Wilson Center Experts

Ronald Steel

Senior Scholar

Contact Information:
T (202) 691-4015 // F (202) 691-4001
Affiliation:
Professor Emeritus of International Relations, University of Southern California
Wilson Center Project(s):
"Culture as Destiny: The Hidden Roots of American Foreign Policy"
Term:
Jun 01, 2011
-
Aug 31, 2014

Project Summary

Who are we, and why do we behave the way we do in the world? That is the critical question that is almost never asked in seeking to understand our actions, wars, and defining our interests. Phrases like "national interest" are frequently invoked, but rarely identified. Least of all are the sources of those "interests" examined and questioned. Traditional social science, with its reliance on charts, slide shows, and mathematical formulae, satisfies our faith in quantification, but offers few useful answers. Rather it ignores a key determinant of our international behavior: our unique political culture. By this I mean our history, religions, and mythologies. These are dramatized in film and literature: the chronicle of our national values, internal conflicts, and acts of conquest and expansion. Culture in its broadest sense is identity and a critical key to behavior. It illuminates who we are, how we deal with each other, and how we make our way in the world. It is the neglected foundation of our foreign policy, and it urgently demands critical examination. This I intend to do by putting our foreign policy under a microscope of our history, our myths and the expression of our beliefs.

Major Publications

  • Walter Lippmann and the American Century. Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1980.
  • Temptations of a Superpower: American Foreign Policy After the Cold War. Harvard University Press, 1995.
  • Pax Americana. Viking Press, 1967.
  • The End of Alliance: America and the Future of Europe. Viking Press, 1964.

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