American foreign policy historically has been divided between a mix of idealism and realism, and only an appropriate mix of the two is in the best interests of the United States, says Ripon College President Zach P. Messitte.
Messitte helped launch the College’s annual Alumni Weekend as well as the new Summer Heritage Lecture Series on Friday with his first class at Ripon College, “Foreign Policy in the Age of Obama.” He outlined some of the broad historical trends in American foreign policy and put into historical context some of the current challenges facing President Obama and his team of advisers.
With a lot of interaction from the packed room of alumni, College colleagues and friends of the College, Messitte addressed such topics as how other countries view the United States today; the fall of the Soviet Union and “the new world order”; how 9-11 changed everything in terms of American foreign policy and the dynamic of the United States in the world; and the U.S. decision to go into Iraq.
“That’s when world opinion begins to shift,” Messitte said.
Messitte received both his master’s and doctorate degrees in international relations, wrote his dissertation on anti-Americanism in Europe, and recently co-edited “Understanding the Global Community” and wrote the book’s chapter on American foreign policy.
He said the study of international relations is just less than 100 years old, starting after World War I as people sought to determine why we had gone to war and how to prevent it from happening again.
The foreign policy of the United States and our view of the world have been led by the two big overarching pillars of idealism and realism, Messitte said. He said realists are concerned with economic well-being and security of the country, rationalizing that if we are strong at home, we will be strong in the world.
Idealists focus more on the legal and moral aspects of policy, he said.
“These two great theories have jockeyed for position,” he said.
He said favorability of the United States has risen somewhat over the past few years, and posed the question as to whether this really matters. Is this the moment, he asked – as some theorists have said – that the United States’ status as the pre-eminent power in world will begin to wane?
“There is no perfect mix between idealism and realism,” Messitte said. “There needs to be an appropriate mix” to react to world situations in an appropriate way.
To learn more about the Summer Heritage Lecture Series and to purchase tickets, click HERE.Tweet