World's Umpire (01:57)
Since World War II, the U.S. has been involved in more conflicts than any other nation. Presidents have maintained this is necessary to keep the world safe, but the costs of leadership are high.
Baseball Analogy (03:47)
Elizabeth Cobbs researches why the U.S. continues to defend democracy after winning the Cold War. She believes there is a link between domestic relations and international relations; the founding fathers intended the federal government as an umpire to keep the 13 colonies cooperating. Most problems were solved peacefully in early nationhood.
Three Foreign Policy Principles (03:40)
To avoid involvement in European conflicts, the founding fathers encouraged trade relations but avoided political or military alliances; the U.S. had no standing army because it took valuable resources and posed a threat to liberty; and the U.S. would not intervene in conflicts of other nations.
Attempts to Maintain Isolationism (02:04)
During World War I, Wilson declared neutrality until German submarines sunk American merchant ships. He sent troops but refused to form official alliances. After the war, America reduced its army and hosted a disarmament conference. Major powers sank their own battle ships in 1923.
World War II (02:22)
After World War I, the U.S. returned to its founding principles. During the Depression, Germany, Japan and Italy believed conquest was the only way to restore prosperity. Congress passed 5 neutrality laws, but the war moved closer to home. Roosevelt wrote Hitler and Mussolini asking them to respect sovereign nations— the Nazis laughed.
Mobilization and Intervention (02:15)
The U.S. army was ranked 19th in the world when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. View Roosevelt's declaration of war speech. America's entrance brought hope to Churchill and to French Resistance fighters.
United Nations (01:55)
After World War II, the U.N. Monetary and Financial Conference convened to stabilize world currency and encourage economic success and political cooperation among postwar nations.
Truman Doctrine (03:24)
The Soviet Union became increasingly aggressive. When a communist-backed civil war broke out in Greece in 1947, Britain appealed to the U.S. for help. Concerned that Europe would destabilize, Truman asked Congress to take a stand— starting the Cold War and shifting from isolationist to interventionist policies.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (02:24)
When the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin, America entered NATO, its first permanent armed alliance. Since then, the military has become a main foreign policy tool. Germany and Japan focused on economic development; the U.S. held a "big brother" role protecting European nations from one another.
Respecting Sovereignty (01:47)
Nation-states gradually replaced empires under the Truman Doctrine; the United Nations symbolically guaranteed their right to exist. Global trade boomed. After the Cold War, the U.S. had to decide whether to retain its umpire role or to share the burden of maintaining global security.
Post-Cold War Questions: Sharing the Burden (03:38)
The Truman Doctrine guided U.S. foreign policy through 1991, and has not yet been replaced. With a similarly sized economy, many believe Europe should increase military contributions for maintaining global security under NATO. European nations enjoy peace without having to pay for national defense.
After the Cold War, the U.S. hoped European nations would provide their own security. They sent advisors to the Balkans but were unwilling to use force. Madeline Albright describes pressure on the U.S. to intervene. Clinton eventually acted, saying America is an "indispensable nation."
Indispensable Nation (02:04)
America values self-reliance, but has created a situation in which allies rely on U.S. military force. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Obama committed funds for exercises but European nations did not— despite their economic wealth. Experts make the analogy of grown children living at home.
Domestic Opinion of Foreign Policy (02:36)
Polls show most Americans support a more isolationist approach. After failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, young people favor reducing military spending and the national deficit. The U.S. spends most on defense globally, while falling in GDP per capita and education rankings.
Long Term Costs of Military Spending (01:35)
An estimated $4 trillion will be paid to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. With lower defense costs, Europeans can prioritize education. Many U.S. graduates are in debt and the American workforce is less competitive.
Intervention Arguments (03:00)
Many foreign policy experts argue that it is too dangerous to reduce U.S. military activity around the world. If no other nations are willing to increase defense commitments, America has to maintain its umpire role.
Isolation Arguments (02:53)
Some believe national security threats have been exaggerated; foreign policy should be recalculated. Russia's economy is smaller than European nations and many countries are capable of developing nuclear weapons. Americans are more likely to be killed by household furniture than by terrorists.
Fear Driven Foreign Policy (04:17)
Exaggerating national security threats serves U.S. politicians, defense contractors, and allies. Military intervention without clear political goals has worsened many conflicts since World War II, including Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. cannot fix internal problems of other nations.
Future Games: Shared Responsibility (02:52)
World problems require efforts from multiple countries and international institutions. The U.S. peacekeeping function must be shared among major powers. Barry Posen proposes a 10 year plan to transfer military commitment to Europe.
Economic and Political Role Model (03:50)
Foreign policy experts argue that, while the U.S. must maintain strong defenses, it should prioritize development aid and cultural influence over military intervention. Cobbs argues that the U.S should enlist the help of other Western leaders in fighting terrorism.
Credits: American Umpire (01:08)
Credits: American Umpire
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