Facing the World: Politicians and the Growth of National Defense and Trade in Washington and Oregon Since World War II

Christopher P. Foss, University of Colorado at Boulder


This dissertation focuses on the ways in which United States congressmen, senators, and governors in the states of Washington and Oregon acted to increase federal defense spending and attract international trade, thereby transforming the Pacific Northwest after World War II from an economic backwater of the U.S. to a major player in global defense and trade. It makes the case that politicians from Washington and Oregon were powerful and influential figures in U.S. foreign relations in ways that had a direct, positive impact on the everyday lives of their constituents. Pacific Northwest businesses with overseas interests, defense contractors, farmers, and the region’s burgeoning high tech industry particularly benefited from the work of an uncommonly gifted generation of politicians who, due to a combination of skill and luck, rose to positions of power at both the state and federal level that enabled them to enrich their home states. Major players discussed at length here include Senators Wayne Morse and Mark Hatfield of Oregon, Senators Henry Jackson and Warren Magnuson of Washington, Congressman Tom Foley of Washington, and Governor Vic Atiyeh of Oregon. Congressional figures directed large sums of federal funding to the Northwest through positions of power which included chairmanships of the Senate Appropriations, Commerce, and Interior and Insular Affairs Committees; the House Agriculture, and Ways and Means Committee; and the Speaker of the House.This work follows recent trends in the study of U.S. foreign relations history which highlight the intersection between domestic politics and the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. The dissertation makes two particularly distinctive contributions to this new wave of scholarship. On the one hand, it posits that Congress plays a critical role in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, challenging an assumption made by many historians—to say nothing of most members of the general public—that foreign policy is driven by the executive branch of government. In addition, the dissertation focuses on the effects of national politics and foreign policy on the states of the Pacific Northwest, a region that is relatively underexplored by historians, and the regional transformation that ensued.