During the 1890’s the United States saw a surge in its interests abroad. Before this decade, the U.S. government never asserted their influence over foreign nations as strongly and rapidly. It was a turning point in the history of U.S. foreign policy and two scholars, Fareed Zakaria and Peter Trubowitz, provide very different explanations as to why the United States adapted a new foreign policy and acquired territory abroad in the 1890’s. These dissimilar theories use unique units of analysis to examine this period in American history that provide interesting explanations as to why this decade saw such a heightened level of U.S. influence throughout the world. Zakaria’s hypothesis, state-centered realism, better explains why the United
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Peter Trubowitz contrarily argues that domestic geopolitical forces throughout various regions in the United States, primarily the Northeast, the South, and the West, form American foreign policy. Trubowitz says that his main task in his book, Defining the National Interest: Conflict and Change in American Foreign Policy, “is to show that conflicts over American foreign policy have consistently divided the nation along sectional lines” (Trubowitz, 23) and to do this he focuses on the House of Representatives. He believes that politicians from these different regions try and link their region’s particular concerns with foreign policy with that of the nation. As compared to Zakaria, Trubowitz thinks that these regional interests, mainly economic interests, were the forces behind the new foreign policy mainly because of the struggle between the push for expansionism and at the same time trying to preserve America’s isolationism across the varying regions. These two theories provide excellent explanations to the surge of U.S. foreign policy in the 1890’s, but Zakaria’s state-centered realism provides a more compelling argument in the end.
As mentioned, Trubowitz argues that diverse regional interests shape foreign policy in the United States due to politicians representing those interests in the House of Representatives. The problem with this is that it doesn’t reveal as to why exactly American foreign policy changed so drastically causing