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World: Foreign Affairs and National Security


American foreign policy, shaped for decades by an ongoing Cold War with the former Soviet Union, is today still adjusting to post-Cold War realities. The dangerous, but relatively simple, bipolar world of two competing nuclear superpowers has dissolved into a unipolar or multipolar world, depending upon one's view of U.S. dominance of the international arena.

U.S. foreign and national security policy has shifted from containing Soviet communism to addressing conflicts in smaller, but still dangerous, hotspots throughout the world. Often in conjunction with international bodies like the United Nations or NATO, much of American foreign policy now focuses on peacekeeping efforts in places like the Kosovo, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

Debates over many foreign policy and national security issues continue to be drawn along traditional left-right lines. A leading example is defense spending, where conservatives call for significant increases and liberals a shifting of resources to domestic needs. But the left and right are themselves each split between internationalists, who believe the U.S. should maintain a strong international presence, and isolationists who believe the U.S. should avoid unnecessary international entanglements. Indeed, this split has a much longer history in American foreign policy, extending well back before the Cold War and World War II, when isolationists opposed U.S. entry until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

American foreign policy, of course, encompasses much more than matters of war and peace. As the world becomes more intertwined, economically, issues of globalism, foreign trade, international investment and foreign aid are all increasingly important. All of these issues are the focus of this section.

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