A shift in American foreign policy?

As the United States turns it's attention to the Democratic and Republican conventions and the upcoming presidential election, political analysts are evaluating the Bush era and paying close attention to the country's foreign policy. For better or worse, the United States is the dominant player on the world stage. It's influence is global.

What foreign policy goals should the next American president set?

In an engaging essay in American Interest magazine, a quarterly magazine whose tone is largely bi-partisan, historian John Lewis Gaddis argues that George W. Bush may have already subtly shifted the United States' focus. He quotes Bush's second inaugural speech in 2005 when the president said, "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

Gaddis argues that "ending tyranny" is an old idea in American politics - it permeates the Declaration of Independence and was an important policy of many early presidents, from Jefferson to Adams to Lincoln . It's an important concept because it recognizes that before democracies can take root, people must have security and safety first; the "freedom from fear" that Franklin D. Roosevelt talked about.

This may be a hard lesson re-learned, as the world and the White House study what's gone wrong in Iraq and in other countries where the United States has tried unsuccessfully to push, prod and promote democracy.

Gaddis is a renowned Yale professor, best known for his studies of the Cold War. He surprises us with the revelation that, contrary to public perception, George W. Bush is an avid reader and a serious student of history. Hard to believe, isn't it? Gaddis is impressed with the president's first-hand knowledge of this subject and his association with historians.

Anyway, the essay will be an interesting read for both the Obama and McCain camp, as they look ahead to the election later this year.

I enjoyed it.

See Ending Tyranny - The past and future of an idea in American Interest.

Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily for highlighting it.

Also, Independence Day in this blog has more on the ideas of Thomas Jefferson.

Photo of the Capitol Building in Washington courtesy of Michael Slonecker.
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