January 11, 2004

Mead's Traditions

Walter Russell Mead, author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World, summarized the Jacksonian Tradition of foreign policy in an early 2000 article in The National Interest. It is incredibly relevant now, post-September 11 – both in understanding the popular appeal of Bush's policies here at home and in explaining the incomprehension of the rest of the world. In his book, he lays out the four traditions of American foreign policy. In the article, he focuses on the important but oft-ignored strain of Jacksonianism:

Nevertheless, the American war record should make us think. An observer who thinks of American foreign policy only in terms of the commercial realism of the Hamiltonians, the crusading moralism of Wilsonian transcendentalists, and the supple pacifism of the principled but slippery Jeffersonians would be at a loss to account for American ruthlessness at war.

Those who prefer to believe that the present global hegemony of the United States emerged through a process of immaculate conception avert their eyes from many distressing moments in the American ascension. Yet students of American power cannot ignore one of the chief elements in American success. The United States over its history has consistently summoned the will and the means to compel its enemies to yield to its demands.

The article is really worth reading in full – thanks to Eject! Eject! Eject! for the link.

Posted by richard at January 11, 2004 05:51 PM