As you travel through the blogosphere you’ll occasionally run into the terms Hamiltonians, Jeffersonians, Wilsonians, and Jacksonians typically in the context of foreign policy and you may have wondered what in the dickens it all meant. In his book Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World, Walter Russell Mead used these shorthand terms to characterize the forces that have shaped American foreign policy. I’ve written at some length about these in my review of Mead’s book Power, Terror, Peace, and War : America’s Grand Strategy in a World at Risk, Jacksonians, Wilsonians, and Hamiltonians at war. I strongly recommend Special Providence. It’s an essential if you want to understand how America, without a guiding ideology or Napoleon, has come to dominate the international agenda. If you’re not inclined to read the whole book you might want to take a look at Mead’s article from The National Interest, The Jacksonian Tradition.
|Hamiltonians||Economic realists||What’s good for General Motors is good for the U. S. A.||George H. W. Bush|
|Jeffersonians||Isolationists||Hands off the Western world|
|Wilsonians||Idealistic internationalists||Making the world safe for democracy||Woodrow Wilson|
|Jacksonians||Populist nationalists||Don’t tread on me||George W. Bush|
I’m opened to suggestions for an example of a recent isolationist president. Private correspondence with Walter Russell Mead has suggested that a good candidate would be Jimmy Carter (as president). Since his presidency he’s clearly been a Wilsonian.
In the interests of full disclosure I would characterize my own views as Jacksonian with perhaps a soupçon of Jeffersonianism. I don’t have a Wilsonian or Hamiltonian bone in my body.