Ethnicity and U.S. Foreign Policy: E Pluribus Unum?

Justin Vaïsse
Justin Vaïsse Former Brookings Expert, Director, Policy Planning Staff - French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs

March 1, 2001

This article is a review of the two most important books published so far on the impact of ethnic lobbying on U.S. foreign policy: Tony Smith’s Foreign Attachments: The Power of Ethnic Groups in the Making of American Foreign Policy (Harvard University Press, 2000), and Yossi Shain’s Marketing the American Creed Abroad: Diasporas in the U.S. and Their Homelands (Cambridge University Press, 1999). Smith is concerned by the possible dangers of lobbying by ethnic groups: fragmentation, loss of a “national” interest, divided loyalties. But, as a “pluralist,” he recognizes the legitimacy of their voices and tries to strike the right balance. Yossi Shain adopts a much more optimistic view, asserting that this lobbying creates greater integration for these groups, and allows them to be both the moral compass of U.S. foreign policy and the standard-bearer of U.S. values in their home regions.