Civil War by Other Means

Courtesy Reuters


The war in Kosovo opened more fissures in the American public and the U.S. foreign policy elite than any U.S. military intervention since the Vietnam War. Many have remarked that viewpoints about the war transcended the ideological categories of left and right, producing unusual alliances of conservatives and liberals among both supporters and opponents of the NATO campaign against Serbia. What has been overlooked, however, is the influence of American regional culture -- not only on attitudes toward the war in Kosovo but on the domestic politics of foreign policy throughout American history.

That so little attention has been paid to regional influences on U.S. foreign policy is surprising. After all, the polarization of American domestic politics along regional lines is one of the most obvious and striking phenomena of our time. The disproportionately southern congressional leadership reflects the new southern base of the Republican Party. Both liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans find their strongest support in the states of New England and the northern tier. The superimposition of regional cultural loyalties atop partisan ideologies accounts for much of the increase in partisan rancor in the United States. To name only one example, the impeachment of President Clinton revealed a stark division between this southern president's political enemies, who are overwhelmingly southern, and his predominantly northern defenders.

While the sectional division in domestic politics has become familiar, the impact of the divisions between America's regions on its diplomacy is a neglected subject. When the influence of sectionalism on U.S. foreign policy is discussed at all, it is usually in the context of trade disputes, which pit the northeastern-midwestern manufacturing belt against the high-tech industries and commodity exporters of the South and West. But regional influences on U.S. foreign policy go far beyond conflicts of economic interest. Regional differences in the United States based in culture and values -- particularly the enduring differences between anti-interventionists in the North and pro-interventionists in

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