Contending Schools

Three distinct schools of thought shape the debate on how America should best pursue its post-Cold War interests in the world.

Issue: Spring 2001

In his book Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger maintains that at the turn of
the last century the United States faced a choice between two
fundamentally different approaches to international relations, one
represented by Theodore Roosevelt and the other by Woodrow Wilson.
America was then emerging from decades of preoccupation with
continental expansion, the country's economic might was beginning to
outdistance that of all others, and its merchants were establishing
trade ties in every corner of the globe. Two schools of thought,
represented by two men who became president, arose to vie for
influence in charting America's approach to such an altered world.

Theodore Roosevelt, president from 1901 to 1909, urged the nation to
establish its relations with the rest of the world solidly on the
concept of national interest, based on military might and balance of
power diplomacy. Woodrow Wilson, president from 1913 to 1921, pressed
the nation to support a foreign policy grounded in law and deriving
strength from cooperation with others.

You must be a subscriber of The National Interest to access this article. If you are already a subscriber, please activate your online access. Not a subscriber? Become a subscriber today!