Gaullist Grandeur and American Containment: An Assessment of Conflicting Foreign Policies Within the Context of the Cold War Balance of Power

TitleGaullist Grandeur and American Containment: An Assessment of Conflicting Foreign Policies Within the Context of the Cold War Balance of Power
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsNielsen, Erik B.
Academic DepartmentPolitical Science
Thesis AdvisorSteel, Brent
DegreeBachelor of Arts in international Studies in Political Science
Number of Pages56
Date Published07/2002
UniversityOregon State University
Thesis TypeUndergraduate
Keywordscold war, foreign policy, France, United States

During the Gaullist era both the United States and France were often frustrated by the
diplomatic efforts of the other. This paper is an assessment of both U.S. and French foreign
policy during President Charles de Gaulle's reign over 5'" Republic France, so as to better
explain some of the reasons for this frustration. The assessment is focused on the underlying
aims of the two respective foreign policies and not on specific events that resulted from them. I
attempt to show what factors motivated the divergent policies of these historic allies, and how
the international context that both France and the United States found themselves in during the
Cold War contributed to the conflict that developed between them. I then give an evaluation of
how practical each nation's foreign policy was according to this international context.
This progression is achieved in several stages. To begin with, I give a brief biographical
sketch of Charles de Gaulle, as well as a sketch of pre-Fifth Republic France, so that the idea of
Gaullism can be understood. Gaullism would lead to the creation of French political institutions
significantly different from the ones that had governed France in all periods before it. Gaullism
would also lead to a very distinct French foreign policy, and I attempt to explain why this was
the case. Traditional American diplomacy is then outlined, as well as the reasons for which this
tradition would change by the dawn of the Cold War. In the following section, the Cold War
manifestations of each nation's international visions are described, including several reasons why these two policies would not be in harmony during this period. Next the international political system is evaluated (as well as the specific arrangement of this system during the Gaullist era)
which is necessary for my evaluation of both Gaullist and American Cold War policy. I then
give my assessment of these two policies based solely on the above-mentioned evaluation of the international system (in other words, I do not take domestic or other considerations into account