The Fifth Annual Nancy Bernkopf Tucker Memorial Lecture

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America First: Provincialism and Internationalism in U.S. Foreign Relations

Until the very end of the 19th century, America’s relationship to the world was directed by George Washington’s Farewell Address, urging Americans to stay out of Europe’s incessant conflicts and wars, and instead to overspread and develop a continent protected by two great oceans. The Spanish-American War and the annexation of Hawaii at the turn of the last century signaled a formal move toward territorial empire, and John Hay’s “Open Door” provided a rationale for neo-imperialism. But apart from Theodore Roosevelt’s realpolitik and Woodrow Wilson’s adventure in idealism, the imperial impulse subsided and the U.S. retreated to continental isolation. Pearl Harbor was the tipping point toward the first sustained American effort at a genuine and lasting multilateral internationalism. It persisted through the Obama administration but now seems like a fading dream. Is the new administration returning to a Washingtonian stance toward the world, or simply asserting a provincial, highly nationalistic, unilateral imperialism?

Please join Warren Cohen and all our guests in the Wilson Center’s Moynihan Board Room for a reception immediately following this lecture.

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