For more than 200 years, America's policy makers have wrestled with the complexities of dealing with the world. George Washington, for example, thought America's best interests were served by keeping the rest of the world at arm's length (a view later amended more than slightly by James Monroe, who reversed the emphasis by insisting that other countries butt out of our business, the definition of "our business" being extended both north and south to include the entirety of "our" hemisphere.
John Adams suffered from a foreign policy heartburn brought about by Thomas Jefferson's stopping just short of declaring that we were all, in our hearts, French. Walter Isaacson, in his biography of Henry Kissinger, traced competing foreign policy perspectives to the idealistic Jefferson ("eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man") and a less sentimental Alexander Hamilton, who saw "safety from external danger" as the principal consideration in determining with whom we would engage and how.
And so it has gone through the years. John Kennedy, Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan all drew on John Winthrop and the Bible to declare that America was a "shining city on a hill" sending out its beams to the rest of the planet, Reagan playing the pivotal role in creating a National Endowment for Democracy. Reagan edited George Kennan's long-standing "containment policy" toward the Soviet Union and replaced it with a "rollback" campaign, which mixed the Hamiltonian pursuit of security with Jefferson's anti-tyranny crusade. Jimmy Carter pushed for greater international respect for human rights. Even George W. Bush, who was inexplicably cavalier toward civil liberties in the United States, insisted on expanding human rights and democracy in the rest of the world, though perhaps too willing to impose, rather than promote.