Walter Russell Mead's Foreign Policy Paradigm: Which school do you belong to?


#1

Frequently Asked Questions about Walter Russell Meade’s Spectrum

Intro
Walter Russell Meade has postulated an interesting set of definitions for the American political landscape, at least as far as the foreign policy arena goes. Rather than using the traditional left/right, Democratic/Republican models, he’s worked out four schools of “American” foreign policy thought, named after influential American statesmen who epitomize the principles of those schools. In brief, they are:

  •     Jacksonian
    
  •     Hamiltonian
    
  •     Jeffersonian
    
  •     Wilsonian
    

All four of these schools of thought have had significant impacts in the larger world. Major international organizations derive from these fundamentally American ideals.

So, what are these schools, and what do they represent?

Jacksonian
The Jacksonian tradition is perhaps the least well-known, and certainly the least understood of the four schools of thought that Meade defines. Jacksonians tend to be looked down upon – despite the fact that by the numbers, they appear to be the largest of the four schools. The driving belief of the Jacksonian school of thought is that the first priority of the U.S. Government in both foreign and domestic policy is the physical security and economic well-being of the American populace. Jacksonians believe that the US shouldn’t seek out foreign quarrels, but if a war starts, the basic belief is “there’s no substitute for victory” – and Jacksonians will do pretty much whatever is required to make that victory happen. If you wanted a Jacksonian slogan, it’s “Don’t Tread On Me!” Jacksonians are generally viewed by the rest of the world as having a simplistic, uncomplicated view of the world, despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.
Jacksonians also strongly value self-reliance. “Economic well-being” to a Jacksonian isn’t about protectionist trade barriers. Rather, it is about providing Jacksonians with the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own.
Looking for a Jacksonian President? Ronald Reagan was very much a Jacksonian, as is our current President, George W. Bush.

Hamiltonian
Hamiltonian doctrine is really the doctrine that pushes the economic primacy of the United States. Hamiltonians believe that a fundamental link between the government and big business is key to the survival and success of the country. They are, however, realists who believe that the US is at best *primus inter pares among other nations. As a result, they believe that the US is best served by international organizations that protect fundamentally American interests. If you’re looking for Hamiltonian legacies, look at things like the IMF, World Bank, NAFTA, and the WTO. Hamiltonians believe that the US should be integrated into the global economy on the most favorable terms possible, and that this above all else drives the success of the American system. Well known Hamiltonians include George H. W. Bush, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Bill Clinton.
One common misconception to be ware of is that Hamiltonian thinkers are essentially identical to the realpolitik-driven upper crust of European society. While the socialization is superficially the same, the results on this side of the Atlantic are quite different. In the common European view, national interest was most often viewed in terms of a military balance of power. In the Anglo-American Hamiltonian view, however, national interest is best served by preventing the rise of a single hostile power able to unify the opposition, while strong expeditionary forces and a similarly-strong international trading environment are used to provide the muscle of the nation’s defense.
Jeffersonian
Jeffersonians are most interested in protection of American democracy on the home front, and almost as misunderstood as Jacksonians. They believe that foreign entanglements are a sure method of damaging American democractic systems, and are highly skeptical of Hamiltonian/Wilsonian projects to involve the US abroad. Hamiltonians and Wilsonians have a realistic streak, that the United States is fundamentally a state among states, if better managed. Jeffersonians, in contrast, believe that the United States is something better and different. You often find Jeffersonians protesting against
international agreements, rather than for them.
If you had to look for a fundamentally Jeffersonian institution, look no further than the ACLU. For a Jeffersonian, an organization like that stands on the front lines of the battle to protect American democracy. There really aren’t any Jeffersonian presidents in the 20[SUP]th[/SUP] century. The Libertarian Party, however, is a fundamentally Jeffersonian organization.
Wilsonian
Wilsonians believe that both the moral and national interests of the United States are best served by spreading American democratic and social values throughout the world. They want to see the U.S. involved on a worldwide basis with a peaceful international community based on the rule of law. Want a Wilsonian organization? Look no further than the United Nations, perhaps *the **quintessentially Wilsonian creation.
An interesting point to note is that Wilsonian values are a fundamentally American conceit, yet they have been adopted wholeheartedly by many of the ruling political organizations in Europe, especially by those most passionately interested in furthering the European Union.
Wilsonian tendancies have run through American foreign policy thought since long before Woodrow Wilson took office. The tens of thousands of missionaries sent abroad from the US in the 19[SUP]th[/SUP] century, for example, are an exemplar of Wilsonian thinking. American Presidents have often been guided by Wilsonian thought, too. Jimmy Carter was obviously a Wilsonian. But so was McKinley when he used missionary thinking to justify annexing the Phillipines. Wilsonian views are also widely held in Great Britain, where the new version of the Labor Party and it’s head, Tony Blair, exemplify Wilsonian thinking.

Personally, and I have evolved on foreign policy and still do, I would consider myself a blend of the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian schools. That is ideally what our foreign policy as a nation would be.

Ron Paul would be a Jeffersonian. Mead correctly defined Ronald Reagan as a Jacksonian. He also defined George W. Bush as one, but I would consider him a Wilsonian more than anything based on his mandate for spreading democracy. However, it is true he has some Jacksonian nationalistic characteristics.

What of our current President Obama? Mead considers hima Jeffersonian, however I would dissent and consider him a mixture of Wilsonian and Hamiltonian. Why? He is big about spreading democracy throughout the world, and at the same time heavily cooperates with the global economic organizations.

What school (s) would you consider yourself to be apart of?


#2

The day Americans start thinking for themselves instead of assuming that their only options are to climb on board some historic bandwagon regarding economics and foreign policy as if all the concepts that could possibly be viable are contained in the editorial summary’s written by third party’s after the fact we will have a chance at rising again.

My economic and foreign policy opinions are my own, they are based on my knowledge of human nature and the realities of the world that I currently live in and are adjusted (if need be) to pass Constitutional muster.

But I guess the academic elite cannot even fathom such a concept as thinking for ones self.


#3

[quote=“RET423, post:2, topic:37635”]
The day Americans start thinking for themselves instead of assuming that their only options are to climb on board some historic bandwagon regarding economics and foreign policy as if all the concepts that could possibly be viable are contained in the editorial summary’s written by third party’s after the fact we will have a chance at rising again.

My economic and foreign policy opinions are my own, they are based on my knowledge of human nature and the realities of the world that I currently live in and are adjusted (if need be) to pass Constitutional muster.

But I guess the academic elite cannot even fathom such a concept as thinking for ones self.
[/quote] I guess we could add the RETians if you want!


#4

How about just making defensible arguments for our economic and foreign policy opinions based on current realities and similar direct experience without trying to stuff everyone into an editorial laced, insufficient summary of some historic period?


#5

I suppose “Jacksonian” is closest to my thinking. Re Pres. G. W. Bush and the question whether he was Jacksonian or Wilsonian, I think seeing these categories as in some ways fading into each other where they have similar ideas accounts better for folks like Pres. Bush. Had 9/11 never happened, I think he would have been a very different President, in that events drove his actions (and possibly re-focused or even changed his foreign policy views).

The tens of thousands of missionaries sent abroad from the US in the 19th century, for example, are an exemplar of Wilsonian thinking.

This is just wrong. The 19th Century missionary movement was international - many missionaries were sent from the UK (“Dr. Livingstone I presume?”). Nor was it confined to the 19th Century - it had roots in the 18th (e.g. William Carey and David Brainerd). That’s from the Protestant side of Christianity; I’ll leave to Catholics on RO to fill in the picture from the Catholic side. But if you want to know what kind of thinking guides missionaries, it begins with, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).


#6

He wasn’t blaming the missionaries for imperialism, although they did bring euro centrism in Africa. He’s saying they were used as tools for imperialism. They still are. This is at no fault to the missionaries.


#7

He wasn’t blaming the missionaries for imperialism, although they did bring euro centrism in Africa. He’s saying they were used as tools for imperialism.

I understood WRM to be citing 19th Century missionaries as examples of the kind of thinking he called “Wilsonian” (obviously WRM used Wilson as a metaphor, Wilson epitomizing the set of ideas rather than originating the ideas). But as I pointed out, they were sent or went out on a very different impetus; if their presence suited certain countries’ foreign policy thinking, that was effect, not cause.

“they did bring euro centrism in Africa”: Many mission organizations’ thinking was too tied to European culture, but this was a failure to understand their faith and how it could fit in almost any culture. Actually, after the mid 19th Century even this kind of thinking - aloofly maintaining European culture and bringing converts into that culture - was breaking up, with the influence of men like Hudson Taylor. though in lingered well into the 20th Century.

He’s saying they were used as tools for imperialism. They still are.

Ummm … no. If you learn what missionary groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators, Mercy Ships or Youth With A Mission (to name a very few) do and how they train their people you would know that is just not the case. “Imperialism” - assuming the word is used meaningfully and not just as an epithet meaning “I don’t approve of what they do” - has nothing to do with what they do and are about! My family has been associated with the latter in various ways for some years; YWAM emphasizes working within and respecting local cultures from their very first, basic, training “school”. YWAM outreach (2-month short-term outreaches) groups receive particular training about the country to which they will be going beforehand and one of the first things they do when they go into a country is further training from Christians who live in that country. Members of my family have been on such outreaches, so far, to four Asian countries, a country in Oceania and two African countries, so I’m speaking of familiar things.


#8

You’re still missing my point. The missionaries are doing what they’re supposed to do, spread Christianity. This changes a country’s culture and makes them more likely to westernize. Southern Nigeria is a specific example I point out. The countries use the missionaries to exert influence. The missionaries are not complicit in this, they’re just promoting what they believe.

I was referring to eurocentrism being brought in the past not in modernity.


#9

By the definitions I would fall into the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian category.


#10

This changes a country’s culture and makes them more likely to westernize.

First, there’s a chicken-egg question here. Christianity is a West Asian religion, not a European religion, though Christianity contributed much to the formation of western culture. But the word you used in your previous post was “imperialism”. Maybe defining what you meant would be helpful. “Imperialism” refers to empires aggressing against and moving to incorporate other nations. It’s also been used - very loosely - to refer to stronger nations exerting influence or pressure on weaker or less developed nations. Neither definition/description of “imperialism” really fits or even resembles what modern missionaries - of whom you said, “They still are (tools of imperialism)” - do. Granting that Christianity will change aspects of a culture - for those who become Christians - that contradict or are not consistent with Christianity (such as women being treated as property or as being of lesser value than men, as is the case in many cultures), how is that “imperialism”? What empire/nation is served by such culture changes?


#11

Okay. I’ll recant my statement about missionaries still spreading imperialism in modern times.