In modern international relations relating to the United States of America it is widely accepted that there are three rival schools of thought. The first is liberal internationalism which believes that America should lead the world through intervention to settle disputes and modernize cultures and peoples. The second is realism which states that nations are moved primarily by a rational interest to increase their power and that all nations regardless of their stated ideologies want this above all other things. It is the foreign policy equivalent of game theory. Different countries adjust to each other’s relative power in the form of a geopolitical jigsaw puzzle. The third school is neo-conservatism which espouses the belief that America should rebuild countries in its image and give them democracy thereby making a more free and peaceful world for all. It was encapsulated perfectly by President George W. Bush in his inaugural address for his second term where he said that America cannot be free until the world is free.
There is also a hidden fourth school of thought which I christen the classical school. This school although relatively unknown in today’s American foreign policy (even in academia) was the law of the land regarding international relations between countries for thousands of years and is still the foreign policy of many major powers today as practiced in China and Russia. This school was practiced by the Founding Fathers and claims that every nation has its own interest and priorities determined by the particular interplay between its values, culture, people, resources, government and other determining factors. America guards its own interest and priorities above all things and in the words of John Adam “go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” It would like for other nations to know freedom, independence and democracy but it knows that this is not a priority or an interest for many other nations. Unlike the liberal internationalist school it realizes that not all men desire peace or modernity. Instead they may desire the Hobbesian struggle that leads to a nasty, brutish and short existence because of their own reasons (which are valid in their minds).
Also unlike the realists it knows that international relations cannot be boiled down to mathematical equations and that many times men and nations do things completely against their rational self-interest out of concepts like religious fervor or ideological purity. It is also opposed to neo-conservatism because of its creed that democracy is a panacea in the arena of international relations and that all people want and can support democratic institutions. Democratic concepts such as the rule of law, minority rights, and peaceful co-existence of rivals are an anathema to some cultures and their way of life. Some cannot even understand democracy the way Americans do. It is a foreign policy that does not seek what is best for the world (as if anyone could purport to know that or if that is even logically possible to know) but a foreign policy that seeks what is best for the United States of America. It is a foreign policy of mutual non-interference internationally and fighting wars only when our interests are at play. Its goal is not to rebuild societies. The only reason one should fight a war is to win and bring a lasting peace.