A Country Our Founding Fathers Did Not Envision
We solicited short essays from Young Professionals in Foreign Policy on four topics. Now, we’re publishing what we considered to be the best entry for each question. Jared Stancombe was one of the winners.
What would the Founding Fathers think of America’s leadership in the world today?
The Founding Fathers had a much different vision for America’s role in the world than what it currently has today. George Washington stressed in his Farewell Address that the United States should prevent “foreign entanglements” and largely remain neutral in foreign conflicts. This reflects his Proclamation of Neutrality, which he signed in May 1793, which stated that the United States was to remain neutral in the conflict between Great Britain and France. The Proclamation also threatened legal action against any American providing assistance to any country in a state of war.
During and after the Civil War, the federal government grew at an incredible scale and pace. According to the National Park Service, in 1860, federal government expenditures were measured at just $78 million. By 1867, the federal budget was approximately $376.8 million. The United States attempted to remain neutral during World War I, but Woodrow Wilson cited Germany’s aggressive use of submarine warfare which resulted in the deaths of 128 Americans in the sinking of the Lusitania and the Zimmerman Telegram, in which Germany attempted to lure Mexico into the war in an alliance against the United States. From 1917 to 1945, the international system had transformed and placed the United States center stage as it led the fight in two world wars. The United States became an unwilling hegemon in a bipolar system as it entered the Cold War, and created alliances through NATO and the United Nations to counter the spread of communism, protect its allies, and ensure that another world war never happened again.
After the Cold War, the United States was left without equal in terms of military and economic strength. It became the first truly global superpower, counter to everything George Washington passionately stood for. I believe that the evolution of the United States’ role in the global system is similar to how George Washington would react—reluctant, but willing to take on the challenge as a matter of pragmatic necessity.
This article was written by Capital Flows from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.