civil war

Civil War’s Effects on the USA’s Foreign Policy

International Relations

1. Introduction

America has a large impact on the world today with its foreign policy. Its foreign policy changes from term to term like other democratic countries, but some basic points stay same. Since its foundation till today, America has been an example for the rest of the world in politics, science and military fields. It’s not just a state but also today’s “major power” by their own words and they try to make the world better than now by their own vision. Especially, USA’s civil war, has a large impact in their history. If we have a deep look to their policy we may see that their 21st century’s dynamics actually based on their history which covers a long term. Their presidents change but their main frame stays same with their own interests by actions and decisions in their foreign policy. In this case USA’s civil war has an important place in the history.

That may sound so strange that we have an idea about the USA’s foreign policy by just analyzing presidents, but the USA’s constitution gives authority to the president in a large area including foreign policy. Neither USA’s presidents nor USA’s civil war could help us to understand its density on their own. In that case we can understand the USA’s foreign policy by analyzing its presidents and collecting datas about them. Of course presidents work with their own team but the center of the team is theirselves. And that work, covers more the last examples to make it easy to understand. We’ll analyze some presidents with their actions and decisions, then we’ll analyze some events happened in American history and as the last, we’ll analyze the USA’s Civil War. In that case, we’ll try to reach a conclusion by researching and trying have an idea with all these resources in international relations.

2. Foreign Policy’s Evolution with Presidents

America is well-known as land of freedoms since their declaration of freedom. Their first democracy movement happened by their first President George Washington’s action in their revolutionary war. He had been president two times, but he wouldn’t be the third. By that action, a custom occured among the American Presidents. George Washington maked a sacrifice for his nation. This custom continued till the Franklin D. Roosevelt, then that was placed into the constitution as a law.

As the last generation we may remember George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as featured Presidents. If we have a look each other’s decisions and actions we see the some dynamics which are important in their foreign policy stay same. As first, father Bush’s foreign policy decisions seemed to be aggressive and religious in many ways but formed by democracy by his own thought. When we analyze the Clinton term, we see America’s soft power more, not just Clinton’s words but also his decisions and actions at the same time. We may say that he served peace or even he tried to served peace than the Bush family by acting carefully.

3. Clear, Big Step in Iraq by President Bush

We can take George W. Bush in hand as different than others because we know him as “The man who bring democracy in Iraq”. When we look at the frame as foreigner that’s not just about democracy, that’s a serious action, a strategy, a diplomacy and more than a war. That has been discussed for a long time. Of course America went into that war for its own interests.

Besides there are many countries need democracy in their own lands, America chose Iraq for what ? President Bush explained it by 9/11 attacks and he claimed that the attacks based on Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein’s supports to Al-Queda which is a terrorist group. By the time President Bush also claimed that there were mass destruction weapons in Iraq and Iraq needed democracy for their interests. With all his claims, and his lead, America went into Iraq to fight against Al-Queda, to arrest Saddam Hussein, to bring democracy Iraq, to make Iraqian People free  and the most important is to get oil.

Finally, when America arrived and destroyed Saddam’s regime, there were not Al-Queda’s leader (Usame Bin Ladin was killed in another region of Afghanistan in another operation of the USA), there were no any mass destruction weapons but we cannot ignore that people of Iraq took their democracy.  People took their democracy, but that’s arguable democracy is what they need. They have better regime now, they have a real government now, they have right to decide freely even it’s not entirely democratic (because still there is a government America supports it) but they lost their peace as all of those’s price.

4. Rest and Peace with President Obama

If we look at to America’s new President Barack Hussein Obama we see that he tries to serve peace like Clinton even may be better than him. Like all other presidents his actions and decisions also include the USA’s interests but closer to the logic. When he first elected he was given to the nobel peace prize even he had just begun his duty. And the next year he elected again by the American people. He decided to bring American troops back to homeland from Iraq and that’s more related with peace.

With these all American Presidents we see how the actions change but democracy stay same even as just a word. Till here, we analyzed some presidents. Now, we’ll analyze the civil war and its results to conclude its effects on the USA’s foreign policy. We know that all nation’s foreign policy based on their history.

5. Beginning of Civil War

In Civil War years, America’s economy was based on agriculture. There were many farms and they grew cotton, tobacco and sugarcane.  There were also slaves which had kidnapped from Africa were worked in production and processing of those products. America was preparing an election in that year, and Abraham Lincoln was the candidate of the Republican Party and had promised to abolish slavery. Southern states were anxious about abolishing slavery then, because they lived on by these slaves’ work on farms. When Lincoln won the elections, 7 Southern States (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana) declared their independence from the United States of America because they think Lincoln would abolish slavery exactly. These states found another state under Jefferson Davis’ command, its name was Confederate States of America (CSA). After a short period of time, 4 states (Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee) also joined the confederation. While those states were calling themselves as “confederation”, the rest of the country was calling itself as “union”.

6. Civil War

After a short term, a war broke out between these two sides. By the way, giving some information about their situation for that time may be useful to understand better. There were 432,586 slaves in border states and union has two times more army than the confederation. 4,500,000 bales of cotton was producing in the confederation countries in 1860. In that case, we can see that war is  about a nation’s interest and human rights. America was called as country of democracy but the point is democracy for who ? Lincoln thought the black people also deserve democracy at least as much as the whites.

The first years, neither union nor the confederation got the whip hand of each other. Both sides suffered with enormous losses. But the real event was battle of Gettysburg which is war’s turning point. Finally, the North won the battle and the southern soldiers surrendered after the Gettysburgh War. The southern slaves had their freedom right. Till here, the northern land owners had expected to occupy the south but Lincoln thought vice versa. He helped the northern people to develop their land and improve their economy after the war by offered them to lend money unreturned.

7. End of Civil War

By ending civil war, the north was exhausted because of sieges, battles, losses and money it had wasted on the war. While everybody expected vice versa, its economy was getting worse. Some problems occured there like reintegrate of the southern states called reconstruction. Some Radical Republicans thought Presidential conditions were too lenient for the southern states.

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated a new national cemetery with perhaps the most famous address in U.S. history. He concluded his brief remarks with these words: “… we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Black people had their freedom rights but that couldn’t be executed properly in that years, one of its example is Ku Klux Klan which was formed in that year. In other hand, war had seen as first modern war in that year. Telgraph and the railway system used as large first in that war. That war placed into history as the most studied periods in American history. It placed into cinema field as “The Birth of a Nation”, “Gods and Generals” and perhaps more famously  “Gone With the Wind”.

8. USA’s Gains From Diffucult Times

When we look at the frame from outside, we may conclude some results. The Republicans revealed by that war and would be dominant in the industrial Northeast until the 1930s. That war helped Republicans to come on the scene with their own ideologies. I think that’s one of the important effects of Civil War in American foreign policy. And I think America had resolved its basic problem in itself with a great experience. Their fight was not just a simple war, it was also war between money and rights.

Union was trying to protect its own black citizens’ rights while the confederation was trying to protect its interests including economic activites. That may help to explain an average American citizen’s actions to a foreigner like seeing theirselves as the protector of democracy. In other hand even they protected their black citizen, that’s also about trying to keep the states united. So I can explain Iraq war in that case. Although there are many countries need democracy, America chose Iraq that may be called “two birds with one stone”. Not just bringing democracy to Iraq, trying to destroy its enemy and gain more at the same time for its own interest like Civil War.

9. Comparison with other Civilizations

When we analyze the other nations like European countries, they are more respectable to human rights, basic values and world peace than others. When we have a look their history we can see some violent clashes easily. I think that helps the nations to exceed some basic points and improve their understanding. That’s also a value which is reflected as a behaviour on their foreign policy. One of these examples is France, as we know a revolution in its history and nobody can ignore its contribution to today’s foreign policy indirectly.

Civil War may be seen as what makes America itself in many ways. In military way, its first modern war and would be the example for the future. As a vision, they see theirselves as the symbol of the truth, justice, and power because of their past because they fighted with each other as brothers to freedom as a honorable behaviour. And they had had no feodalism in their lands even for at once. In that case they had large lands instead of divided, reduced lands like in European countries. They had chosen to live freely as eagles in their lands.

10. Conclusion

Today, if we look at to America as an American we may say that they live under their great protector eagle’s shadow. Their country had been found by a revolution against colonialism, so they had some values in their genetics. I don’t think that they are so democratic, but they know how to seem to be. The Americans might be really thoughtful in some cases like democracy or any humanitarian issues, but we can say that happens rarely and they generally think their own interests first. Civil War may not have so much impact on their todays foreign policy, but we can not say that it doesn’t impress any.

I think that  Civil War forms the basis of their democratic standing especially today’s foreign policy. President Obama’s standing on their foreign policy as a president who cares peace resembles President Abraham Lincoln. Both of them has democratic behaviours, actions and decisiosn even they are coming from different parties. Both of them care peace, try to make America better and help to develop. Abraham Lincoln was the first representative who moved Republican Party on political scene and Barack Hussein Obama is the last who represents Democratic Party. They come from different parties, they are different persons but they have similar dynamics in their foreign policy.


Sander, O. (2003), “Siyasi Tarih İlk Çağlardan 1918’e”,  12, “4. İç Savaş ve Sonrası”, 158-161.

Blake, J. (2011), “4 ways we’re still fighting the Civil War”, CNN, April 11, 2011.

Yoshitani, G., Mears, D., (2012) “Civil War Overview” slide presentation, available at the Department History, United States Military Academy West Point website at

“Outline of US History”, (2005), Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of States, “Chapter 7: The Civil War and Reconstruction”, 140-153,

“President Barack Obama”, available via the internet at White House Website

American History (RA) Class Notes / “Effects of the Civil War”, available via the internet at

Harris, D. (2011), “The legacy of the Civil War” available via the internet at

“American Civil War”, available via the internet at

“American Civil War”, available via the internet at

Hassler, W. W. (2011), ” The cost and significance of the Civil War” available the internet Britannica website at

Image is taken from on Jan 4,2018

All the links controlled day by day during the research process, but they controlled Jan 4, 2012 as the last.

2 thoughts on “Civil War’s Effects on the USA’s Foreign Policy

  1. Thank you for any other wonderful post. The place else may anybody get that type of information in such an ideal way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am at the look for such info.

    1. Sorry for my late reply due to busy agenda. Hope it helped you at least a little bit. If you have questions please do not hesitate to ask. Thank you for your comment !

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