Raymond Seitz

Steadying the Ship

Foreign Policy Begins at Home


Basic Books 208pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era


Princeton University Press 183pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

For most of its history American foreign policy has been episodic. In the first century and a half of independence, the governing principle was to stay out of foreign affairs altogether. The United States may have chased down Barbary pirates, huffily engaged in border disputes and intervened in one Caribbean island or another, but even external wars were comparatively small beer – whether it was thumping the Mexicans in the 1840s or humiliating the Spanish in 1898. Instead, domestic considerations were everything: expanding westward, the Civil War, getting rich, building the new nation.

Foreign policy, such as it was, existed without any noticeable framework or sense of strategy. The Monroe Doctrine in 1823 warned European states to stop meddling in the affairs of the western hemisphere, but this was largely declaratory and counted on the indulgence of the British navy for enforcement. Theodore Roosevelt conducted a personal foreign policy of muscle-flexing, but to no obvious end. To justify America’s belated entry into the First World War, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a series of international principles, all of which evaporated from the American mind shortly after the fighting ended.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,
    • 'The Testaments is, first and foremost, a manual of resistance ... a type of resistance that is organised, articula… ,