Top of page

Presentation Elections

Foreign Policy and Peace

Harding, Warren G., 1865-1923

Issues surrounding the aftermath of World War I launched Warren Harding's presidency. The wartime boom had collapsed. Diplomats and politicians were arguing over peace treaties and the question of America's entry into the League of Nations. Overseas there were wars and revolutions; at home there were strikes, riots and a growing fear of radicals and terrorists. Disillusionment was in the air.

Harding appealed to Americans by promising "A Return to Normalcy" after the difficult and casualty-strewn war years. He also vowed to keep America out of the League of Nations, an isolationist foreign policy stance that appealed to war-weary citizens.

Peace and foreign policy were again the issue in 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower was a candidate for president. His status as a World War II hero and his promise to end the Korean War helped carry Eisenhower into office in 1953. During his two-terms as president, Eisenhower withdrew troops from Korea as promised.

While war-weary Americans elected Eisenhower in the 50s to end international military activity, Americans of the 80s were moved by Ronald Reagan's willingness to make a strong military stand as well as his promise to pull America out of economic recession. In his 1980 campaign, Reagan espoused a hawkish position, criticizing Jimmy Carter's failure to secure the release of American hostages in Iran. Reagan won by a landslide, and used his first term in office to toughen America's foreign policy against communism.

Left: Dwight Eisenhower giving orders to American paratroopers in England; right: Ronald Reagan

In his second term in office, Reagan's administration continued a military defense build up in the United States. And in December of 1987, Reagan signed an arms control agreement with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Shortly after Reagan left office, communism itself crumbled throughout the Soviet Bloc. Many people credit Reagan's hard line stance on military and foreign policy issues with breaking communism's grip on the Soviet Union.