The aftermath of WWI started the contemporary debate over US foreign policy between the realists and idealists. Although the proponents of political idealism and realism have always clashed in US politics, the newfound global influence of the United States brought their dispute to the forefront of international affairs. Following the first world war, the economic, military, and industrial strength of the United States established the nation as the leading great power in the international arena. Woodrow Wilson, the leading idealist of the time, framed WWI as the “war to end all wars” and promoted the concept of a League of Nations to prevent future conflict...
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...ign policy between the American population and politicians. While ordinary Americans favor a realist approach to foreign policy, the politicians are more idealistic in their approach to foreign policy. The different preferences for idealism and realism in foreign policy also demonstrate how Wilson’s debate still continues in present times.
Despite being competing political paradigms, the interest of both idealism and realism can be realized for a more complete foreign policy. The shortcoming of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles demonstrates the deficiency of liberal idealism when realpolitik of security and power is neglected. The instability and tension caused by US foreign policy during the Cold War show reveal the consequence of power plays and Machiavellian intrigues when democratic and ethical values are eschewed in favor of national interest.
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