This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Role of United States Foreign Policy in the Global Adoption of Democratic Governance




Mark, Heather

Type of Degree



Political Science


The role of democracy in the foreign policy of the United States is a prominent one. Presidents from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush have named democracy as motivating factor for military actions around the world. This research has been undertaken to determine the effect of U.S. actions on regime liberalization, specifically democratization, in the international community. This research studies the evolution of U.S. foreign policy throughout the Cold War and post-Cold War era using an institutional approach to policy study. Using primary sources such as national security statements, policy speeches and personal memoirs, the goals and objectives of the Cold War and post-Cold War policies are studied and compared to determine if democracy is in fact a goal of U.S. foreign policy. v Additionally, the effect of U.S. actions on the adoption of democratic traits is measured using a regression analysis. The independent variables of economic aid and military aid are analyzed for their impact on democratic progression. The dependent variable used in the regression analysis is the “polity” score assigned to a particular country by the Polity IV Dataset. The comparison of the Cold War and post-Cold War policies indicated that, despite the drastic differences in the international political environment, the two eras shared a common goal. That goal is to safeguard the strategic and economic interests of the United States. Democracy, despite the rhetoric surrounding it, is not the motivating factor in U.S. actions abroad. The regression analysis also bears out the hypothesis that the U.S. does not directly effect the adoption of democracy abroad. Military aid is found to be completely unrelated to countries adopting more liberal regime traits. Similarly, economic aid is shown to have no statistically significant relationship to regime liberalization. Taken together, the findings indicate that, though U.S. foreign policy is generally shrouded in the language of Democratic Peace and Idealism, it is in fact RealPolitik that has driven U.S. foreign policy.