Kosovo: No Retreat Possible

The debate between idealism and realism in U.S. foreign policy dates back to the birth of the nation. Thomas Jefferson saw America's role in the world in idealistic terms: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man." Alexander Hamilton was ever the realist: "Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct." In the end, Jefferson's idealism triumphed because it suited the moral, humanitarian strain in America. After all, the U.S. fought an empire to be free. And Woodrow Wilson led the U.S. into war to make the world "safe for democracy." He said: "America is the only idealistic nation in the world."

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