To the vast majority of foreign policy specialists, the golden age of collaboration and consensus remains WWII, more specifically, the political union that existed between the U.S. and Britain. The problem with this interpretation is that it’s grounded in pure sentiment, for any sufficient review of the actual policy achievements of Truman, Acheson, Marshall, Roosevelt and Churchill must be conceived within the limits of power itself and the consequent acrimony that relations exert on any union.
There never really was a golden age of collaboration and consensus.
The history of American foreign policy is the history of what presidents and their advisors do once they conclude that others are not likely to be of much help.
Remember that when partisans fillet G.W. Bush over Iraq.
Realism includes a marked measure of public condescension and mistrust, even among Allies. Consider the Marshall Plan. Yes, it means American Unilateralism! There are numerous examples of this happening throughout WWII. It’s just glossed over in favor of sentiment.
How about the acrimony over U.S. -Soviet detente beginning in 1972 ending with Reagan? Or the time the U.S. threatened to kill a successful implemented Marshall Plan to threaten French resistance to an American backed German Deutschmark, paving the way for a pro-western Federal Republic of Germany?
Did we forget the Presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Carter’s attempt to stabilize foreign relations with Communist states, only to be hampered at home by a coalition of hawks, neoconservatives, anti-communist liberals, the AFL-CIO George Meany, not to mention Henry Scoop Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and numerous media conglomerates ALL STRUGGLING to hamstring an American Executive.
Remember, it was Moynihan who taught that the cold realpolitik of detente meant nothing less than abandoning the defense of liberty itself.
All this was before Reagan.
Have we forgotten that diplomatic engagement with U.S. enemies is useless unless aimed at achieving a deeper strategic purpose. While Reagan talked to Gorbachev he never gave up anything of substance. He never failed to sustain his resolve for Pershing missiles in Europe, Soviet dissidents or the moral superiority of capitalism.
We should remember, the U.S. has NEVER achieved STRATEGIC CONTINUITY. Remember Reagan, ‘we win, they lose.’ There was no moral equivalency or zero sum engagement to be managed, but an encounter with an enemy requiring defeat.