This article is adapted from one of a series of four lectures delivered at the Claremont Colleges in April of 1975, and soon to be published by the Claremont Press under the title, The Conduct of Foreign Policy in the Nation's Third Century.
A commonly heard comment about American foreign policy these days is that the nation has lost its earlier sense of national goals and ideological objectives and that we should, as a nation, settle upon a new consensus as to our global moral objectives. This is a difficult subject, and, in my view, much of the discussion of it is made up of half-perceptions and half-truths.
In the first place, it is clearly true that there is less consensus today among Americans on foreign policy issues than was the case from about 1940 until about 1965. This is in no way surprising. The goals of World War II were simple and clear: the utter extermination of Hitlerian nazism and its Japanese counterpart. At the end of World War II, the United States developed a grand global vision grounded in traditional American liberal economics, free trade, anticolonialism and parliamentarianism. That vision inspired American leadership in the construction of the major world institutions that came into being at the end of World War II-the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the United Nations.
Very shortly, however, as the outlines of the cold war crystallized, the dominant drive of U.S. foreign policy increasingly became anticommunism and global Soviet containment; a secondary theme was the desire to help develop a united, democratic Europe that would forever preclude another European-centered world war; and a third motif was decolonization and, somewhat less wholeheartedly, assistance in the untried experiment of bringing modern economic development to the unindustrialized world.