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June 2009

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Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy
Review by Henry E. Mattox, Contributing Editor

imageMichael H. Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy, Yale Univ. Press, 1987, Republished 2009, Afterword copyright 2009, ISBN 978-0300139259, 261 pp. Illus., paperback, $18.00.

Professor Michael Hunt, largely retired now after a long, distinguished academic career centered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provides an insightful commentary as part of the republication this year of his noted 1987 study. Praise for the original publication included these comments:

“Historically sound. . . A subtle critique and analysis.”
Gaddis Smith, Foreign Affairs

“A work of intellectual daring and vigor. . .”
Ronald Steel, Reviews in Amer. History

“A penetrating and provocative study. . .”
John Martz, Journal of Politics

In an afterword to his newly republished work, Hunt revisits the origins from which, in building upon guidance received early in his own graduate studies, he articulates a central conceptual theme that has long guided his research in the history of American foreign policy.

Hunt terms that area of focus, addressed in his extensive body of published work over the years, his belief that policymakers almost invariably carry with them “broad notions” that have direct relevance to their often complex, frequently influential policy decisions. It is, in his words, “a simple concept,” but one that incorporates complex ramifications with wide applicability. It is, he suggests, a basic idea capable of far-reaching implications for virtually all involved with policy decisions, whether as practitioners or scholars.

Tracing here the broader aspects of Hunt’s thesis, one can cite his discussion in the realms of diplomatic history and foreign policy of such profoundly influential concepts as George Kennan’s Cold War views and the progressive principles of William Appleman Williams, plus what might be called the “exceptionalist” positions on America that formed Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy concepts. Others discussed in this special sense by Professor Hunt include FDR and his World War II advisers such as Cordell Hull.

Earlier shapers of U.S. policies discussed in the context of their wider views of the nation and the world include Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.  The “broad notions” mentioned above encompass in Hunt’s study policy makers’ opinions on the concepts of race and gender, nativism, regionalism, the open-door policy, public opinion, and policies toward Latin America, among many others.

Talk about concepts with far-reaching policy implications! Certainly Hunt’s study that first appeared two decades and more ago contains a veritable treasure trove of ideas meeting that characterization. For anyone interested in the foundations of American foreign policy, the newly re-published Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy is the ticket. The author’s fresh, if comparatively brief, added commentary serves admirably to put into context the relatively recent clashes centered on the Middle East.bluestar

 


 

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