Academic Foundations

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Upon his exit from office, President Eisenhower warned the nation, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." Eisenhower foresaw the possibility that militarism, and the economic benefits derived from making machines of war, had the potential to dominate America's foreign policy and its economy. In 2011, 20% of the entire U.S. budget (more than $700 billion) was spent on the military, representing one of the largest portions of taxes dedicated to a single element of the federal budget. By no means an isolationist, Eisenhower was prescient in his warning-the industries that supply the military have increasingly influenced American foreign policy.

Promoting American political values, such as democracy, freedom, and human rights, has been a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy for more than two centuries. Some would argue that the humanitarian intervention the United States has embarked on has been the most effective and long lasting of its international efforts. The president sets the foreign policy priorities for the country with the input of advisers, cabinet secretaries, and members of Congress. While presidents prefer their foreign policy to be humanitarian, every commander in chief is faced with the difficult decisions regarding war and military deployment.

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