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Wilsonian Idealism and Its Relevance in Today’s US Essay


In his book, a diplomat and a political scientist, Henry Kissinger states that, “It is above all to the drumbeat of Wilsonian idealism that American foreign policy has marched since his watershed presidency, and continues to march to this day”1. Here he implies that although Wilson failed to convince America that collective security represented by international organizations would guarantee peace in the world, his idea is still relevant today.

I partly agree with this statement because today politicians do their best to avoid armed conflicts on the international arena, however, in certain situations foreign policy still follows the best interests of the United States.

In the modern world, the peaceful coexistence of different countries is impossible without international relations, which is the foundation of diplomacy. Without these means of implementing the state foreign policy, political, economic and cultural integration is impossible. Initially, the U.S. diplomacy arose from the English model. The theory of international relations in American political science began to form in the period between the two World Wars.

America has always been independent in decision-making and used manipulative tactics combined with old and new traditions. In the twentieth century, America became a global superpower and had expanded its foreign engagement. During those times Woodrow Wilson ruled the country and recognized the role of America in international affairs. He believed that the foundation of international relations was morality and law. The aim of his ideology was stated as “to entrench cooperation and interdependence among all countries around the globe, believing that cooperation will substitute anarchy with peace and prosperity”2.

Political idealism holds that the democratization of international relations, combined with the introduction of norms of morality and justice into the world politics can eliminate armed conflicts and wars between different nations and countries3. Supporters of Wilsonian idealism tried to analyze the goals and objectives of foreign policy proceeding solely from moral, ethical and abstract legal norms. Following the views of classical liberalism, they believe that the primary task of the foreign policy of the United States of America is to defend the ideals of freedom and democracy throughout the world.

Wilsonian ideology appears to have preserved in modern politics. Recent examples include George W. Bush, who “radiated Wilsonian idealism.”4 Also in May 2014, President Obama gave a speech, “where he defined America’s place in the world much as Wilson might have — propping up the international order, defending human rights, and walking eternally down the path of virtue”5. However, foreign policy is too complicated only to judge it from the reflections of presidents.

In practice, an idealistic approach is not an obstacle to the use of assertive methods of achieving foreign policy goals. In fact, it successfully serves as a camouflage to interfere in foreign and domestic policies of other countries in pursuit of economic, geopolitical, and strategic benefits. Such a practice can be observed in the activities of many prominent American political leaders and scientists since 1950’s up to the present day.

For instance, during the Cold War, many U.S. foreign policy steps were justified by considerations of protecting freedom and democracy, combating the anti-liberal theory and practice of communism. Furthermore, the idealistic approach was reflected in foreign policy doctrines and foreign policy practice of other countries as well.

In my opinion, the alternative opinion of ideology – a political realism is more prevalent today. According to Prinz and Rossi, it focuses on the objectivity of analysis and evaluation of real facts and events in the political world6. This theory recognizes the fact that national and state interests are at the heart of international politics, which are considered to be a political motivation. The determining role of national interests in the policy is expressed, in particular, the fact that the concepts of “enemies” and “allies” are conditional and change as interests are transformed.

To conclude, I believe that today American foreign policy shows interests in enforcing peace only on the surface. In reality, Wilsonian ideology does not provide enough motivation for unconditional support and financial help to foreign countries because America will always seek for own benefit. It is impossible to believe in unselfish intentions because behind each slogan and action there is a specific interest.

Bibliography

Bello, Haliru Dogondaji. “The Role of Wilsonian Idealism in the Emergence of Existential Threats to Security- 21st century Nigeria in focus,” International Scientific Conference” Strategies XXI” 2, (2017): 92- 108.

Kissinger, Henry. Henry Kissinger Foreign Policy E-book Boxed Set: Crisis, Does America Need a Foreign Policy and Diplomacy? New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Web.

Ikenberry, G. John, Thomas J. Knock, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Tony Smith. The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-first Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Prinz, Janosch, and Enzo Rossi. “Political Realism as Ideology Critique.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 20, no. 3 (2017): 348-365.

Widmer, Ted. “New York Times. Web.

Footnotes

  1. Henry Kissinger, Henry Kissinger Foreign Policy E-book Boxed Set: Crisis, Does America Need a Foreign Policy and Diplomacy? (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013).
  2. Haliru Dogondaji, Bello. “The role of Wilsonian idealism in the emergence of existential threats to security- 21st century Nigeria in focus,” International Scientific Conference” Strategies XXI” 2, (2017): 92.
  3. G. John Ikenberry et al., The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-first Century. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 89-119.
  4. Ted Widmer, “Long Echoes of War and Speech,” New York Times. Web.
  5. Ted Widmer, “Long Echoes of War and Speech.”
  6. Janosh Prinz, and Enzo Rossi, “Political Realism as Ideology Critique.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 20, no. 3 (2017): 352.
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IvyPanda. "Wilsonian Idealism and Its Relevance in Today's US." November 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/wilsonian-idealism-and-its-relevance-in-todays-us/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. "Wilsonian Idealism and Its Relevance in Today's US." November 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/wilsonian-idealism-and-its-relevance-in-todays-us/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Wilsonian Idealism and Its Relevance in Today's US'. 21 November.

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