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Wilsonianism: The Legacy that Won't Die

Volume 9, Number 2 (1990)

In American Power, a survey of American foreign policy and its chief architects since 1914, John Taft observes that the shadow cast by Woodrow Wilson, our twenty-eighth president, has affected our long-term view of international relations. Taft demonstrates his point by citing the appeal to Wilsonian ideals made by politicians and thinkers as ideologically varied as William Bullitt, Chester Bowles, Henry Wallace, Herbert Hoover, John Foster Dulles, Walter Lippmann, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and (even intermittently) George F. Kennan. One of Richard M. Nixon's first acts upon becoming president was to move a portrait of Wilson into his private office. A self-described political realist, Nixon may nonetheless have felt it expedient to associate himself publicly with the early twentieth-century personification of American internationalism. Although not all American public figures have interpreted the Wilsonian legacy in the same way, yet a general admiration persists for Wilson's "idealism" in approaching international relations. All of the men Taft mentions followed Wilson in believing that America should aspire to reform world politics, and they viewed the wars into which the United States was drawn as opportunities to promote this end.1   :snip: 

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