Soft power, US foreign policy, and George Washington's warning of 'alternate domination'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


George Washington warned of parties (unmentioned in the Constitution) pursuing ‘alternate domination’. Some 30 per cent of his Farewell Address addresses foreign policy; the rest addresses virtuous governance shaped by civic virtue that can have valence abroad unlike dominance. While partisan politics has been common, the United States has presented, with some deplorable exceptions, an attractive spectacle of republican democracy to like-minded observers abroad. There are implications for US foreign policy in Alternate Domination impinging on national security. When acquiring a position of dominance (controlling the White House and Houses of Congress) overrides the superordinate system ideology of democratic governance, national security interests are compromised. This chapter draws on theories of soft power; systems and entropy; and the politics of outbidding, realist conflict theory. Congressional voting data shows the extent of bipartisanship vis-à-vis US–Iran nuclear legislation under ‘numerical domination’: full (29.7%) when a party controls White House and both Houses; partial (29.3%) where a party controls White House and one House; and no (33.6%) when White House and Congress are controlled by different parties. Despite international affairs being the top reported policy area for both parties there have been over 40 Executive Orders on Iran in the period researched – 1977 to 2016. Deficits in bipartisanship exist despite the US deeming Iran’s nuclearisation as an existential threat to Israel and potentially to itself. Policy management on major security challenges such as Iran could be enhancement through bounded bipartisanship that would have a soft power engenderment effect.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSoft power and the future of US foreign policy
EditorsHendrik W. Ohnesorge
Place of PublicationManchester, UK
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781526169112, 9781526169136
ISBN (Print)9781526169129
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameKey Studies in Diplomacy
PublisherManchester University Press


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