U.S. foreign policy traditions: multilateralism vs. unilateralism since 1776
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As the world’s most powerful state the foreign policy choices of the United States have affected global security for a century and will continue to do so for quite some time. The study of U.S. foreign policy traditions is therefore an important aspect of the study of international relations. The conventional assumption of several scholars of U.S. foreign policy is that the United States abandoned its policy of isolation and aloofness and adopted one of responsibility for international security during the Second World War. But rather than the Second World War and the international institutions of 1945 signifying a “turn-around” to Wilsonian multilateralism, the postwar order built by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman in fact accommodated the historic U.S. foreign policy tradition of unilateral internationalism. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the United States actually safeguarded its unilateral maneuverability when constructing the second postwar order in the 1940s. This study argues that the United States acted in the 1940s according to a foreign policy tradition that goes all the way back to the founding fathers.