Date of Graduation

Spring 2014


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Keith Payne


Since the end of the Cold War, commentators have argued that containment is an inadequate grand strategy for twenty-first century America. But what should replace it? George Kennan, for one, proposed that a foreign policy derived from the principles of John Quincy Adams would better suit America's needs, interests, and limitations. This thesis elucidates Adams' three great principles of foreign policy—freedom, independence, and peace—and considers what a foreign policy animated by these principles would look like today. Adams contended that America should personify freedom by acting as an example to the world, pursue independence by avoiding permanent alliances, and promote national peace by abstaining from other nations' disputes. A contemporary grand strategy based on Adams' principles would 1) require America to be a moral example rather than a crusading imperial power; 2) discard ambitions for extraregional hegemony and prudently withdraw from entangling alliances; and 3) make peace, rather than catharsis, the principal goal of American foreign policy by prioritizing only vital national interests. Such a foreign policy would break many contemporary norms and expectations. It would not, however, be an aberration from America's historical tradition: it would be a return.


John Quincy Adams, American foreign policy, George Kennan, American exceptionalism, international relations

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Jared Morgan McKinney

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