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Cover US Foreign Policy

2. American exceptionalism  

Daniel Deudney and Jeffrey Meiser

This chapter examines how America can be described as different and exceptional. The belief in American exceptionalism is based upon a number of core realities, including American military primacy, economic dynamism, and political diversity. Understanding understanding American exceptionalism is essential for understanding not only U.S. foreign policy but also major aspects of contemporary world politics. The chapter first considers the meaning of exceptionalism, the critics of American exceptionalism, and the roots of American success. It then discusses the liberalism that makes the United States exceptional, along with peculiar American identity formations of ethnicity, religion, and ‘race’. It also explores the role of American exceptionality across the five major epochs of American foreign policy, from the nation’s founding to the present. It concludes by reflecting on the significance of the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008 to the story of American exceptionalism, difference, and peculiar Americanism.

Chapter

Cover US Foreign Policy

1. Theories of US foreign policy  

Brian Schmidt

This chapter examines some of the competing theories that have been advanced to explain U.S. foreign policy. In trying to explain the foreign policy of the United States, a number of competing theories have been developed by International Relations scholars. Some theories focus on the role of the international system in shaping American foreign policy while others argue that various domestic factors are the driving force. The chapter first considers some of the obstacles to constructing a theory of foreign policy before discussing some of the competing theories of American foreign policy, including defensive realism, offensive realism, liberalism, Marxism, neoclassical realism, and constructivism. The chapter proceeds by reviewing the theoretical debate over the origins of the Cold War and the debate over the most appropriate grand strategy that the United States should follow in the post-Cold War era.

Chapter

Cover US Foreign Policy

3. American exceptionalism  

Daniel Deudney and Jeffrey W. Meiser

This chapter argues why we must think of the United States as an exceptional kind of nation with a very distinct past and an equally distinct set of capabilities. It first considers American difference and exceptionality before discussing the meaning of exceptionalism, the critics of American exceptionalism, and the roots of American success. It then examines the liberalism that makes the United States exceptional, along with peculiar American identity formations of ethnicity, religion, and ‘race’ and how they interact with — and often subvert — American liberalism. It also analyses the role of American exceptionality across the five major epochs of US foreign policy, from the nation’s founding to the present day. Along the way, the chapter explores notions of American liberal republicanism, anti-statism, state-building, militarism, capitalism and prosperity, immigration, federal internationalism, unipolarity, war on terrorism, and unilateralism.

Chapter

Cover US Foreign Policy

2. Theories of US foreign policy  

Brian Schmidt

This chapter considers some of the competing theories that have been proposed to explain US foreign policy. It first provides an overview of some of the obstacles to constructing a theory of foreign policy before discussing some of the competing theories of US foreign policy, including systemic theories such as defensive realism and offensive realism, theories that accentuate domestic factors like liberalism and Marxism, and a theory that combines systemic and domestic factors, such as neoclassical realism and constructivism. The chapter also revisits the theoretical debate over the origins of the Cold War and concludes by analysing the debate on the most appropriate grand strategy that the United States should follow in the post-Cold War era, with particular emphasis on, primacy, liberal internationalism, and offshore balancing.