American foreign policy has long been caught between conflicting desires to influence world affairs yet at the same time to avoid becoming entangled in the burdensome conflicts and damaging rivalries of other states. Clearly, in the post-1945 context, the United States has failed in the attaining the latter. As this new, expanded edition illustrates, the term “doctrine” seemingly (re)attained a charged prominence in the early twenty-first century and, more recently, regarding the many contested debates surrounding the controversial transition to the Biden administration. Notwithstanding such marked variations in the discourse, presidential doctrines have crafted responses and directions conducive to an international order that best advances American interests: an almost hubristic composition encompassing “democratic” states (in the confidence that democracies do not go to war with one another), open free markets (on the basis that they elevate living standards, engender collaboration, and create prosperity), self-determining states (on the supposition that empires were not only adversative to freedom but more likely to reject American influence), and a secure global environment in which US goals can be pursued (ideally) unimpeded. Of course, with the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016, the doctrinal “commonalties” between Republican and Democratic administrations of previous times were significantly challenged if not completely jettisoned. In seeking to provide a much-needed reassessment of the intersections between US foreign policy, national security, and doctrine, Aiden Warren and Joseph M. Siracusa undertake a comprehensive analysis of the defining presidential doctrines from George Washington through to the epochal post-Trump, Joe Biden era.
Aiden Warren is associate professor in RMIT University’s School of Global, Urban, and Social Studies, Melbourne, Australia.
Joseph M. Siracusa is professor of political history and international diplomacy at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, and president emeritus of Australia’s Council of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.
Understanding Presidential Doctrines presents a comprehensive, insightful, and balanced review of how each of the presidents of the United States approached foreign policy. It is essential reading for anyone wishing to make sense of the evolution of US international power and understand that presidents do not enter office working from a clean slate. Past commitments and approaches bind presidents to past policies as they attempt to forge new directions in a changing and dangerous world. I learned a great deal from this book.
This excellent overview of the development of key presidential doctrines, from Washington to the present, effectively demonstrates how policymakers adapted these essential doctrines to new eras and circumstances in pursuing the national interest. Warren and Siracusa have done a notable service by placing the foreign policies of both the Trump and the fledgling Biden administrations into the larger context of American foreign policy development. Their book provides insightful and instructive reading not only for those who study US foreign policy but also for those who seek to shape it in the present and the future.