U.S. foreign policy in the 20th century was dominated by two competing concepts— the idealism of Woodrow Wilson and the realism of Richard Nixon. The Clinton administration took the idealist tradition to new heights of interventionism—dramatically demonstrated in the war to save Albanian Kosovars from Serbian aggression. The next administration must decide how U.S. power will be used in the new century—and whether we can help everyone in need.
George Kennan, one of the 20th century's most formidable foreign policy figures, has been a frequent critic of the lack of conceptual thinking in U.S. foreign policy. Writing in 1967, he commented bitterly that "it remains my hope that if the Vietnam situation takes a turn that permits us once again to conduct our affairs on the basis of deliberate intention rather than just yielding ourselves to be whip-sawed by the dynamics of a situation beyond our control, we will take up once more the quest for a concept as a basis for national policy." 1