By Hamilton Fish Armstrong
While the United States fought in World War II, essays in Foreign Affairs pushed forward an emerging consensus that would guide the country’s postwar foreign policy. Hamilton Fish Armstrong, the magazine’s editor, argued in 1943 that the United States’ “adoption of a cautious policy” would “not protect” the full scope of the nation’s interests in the decades to come. The next year, Wendell Willkie, a former U.S. presidential candidate, wrote that the problems of the new era could “be met only by international action.” Returning to the “static, passive and essentially frightened isolationist policy” that many U.S. policymakers championed in the wake of World War I, he warned, would only lead the country “into a third world war.” And after World War II was won, Henry Stimson, former secretary of state and secretary of war, outlined how the United States could “use [its] full strength for the peace and freedom of the world.”
Wading into international politics presented the United States with new challenges, most notably a deepening competition with the Soviet Union, which George Kennan famously explored in a 1947 essay titled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.” At the same time, an unprecedented push for international cooperation brought new opportunities, such as the one Eleanor Roosevelt described in a 1948 article on codifying a global commitment to human rights. In the decades since, the objectives and the execution of U.S. postwar strategy have been subjects of debate again and again in the pages of Foreign Affairs—and although the world and the United States’ role in it have changed, the conversation today is just as spirited as it was three-quarters of a century ago.
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