Wilsonianism or Wilsonian are words used to describe a certain type of ideological perspectives on foreign policy. The term comes from the ideology of United States President Woodrow Wilson and his famous Fourteen Points that he believed would help create world peace if implemented.

Common principles that are often associated with "Wilsonianism" include:


Notable instances

  1. Bill Clinton's nation building in The Balkans around the time of the Bosnian War.[9]
  2. George Bush's nation building and interventionism in Iraq and Afghanistan during the war on terrorism.[10]
  3. Barack Obama's intervention in the 2011 Libyan civil war.[11]


Critics of the concept of "Wilsonian idealism" say that Wilson only wanted ethnic self-determination and democracy in European countries which were under the control of rivals of America. Elsewhere such principles were ignored. Modern critics such as paleoconservatives argue the principles are overly idealistic and can lead to unnecessary military interventions, putting lives at risk over abstract concepts rather than direct threats.

Some have also criticized naming the advocacy of interventionism after Woodrow Wilson, noting that Wilson himself was not a war hawk and only declared war following commissions' overwhelming support of doing so.

Alternative uses

The legacy of President Wilson in domestic interventionism is sometimes also referred to as Wilsonianism.

In the United Kingdom, the term "Wilsonian" or, rarely, "Wilsonism," is sometimes used to refer to the ideas associated with former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, usually relating to his time in office from 1964-70 rather than his troubled return from 1974-76. It usually suggests the idea of "classless" technocratic social democracy, which inspired much of excitement in Great Britain around the time of his landslide victory in the 1966 general election and is often related to his famous comment about "the white heat of technological revolution."

See also

Further reading


  1. "Woodrow Wilson and foreign policy". NEH.gov. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  2. "Woodrow Wilson, Impact and Legacy". Miller Center. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  3. "Woodrow Wilson". Spartacus Education. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  4. Steigerwald, David. Wilsonian idealism in America Page 31. Cornell University Press. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  5. Steigerwald, David. Wilsonian idealism in America Page 58. Cornell University Press. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  6. "PBS Presidential Biography". Public Broadcasting System. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  7. Cole, Kevin. "The Wilsonian Model of foreign policy". United States Airforce. Retrieved 2014-10-06.
  8. Rosenthal, Joe. "The Crisis of American foreign policy". Carnegie Council. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  9. "Kosovo talks". Fair.org. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  10. Roberts, Joel. "Bush's top ten flip flops". CBS news. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  11. Sayani, Daniel. "Obama continues Bush foreign policy". The New American. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
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