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The U.S. foreignpolicy refers to the standards and practices adopted by the countryin its interactions with other countries. The foreign policy isdetermined by domestic perceptions about the kind of country Americais (Merino 23). It is important to isolate the American identity soas to understand foreign policy. In many cases, the American identityhas been closely linked with exceptionalism. This phenomenondescribes the tradition of a country to consider itself as superb insome way. Therefore, such an exemplary nation would not need toconform to traditional principles and rules regarding conduct (Restad10). The foreign policy tradition has also manifested elements ofisolationism. This refers to the phenomenon where a country keepsseparate from the interests of other countries through avoidinginterference in foreign political affairs (Stephens 26). A thirdaspect of American foreign policy has been identified asexpansionism. Under this policy, a country extends its economicinfluence and territorial significance through military means(Anderson 39). American exceptionalism needs to be redefined andconceptualized in a manner that reflects modern developments inforeign policy.
Exceptionalismhas been used to describe the American identity since the 1830s. Atthe time, America existed as the only prosperous democracy in theWestern world and beyond. Compared to other countries such as France,the U.S. showed more commitment to individualism, human rights, andreligious tolerance (Hastedt 45). Since then, America’s economicand political institutions have been compared to other Westernnations. These comparisons have yielded an objective confirmation ofAmerican exceptionalism. In the late 1960s, scholars acclaimed thedistinct nature of American institutions through a study ofcomparative politics (Hastedt 60). Scientific research also focusedon approaches to religion, culture, economy, and government.
The Americanidentity is synonymous with the lack of class distinctions andconflicts. The middle class exercises dominance over the Americansystem. Besides, rival ideologies have ignored divisive debatesduring the creation of American policy. The general view ofexceptionalism was erroneously attributed to the U.S due to thecountry having better systems than European nations (Restad 71).Therefore, America has been lauded as not only unique but also betterthan other nations. American exceptionalism has also been captured bythe notion of superiority. In the 19th century, manifestdestiny argued that the U.S. was divinely mandated to spreadenlightenment and liberty to other Western territories (Hastedt 78).Consequently, belief in American exceptionalism has permeated allsectors of the citizenry.
Contemporaryacademic views also recognize the exceptional nature of the U.S. as amodel of self-government. The country is also depicted as a pillar offreedom, and a defender of liberty either through persuasion or force(Restad 99). Therefore, American exceptionalism has been expressedthrough comparative politics and also as the American identity.Nevertheless, exceptionalism cannot mean ‘different’ since allcountries have different qualities. Besides, scientific study doesnot suffice in determining the comparative levels of exceptionalismamong different countries. American exceptionalism should be viewedas a profoundly entrenched belief. Its persistence throughout historyhas contributed not only to American identity but also foreignpolicy.
Consequently,American policy has been reflected in the foreign policy adopted bythe country. The U.S. is expected to play a special role in worldlyaffairs due to its uniqueness in comparison to other Western nations.National identity can be defined as a pattern of traditions andvalues that contribute to cultural heritage. Foreign policy has beencaptured by isolationism and internationalism (Merino 30). The latterconcept refers to active engagement in worldly affairs. In the early20th century, an ‘exemplary’ national identity led toan isolationist foreign policy. On the other hand, a ‘missionary’national identity resulted in an internationalist foreign policy(Merino 33). Nonetheless, modern research recognizes Americanexceptionalism as the domineering American identity. This identityresults in a unilateral internationalist foreign policy.
The three idealsof exceptionalism, expansionism, and isolationism have generatedtension between fundamental American values (Stephens 27). Thistension has had many consequences in the manner through whichAmerican policy is formulated and executed. The missionary identityestablishes the right of America to spread its superior ideologies toother areas. This gives prominence to the rise of exceptionalism.Since the U.S. is presumed to have better economic and politicalinstitutions, the country is expected to provide leadership on manyfronts. Subsequently, the U.S. adopts aggressive foreign policiesaimed at educating and reforming other countries (Anderson 52).America also assumes the right and responsibility to insert itself inother nation’s affairs so as to ensure successful governance.
Exceptionalism isclosely associated with expansionist ideals. The country exercisesits manifest destiny by impressing its views and policies on othernations. The U.S. can afford to avoid conforming to any establishedinternational standards. On the other hand, an ‘exemplary’identity fosters the idea of isolationism. This identity wasexemplified by Puritan settlers who viewed the U.S. as the proverbialPromised Land (Stephens 48). Consequently, America was regarded asthe ideal place to pursue economic and social prosperity. Thefreedoms enshrined in American policy made the country complete andself-sufficient (Stephens 49). Isolationist foreign policies canstill be seen in various interactions between the U.S. and the restof the world.
Indeed,exceptionalism needs to be redefined as the modern depiction ofAmerican identity. This has resulted in a unilateral internationalistforeign policy. The tension between expansionism, exceptionalism, andisolationism has had massive consequences. For example, the U.S. hasintervened in many worldly conflicts so as to broker peace. Thecountry has employed special envoys to assess the needs of othercountries and recommend apt means of intervention. In some cases, thecountry has been accused of overstepping its mandate and underminingforeign sovereignties (Anderson 101). Isolationist policies have beendemonstrated where the country has chosen not to participate incertain conflicts or debates.
Anderson, Perry. American foreign policy and its thinkers.Brooklyn: Verso, 2015. Print.
Hastedt, Glenn. American foreign policy: Past, present, andfuture. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Print.
Merino, Noël. US foreign policy. Farmington Hills, Mich.:Greenhaven Press, 2015. Print.
Restad, Hilde. American exceptionalism: An idea that made a nationand remade the world. London: Routledge, 2015. Print.
Stephens, Bret. America in retreat: The new isolationism and thecoming global disorder. New York: Sentinel, 2015. Print.