The Politics of Empire: Domestic Contestation and the Struggle over American Foreign Policy

Ori Tamir, University of California, Davis

Histories of American foreign policy generally attribute the expansionist impulse to the interests of a narrow elite that gained control over foreign policy at the turn of the century (Williams 1959; Halberstam 1969; Parmar 2012). What is often lost is the domestic struggle over expansion. This paper will reinterpret three important periods in the history of American foreign policy - the Progressive era, which included the War of 1898 and the First World War, the Second World War and the early Cold War, and the War in Vietnam - to show that decisions to intervene were the products of struggles between political coalitions. This paper challenges the view that an entrenched elite has embarked on a long-term imperial project. Rather, it argues that expansion has always been contingent on the success of coalitions that favor expansion over the robust resistance of antiwar movements - an outcome which was seldom guaranteed.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 108. Parties & Coalitions in US Politics