Because of its distinct intellectual and philosophical tradition based on a reconciliation between religion and science — which is known in modern terms as “pragmatism” — the United States stands apart from all other Western countries both culturally and philosophically. The foundations for “pragmatism” as a distinctly American cultural, intellectual, and philosophical tradition go back to the days of the ‘Founding Fathers’ and their revolution against a humanist and secular monarch. “Pragmatism” is thus largely a byproduct of the experience that the “Founding Fathers” of the United States had with an autocratic monarch who belonged to a humanist and secular tradition coming out of Europe. Whereas virtually all European and Western countries have a humanist and secular culture and tradition, the United States has a “pragmatic” culture and tradition that reconciles religion with science.
However, traditions can evolve. Thus, after the “transcendentalism” of the early 19th century which then shifted towards the “pragmatism” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “progressivism” came to life in the United States as a result of FDR and later as a result of the social progress of the 1960’s ‘Civil Rights Movement.’ Thus, the time is very much ripe in the United States for a gradual solidification of progressivism as the philosophical underpinnings of American domestic and foreign policy.
The origins of American foreign policy stem from George Washington’s “Proclamation of Neutrality.” Later on, as America’s role in the world evolved into becoming an anchor for global order after World War ll, America delved head first into international affairs. There is still very much a need for America’s involvement in international affairs. But in the long run, global order will require ‘power equilibrium’ between West and East, along with Russia’s integration into an American-led global order. Thus, the back-and-forth at the moment between the United States and Russia over a petty issue such as Ukraine is merely a side show to the actual direction and outcome of global affairs. As Henry Kissinger wrote, there is a “Promised Land of Politics” which consists of five elements:
1. The end of the “Cold War” with Russia
2. Re-definition of the transatlantic partnership
3. Partnership with China
4. Middle East Peace
5. Beginning of Russia’s integration into the international order
Although America and the world are still quite far off from reaching the “Promised Land” of international politics that Kissinger envisioned, the natural human impulse towards movement and growth suggests that we are bound to trek towards that promised land one way or another.