When we look at the history of American foreign policy decisions, it’s impossible to stick with only ten instances that pushed the envelope. Military operations are always bold and daunting considering the fact that lives will be at stake. For this compilation however, we focus on diplomatic episodes since the American Revolution. Without further adieu here are ten bold decisions in American foreign policy.
1. The Cuban Missile Crisis – President John F. Kennedy was faced with Soviet ballistic missiles being deployed in Cuba. Scholars have said that this incident was the closest the Cold War came to an full-scale war. Kennedy and his advisors worked on the best course of action. They went ahead with a blockade, formally “quarantine”, of Soviet ships transporting missiles.
2. The Suez Canal Crisis – Israel, France and Great Britain were in conflict with Egypt about the nationalization of the Suez Canal. President Eisenhower demanded a cease fire by placing sanctions on Great Britain and passing a cease-fire resolution in the United Nations.
3. The Monroe Doctrine – This was the declaration by President James Monroe in 1823 that prohibited European intervention in the Americas. Interference in the Americas would be recognized as an act of aggression. The doctrine has influenced America to become what it is today by leading toward expansionism.
4. The League of Nations – After World War I, President Woodrow Wilson’s bold plan for international cooperation was outlined in his “Fourteen Points”. Although the plan was never ratified by the United States, its ambition laid the groundwork for the United Nations.
5. Containment – This was the prevention of communism from spreading during the Cold War. Whether it be supporting non-communist governments or Although containment was an on-and-off policy, it was solidified by President Ronald Reagan and was maintained until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
6. Relief of Douglas MacArthur – President Harry Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur of his duty in Korea in 1951. Truman and MacArthur were at odds with regards to a plan to fight the Korean War. This was an unpopular move on Truman’s part but the fact that he removed his most favored military officer is indeed a bold move.
7. Global War on Terror – GWoT, as it’s shortened, still exists today. We are familiar with Bush’s wars in the Middle East, but his decision to expand the War on Terror to Iraq in 2003 was a bold move. Bold does not exactly mean good. The War on Terror sees less support as it did when it began. See its implication everyday and it has shaped the United States role in the Middle East.
8. The Roosevelt Corollary, Big Stick Diplomacy – President Theodore Roosevelt derived his foreign policy approach from the Monroe Doctrine. He made it clear that the United States will intervene in conflicts between European and Latin nations. Some scholars make the connection to interventionist policies that followed the century.
9. The XYZ Affair – President John Adams and French diplomats were at a disagreement with status of their relationship. French leaders ordered American merchant ships to be seized and led to an undeclared naval war known as the Quasi-War. President Adams also declared the Alien and Sedition Acts during this time.
10. The Lend-Lease Act – Before the United States was an active combatant in World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt tried his best to stay out of the war. However, President Roosevelt supplied weapons for the Allies and ended his non-interventionist approach to the war with this act signed in March 1941. Nine months later, the United States would find itself fighting on two fronts on the largest war in history.
There is almost an infinite number of foreign policy decisions that have required politicians to stand strong. Yet, resiliency does not equate to a smart or sound decision. We’ve seen this in history, where a politician stands by a decision only to face the criticism for a lifetime. These ten events are just scratching the surface on tense and daring episodes of diplomacy.
Which event stands out to you as the boldest American foreign policy move?