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"God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America."--Otto von Bismarck America's response to the September 11 attacks spotlighted many of the country's longstanding goals on the world stage: to protect liberty at home, to secure America's economic interests, to spread democracy in totalitarian regimes and to vanquish the enemy utterly. One of A "God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America."--Otto von Bismarck America's response to the September 11 attacks spotlighted many of the country's longstanding goals on the world stage: to protect liberty at home, to secure America's economic interests, to spread democracy in totalitarian regimes and to vanquish the enemy utterly. One of America's leading foreign policy thinkers, Walter Russell Mead, argues that these diverse, conflicting impulses have in fact been the key to the U.S.'s success in the world. In a sweeping new synthesis, Mead uncovers four distinct historical patterns in foreign policy, each exemplified by a towering figure from our past. Wilsonians are moral missionaries, making the world safe for democracy by creating international watchdogs like the U.N. Hamiltonians likewise support international engagement, but their goal is to open foreign markets and expand the economy. Populist Jacksonians support a strong military, one that should be used rarely, but then with overwhelming force to bring the enemy to its knees. Jeffersonians, concerned primarily with liberty at home, are suspicious of both big military and large-scale international projects. A striking new vision of America's place in the world, Special Providence transcends stale debates about realists vs. idealists and hawks vs. doves to provide a revolutionary, nuanced, historically-grounded view of American foreign policy.


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"God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America."--Otto von Bismarck America's response to the September 11 attacks spotlighted many of the country's longstanding goals on the world stage: to protect liberty at home, to secure America's economic interests, to spread democracy in totalitarian regimes and to vanquish the enemy utterly. One of A "God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America."--Otto von Bismarck America's response to the September 11 attacks spotlighted many of the country's longstanding goals on the world stage: to protect liberty at home, to secure America's economic interests, to spread democracy in totalitarian regimes and to vanquish the enemy utterly. One of America's leading foreign policy thinkers, Walter Russell Mead, argues that these diverse, conflicting impulses have in fact been the key to the U.S.'s success in the world. In a sweeping new synthesis, Mead uncovers four distinct historical patterns in foreign policy, each exemplified by a towering figure from our past. Wilsonians are moral missionaries, making the world safe for democracy by creating international watchdogs like the U.N. Hamiltonians likewise support international engagement, but their goal is to open foreign markets and expand the economy. Populist Jacksonians support a strong military, one that should be used rarely, but then with overwhelming force to bring the enemy to its knees. Jeffersonians, concerned primarily with liberty at home, are suspicious of both big military and large-scale international projects. A striking new vision of America's place in the world, Special Providence transcends stale debates about realists vs. idealists and hawks vs. doves to provide a revolutionary, nuanced, historically-grounded view of American foreign policy.

30 review for Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World

  1. 5 out of 5

    xhxhx

    I shouldn't give this such a high rating. It's an ahistorical framework; it elides distinctions between intellectual, political and social movements; it assumes collectives have agency, and omits most of actual agents and events from the narrative; it cannot possibly be true. But it's a delight to read and it might have changed my mind. It has given me something to think with and things to think about. It has made me think of American history as a whole, rather than as a series of episodes. It has I shouldn't give this such a high rating. It's an ahistorical framework; it elides distinctions between intellectual, political and social movements; it assumes collectives have agency, and omits most of actual agents and events from the narrative; it cannot possibly be true. But it's a delight to read and it might have changed my mind. It has given me something to think with and things to think about. It has made me think of American history as a whole, rather than as a series of episodes. It has suggested to me a framework that I do believe, and that might just be true: American foreign policy is as pluralist as American domestic politics, and just as shaped by contests between domestic movements in American intellectual, political, and social life. The conceit of the book is that those movements were much the same from 1783 to 2001, with the same bases, the same preferences, and the same ideas: commerical Madisonians, missionary Wilsonians, quietist Jeffersonians, and warrior Jacksonians. That's what can't possibly be true, but even its untruth inspires reflection. Against my better judgment, it will probably change the way I think.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    Spoiler Alert! Walter Russell Mead’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in U.S. foreign policy. This book has the benefit of being clearly written, engaging, and at times even a little tongue-in-cheek. The book was so good that I read it twice. This isn’t a first impression review; it’s a second impression review. Mead’s examines the way four traditions shaped how America conducted its foreign affairs. At the heart of his books is the revisionist perspective that democracy does not necess Spoiler Alert! Walter Russell Mead’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in U.S. foreign policy. This book has the benefit of being clearly written, engaging, and at times even a little tongue-in-cheek. The book was so good that I read it twice. This isn’t a first impression review; it’s a second impression review. Mead’s examines the way four traditions shaped how America conducted its foreign affairs. At the heart of his books is the revisionist perspective that democracy does not necessarily lead to an inferior foreign policy, that policy makers can learn a great deal by studying the early patterns of US foreign policy, and that there is a special kind of American diplomacy that is discernible by studying the historical record. If the old, crusty autocrats with their chessboards and amoral calculations can be called the “auteur”-style of diplomacy; then democracies like the U.S. are closer to “studio”-system style foreign policy, doing things through consensus and meetings. If democracies can’t create the “genius” of the grand masters with their chessboard calculations, then at the very least they don’t make the disastrous mistakes that often come with the hubris of genius. The four distinct traditions that Mead outlines are as follows: Hamiltonians, who believed that a strong alliance between national government and big business was the key to effective policy abroad and at home--and that the US should engage in a global trading system; Wilsonians, who believed that the US had a moral obligation to spread democratic and social ideals; Jeffersonians, who thought that Americans should be less concerned with promoting democracy and more worried about protecting it at home; and Jacksonians, who believed that the most important role for government should be the physical security and economic well-being of its citizens (xvii). Mead’s examination of charges regarding the naivety of US foreign policy demonstrates how much these criticisms of the US are either contradictory or confused—much of these criticisms tend to attribute the success of US foreign policy to blind luck; but also, Mead demonstrates how much of these criticisms are dependent on a very limited continental realism. Mead does two things very well in offsetting these critiques: one, he shows how in contrast to continental realist visions of the “auteur” as the master of a foreign policy, US foreign policy was often much more like a symphony (p. 39); and two, he demonstrates how the foreign policy of the United States was often much more than just the actions of its government (i.e. missionary and business interest played a very extensive role as well). Despite the often chaotic nature of US foreign policy—Mead notes especially the Cold War as time of seeming chaos—he also shows how the country can be remarkably consistent when it comes to important policies (like containment of the Soviet Union). Mead also builds a mini-theory of national myth. National myth must be “clearer than truth” (as Dean Acheson is quoted as saying), a distillation of the facts into a simple understanding of historical tradition that can be used to galvanize the public (p. 61). Part of the project of the book, then, is reconstituting or reclaiming a myth from the wreckage of the Cold War (which is largely associated with continental realism). Reclaiming aspects of the old mythos requires understanding the four traditions at the heart of US politics. In terms of the Hamiltonian tradition, Mead notes how they speak the language of continental realism, usually come from upper class households, and typically have ties to Anglo-Saxon origins. This tradition is both realist and idealist (the serpent and the dove)—realist in that it often takes a mercantilist approach to economics (the US was content to free ride on the British system, exporting while failing to liberalize its markets), but idealist in that it emphasizes that trade and commerce are a superior form of competition as compared with war. Mead also notes how in this formulation, open seas and open markets are often seen as “natural” (p. 107): thus the US is not above gunboat diplomacy to open markets. In terms of Wilsonians, Mead shows how this tradition evolved out of early missionary work. He impressively links this tradition with modern ideas of a global civil society and modern relief NGOs like World Vision and Catholic Relief Service (p. 146). Eventually, the protection of missionaries and foreign property would lead to negotiations to reduce human rights abuses (p. 148). To illustrate how much influence these missionaries had, Mead notes that one survey found that around 50 percent of the foreign culture experts during WWII were the offspring of missionaries. In terms of Jeffersonians this group, much like Jacksonians, are much more introspective and cautious about the world affairs and the prospects of the other countries becoming more like America. This tradition emphasizes the uniqueness of American democracy and the need to preserve it domestically. At the heart of Jeffersonian concerns are the negative effects of a strong government and big business that typically flourish from large entangling alliances overseas. Unlike the Wilsonians, while Jeffersonians believe that democracy is the best form of government, they are usually pessimistic about the likeliness of preserving it (and especially of promoting it overseas). Thus by defining national interests as narrowly as possible, and by promoting foreign policy as economically as possible, they hope to preserve a healthy democracy domestically. In terms of Jacksonians, Mead notes that this group can be defined by its vibrant folk culture, its emphasis on pulling ones own weight, and military service and institutions as a redeeming for the nation. Building on the ethnic component of the book, this group’s roots are traced to the Scotch-Irish who first fought brutal wars on the frontier between England and Scotland, and then fought the Native Americans in the frontiers. The author notes, however, how this trend has now become “crab grass” Jacksonian, with much of the values being consumed by immigrant populations now serving in the military and the expansive middle class that considers honest hard work the backbone of the country (p. 231). Looking at what Mead describes as the Jacksonian idea of a “popular hero to restore government” explain why a persona like George W. Bush would be so popular (p. 239). Mead’s final argument is that with the end of the Cold War consensus, the US needs to re-forge an understanding of the various trends that influence foreign policy. However, Mead seems divided about the relative merits about these four trends and whether this dis-consensus is a strength or weakness of the American system. I found very little to dislike about this book. But if I had to nitpick, I might ask the question: Has the U.S. (other than the time of Nixon and Kissinger) embraced “continental realism”? Though Mead seems to find the balancing of these disparate groups in a democracy to have a tempering effect on national hubris, preventing the worst excesses of elite groups, he also notes that US foreign policy has been strongest in times such as the Cold War and the Monroe Doctrine when debate was relatively static within these institutions. His call toward the end of the book for “considered public judgment” (p. 324) and “debate” (p. 325) seems to be little more than a call for consensus, which actually contradicts somewhat his argument the democratic foreign policy by committee approach is superior to an “auteur” approach.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Carr

    I've long been a reader of Walter Russell Mead's (WRM) blog, but without quite realising why. His politics always seemed different to my own, but I liked being provoked and somewhat led along the thoughtlines of this engaging writer. Thus, I'd been looking forward to reading this book for a while. I consider myself first & foremost a foreign policy scholar and what nation after my own is more interesting to see under the disciplinary microscope than the US. I'd also heard a lecture while I was in I've long been a reader of Walter Russell Mead's (WRM) blog, but without quite realising why. His politics always seemed different to my own, but I liked being provoked and somewhat led along the thoughtlines of this engaging writer. Thus, I'd been looking forward to reading this book for a while. I consider myself first & foremost a foreign policy scholar and what nation after my own is more interesting to see under the disciplinary microscope than the US. I'd also heard a lecture while I was in the US which used the conceptual framework of this book to organise the discussion. For the rest of my trip I hunted a copy of this book, but like my own white whale, failed to catch it. Instead I had to turn to the ingenuity of American commerce to eventually land a copy at my door. At the heart of this book is the argument that US foreign policy has four schools: The most well known are the commercially inclined Hamiltonian's who built the global economic system, and the Wilsonian lawyers/missionaries who gave us its institutional framework. Less understood (and far more scorned when encountered) are the stay-at-home pessimistic Jeffersonian's (experiencing a mini-revival under the libertarian umbrella) and the god & country strivers of the Jacksonian school. If the first two schools represent the bankers and missionaries of the North East, the latter may be stereotyped as the aristocrats and red necks of the south. Between them however, they have managed to provide a ballast and 'realism' to American foreign policy that has led this nation to a position of authority, legitimacy and significance unrivaled in human history. I use the term realism deliberately because, for all the wisdom of WRM's main argument, there's another just-as-clever theme behind the 'four schools' organisation of this book. Much like Fukuyama's End of History, it's easy to just track the 'big idea' at the center of this book and miss the elegance and deliberateness with which the author has structured their argument. The first 100 pages or so of Special Providence are not mere throat clearing about the four schools but a very important argument: namely that US foreign policy succeeds precisely because it has not tried to follow that most well known and adored icon of foreign policy: The Continental realist. For at least the last century to be 'serious' in international affairs was to be a realist. Despite Machiavelli's actual record as a failed diplomat scribbling away in his shed, his robes are still the most desired outfit for wanna-be scholars and practitioners. Just learn a few lines like the 'failure of Versailles' and 'Nixon going to China' and you can befriend almost any IR post-grad in the security field. Yet WRM delivers a fairly brutal uppercut to this mythology by noting that American foreign policy seems to have succeeded precisely because it didn't follow Niccolo's maxims. Most notably, economics & economic links play a substantially larger role than the Florentine would have understood. Likewise Wilsonian idealism seems a too-obvious punching bag which some like my near-name-sake E.H. Carr made their career's taking well-aimed shots at. Yet, we live in a Wilsonian world. Likewise Jeffersonians and Jacksonians are responsible for the ingenuity and endurance of the American system when more 'realistic' advisers would have simply doubled down or given up and fold their cards. Special Providence was released in mid-2001, yet it holds up remarkably well. Tensions with China and ill-consequences from arming the mujahideen can all be found in here. I suspect, WRM would also still endorse his call for a greater Jeffersonian voice in US foreign policy (the school I would consider myself also closest to). To be fair, I'm one of those who think politics today is only understood by those who have drank deeply from the past. This seems a somewhat rare view among many in our journalist and academic classes, so this book is a siren call to me. But I can honestly say, I've not read a book that will better explain the role & challenges of America today than this 13 year old book which spends most of its time talking about the 18 and 19th century. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    You've almost got to feel sorry for W.R. Mead; the book was released in March 2001. My hunsband's reaction upon glancing at the book was to dismiss it as irrelevant to our current world and events. I decided to take a longer historical view and I'm glad I did. The strongest parts of the book were the beginning and the end. At the start, the writer tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out to me that what I had believed to be true about American foreign policy might not mesh well with the actual f You've almost got to feel sorry for W.R. Mead; the book was released in March 2001. My hunsband's reaction upon glancing at the book was to dismiss it as irrelevant to our current world and events. I decided to take a longer historical view and I'm glad I did. The strongest parts of the book were the beginning and the end. At the start, the writer tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out to me that what I had believed to be true about American foreign policy might not mesh well with the actual facts. (For instance, isolationists don't necessarily send the marines from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.) Mead also makes an argument that our policies, the ones that sometimes seem to be insanely insular or martial--running from one extreme to the other--were effective. These policies, he claims, deserve more study and more respect than they have received. The middle of the book discusses the four schools of thought about the external policies of the U.S. This part could be more interesting. But it's not as if I was reading a novel. Academic writing is what it is and this is a great deal more accessible than a lot of things I've read. The last chapter, "The Future of American Foreigh Policy", I found quite interesting. A lot of the sentences in this chapter end with question marks. (What are we looking for? What do we want to do?) The author didn't make the case that the U.S. was a duck sitting on the pond just waiting for terrorist strikes but he's left open the possibility that we could have been. I also found his points about the elite people, the ones who generally end up formulating the policies that the rest of us live with, compelling. He points out that the upper ten to fifteen percent of the U.S. population no longer live lives that bring them into contact with the rest of the population. He also writes, more arguably, that persuasive speaking and writing, which might help the elite to communicate their ideas with others outside their enclave, are no longer emphasized or even properly taught. This isn't a book I'd recommend to just anyone. But if you have an interest in foreign policy but not a lot of background to go with it, you could do worse than read this book. In fact, go for it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    B. Hallward

    I wasn't quite sure how to rate this book. The introductory chapters usefully refute many common and widely accepted myths about American foreign policy in a spirited, engaging style. But the heart of book -- Mead's four school approach -- is far less convincing and useful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    This was an OK book on foreign policy. More theoretical and less historical. Mead develops 4 "archetypes" - Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian & Wilsonian. These archetypes represent different philosophies towards foreign policy. Mead discusses each in detail and links them to events in US history. He doesn't go into too much historical detail. He is very general in his arguments. I think this is due to the fact that foreign policy is an "inexact science". This was an OK book on foreign policy. More theoretical and less historical. Mead develops 4 "archetypes" - Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian & Wilsonian. These archetypes represent different philosophies towards foreign policy. Mead discusses each in detail and links them to events in US history. He doesn't go into too much historical detail. He is very general in his arguments. I think this is due to the fact that foreign policy is an "inexact science".

  7. 5 out of 5

    Spence Byer

    Cool explanation/history of the various schools of thought in American politics and foreign policy. As any book of this type, there is over generalization at times but Mead created a compelling model of 4 schools: Wilsonians, Jacksonians, Hamiltonians, and Jeffersonians. If anything, highly recommend checking out chapters 4-7 for the in depth sections on these groups (most notably the populist Jacksonians)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Klein

    Four schools (Hamiltonian/economic; Wilsonian/idealist, moralist; Jeffersonian/free speech and liberty; Jacksonian/right to bear arms) or views on American foreign policy, historically have always existed, blend, and separate with each issue. Combinations of each school come into play with each era of presidents. The schools are interdependent, serving as a kind of check-and-balance to ensure every voice of America is heard.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Best book I’ve read in quite some time. WRM takes very complicated subject and presents it in a palatable heuristic to describe the different schools of American foreign policy, without losing the granularity that each school deserves. Top notch job!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This was an excellent overview of the four dominant schools that have impacted US foreign policy over the past 200 years. Meade seemingly called the populist wave that Trump rode in on back in 2002.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Klaudia

    Liked it, but not in a couldn’t put it down sort of way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Reader Variety

    Smartest guy around on foreign policy, so read whatever you can that Mead has written. He divides foreign policy approaches into: Hamiltonians - view the global economy on favorable terms, and the national govt. and big business can work together. Wilsonians - we have a moral obligation and national interest in spreading American values Jeffersonians - preserve democracy at home and worry less about it abroad, fear both big govt. and big business Jacksonians - populist focus on physical security and Smartest guy around on foreign policy, so read whatever you can that Mead has written. He divides foreign policy approaches into: Hamiltonians - view the global economy on favorable terms, and the national govt. and big business can work together. Wilsonians - we have a moral obligation and national interest in spreading American values Jeffersonians - preserve democracy at home and worry less about it abroad, fear both big govt. and big business Jacksonians - populist focus on physical security and well-being of U.S. citizens Mead's directive is for us to return to our roots - focus on economic matters, think globally, and understand the relationship between policy and democracy Interesting explanation of Jacksonians (and I am adding these notes in 2017 after the election of Donald Trump), that rural Jacksonian culture has spread to the suburbs (he calls them crabgrass Jacksonians), and the suburbs themselves are a kind of self-reliance. Jacksonians believe that war should be fought with all available force and with the lowest number of U.S. casualties.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rohit

    Absolute must read for anyone trying to understand American foreign policy in particular and American politics in general in the age of Trump. It's amazing how Professor Mead managed to predict so much of 2016 in 2001. Indians would do well to rely on this paradigm to understand American foreign policy than the tired old tropes of Democrat and Republican.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Scottnshana

    Brilliant. Everybody who needs a primer on American foreign policy (and I'd carry this over to domestic policy, too)--whether you're a native or not--should read this book because Dr. Mead, with his four excellent models has explained it beautifully. He takes 98 pages to tee it up (and the introduction definitely holds your attention), then launches into a superb explanation of each model. An intelligent person can find something to embrace and something to send back to the kitchen in each. Hami Brilliant. Everybody who needs a primer on American foreign policy (and I'd carry this over to domestic policy, too)--whether you're a native or not--should read this book because Dr. Mead, with his four excellent models has explained it beautifully. He takes 98 pages to tee it up (and the introduction definitely holds your attention), then launches into a superb explanation of each model. An intelligent person can find something to embrace and something to send back to the kitchen in each. Hamiltonians love to engage the U.S. in international commerce--I dig it; unfettered capitalism (a la the Friedman school) not so much. A Wilsonian will tell you that the U.S. should back up the UN Declaration on Universal Human Rights, which is a great ideal. Someone who's actually picked up a rifle to defend the U.S. Constitution might be wary about investing a great deal of American blood and treasure in that. I, like the Jeffersonians, love the Bill of Rights. I also don't care if the TSA wants to feel my junk if it keeps the airplane from exploding. I don't think America does itself any favors when the rest of the world perceives us as an abusive redneck; but I do love--like Jacksonians do--the way we will make relentless war all over your ass if you attack us. I think that Dr. Mead, without saying it overtly, has put together a nice smorgasbord of American political ideals for students of U.S. foreign policy and his grasp of U.S. (and British) history makes this easy for him. With all the Carter-bashing we see from the pundit class lately, I was grateful to see someone, for example, point out the way his administration brought the country back from Kissinger's amoral Realpolitik shenanigans (i.e., supporting d-bags like Pinochet) and the return of soft power to the Cold War--which I would argue ultimately enabled the win. Whether you agree with my opinions or not, I think anyone interested in political science and American history should pick this one up.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    This is a history of American foreign policy. The framework of the discussion is in the context of four general "schools" of American foreign policy the author coined: Hamiltonian, Wilsonian (anachronistically named after Woodrow Wilson), Jeffersonian, and Jacksonian (as in Andrew Jackson). The author describes the evolution of the schools since the early republic through the beginning of the global war on terror. The most interesting aspect I had not seen discussed before, but the universalizin This is a history of American foreign policy. The framework of the discussion is in the context of four general "schools" of American foreign policy the author coined: Hamiltonian, Wilsonian (anachronistically named after Woodrow Wilson), Jeffersonian, and Jacksonian (as in Andrew Jackson). The author describes the evolution of the schools since the early republic through the beginning of the global war on terror. The most interesting aspect I had not seen discussed before, but the universalizing aspect of the Wilsonian school, was the dependence of that school on the early 19th century missionary movement. I am not sure I buy it, because as far back as the French and Indian War, the American were going to conquer the Canadian colonies into liberty. It was an interesting take on the origins of the Wilsonian school. The author does a good job of presenting his case for his grand unified theory of US foreign policy that explains its schizophrenic vacillation between extremes of isolationism and expansionism, and its uncanny success. I wish more foreign diplomats read the first two chapters which really lays out the case for why Americans don't practice traditional real politik style diplomacy. It would allow diplomats to better communicate understanding each other's history and POV. The book itself is written in a very engaging middle-brow style without copious quantities of footnotes. The author has a knack for simile, metaphor and description. I loved his description of the American and British view of continental Europe in the 17th through the mid 20th century: scorpions fighting in a bottle and desperate to keeping one scorpion from winning and getting strong enough to uncork the bottle and escape.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jim Milway

    Mead's book, a review of US foreign policy since the founding, was published months before 9/11 and one might ignore it for that reason. But I found it highly relevant to the current debates on foreign affairs. Mead acknowledges that the US approach to statecraft is not as "sophisticated" as how the Europeans practice it. But, he argues, it has been very successful for the most part. He identifies four stream of foreign policy in the US - Hamiltonian (taking a commercial approach to external aff Mead's book, a review of US foreign policy since the founding, was published months before 9/11 and one might ignore it for that reason. But I found it highly relevant to the current debates on foreign affairs. Mead acknowledges that the US approach to statecraft is not as "sophisticated" as how the Europeans practice it. But, he argues, it has been very successful for the most part. He identifies four stream of foreign policy in the US - Hamiltonian (taking a commercial approach to external affairs), Jeffersonian (staying untangled from problems elsewhere in the world), Wilsonian (solving the world's problems), and Jacksonian (fervently watching out for US position and security). All have had their periods of ascendency and decline.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Perhaps the single best book out there on the theory of American foreign policy. Mead constructs an outline of US strategic culture built around principles of American exceptionalism, historical isolationism, and strong patriotism. Distinguishing four specific subcultures--Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jacksonian, and Jeffersonian--that differ only in terms of the relative emphasis they place on these core values, Mead provides an historical explanation of how these schools of thought affect the goals Perhaps the single best book out there on the theory of American foreign policy. Mead constructs an outline of US strategic culture built around principles of American exceptionalism, historical isolationism, and strong patriotism. Distinguishing four specific subcultures--Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jacksonian, and Jeffersonian--that differ only in terms of the relative emphasis they place on these core values, Mead provides an historical explanation of how these schools of thought affect the goals and conduct of US foreign policy. Highly relevant for many of the contemporary discussions concerning America's role in the world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vivek

    This is the best book I've read about American foreign policy. Mead describes four "traditions" that have been at work throughout the history of the United States in guiding her foreign relations, and does an excellent job explaining how domestic politics affects foreign policy (a subject that too few books spend time on). It is a testament to the strength of Mead's ideas in the book that something written just before 9/11 can still be used to make sense of the way the United States forms her fo This is the best book I've read about American foreign policy. Mead describes four "traditions" that have been at work throughout the history of the United States in guiding her foreign relations, and does an excellent job explaining how domestic politics affects foreign policy (a subject that too few books spend time on). It is a testament to the strength of Mead's ideas in the book that something written just before 9/11 can still be used to make sense of the way the United States forms her foreign policy today.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nick Pohl

    An incredibly thorough book that looks at U.S. foreign policy from all angles while dispelling previous myths that the United States has been weak on foreign policy all along. Mead brilliantly breaks down U.S. FP into 4 schools of thought that seemingly also apply at home. A great book that clearly defines how people look at different international situations from the United States perspective. I'm designing a high school elective around this book and am glad that I choose it. Definitely is the An incredibly thorough book that looks at U.S. foreign policy from all angles while dispelling previous myths that the United States has been weak on foreign policy all along. Mead brilliantly breaks down U.S. FP into 4 schools of thought that seemingly also apply at home. A great book that clearly defines how people look at different international situations from the United States perspective. I'm designing a high school elective around this book and am glad that I choose it. Definitely is the centerpiece for the course and a must read for anyone interested in the subject.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Fantastic book, providing analogies and frameworks that have stayed with me (among the best of them, 19th and 20th century Euros fighting it out like scorpions in a bottle while the Brits, later Yanks, looked on). Presidential legacies and American foreign policy schools of thought that follow them: Hamiltonians (mercantilists), Wilsonians (crusaders), Jeffersonians (skeptics), and Jacksonians (god bless 'em!). A rare five star.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Takes the myth of American isolationism prior to WWI and does its best to debunk it. The main thesis is that US foreign policy is much more sophisticated than often given credit for, and that the commercial aspects of US policy long dominated decision making. So while the US wasn't worrying about who won what war in Europe during the 1800s, it spent its energies ensuring freedom of the seas, open markets, and non-European intervention in the West. Worth your time if you're a nerd like moi.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Highly recommend this book for anyone interested in American foreign policy and how it has evolved over time. His four schools - Hamiltonians, Wilsonians, Jeffersonians, and Jacksonians - explain a lot. A really central and important work. Why can't he be a professor I can study under to get my Ph.D.? He's got it all figured out...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Very interesting, it could have been written a little better and had the ideas be more fluid. Very ecominic heavy (he is primarily an economist). Lots of articles and podcasts about this book and by the author. Very interesting debates.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Essential reading on U.S. foreign policy traditions, this book introduced me to understand the complex and competing visions of Americas role in the world: Hamiltonian commercialism, Wilsonian missionary zeal, Jeffersonian isolationism and Jacksonian militarism.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dyanna

    Excellent introduction to American foreign policy pre-9/11. Mead discusses American foreign policy over the course of the nation's history but also analyzes four distinct schools of policy that together have made up what was largely, though not painlessly, successful American foreign policy.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rodger

    I used this book frequently in American foreign policy classes from about 2005 through 2010. Mean provides an interesting framework for analyzing USFP, emphasizing historical allegiances and tensions among Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, Jacksonian and Wilsonian advocates.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Annicken

    Interesting to read about the Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian and Wilsonian schools of thought and how they shape US Foreign Policy.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Harold Chamberlain

    A very informative look at how the United States has always been international in its focus, and the four different styles national foreign policy has taken over the years.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bribri

    Interesting for teaching high school APUSH even - succinct ideas about Wilsonians, Jeffersonians, Jacksonians, and Hamiltonians. Worth a second glance-through.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    interesting read. Mead lays out his theory on the four approaches to foreign policy thinking within america: Jacksonian, Jeffersonian, Wilsonian and Hamiltonian.

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