An Ideology that Made a Nation and Re-made the World
By Hilde Restad
Routledge – 2014 – 224 pages
This book offers a different account of the relationship between the American identity of exceptionalism and U.S. foreign policy. Conventional wisdom suggests that a "schizophrenic" American exceptionalist identity has inspired a dichotomous foreign policy tradition that cycles between isolationism and internationalism. Challenging this view the author argues that there instead has been a continuous and strong unilateral internationalist foreign policy throughout U.S. history. This foreign policy tradition is closely linked to the self-perceived American exceptional purpose in world history. The United States, the author argues, has not vacillated between "exemplarist" and "missionary" identities to the degree conventional accounts argue, but has instead developed a complex exceptionalist identity that idealizes the "City upon a Hill" in its historical narrative, yet more often than not errs on the side of the missionary crusade in its foreign policy.
Discarding old truisms and tropes, the author casts familiar events such as the Puritans coming to America, the settlers moving westward, Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge fighting over how to make the world safe for American democracy, and Franklin Roosevelt creating the United Nations in a new light, linking these historical junctures together to show how American exceptionalism leads to ever more expanding, ever more activist foreign policies on the part of the United States.
1. How to be an American 2. The City upon a Hill versus the Missionary Crusade 3. Isolationaism is Dead, Long Live Isolationism 4. Wilsonian or Lodgian Internationalism? The Twentieth Century and American Multilateralism, Part I 5. Turn-around or Raffirmation? The Twentieth Century and American Multilateralism, Part II 6. The Post-Cold War Order: Fearing the Isolationists Who Never Came 7. American Exceptionalism Today
Hilde Restad is an associate professor at Bjorknes College, Norway.