Dictatorships and American Foreign Policy

Courtesy Reuters

This article is adapted from a paper presented to the American Philosophical Society in April 1975. The author is grateful to the Society both for the occasion and for permission to publish this version.

Vienna in the prewar years produced a number of stories centered on a fictitious Count Bobby, normally portrayed as a dilettante bachelor getting into carefree scrapes. In one, however, he is married, and the Countess has gone to the hospital for the accouchement. Finally, as he paces the waiting room, a nurse emerges holding a large bassinet with not one but three infants, and tells him that the mother is doing well. At which Count Bobby screws up his monocle, inspects the bassinet, and replies (as told in English): "Ah, please present the Countess with my compliments and tell her that I take thees one."

From the earliest times the American Republic has had, I think, three basic objectives in its relations to the rest of the world. First, its sheer physical security against attack, within the boundaries that developed over time. Second, an international environment in which the United States can survive and prosper. And third-the vaguest of the three but still inescapable-that the United States should, by example, or action, or both, exert influence toward the spread of more representative and responsive governments in the world; as Archibald MacLeish reminded us in Boston last April, America (not just Boston) has always been "the City on the Hill," from which should radiate a new conception of how men could live together and govern themselves.

These, then, have been the triplets to which our Founding Fathers gave birth-the third unique, at least in degree, to the United States. How have we fared in history, how do we fare today, in keeping the needs of all three in some sort of proper balance?


In the practical actions of the Founding Fathers, the third of these objectives can be said to have been, surprisingly perhaps, the runt of the

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