Sectionalism and American Foreign Policy

Sectionalism and American Foreign Policy - N| Page ima...

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Page | Nima Baghdadi Sectionalism and American Foreign Policy: The Political Geography of Consensus and Conflict For over two decades, American foreign policy faced a prolonged conflict on the uses of American power between the Rust Belt states and those of the Sun Belt manifested in the Congress. The author’s main argument is that such regional schism on the priorities of foreign policy paved the way for the difficulty America’s leaders have faced in depicting an image of the national interest that receives broad domestic support. The twentieth century’s national-level struggle on the making of the foreign policy is way different from that of the nineteenth century, that is, the concerns are no more on tariff policy, territorial expansion and naval power but they go around interpreting the patterns of conflict consensus and stalemates in foreign policy. The author argues that such a change towards more ideological and institutional cleavages has been brought about by the emergence of the US as global power and its integration into the world economy. The author’s geographically based approach tries to cast light on such conflicts over foreign policy that once could have the national support in a form of a ‘national consensus’ during the 1940s and 1950s before its breakdown as the result of the Vietnam War failures. Since the 1960’s, American politics has been the scene for the struggles between manufacturing Northeast states and non-industrial but agricultural-and-raw-material-producing South ones over wealth and power whose manifestation on foreign policy has been the support for an ambitious and expensive foreign policy agenda on behalf of the sunbelt states versus a “more restrained and cost-conscious approach to foreign policy” advocated by rustbelt states. The author argues that such a regional conflict reflects the unevenness of development in national political economy across the country. The author argues that the off-and-on periods of consensus and stability obfuscates the reality that the geography of national interest matters as a dimension for analysis because the domestic political circumstances that pave the for such substantial latitude in conducting foreign policy get undermined but when the crisis is back, such illusion on policy-making process goes away and the politically rough nature of the national interest comes back on. In terms of research design and methodology, the author’s approach to understanding American foreign policy is regionally grounded on national politics trying to show how the structure of the competition over foreign policy changed since the 1960s. He embarks on testing his propositions by examining the patterns of Congress members’ voting on foreign policy matters over time with more emphasis on the House of Representatives from the Truman through Reagan incumbency years. He makes use of two different methods for constructing and analyzing congressional voting behaviors: principal components analysis for identifying temporal groupings of Congresses and multidimensional
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Sectionalism and American Foreign Policy - N| Page ima...

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