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American Foreign Policy Since 1945

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The United States of America, with its founding in 1775 and winning the American Revolution or, more accurately, a British civil war which lasted until 1783 over the 19th 1781 with the surrender of General Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered 7087 officers and 900 seamen hundred and 40 cannons 15 galleys a frigate and 30 transport vessels.

During the day of the surrender, General Cornwallis pleaded illness, and his second-in-command General Charles O’Hara carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders.

As the British and Hessian troops marched out to surrender, the British bands played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.”

The war continued to be waged on the high seas, with the British having their true strength at sea due to being a primarily maritime power.

The final truce was made in the Treaty of Paris, beginning with negotiations in 1782 and then signing the treaty on 3 September 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was ratified.

Previous to this date and the surrender of Cornwallis in 1781, all fighting primarily had been concluded on the North American continent. In practical terms, the new American state had won the war but was now trying to win the peace.

photo of mount rushmore national memorial  American Foreign
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American Foreign Policy from 1783 Until 1945

After winning their independence, American foreign policy strongly aligned with France from 1783 until 1792, and there was hope in America that the French revolutionaries, with the storming of the Bastille in 1789, would lead to a constitutional government like the USA model.

Unfortunately, France descended into barbarism, and then the United States refused to support their ally in French Revolutionary Wars (1792 to 1803) and the Napoleonic Wars, named after Napoleon Bonaparte, who took power in 1799.

The Americans bet that the British Empire would ultimately win the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, which created an environment of mistrust between the French and the Americans until today.

From the point of view of the French, the Americans stabbed them in the back by not honouring their alliance with the nation that enabled the United States to exist in the first place.

British Empire won the Napoleonic wars due to the expansion of the British train network, and British finance enabled Great Britain to fund France’s enemies from 1792 until Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

This highlights American foreign policy through most of the late 18th until the early 20th century; being isolationist and not wishing to become involved in conflicts in Europe was very successful, barring the brief War of 1812 and the British burning down the White House.

The United States, as a nation in this time period, had a natural fear of the British even though this was an emotional response and made no logical sense that the British would attempt to conquer the newly independent United States.

The fear was propellant in the imagination of the American public.

It would continue until the ending of the American Civil War from 1861 until 1865, with Confederate General Robert E Lee, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and later commander-in-chief of the Confederate States of America.

He spent most of his career until the outbreak of war in 1861 as an engineer repairing and building defences in the case of a British invasion.

Another fear that America had was Mexico and its expansion into California and the southern United States, which helped to contribute to the Mexican-American War from 1846 until 1848.

American foreign policy is based on its interpretation of its historical history, an overarching fear of a British invasion, and not wishing to be entangled in European wars.

World War I from 1914 to 1918, with American intervention after the defeat of the Russian Empire in 1917, would bring America briefly out of its self-imposed isolation and lead to the creation of the League of Nations and then its successor, the United Nations, created in 1945.

After America’s brief involvement in the First World War for the next 20 years, America reverted to its historical norm of self-isolation up until December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked the American bases in the Philippines and the destruction of the US fleet based in Pearl Harbor.

The involvement of the United States in two world wars galvanised political leaders in the Republican and Democratic parties to intervene and maintain a system of peace that has existed from 1945 until recent times.

However, the system is creaking with the rise of new powers such as India and China, threatening the USA’s position as the global hegemony.

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American Foreign Policy Since the End of World War II

During the closing years of the Second World War, from 1939 until 1945 or from 1941 to 1945 for the United States and Soviet Union, it was clear by international observers that the world was most likely heading towards another war that the United States and communist Russia would wage.

This, fortunately, does not materialise due to the detonation of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which makes traditional conflicts between great powers too costly due to the invention of nuclear weaponry.

This power imbalance between both nations would be resolved when the Soviet Union 1949 created their atomic bombs, thereby equalising the technological development between Russia and their archrival USA.

The United States, following World War II, created a network of alliances to contain the threat of the expansionist Soviet Union that stretched from central Europe to the Pacific Ocean and the containment of communist China after their victory in 1949, defeating the Chinese Nationalists that ran away to Taiwan creating a government in exile.

From 1945 until 1989 United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a Cold War and fought multiple proxy wars such as the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, the Vietnam War from 1955 until 1975, and the Afghan-Soviet war from 1979 until 1989.

These conflicts finally ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union due to financial pressure on internal rebellion in 1989, concluding the conflict between the Union of Soviet Republics and the United States of America.

American foreign, after 1945, aimed to make an alliance system with its allies to create an international environment where its supporters could freely trade in goods and services and where all nations had access to the resources to industrialise, with the USA securing global trade lanes.

The freedom of capital, the freedom of the global markets and the freedom of travel that enabled conditions to enable prosperity as we understand it in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, since George WH Bush was voted out of office in 1993 with the election of Bill Clinton to the White House, American presidents from 1993 until the present day have been increasingly isolationist and looking more inwardly.

Global prosperity was built upon the backs of European and American working classes due to the outsourcing of the extraction of mineral resources and other manufacturing jobs that were traditional working-class jobs.

What has occurred since the 1960s is the deindustrialisation of the West and the industrialisation of developing countries due to the West providing the capital and markets so that nations develop and trade their natural resources for money.

With industrialisation in the Global South, economies could go down a similar development path as the Western world or the Global North regarding economic development.

Through trade and international cooperation, securing an environment of peace enabled global prosperity in the late 20th and 21st centuries.

Before the American world order was created in 1945, the continent of Europe was the bloodiest continent on the planet, with it being a bloodbath of rival kingdoms than later states and countries since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 475 A.D.

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Sources and Bibliography

History Channel Americans defeat the British at Yorktown link

Britannica American Revolution link

National Army Museum American War of Independence: Key Battles link

Lumen Learning United States Population Chart link Populations Of Great Britain And America link

Britannica France, 1715–89 link

Britannica  French Revolutionary Wars link

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