foreign affairs. Treaties may not become law without the two-thirds approval of the Senate, the Senate must confirm the president's top foreign policymakers, only Congress can declare war, and only Congress can fund both the diplomatic and military establishments. Throughout their history, the American people have been represented in Congress and the White House primarily by two major parties. There have been a multitude of third parties, a few of them with the power to determine the outcome of national elections, but national and international policymaking has been dominated by the two-party system. Hence, the term "bipartisanship" to denote periods of inter-party cooperation on foreign and domestic affairs.

Not even advocates of a foreign policy based on inter-party and executive-congressional cooperation have been able to agree on a name for this phenomenon, however. Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary of state, Cordell Hull, wanted to classify close executive-congressional cooperation as "nonpartisan," because he was determined not to share credit with the Republicans. Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg sought acceptance of the term "unpartisan," by which he meant policy developed above partisan purposes and for the national interest. Political scientist H. Bradford Westerfield prefers the term "extrapartisanship," which he defines as a presidential resolution "to associate in active collaboration with his Administration's conduct of foreign relations enough influential members of the opposition party to prevent its lines from solidifying against basic administrative foreign policies." Significantly, only Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Foster Dulles preferred the term "bipartisanship," which has become the most widely accepted and used term.

Bipartisanship is a process of foreign policy formulation that presupposes presidential leadership in the establishment of the overall parameters defining the national interest. The chief executive, his advisers, and the State Department develop policy, working together closely and providing complete information to leaders in the Senate and House, especially to the chairman and members of both parties who serve on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The president must be willing to consult with leaders of both parties, especially those senators who can assist the administration in gaining broad-based support. He must appoint members of both parties to serve on U.S. delegations to important international conferences. He must be amenable to modifications, amendments, revisions, and changes in treaties or legislation and administer those policies in such a way as to help win the widest support in Congress and in the body politic. Bipartisanship does not preclude differences and partisan advantage but should, as much as possible, secure general agreement on a course of action before it becomes the victim of partisan squabbling. Underlying bipartisanship is the hope that the United States can present a unified voice in international relations. Obviously, bipartisanship is especially critical to a president when he is confronted with domination of both houses of Congress by the opposite party. Close staff work among the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the State Department, and presidential advisers must accompany changes in policy. The cooperation between the administration and Congress must also withstand the strains of political campaigns, which recur every two years.

At its best, bipartisan foreign policy functions as part of the American democratic process. Through their representatives in Congress, both parties freely debate, and in the process issues receive the fullest possible airing. In addition, that policy must be based on generally agreed-upon principles and assumptions that are shared by the president and congressional leaders, including those of the opposition party.

Bipartisanship is usually associated with an activist, interventionist foreign policy such as that seen during World War II and the period of the Cold War through Vietnam. But throughout much of its history the dominant theme in America's approach to the world was isolationism, and it was around this theme that the first bipartisan consensus emerged. America was created out of a desire by certain Europeans to escape political and religious persecution. The wave of immigrants that began flooding across the Atlantic in the seventeenth century were hoping to escape the evils of monarchism and religious intolerance. They were fleeing a hierarchical system that denied them the opportunity for economic advancement, political power, and free religious expression. Even those who continued to regard themselves as loyal subjects of the British crown deeply appreciated the three thousand miles that separated them from the motherland.


The American Revolution was itself a deliberate act of separation and self-isolation. In order to secure its independence from Great Britain, the newly created United States of America was forced in 1778 to ally itself with monarchical France. But that was indeed a marriage of convenience. The United States had no desire to trade its British masters for French ones. At its inception, the United States was a fifth-rate power of some economic but no military consequence. Its first president, George Washington, perceived that it was in his country's interest to avoid the power politics of Europe. The American Revolution served as a prelude to the French Revolution and a generation of war as first revolutionary and then Napoleonic France and its allies struggled with Britain and its allies for control of the Western world. Washington perceived that it behooved his infant republic to remain aloof from this great conflict. Not all agreed, and from this disagreement, in part, came America's first party system.

The Federalist Party emerged out of the bloc in Congress that supported Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton's financial program and the commercial and business interests that benefited from it. Ideologically, most Federalists were suspicious of the judgment and wisdom of the mass of citizens who in their opinion were prone to unchecked passions and social disorder; witness the activities of the mobs in the French Revolution. Federalists in general believed in a strong central government capable of acting decisively to maintain order and to restrain the popular tendency toward anarchy. To achieve such a government, they embraced Hamilton's "broad construction" of the Constitution. They detested the French Republic and agreed with Hamilton that the British system was "the best in the world." The opposition to the Federalist program developed under the leadership of James Madison, then a U.S. representative from Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson, who from 1790 to 1793 served as secretary of state in the Washington cabinet. The Republicans articulated the widespread fear among the people of a powerful, overbearing central government wedded to the particular interests of an economic elite that was little concerned with either the rights of states or the welfare of yeomen farmers and ordinary citizens. To preserve local and states' rights, and to protect individual liberty, they advocated the "strict construction" of the Constitution. Republicans accused Federalists of wanting to shape the American government to resemble the British monarchy. Republicans initially expressed admiration for the French and sought to portray the French Revolution as the natural playing out of the American Revolution.

In February 1793, France declared war on England, Spain, and the Netherlands, and in so doing set off a debate in the United States over what its policy should be if the government in Paris invoked the treaties of 1778. Hamilton argued that treaty obligations followed governments and because Louis XVI had been beheaded and the monarchy replaced by a republic, the United States was released from the terms of the treaty and free to declare neutrality as its national interest dictated. Jefferson countered that Louis had only been the agent of the sovereign nation of France and that that sovereignty remained intact. Nonetheless, he concluded, the United States should not come to France's aid if asked because it should not become involved in Europe's wars. Thus did the president proclaim and enforce neutrality with the support of both Federalist and Republican leaders. George Washington's Farewell Address, published in September 1796, was a paean to isolationism and nonpartisanship. Europe's interests, he declared, were different from those of the United States, and thus Americans should permit only "temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies." The president also warned that party division "opens the door to foreign influence and corruption," because it meant that "the policy and the will of one country, are subjected to the policy and will of another."

John Adams defeated Thomas Jefferson for the presidency in 1796. Although himself a Federalist, Adams resisted the blandishments of Hamilton and other Anglophile members of his own party and refused to align the nation with Britain against France in the ongoing wars of the French Revolution. So angry were the extreme (High) Federalists that they conspired against Adams in the election of 1800 in an attempt to throw the contest to one of their own. As a result, Thomas Jefferson was elected, and the so-called Republican revolution was launched.

By the time Jefferson ascended to the presidency, the principal of neutrality had become the cornerstone of American foreign policy. As the Napoleonic wars unfolded, the Jefferson administration struggled to preserve its asserted right to trade with both sides. Anglophiles in the Federalist Party agitated for a tilt toward Britain, while Anglophobes in the Republican Party advocated a neutrality that, if not pro-French, was strict. Jefferson and his Republican colleagues looked forward to an America inhabited permanently by independent yeoman farmers. Land ownership, they asserted, was the primary guarantor of an independent electorate and thus of democracy. Consequently, when the opportunity to purchase from France the vast territory between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains arose in 1803, Jefferson leaped at it. Federalists mobilized to fight the resulting treaty with France, insisting that it authorized too much money for land that the country did not need. They pointed out that nowhere in the Constitution was the president authorized to purchase real estate or convert the inhabitants of territories into citizens. These were but masks, however, for their concerns were that the new western states would ally with the South to further damage New England and the Federalist Party's position in the Union. Only John Quincy Adams, son of the former president and then a senator from Massachusetts, voted with the Republicans. But that was enough. The Louisiana Purchase Treaty was approved 24 to 7.

Great Britain's efforts to cut off trade with Napoleonic France and its allies led it to seize hundreds of American ships, and its unquenchable thirst for able-bodied seamen prompted it to impress American sailors. Although it worked assiduously to avoid the conflict then raging in Europe and on the oceans of the world, the Republican administration of James Madison, who had taken office in 1809, led the nation into war against Great Britain in 1812. While High Federalists proclaimed the conflict to be a Republican plot to align the nation with Napoleonic France, the decision to declare hostilities was bipartisan. Republican nationalists, angered by Britain's refusal to abandon the Northwest posts and to stop inciting American Indians against white settlers, joined with New England merchants and shipowners to push a declaration of war through Congress. When a plot by High Federalists to lead New England out of the Union was uncovered in 1814 and peace ensued with Great Britain later that year, the Federalist Party was effectively undone.

What ensued from 1816 to 1824 was a period in American politics known as the Era of Good Feelings. It was, in effect, a time of one-party Republican rule. In 1816, James Monroe defeated the Federalist presidential candidate by winning 183 of 217 possible electoral votes. He was elected four years later with only one symbolic electoral vote cast against him. Firmly committed to the view of a nonpartisan chief executive first articulated by President Washington, Monroe regularly condemned the "party spirit" as destructive to republican institutions. In an effort to create and sustain a national consensus, Monroe and Republican leaders touted a program that called for high tariffs to protect infant American industries, federal appropriations to fund internal improvements such as roads and canals, and ongoing efforts to solidify and extend the nation's burgeoning western empire. The ultimate manifestation and statement of Republican nationalism was the Monroe Doctrine.

In 1823 it appeared that in the wake of the Napoleonic wars, Spain, with the help of France's newly restored Bourbon monarchy, was preparing to resubjugate the republics of Latin America, which had taken advantage of Spain's involvement in the great European conflict to rebel and declare their independence. The Monroe administration, led by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, was determined to prevent the restoration of Spanish power in the Americas. In the knowledge that whatever it did, the British Navy would prevent the departure of a Spanish-French armada for the New World, Monroe enunciated a doctrine that was simultaneously expansionist and isolationist. Posing as a defender of republicanism against monarchism, the United States declared that henceforward the Western Hemisphere was off limits to further European colonization. It posited the existence of two spheres, each with a separate set of interests, warned Europe to stay out of the affairs of the Americas, and promised not to interfere in European politics. Unspoken but generally recognized was that the United States did not include itself in the restrictions; indeed, the nation's generally agreed objectives were territorial and commercial expansion, and, ultimately, domination of the Western Hemisphere.


By the 1840s the prevailing theme in American diplomatic history was continental expansion. In an 1845 editorial, New York newspaperman John L. O'Sullivan captured the mood of the country when he asserted that it was "the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of Liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us." Meanwhile, a new two-party system had emerged in America. In 1832 the war hero Andrew Jackson rode into the presidency claiming to be heir to the Jeffersonian Republican tradition. At the heart of Jackson's new National Republican Party was an ideology that assumed the inherent conflict between "producing" and "nonproducing" classes, an assumption that enabled it to turn to its advantage the fears and aspirations of those voters in the throes of adjusting to the market revolution and simultaneously to those largely untouched by the revolution. Jackson had special appeal to the hundreds of thousands of newly enfranchised voters of the expanding West. It proved impossible for Jackson, as it would have for anyone, to maintain a national consensus in the face of changes wrought by the market economy and westward expansion. Small farmers in the West clamored for greater access to public lands, while those in the South pressed for a greater share of political power. In the Northeast and the Northwest, urban labor mobilized first in local workingmen's parties and later in unions, and the evangelized middle class took up the cause of various moral and social reforms. At the same time, southern slaveholders enacted increasingly repressive slave codes in response to abolitionism and continually pushed the cotton kingdom and its slave labor system into the trans-Mississippi West. Inevitably, during the middle of Jackson's second administration anti-Jacksonians galvanized to form the Whig Party (the National Republicans had by now renamed themselves Democrats). The new organization was a conglomeration of National Republicans, southern proslavery states righters, anti-Masons, high-tariff advocates, and various evangelical reformers from the Northeast.

Andrew Jackson was in favor of continued westward expansion, but he equivocated for fear of alienating northern antislavery elements who saw manifest destiny as a massive conspiracy by slaveholding interests to spread their nefarious institution to the Pacific. James K. Polk, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1844 who had outpolled Henry Clay, shared no such qualms. Under his leadership, the United States established clear title to the Oregon territory and set in motion a series of events that led to the annexation of Texas in 1845. The latter development in turn led to the Mexican War of 18461848 and ended the period of increasingly troubled bipartisanship that had characterized American foreign policy since the Era of Good Feelings. Even though the commanding general of U.S. forces in the Mexican War was a Whig, members of that party, including Representative Abraham Lincoln, became increasingly vocal in their criticism of the conflict. Aside from the opportunity the war presented to charge the Democrats with being mindless, unfeeling imperialists, the Whigs were concerned that the conflict with Mexico would add more western territory to the union. The ability of the party to remain national depended in no small part on its ability to finesse the question of whether slavery should be extended into the territories. House Democrat David Wilmot of Pennsylvania introduced a proviso to the appropriations bill of August 1846 that would bar slavery from areas taken from Mexico during the war. Northern support was not sufficient to override the opposition of southern Whigs and Polk Democrats, but California and the New Mexico territory were added to the union as a result of the peace treaty with Mexico (the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 1848). The increasingly rancorous debate whether slavery ery in the territories was or should be legitimate would come to dominate national politics.

With the coming of the Civil War, bipartisanship became largely a moot issue because the strength of the Democratic Party lay in the South. When the southern states seceded, Democratic senators and representatives were reduced to a handful. The Lincoln administration's efforts to prevent European intervention on the side of the Confederacy and to interdict trade between Great Britain and France on the one hand and the rebels on the other enjoyed overwhelming support among Republicans and loyalist Democrats.


The foreign affairs issue that dominated the late nineteenth century was overseas expansion. With the acquisition of the New Mexico territory and California, the United States had rounded out its continental boundaries, but the notion that America had a mission to spread its institutions and mores to the less fortunate peoples of the world remained a powerful part of the American psyche. The Industrial Revolution initially diverted the nation's attention from foreign affairs, but by the 1890s it had become a powerful force for overseas expansion. As the United States advanced from fourth to first among the manufacturing nations of the world, industrialists became convinced that under truly competitive conditions they could outsell their foreign rivals anywhere in the world. As the century came to a close, industrialists and financiers began pressuring various administrations and their State Departments to help them secure markets abroad that would absorb surplus capital and products. Especially attractive were the underdeveloped areas of Asia and Latin America. And finally, Americans were extremely conscious of the fact that they had reached the status of a great power in terms of population, agricultural output, and industrial production. In the late nineteenth century, colonies were the badge of great power status.

There were many obstacles to American expansion. Anti-imperialist groups, led by Senator Carl Schurz, writer Mark Twain, and newspaper editor E. L. Godkin, argued that the nation ought to concentrate on improving its own institutions and social conditions rather than acquiring overseas territories. Some Americans simply opposed the addition of dark-skinned peoples to the United States. Others argued that the establishment of colonies necessarily ruled out self-government and led to competition that caused wars. Up until the 1890s, the Democratic Party generally remained the party of expansion with the Republicans exhibiting reservations or outright opposition. There were exceptions. Lincoln's secretary of state, William H. Seward, was an ardent expansionist who brought Alaska into the Union.

That began to change in the 1890s, as the Republican Party (founded in the 1850s when the Whigs disintegrated as the party of economic nationalism and free soil) became increasingly the party of big business. The social Darwinists and naval expansionists found a receptive audience in a group of young, ambitious Republican politicians who decided to use overseas expansion as a vehicle to carry them to national prominence. Theodore Roosevelt, soon to accede to the presidency, and Senators Henry Cabot Lodge and Albert Beveridge worked energetically and successfully to sell the Republican Party and the American people on the idea of using naval power to build an empire. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party continued to draw its strength primarily from farmers, large and small; its supporters were concentrated in the South and rural Midwest. The economic calamities of the 1890s spawned the Populist Party, which railed against a conspiracy by Republicans, Wall Street, and the federal government to oppress and exploit farmers and workers. Racism was a strong component of both the Democratic and Populist parties, with the latter strongly supporting immigration restriction and the former racial segregation. Grover Cleveland, the only Democrat to sit in the White House between 1861 and 1914, was not an expansionist; indeed, he and the Democratic Party fought against the annexation of Samoa and Hawaii during the late 1880s and 1890s. The Populists saw overseas empire as just an extension of the exploitive polices of the GOP-business coalition, policies that held no advantage for farmers and working people. In 1896, with the nomination of William Jennings Bryan on both the Democratic and Populist tickets, the former effectively swallowed the latter. In the national debate over the treaty with Spain ending the Spanish-American War, in which the United States would annex the Philippines and Guam and supervise Cuba as a protectorate, Bryan led the anti-imperialist opposition. He did so in vain, however, as Roosevelt, Lodge, and influential manufacturers rallied behind the McKinley administration and ratification. In matters of tariff and trade, however, the Republicans were the nationalists, favoring high protective tariffs, and the Democrats the internationalists. Farmers, who depended upon world as well as domestic markets, and business owners, who depended upon trade with developed nations, favored low tariffs. Imperialism, then, was hardly the same as internationalism.


Each of the Progressive Era presidentsRepublicans Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and Democrat Woodrow Wilsonwas committed to protecting America's empire in the Pacific and to solidifying the nation's economic and strategic position in the Western Hemisphere. All were determined to guard the strategic approaches to the Panama Canal (acquired in 1903 and completed in 1914), expand U.S. trade with the Americas and China, and pursue balance-of-power policies in Europe and East Asia to ensure that no one power emerged to dominate those respective areas. Although they differed in techniques and rationales, the goals of the Progressive Era presidents were essentially the same, and they evoked little significant partisan opposition. Their approaches did: Democrats were particularly critical of Taft's dollar diplomacy and Republicans of Wilson's missionary diplomacy.

Woodrow Wilson led the United States into World War I to "make the world safe for democracy" and to safeguard American interests on the high seas. He and most of his countrymen regarded German submarine warfare as a threat to the nation's seafarers and to its economic health. They regarded Germany and its allies as totalitarian, expansionist powers who posed a threat to democratic societies everywhere. The majority of Democrats and Republicans enthusiastically supported the Wilson administration's decision to go to war. Indeed, Theodore Roosevelt had blasted the president for not coming to the Allies' aid earlier. The principal figure opposing the administration's preparedness policies and aggressive diplomacy was William Jennings Bryan, Wilson's first secretary of state. In the aftermath of the war, however, bipartisanship crumbled as Wilson sought to push his controversial peace program through Congress.

Wilson was an internationalist who envisioned a League of Nations that would act collectively to prevent aggression and war. His creation called for member nations to surrender a degree of their selfish national interests for the good of the community. When he and the Democrats in the Senate organized to push the Treaty of Versailles, which contained the charter of the League of Nations, through Congress, they found themselves opposed by two groups, both predominantly Republican. First were the so-called Lodge Republicans, who were determined to modify the covenant of the league. Personally, Lodge hated Wilson, but, in addition, the president had made no attempt to involve the Republican Party in the peacemaking process. The American delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 included neither a prominent Republican nor a member of the Senate. Finally, the Lodge Republicans were nationalists. They saw no reason why the United States should surrender its freedom of action and be committed by a majority of the league members to a course that was not necessarily in its interests. The other faction opposing the treaty was a group of isolationists, dubbed "irreconcilables" by the press, who were opposed to membership in an international organization under any conditions. Led by Senator William Borah of Idaho, the fourteen Republicans and one Democrat insisted that the United States ought to focus on domestic problems of poverty, ignorance, corporate wrongdoing, and political corruption. Many were midwestern Progressives who had more in common with Bryan and the Populists than they did with the eastern, business-dominated wing of the Republican Party. When Wilson refused to compromise with Lodge and his followers, the Senate rejected the treaty and with it membership in the League of Nations.


Isolationism was the byword of American foreign policy in the 1920s and 1930s. During the buildup to U.S. entry into World War I, a major shift in the two major parties' posture toward foreign affairs had taken place. Before 1916 Democrats had generally followed Bryan's lead in opposing a more assertive, interventionist role in world affairs. Under Wilson's leadership, however, the party gradually embraced a more active role for the United States in world affairs in which it identified its economic and strategic well-being with that of other democracies and in which it would be willing to use force in behalf of world peace. A similar change was taking place in the Republican Party. Its support of the Spanish-American War and acquisition of the Philippines, together with the activism of Roosevelt, Lodge, and other prominent Republicans, had earned the party a reputation for favoring a larger role for the United States in world affairs. But in 1916 the Republicans refused to seriously consider nominating Roosevelt for the presidency. In the debate over the Versailles treaty, the party identified itself with nationalism and isolationism against Wilsonian internationalism. In truth, the rank and file of the Republican Party, especially outside the East, identified more with Borah and his followers than with Lodge and his. In the 1930s, influenced by the Great Depression and the gathering war clouds in Europe, the Republican Party, as well as a majority of Americans, would invoke the concept of Fortress America and insist that the rise of the fascist powers in Europe and Asia posed no threat to the United States.

During the height of the Great Depression, the Democratic administration of Franklin Roosevelt chose not to challenge the Republican consensus. But as the 1930s progressed with Hitler gobbling up Austria and Czechoslovakia and Japan's invasion of China, Roosevelt began inching the country toward nonbelligerent alliance with Great Britain, China, and the other nations standing against the Axis. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939 and the fall of France in 1940, the debate over America's proper role in world affairs escalated, with the Democrats generally opting for interventionist policies and the Republicans clinging to isolation. In 1940 isolationists formed the America First Committee. The organization was Midwest-centered and made up largely of business-oriented opponents of the New Deal, although it included former Progressives and elements of the extreme left who espoused the "merchants of death" thesis. Opposing them were the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. Ideologically, interventionists tended to be liberal New Dealers and politically they were generally Democratic, although members of the eastern, liberal wing of the Republican Party supported all-out aid to the Allies. In the spring of 1941, the Roosevelt administration went head-to-head with the isolationists in Congress and secured passage of the Lend-Lease Act. With that measure the United States became a non-fighting ally of Great Britain and the Soviet Union. With the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the United States became a full-fledged belligerent, and partisan opposition to intervention effectively ended.


What changed dramatically during World War II, a shift neither understood nor appreciated by President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull, was the attitude of the American people. They were willing, as they had not been earlier, to assume their country's burden of responsibility in world affairs. Americans were guilty over their refusal to participate in the League of Nations. If only the most powerful nation in the world had thrown its weight behind a collective security system, the Holocaust and World War II might have been prevented. The war experience had been so painful and after 1945 the prospect of nuclear war so horrible that Americans were willing to make sacrifices in the form of economic aid for the rebuilding of Europe and to provide funds for defense against the looming threat of Soviet expansion. Reflecting these changed attitudes, Congress, on 21 September 1943, passed the Fulbright-Connally Resolution, which pledged U.S. participation in an international organization to keep the peace. Even before the passage of this measure, the leadership of the Republican Party had gathered on Mackinac Island, Michigan, to hammer out a position on the postwar order. Under the tutelage of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan and Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York, the conferees devised a compromise resolution acceptable to most Republicans, which favored the formation of an international organization after the war.

The realization that positive measures would be needed to prevent a third world war convinced them that their leaders, regardless of party, must cooperate to best serve the national interests abroad. In order that the United States have a full and constructive impact on world events, Americans demanded that partisan politics be removed from foreign policy so that the United States could speak with a single voice in foreign affairs. Politicians, presidents, senators, and the members of the House of Representatives were to work to develop policies that would receive broad-based support.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was never fully committed to State Department planning for a postwar international organization, held a fuzzy conception of what the postwar world should look like. Roosevelt, however, did believe in cooperation among the great powers and summit diplomacy to maintain the peace. He was convinced that such cooperation had won the war and that major-power agreement would prevent another conflict. He never thought that the American people would support the stationing of U.S. troops abroad and the rebuilding of Western Europe. Moreover, to the president, bipartisanship meant total congressional acquiescence in the executive branch's conduct of foreign policy. In brief, he wanted to run foreign policy himself without congressional interference.

Into the breach stepped Senator Arthur Vandenberg. In an address to the Senate on 10 January 1945, marking another step in the establishment of bipartisan foreign policy, he rejected isolationism and pledged cooperation if the administration would state its plans for the postwar world with candor. Vandenberg announced that he would support the evolving United Nations. To further guarantee the peace and allay Russian distrust of the West, he called for a four-power military alliance to prevent another war and to ensure that Germany would not rearm. More important, he suggested maximum consultation and cooperation between the administration and the Senate in charting the course of American diplomacy in the postwar world.

The succession of Harry S. Truman to the presidency portended well for bipartisanship. Truman knew the senators as friends and had respect for their abilities. As a former member of the Senate establishment, he well understood the benefits of working closely with Senate and House committees, and as a new president, he needed all the support and advice he could garner. In the summer of 1945, the U.S. Senate ratified the charter of the United Nations by a vote of 89 to 2.


From 1946 to 1949, with bipartisan support, the Truman administration gradually took a more confrontational stance toward Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe. With bipartisan support, Congress in March 1947 approved the Truman Doctrine, which appropriated funds to aid the Greek and Turkish governments as they combated communist-led revolution and external Soviet pressure, respectively. More important, Congress and the executive, Republicans and Democrats, joined together to declare that it would be the policy of the United States "to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Later that year, the Marshall Plan, devised to fund the reconstruction of Western Europe, passed Congress with bipartisan support. Over the next four years, the United States poured more than $13 billion into areas ravaged by World War II, in part out of a belief that communism thrived in areas where economic deprivation and social instability prevailed. In 1949, by a wide bipartisan margin, Congress approved U.S. participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which committed its members to view an attack on one as an attack on all.

By 1950 anticommunism had become perhaps the most important theme in American politics, but it was no longer a rallying point for bipartisanship. The Republicans were deeply frustrated by their inability to win a presidential election. Truman's upset victory over Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 was particularly galling. The New Deal and the permanence of the emerging welfare state in America had left the Republicans without a compelling domestic issue. In the aftermath of Truman's victory, the party leadership decided that it could no longer afford a me-too position on American foreign policy. With Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy charging that the administration had permitted infiltration of the federal government by Soviet espionage agents, and Senators Robert Taft and Everett Dirksen indicting Roosevelt and Truman for selling out Eastern Europe to the Kremlin, the Republicans launched a relentless campaign to portray the Democrats as soft on communism.

The effect of this campaign was to create an anticommunist consensus in the United States of monumental proportions. In late January 1950, President Truman directed the State and Defense departments "to make an overall review and reassessment of American foreign and defense policy" in light of the fall of China to the communists and the detonation of an atomic bomb by the Soviet Union (both in 1949). The result was National Security Council Document 68 (NSC68), a policy paper committing the United States to combating the forces of international communism "on every front," to use the historian Thomas G. Paterson's phrase. This paper led to a fourfold increase in defense budgets and committed the United States to defending democracy against communism on the global stage. It paved the way for the transformation of the United States into a national security state and institutionalized a Cold War between the United States and its allies on the one hand and the Soviet Union and its allies on the other that would last until 1989. It led to U.S. intervention into the Korean War and provoked a series of brushfire conflicts throughout the developing world with the Soviets or Communist Chinese backing one side and the United States the other.

Meanwhile, the Republicans continued to hammer the Democrats with the soft-on-communism issue. In 1950, with General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in command, United Nations forces drove invading North Korean troops out of South Korea and pushed toward the Yalu River, the boundary between communist North Korea and Communist China. In November, 180,000 Chinese communist troops crossed the river and smashed MacArthur's troops. They retreated below the Thirty-eighth Parallel separating the two Koreas, but MacArthur soon halted the advance and mounted a counteroffensive. When the general regained the Thirty-eighth Parallel in March 1951, he asked permission of the Truman administration to once again proceed north. This time the president and his advisers refused. Undaunted, MacArthur wrote a letter to the leading Republican in the House of Representatives, Joseph Martin, in which he asserted that "there is no substitute for victory." When Truman subsequently relieved MacArthur of his command, the Republican leadership decided that they had the perfect presidential candidate for 1952. In May and June, Republican senators ostentatiously held hearings on MacArthur's firing. His demise and the refusal of the Truman administration to reunify Korea under a noncommunist government was clear proof that Democrats were either appeasers or soft-headed. When it became clear subsequently that MacArthur was defying not only Truman but also the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who took the position that an all-out war with Communist China would make it impossible for the United States to defend Western Europe, MacArthur's popularity faded, and the Republicans had to look for another war hero to run for president.

During the 1950s, many Democrats suspected that Dwight D. Eisenhower's frequent appeals to bipartisanship were merely attempts to trick the Democratic Party into sharing the blame if policies already decided upon failed. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson continued to act as a partner with President Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, in pursuing a policy of combating communism through a policy of cooperation with allies and economic and military aid to noncommunist developing nations. The Eisenhower administration actually received more support in Congress from Democrats than from the conservative wing of his own party. Indeed, led by Senator Robert Taft and former President Herbert Hoover, conservative Republicans espoused a form of neo-isolationism. They insisted that America's resources were limited and that it ought to concentrate on perfecting its own institutions and guaranteeing its own prosperity. They were particularly adamant about the need to balance the budget. The neo-isolationists opposed the stationing of U.S. troops in Europe as part of a NATO armed force, and they somewhat paradoxically warned about the perils of being drawn into a land war in Asia. The Eisenhower-Johnson axis prevailed, however, and in December 1954 Congress approved a pact between the United States and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government on Formosa that committed the United States to stationing troops "in and about" the island. In 1957 bipartisan support led to congressional approval of the Eisenhower Doctrine, empowering the president to use military force if any government in the Middle East requested protection against "overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by International Communism."

It was with Democratic help that the Eisenhower administration fended off a proposed constitutional amendment authored by the conservative Republican senator John Bricker of Ohio, which would effectively have given Congress veto power over executive agreements with foreign powers.

During the presidential campaign of 1960, Democrat John F. Kennedy, running against Vice President Richard M. Nixon, criticized the Eisenhower administration for being passive and unimaginative in dealing with the forces of international communism. He promised a more active policy in which the United States would fund and participate in "counterinsurgencies" against communist guerrillas, augment America's nuclear stockpile, and continue to furnish military and economic aid to developing nations. Kennedy and his advisers also promised to open dialogue with noncommunist leftist elements fighting for social and economic justice. Kennedy won, but his pragmatic intentions were soon dashed on the rocks of Fidel Castro and communist Cuba. When the new president failed to press home the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, which was intended to rally popular opposition to Castro and lead to his overthrow, Republicans once again raised the "soft on communism" cry. From that point on, the president tended to base his assessment of nearly every hot spot in the Cold War upon his bitter experience with Cuba.


By the 1960s the salient features of American foreign policy were the domino theory, the Munich analogy, and the notion of a monolithic communist threat. American strategists believed that, in a world characterized by a life-and-death struggle between the forces of totalitarian communism and democratic capitalism, the fall of one nation to communism would inevitably lead to the fall of its neighbors. Moreover, to acquiesce in appeasement would only lead to further appeasement. Thus did the administrations of Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and the Republican administration of Richard M. Nixon feel it necessary to involve America in the burgeoning conflict between communist North Vietnam and noncommunist South Vietnam. At first there was strong bipartisan support for making Vietnam a testing ground for America's will to combat communism. In August 1964, after reports that North Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked U.S. destroyers on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Johnson administration secured Senate passage (with only two dissenting votes) of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. In it Congress empowered the president to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attacks against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression." The State Department subsequently called the resolution "the functional equivalent of a declaration of war." President Johnson did not reveal at the time that the U.S. vessels had been engaged in secret espionage and raiding activities directed against North Vietnam.

As the war progressed, opposition to it mounted in Congress. The activist foreign policies of the postWorld War II era that produced the war in Southeast Asia were a product of the melding of conservative anticommunists who defined national security in terms of bases and alliances and who were basically xenophobic (many of them former Republican neo-isolationists), and liberal reformers who were determined to safeguard the national interest by exporting democracy and facilitating overseas economic prosperity. By 1966 a coalition of moderate-to-liberal senators, led by the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright, began to express doubts not only about the war in Vietnam but about the assumptions that underlay it. To them, nationalism was more important than the Cold War in precipitating Third World conflicts. The communist world, especially given the emerging Sino-Soviet split, seemed hardly monolithic. In addition, there was no convincing proof that if South Vietnam fell under the rule of communists, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines would follow. Finally, and most important, congressional dissidents pointed out that most of the regimes the United States was defending in the name of democracy, including the governments of South Vietnam, were either authoritarian or totalitarian.

Lyndon Johnson had doubts about the war in Southeast Asia, but in order to get his domestic Great Society programs through Congress he perceived that he would have to appease the so-called conservative coalitionSouthern Democrats and Republicans who had allied to battle the growth of the welfare state and federally mandated civil rights since the late 1940swho were ardent in their anticommunism and hence supported the war in Vietnam. Johnson was obsessed with consensus and not just because of his desire to achieve domestic reform. He truly believed in the efficacy of bipartisanship in foreign policymaking. The contradictions inherent in the Cold War proved too much for the Texan, however. In 1968, facing opposition from the liberal and moderate wings of his own party, Johnson opted not to run for reelection, paving the way for the presidency of Republican Richard Nixon.

Nixon and his national security adviser and secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, were determined to create a new international order that would simultaneously contain communism and restore America's freedom of action. The new president could use his strong anticommunist credentials as a cover to build bridges to the communist superpowers. Once disarmed, the Soviet Union and Communist China could be persuaded to take their places as responsible members of the international community. Then, the great powers could act to control revolutions that threatened international stability. Unfortunately, such a policy was profoundly insensitive to the social and economic injustice and intense nationalism that characterized most Third World societies and that fueled the revolutions that the U.S. government hoped to contain. Although he quickly became disillusioned with Nixon, primarily because of the continuation of the war in Vietnam, Senator Fulbright was enamored of Henry Kissinger and his vision of a peaceful world based on rationality and a concert of interests. The administration's openings to China and Russia and its efforts to negotiate an end to the war in Vietnam generally enjoyed Democratic supportsometimes more so than from conservative Republicans.

Nixon had promised "peace with honor" in Vietnam. The president had no intention of surrendering South Vietnam to the communists; he merely wanted to turn the ground war over to the army of the Republic of Vietnam while continuing to furnish all-out military aid and to bomb communist positions throughout Southeast Asia. Congress, especially the Senate, had different ideas. A bipartisan coalition spearheaded by Fulbright and Republicans John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky and Jacob Javits of New York moved to limit the executive branch's power to make war. That effort culminated in passage of the War Powers Act by Congress in the fall of 1973 over President Nixon's veto. The measure obligated the president to inform Congress within forty-eight hours of the deployment of U.S. military forces abroad and bound him to withdraw them in sixty days in the absence of explicit congressional endorsement. The following week the House and Senate endorsed an amendment to the Military Procurement Authorization Act banning the funding of any U.S. military action in any part of Indochina.

America's ignominious withdrawal from Vietnam and the Watergate scandal created a crisis of confidence in national politics unknown since the Great Depression. The war in Vietnam brought home to Americans the truth that there were severe limitations to their nation's ability to determine the course of global events. Not only did it appear that the forces of international communism had scored a clear victory, but also that in the process of defending its perceived interests, the United States had transgressed many of the values and principles for which it claimed to be fighting. Moreover, Americans' sense that they had been lied to and deliberately deceived during crucial periods in the Vietnam War created an attitude of deep cynicism toward government at all levels, particularly the federal government.


In an effort to restore integrity to the presidency, Americans elected Jimmy Carter in 1976. A nuclear engineer and devout Southern Baptist, Carter promised to continue the struggle against the forces of international communism but to insist on respect for human rights whether from Cold War foe or Cold War friend. During the campaign, he condemned Henry Kissinger for his secrecy and his penchant for power politics. Carter promised open covenants openly arrived at, recalling memories of Woodrow Wilson. The president's belief that he could make morality the basis of American foreign policy and simultaneously safeguard its strategic and economic interests was flawed. His emphasis on human rights alienated friend and foe alike and led to renewed charges of Yankee imperialism.

There was some bipartisan cooperation during the Carter years. Democrats led by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia and moderate Republicans led by Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee banded together in Congress to ratify a new set of Panama Canal treaties that provided for the gradual transfer of sovereignty over the Canal Zone to Panama. The treaty was approved by a narrow margin of 68 to 32. If support for the pact was bipartisan, so was opposition. Nationalists led by Republican Governor Ronald Reagan of California and former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace argued that the treaty was just one more instance of America acting through weakness, surrendering part of its sovereignty, and opening the door to the communists. Despite Senate ratification of the Canal treaties, as well as the Camp David Accords, in which Carter persuaded the governments of Israel and Egypt to agree to "a framework for peace," the president quickly earned a reputation for ineptness that alienated both Republicans and Democrats. The Iran hostage crisis, deteriorating relations with the Soviet Union over human rights and the war in Afghanistan, and the Arab boycott and resulting oil shortage reduced support in Congress for Carter's foreign policy almost to zero.


In the election of 1980, in which one out of every four voters settled on a candidate during the last week of the election, Ronald Reagan scored a landslide victory, outpolling Carter in the electoral college 489 to 49. Unlike Richard Nixon's landslide victory in 1972, Reagan's thumping of Jimmy Carter seemed to signal a sea change in American politics, a major shift from a liberal to a conservative majority. Whereas the Republicans made virtually no gains in Congress in 1972, they gained twelve seats in the Senate four years later (defeating such liberal Democratic heavyweights as Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, George McGovern of North Dakota, and Frank Church of Idaho) and thirty-three places in the House of Representatives. In fact, Reagan's victory coincided with and was in part made possible by the continuing growth and political activism of the New Right.

Neoconservatism was a blend of both old and new. It encompassed traditional positions such as anticommunism, opposition to government intervention and bureaucracy, and support for free enterprise and a balanced budget. At the same time, the New Right included Americans, many of them working-class Democrats, who were outraged at social issues that they believed attacked and undermined conventional morality, the nuclear family, and religious faith. Thus did they mobilize in anger over school busing, bans on prayer in public schools, the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, the extension of the First Amendment to cover pornography, the ongoing campaign to have Congress pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and the extension of antidiscrimination laws to cover homosexuals. Demographic patterns continued to favor the Republicans. The 1980 census indicated a shift of seventeen seats in the House of Representatives from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West. The so-called Sun Belt was relatively white, relatively nonunion, and over-whelmingly conservative on fiscal matters and many social issues.

But, in fact, a closer look at the election statistics for 1980 reveals that massive voter apathy had as much to do with Reagan's election and GOP successes in Congress as the "conservative revolution." Reagan was elected by 28 percent of the voting population. In 1980 the largest voting bloc (47 percent) was comprised of those who did not vote. Between the 1960s and 1970s, the number of people believing that the government was run for the wealthy and influential few grew from 28 percent to 65 percent. Those who were convinced that the people governing them were basically intelligent and competent fell from 69 percent to 29 percent. Ironically, the disaffected middle and upper classes continued to vote Republican or switched parties, while the disaffected working classes and poor stopped voting, making their view that the government was controlled by a wealthy and powerful elite a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Reagan's view of Soviet communism seemed frozen in the mid-1950s. The Kremlin, Reagan was convinced, was at the head of a worldwide conspiracy to export totalitarianism to all parts of the world. For the new president, as for members of the Moral Majority, Soviet communism represented all the negative forces abroad in the world: atheism, state socialism, and immorality. Likewise, anticommunism was a crucial component of the struggle to resurrect the hallowed principles of liberty, free enterprise, patriotism, and family values. To overcome the Soviet Union's alleged "margin of superiority," the administration committed to a series of new weapons systems including the MX missile system, the B-1 bomber, and the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a network of lasers and particle beams projected from ground stations and satellites in space. These "death rays" would allegedly destroy incoming enemy missiles before they entered the earth's atmosphere. Shamelessly invoking the domino theory and the image of a monolithic communist threat, the Reagan administration began funneling massive amounts of arms and money to the government of El Salvador in its battle against leftist guerrillas and to the contras, right-wing rebels battling the Marxist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

Congress took issue not so much with the aims of the Reagan administration's foreign policy but with its methods. Concerned over charges of U.S. intervention into Nicaraguan internal affairs and stories of atrocities committed by the contras, in 1982 Congress passed the Boland Amendment, sponsored by Representative Edward P. Boland of Massachusetts, limiting Central Intelligence Agency aid to the contras to $24 million and stipulating that none of the funds be used to overthrow the Sandinistas. Reagan, who shared Nixon and Kissinger's views on executive control of foreign policy, directed his subordinates to circumvent the law. The Pentagon began donating "surplus" equipment to the contras while CIA agents trained the rebels in assassination techniques and coordinated attacks on transportation and port facilities. In 1984, an angry Congress passed an updated version of the Boland Amendment that barred the CIA or any other agency involved in intelligence activities from aiding the contras. Meanwhile, a bloody life-and-death struggle between Iran and Iraq had erupted in 1980. Iraq, ruled by the secular military strongman Saddam Hussein, and Iran, controlled by a group of extreme Islamic clerics headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini, were age-old rivals. This new chapter in their ongoing struggle was the product of an intense competition for regional leadership and control of petroleum resources, refining facilities, and strategic ports. The State Department feared both and attempted to keep either from winning a decisive victory. From 1981 to 1986, the Reagan administration secretly funneled aid to Iran but from 1987 on tilted toward Iraq. The second Boland Amendment only strengthened the White House's determination to aid the "freedom fighters" in Nicaragua. With Reagan's approval, a team of National Security Council and CIA officials began raising money from abroad from anticommunist governments and from wealthy conservatives at home. In 1985 the president approved a scheme whereby the United States would secretly sell large numbers of antitank missiles to Iran with the proceeds going to aid the contras in Nicaragua. Revelations concerning the deal touched off a year of congressional investigations, administration stonewalling, document shredding, and lying. It became clear that Reagan had been fully informed throughout the Iran-Contra deal; Congress settled for indicting several of his lieutenants. That body was unwilling to press the matter further for fear of incurring the public's wrath at its bringing down a second president in a decade.

The making of American foreign policy in the 1980s and into the next decade was not characterized either by conspicuous bipartisan strife or by conspicuous bipartisanship. Both parties wanted to stem the tide of communism in Latin America, to prevent the Soviet Union from profiting from the Arab-Israeli crisis, and to maintain superiority in nuclear weapons. Democrats tended to be less supportive of large defense budgets and more critical of authoritarian regimes that used anticommunism to elicit aid and support from the U.S. government than Republicans. Democrats tended to be less confrontational toward the Soviet Union and Communist China than Republicans and more willing to countenance peaceful coexistence. There were notable exceptions, however; Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington, for example, was a liberal on domestic issues and a hard-line cold warrior. Reagan's campaign to prevent the spread of Marxism-Leninism in the developing world and his determination to spend the Soviet Union into oblivion garnered less support among Democrats than Republicans. Both parties, of course, rejoiced in the end of the Cold War.


President George H. W. Bush's decision to go to war in 19901991 to evict Iraq from Kuwait captured widespread bipartisan support. Because the Defense Department carefully controlled the media and because the United States achieved its stated, limited objectives there was no repeat of the deep divisions that had accompanied the Vietnam War. With the end of the Cold War, a new set of issues emerged to dominate the Clinton years: terrorism, ethnic cleansing, sectarian violence, free trade, environmentalism. Although Democrats and Republicans fought bitterly over domestic social and economic issues, they were not clearly divided over foreign policy matters. Like the Clinton administration itself, the two major parties were more reactive than proscriptive, more pragmatic than ideological.

William Jefferson Clinton's election to the presidency in 1992 hardly represented a sea change in American politics. It certainly had nothing to do with foreign affairs. Clinton won because of George Bush's mishandling of the economy and because the Arkansan was able to keep traditional Democratic constituencies in placeamong them African Americans, labor unionists, and intellectualsand attract moderate conservatives by promising to reduce the bureaucracy and cut the budget. In foreign affairs, Bill Clinton had promised, in rather vague terms, to address the problems of the postCold War era. The United States, he said, should provide aid to the former Soviet Union to help it down the road to democracy and free enterprise. Indeed, there were Wilsonian overtones to his foreign policy statements. Advancing democracy should be the object of "a long-term Western strategy," he said. At the same time, the president emphasized that the focus of future foreign policy would be the global economy. America would have to learn how to compete peacefully with Japan and the German-led European community. Finally, Clinton seemed to echo former President Carter in calling for an American-led campaign to ensure respect for human rights. In the years that followed, the Clinton administration placed peacekeeping troops in Bosnia and Kosovo to keep ethnic and religious conflicts in the former Yugoslavia from embroiling the Balkans and perhaps all of Europe in war. The administration intervened in Haiti in 1994 under a UN resolution, helping to bring down the military dictatorship of General Raul Cedras, and pushed through Congress the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which provided for the gradual elimination of tariffs and other trade barriers between the United States on the one hand and Canada and Mexico on the other.

In 1994 the Republicans captured both houses of Congress, but conflicts over foreign policy did not split along party lines. Indeed, far more Democrats, representing organized labor, were opposed to NAFTA than Republicans. There were certainly congressional opponents of American participation in Balkan peacekeeping operations, but that opposition, like the support for the initiative, was bipartisan. Republican antipathy toward Clinton was intense, but that animosity had only a marginal impact on foreign policy. As the turn of the century approached, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" were in transition, and, as a result, so were the major parties. Bipartisanship in foreign policy reigned, even if by default.


Ambrosius, Lloyd E. Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition: The Treaty Fight in Perspective. New York and Cambridge, Mass., 1987. The best study of the conflict between Wilson and opponents of the treaty.

Atkinson, Rick. Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. Boston, 1993. A balanced, accurate, if necessarily incomplete account.

Beale, Howard K. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power. Baltimore, 1956. Still a masterpiece, surveying Roosevelt's internal and external world.

Beisner, Robert L. From the Old Diplomacy to the New, 18651900. 2d ed. Arlington Heights, Ill., 1986. A survey of the new imperialism by a leading authority on the period.

Bemis, Samuel Flagg. John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy. New York, 1949. Still a must-read for students of American Foreign Policy.

Berman, Larry. Lyndon Johnson's War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam. New York, 1989. A concise analysis of Johnson's decisions to escalate the war.

Beschloss, Michael R. The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 19601963. New York, 1991.

Brown, Roger Hamilton. The Republic in Peril: 1812. New York, 1964. A classic analysis of politics and public opinion before and during the War of 1812.

Campbell, Charles S. The Transformation of American Foreign Relations, 18651900. New York, 1976. A classic example of the "open door" approach.

Carothers, Thomas. In the Name of Democracy: U.S. Policy Toward Latin America in the Reagan Years. Berkeley, Calif., 1991. The only credible treatment.

Charles, Joseph. The Origins of the American Party System: Three Essays. Williamsburg, Va., 1956. Three provocative essays.

Cherny, Robert W. American Politics in the Gilded Age, 18681900. Wheeling, Ill., 1997. The most balanced treatment.

Cole, Donald B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson. Lawrence, Kans., 1993. An excellent overview.

Cole, Wayne S. Roosevelt and the Isolationists, 19321945. Lincoln, Neb., 1983. The definitive work on the subject.

Combs, Jerald A. The Jay Treaty: Political Battleground of the Founding Fathers. Berkeley, Calif., 1970. Combs remains the leading authority on Jay's Treaty.

Cooper, John Milton, Jr. The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Cambridge, Mass., 1983. A comparative study by a leading Progressive Era historian.

Elkins, Stanley, and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 17881800. New York, 1993.

Ferguson, Thomas, and Joel Rogers. Right Turn: The Decline of the Democrats and the Future of American Politics. New York, 1986. An insightful analysis of contemporary politics.

Freeland, Richard M. The Truman Doctrine and the Origins of McCarthyism: Foreign Policy, Domestic Politics, and Internal Security, 19461948. New York, 1985.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Post War American National Security Policy. Oxford and New York, 1982. The authoritative survey of American Cold War foreign policy.

. The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations, Provocations. New York, 1992. A provocative essay on the end of the Cold War.

Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 18521856. New York, 1987. The best treatment of this complex phenomenon.

Gilbert, Felix. To the Farewell Address: Ideas of Early American Foreign Policy. Princeton, N.J., 1961.

Hamby, Alonzo L. Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman. New York, 1995. The best biography of one of liberalism's founders.

Hersh, Seymour M. The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. New York, 1983.

Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge, Mass., 1981. A classic treatment of a key element in U.S. expansionism.

Immerman, Richard H., ed. John Foster Dulles and the Diplomacy of the Cold War. Princeton, N.J., 1990.

Isserman, Maurice. If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left. New York, 1987.

Jones, Howard. To the Webster-Ashburton Treaty: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 17831843. Chapel Hill, 1977. The enduring work on Anglo-American relations during the Republic's first century.

Kaplan, Lawrence S. Jefferson and France: An Essay on Politics and Political Ideas. New Haven, Conn., 1967.

Kaufman, Burton I. The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. Lawrence, Kans., 1993. An excellent survey.

McQuaid, Kim. The Anxious Years: America in the Vietnam-Watergate Era. New York, 1989. The best overview of the period.

Osborne, Thomas J. "Empire Can Wait": American Opposition to Hawaiian Annexation, 18931898. Kent, Ohio, 1981.

Pletcher, David M. The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War. Columbia, Mo., 1973. The definitive study.

Sellers, Charles. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 18151846. New York, 1991.

Sharp, James Roger. American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. New Haven, Conn., 1993.

Spanier, John. The Truman-MacArthur Controversy and the Korean War. Cambridge, Mass., 1959. The best treatment of this crucial episode.

Varg, Paul A. New England and Foreign Relations, 17891850. Hanover, N.H., 1983.

Watson, Harry L. Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America. New York, 1990.

Watts, Steven. The Republic Reborn: War and the Making of Liberal America, 17901820. Baltimore, 1987. An excellent study of the roots of American liberalism.

Widenor, William C. Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy. Berkeley, Calif., 1980. A classic political/foreign affairs biography.

Woods, Randall B. J. William Fulbright, Vietnam, and the Search for a Cold War Foreign Policy. Cambridge, Mass., and New York, 1998.

Woods, Randall B., and Howard Jones. Dawning of the Cold War: The United States Quest for Order. Athens, Ga., 1991.

See also Congressional Power; Department of State; Isolationism; The National Interest; Party Politics; Presidential Power; Public Opinion .


James William Fulbright, educator, senator, and Vietnamera dissenter, was born in Sumner, Missouri, on 9 April 1905, and was raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In 1942 he ran successfully for Congress, where he made a name for himself by cosponsoring the Fulbright-Connally Resolution, which placed Congress on record as favoring membership in a postwar collective security organization. In 1944 he captured a Senate seat, and two years later introduced legislation creating the international exchange program that bears his name. In 1950 he became chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served in that capacity until his departure from the Senate in 1975. In 1993, President William Jefferson Clinton, one of Fulbright's protégés, presented him with the Medal of Freedom. Fulbright died on 9 February 1995 following a massive stroke suffered two years earlier.

The themes that dominated the public life and work of Fulbright were cultural tolerance and international cooperation. During his thirty-two years in Congress, he appealed to the people of the world but particularly Americans to appreciate and tolerate other cultures and political systems without condoning armed aggression or human rights violations. His dedication to internationalism generally and the United Nations specifically and his passionate support of the Fulbright Exchange Program followed logically. He was convinced that the exchange of students and scholars would increase understanding and breed political elites capable of pursuing enlightened foreign policies.

Frightened by the resurgence of the radical right and greatly impressed by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's conciliatory visit to the United States in 1959, Fulbright moved beyond competitive coexistence to embrace the concept of détente. He was pleased with the Kennedy administration's flexible response to the communist threat and, following the Cuban missile crisis in 1963, with its willingness to make a fresh start with the Soviet Union. During the 1964 presidential election, Democrat Fulbright took the point in the foreign policy debate with Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and the "true believers." He was a devoted advocate of the liberal internationalism espoused by the Kennedy-Johnson administrations, that is, he believed that the United States ought to deter Sino-Soviet aggression through military preparedness and combat communist wars of liberation through foreign aid and counterinsurgency, but at the same time, he was committed to peaceful existence. The communist world, he argued, would eventually collapse of its own internal contradictions.

Fulbright parted company with Lyndon Johnson because he believed that his longtime political comrade-in-arms had sold out to the very forces that Johnson had defeated in 1964. The decision to intervene in the Dominican Republic and to escalate the war in Vietnam signaled to the senator the triumph of the nationalist, xenophobic, imperialist tendencies that had always lurked beneath the surface of American society. Fulbright came to the conclusion that the war was not a case of North Vietnam aggression against South Vietnam. Rather, the north's Ho Chi Minh represented the forces of authentic Vietnamese nationalism and the war in the south pitted an American-supported puppet government against indigenous revolutionaries who were seeking social justice and national self-determination.

In February 1966, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held televised hearings on Vietnam. The misgivings expressed began the national debate on the wisdom of U.S. policy toward Southeast Asia. From then until Johnson's departure from the presidency, Fulbright labored to undermine the consensus that supported the war in Vietnam. In 1967 he published The Arrogance of Power, a best-selling and sweeping critique of American foreign policy.

Concerning the executive-legislative prerogatives, Fulbright's concern was not with a particular interpretation of the Constitution. In the aftermath of World War II, with the tide of isolationism still running strong, an assertive, active executive was needed to advance the cause of internationalism and keep the peace. But over the years, the stresses and strains of fighting the Cold War under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust had taken their toll. Its actions sometimes circumscribed and sometimes dictated by a fanatical anticommunism, the executive had embarked on an imperial foreign policy that had involved America in its longest war and created a maze of international commitments and overseas bases not seen since the British empire was in full bloom. The only way to check this trend, Fulbright believed, was to restore congressional prerogatives in foreign policymaking.


views updated May 14 2018



The concept of bipartisanship is chiefly associated with postwar American foreign policy. Although the concept is complex and difficult to de-fine precisely, bipartisanship generally implies the attempt of governmental officials to achieve maximum national unity toward foreign relations, by the use of techniques and procedures designed to attain that end.

Meaning and implications. Ambiguity has always surrounded the meaning and implications of bipartisanship, a fact that has itself engendered considerable disunity among policy makers. Former Republican Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, perhaps the leading exponent of bipartisanship, variously called for an “unpartisan” or “nonpartisan” foreign policy (Crabb 1957, p. 1; Vandenberg 1952, pp. 547–552). Former Secretary of State Cordell Hull advocated a “nonpartisan” foreign policy to prevent “divided councils, confusion, and lack of popular support” for diplomatic measures (Hull 1948, vol. 2, p. 1734). Negative terms like “unpartisan” and “nonpartisan” imply the necessity to eliminate partisan discords altogether from the handling of foreign affairs. Other commentators prefer the term “extrapartisan,” to suggest that foreign policy programs be formulated outside party lines, although political organization may be utilized to rally support for them (Westerfield 1955, p. 16).

The most widely used term, however, is “bipartisanship”—a more positive word suggesting (1) the desirability of affirmative cooperation, among major political groups, on needed global programs and (2) the expectation that at least a minimum degree of consultation between spokesmen for each major party will precede important undertakings in the foreign policy field.

Sources of disunity in foreign policy. Alexis de Tocqueville, writing early in the nineteenth century, questioned whether in foreign affairs a democracy was able to “regulate the details of an important undertaking, to persevere in a design, and to work out its execution in the presence of serious obstacles.” As in all democracies, public officials in the United States must constantly reckon with a number of forces capable of disrupting the continuity of the nation’s foreign relations: (1) poorly informed, often indifferent, sometimes emotionally aroused public opinion; (2) continuing partisan discords that reach crescendos of vituperation during national elections; (3) the possibility that the succession of one administration by another may radically alter the nation’s overseas commitments; and (4) the readiness of well-organized and vocal public groups to advance their own conceptions of the national interest.

The peculiar nature of the American political system also contributes to disunity. Local issues and organizations tend to dominate the political scene. Although the president is the “leader of his party,” party lines are loose, and party discipline (as it exists in parliamentary systems) is practically nonexistent.

Since World War n an evergrowing number of executive agencies have been drawn into the foreign policy process, making it extraordinarily diffuse, cumbersome, and vulnerable to conflicts among strongly entrenched bureaucracies. A parallel tendency has been evident in Congress, where there has been a marked proliferation in the number of legislative committees involved in foreign affairs. This tendency has seriously undermined the once almost exclusive positions of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees (which customarily work closely with the White House) in this field. Legislative activities in foreign relations have thus become progressively fragmented and resistant to coordination, either by the president or by groups within Congress.

The concept of bipartisanship was evolved to overcome, or at least to mitigate, the harmful effects of disunity in foreign policy.

Evolution of bipartisanship. From the earliest days of the American republic, governmental leaders have realized the need for domestic unity on foreign policy and have utilized rudimentary bipartisan techniques to achieve it. The “isolationist” character of the nation’s foreign policy for a century and a half meant that such efforts evolved on an ad hoc basis and that their results were usually mixed. President Washington sought the active “advice” of the Senate at an early stage in treaty negotiations; the frustration and interminable delay he experienced soon led him to abandon the attempt. President Madison, however, successfully utilized two legislators to negotiate the treaty ending the War of 1812. President Wilson sought unsuccessfully to mollify his Republican critics by appointing a nominal Republican, Henry White, to accompany him to Europe to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles. On the eve of World War n President Roosevelt appointed two Republicans to his cabinet—Henry L. Stimson, secretary of war, and Frank Knox, secretary of the navy—in order to mitigate partisan animosities over critical foreign policy issues.

Today there is widespread agreement that unity is the ultimate goal of a bipartisan approach to foreign relations. Far less agreement prevails over the means to achieve it. Several techniques have been employed, with varying degrees of success. Presidents routinely ask legislators of both parties to take part in international negotiations and to attend sessions of the United Nations. Prior consultation is also essential to bipartisanship; the White House is expected to consult with leaders of the opposition party, ideally beforeit acts to meet challenges abroad. Whether the president solicits the advice of those consulted or merely informs them of anticipated actions will depend upon the personality of the chief executive, the exact situation confronting the nation abroad, and the time available for decision. Bipartisanship also implies that criticism of governmental activities in foreign affairs be constructive rather than destructive, a demand easier to accept in the abstract than to fulfill in specific circumstances. Moreover, adherence to bipartisanship is widely believed to require that political parties not seek partisan advantage from diplomatic victories or defeats.

Continuing problems. Since World War ii, bipartisanship has built a solid base of national unity to support many American foreign policy commitments. Creation of the United Nations, provision of economic assistance to western Europe, NATO, and other military aid programs, opposition to the recognition of communist China, and firm resistance to communist expansionism are notable examples. Public opinion in the United States has, however, been sharply divided over other diplomatic issues, such as policy on nationalist China, the Middle East, Cuba, and eastern Europe, tariff and trade questions, and efforts to resolve cold war tensions.

In addition to yielding mixed results, the bipartisan approach has raised persistent problems for the United States, some of which are sufficiently serious to challenge the value of the bipartisan principle. Clearer understanding, derived from continued research, is needed before definitive judgments can be rendered on the bipartisan concept. A number of fundamental questions can be identified. (1) Does bipartisanship erode the president’s control of foreign relations by transferring decision making to legislators and party leaders who bear no constitutional responsibility for most actions in the sphere of foreign relations? (2) Does this render it impossible for the electorate to hold the president and his agents accountable for public policies? (3) Is it possible to arrive at a consensus on a definition of “bipartisanship” that can be applied to the diverse range of external issues confronting the United States?

Bipartisanship also raises serious problems related to the nature and function of the American political system. (1) A basic premise of bipartisanship is that internal and external policy questions can be clearly delineated and partisan contests may legitimately be waged over the former but not over the latter. However, since the impact of nearly all domestic developments upon foreign affairs is increasing, and vice versa, is this distinction still relevant? (2) Furthermore, does bipartisanship allow political parties to discharge their traditional function of informing the public on vital issues? (3) For the opposition party, does bipartisanship impose a unique handicap by fostering a tendency to accept prevailing policy, even when it is deemed to be inimical to the nation’s interests? (4) By contrast, does the majority party compromise its claim to successful leadership by permitting the minority to share in the “credit” for successful policies?

Equally pertinent is the question whether bipartisanship facilitates or actually impedes diplomatic success. Postwar experience suggests that it may reduce the process of policy formulation to a search for the lowest common denominator of policy, advocated not because the national interest demands it but because the widest measure of unity can be obtained to support it.

Cecil V. Crabb, Jr.

[See alsoDiplomacy; Foreign Policy; andPublic Opinion.]


Cohen, Bernard C. 1957 The Political Process and Foreign Policy: The Making of a Japanese Peace Settlement. Princeton Univ. Press.

Crabb, Cecil V., Jr. 1957 Bipartisan Foreign Policy: Myth or Reality? Evanston, III.: Row, Peterson.

Hull, Cordell 1948 Memoirs. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan.

Jewell, Malcolm E. 1962 Senatorial Politics and Foreign Policy. Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky Press.

Robinson, James A. 1962 Congress and Foreign Policy-making: A Study in Legislative Influence and Initiative. Homewood, III.: Dorsey.

Sellin, Thorsten (editor) 1953 Congress and Foreign Relations. American Academy of Political and Social Science, Annals 289:1–177.

Vandenberg, Arthur H. 1952 The Private Papers of Senator Vandenberg. Edited by Arthur H. Vandenberg, Jr. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Westerfield, H. Bradford 1955 Foreign Policy and Party Politics: Pearl Harbor to Korea. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.


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bi·par·ti·san / bīˈpärtəzən/ • adj. of or involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other's policies: educational reform received considerable bipartisan approval.DERIVATIVES: bi·par·ti·san·ship / ship/ n.