- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1 edition (October 30, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375412301
- ISBN-13: 978-0375412301
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
America is perceived as not having a foreign policy tradition, contends Mead (Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition), a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In fact, Mead contends, there are actually four contrasting schools of foreign policy: a "Hamiltonian" concern with U.S. economic well-being at home and abroad; a "Wilsonian" impulse to promulgate U.S. values throughout the world; a "Jeffersonian" focus on protecting American democracy in a perilous world; and a bellicose, populist "Jacksonian" commitment to preserving U.S. interests and honor in the world. As Mead's detailed historical analysis of the origin and development of these schools shows, each has its strengths and faults if Wilsonians are too idealistic, Jacksonians are too suspicious of the world but each keeps the other in check, assuring no single school will dominate and that a basic consensus among them will be achieved, as was the case during the Cold War. As the Cold War ended, however, and the world became more complex, consensus ended. Hamiltonians and Wilsonians saw the opportunity to mold the economy and morality of the world in the U.S. image, but Jeffersonian doubt about foreign action in places like Bosnia, and Jacksonian popular suspicions of organizations like the WTO soon challenged such grandiose plans. Mead worries that U.S. foreign policy is too unfocused today and suggests we could learn much from the interactions in the past of the four schools, a complex history he ably unfolds. 8 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Nov. 8) Forecast: With foreign policy at the forefront after September 11, this could help shape discussions of U.S. response; expect serious interest.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
A senior fellow for foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mead (Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition) follows in the footsteps of Walter McDougall in Promised Land, Crusader State (Houghton, 1997). Like McDougall, he points out that the United States contrary to the received wisdom was awash in diplomacy from its birth throughout the supposedly isolationist 19th century. But Mead sets himself a broader task. Why, he asks, does the United States still suffer from a reputation for na?vet? despite its meteoric ascent to world power? The author traces European puzzlement at Americans' stubborn independence, aversion to state power, and obsession with commerce. Like other historians, Mead discerns several schools of thought that vie for supremacy within the American diplomatic tradition: Hamilton's preoccupation with commerce, Jefferson's watchfulness over the Republic's founding principles, Jackson's obsession with military strength, and Wilson's pursuit of a just world order. The beneficial interplay of these principles, says Mead, has yielded the most successful foreign policy in history. Largely celebratory and sure to be controversial, this work belongs in all library collections. James R. Holmes, Ph.D. Candidate, Fletcher Sch. of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts Univ., Medford, MA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Mead comes up with four schools of US foreign policy thought, named after key characters in US history: Hamiltonian (realist/mercantile), Wilsonian (idealist), Jeffersonian (libertarian), and Jacksonian (populist). These four trends work with and against each other to create policies that have helped lift the US to the top of the international tree, despite looking like the US can't really cope with foreign policy making.
Well written and engaging, it's one of the few books I've had to read for a class that I think I'd've read anyway.
As a "macro" theory, Mead supports the four-way approach by reference to "micro" foundations in U.S. political demography, particularly by citing the work of David Hackett Fischer. Mead's four schools are also reminiscent of the four-way Myers-Briggs typing of personality preferences: Jacksonians as SJs, Jeffersonians as SPs, Hamiltonians as NTs, and Wilsonians as NFs?
Mead's book is clever in at least two other respects.
First, Mead risks little actual analysis and advice regarding real-world foreign policy. His main point about the outside world is that U.S. foreign policy is easier to formulate and implement when the world is simple. Humorist Richard Armour made a similar point when he concluded one of his historical reviews with the observation that the American people of the 1950s were "secure in the knowledge of whom to hate." This continues to be an important point: it illustrates the current usefulness of the Arab Muslim image in building a broad U.S. political movement.
Second, Mead has something for everyone -- at least, for every American. With malice toward none, with charity for all, he has praise for all four of the U.S. schools. He has obviously struggled with his presentation of the Jacksonian school (the militant fundamentalists), which is the one that seems farthest from Mead's roots as an intellectual. Mead credits Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. with helping him be positive about Andrew Jackson himself.
But although Mead disclaims triumphalism, he implicitly evaluates foreign policy in nationalistic terms: gains of territory and other wealth for the U.S., with low U.S. casualties, is the measure of U.S. foreign policy achievement. While he regrets non-U.S. casualties, he warns against trying to make too much of the rest of the world.
By these standards, Mead proclaims U.S. foreign policy a success and thus well conceived, even in the period before the First World War, when traditionally the U.S. was not supposed to be paying much attention to foreign affairs.
This seeming paradox is partly explained by a factor that Mead does not emphasize sufficiently: the private sector's role in expanding U.S. territory. Private American colonization went ahead of the U.S. Government into a large part of what became U.S. lands: the trans-Appalachian area, West Florida, Texas, California, Utah, and Hawaii, among the successful cases.
Mead does note briefly that "before the Civil War Southerners looked to Texas, Central America, and Cuba for more slave states," but he does not tell in any detail the story of private U.S. adventurers' attempted conquests in such areas, or of the U.S. Government's official actions for and against these efforts. The case of the Philippines provides a contrasting example, where the U.S. Government took the initiative in conquering the territory without private American colonization. However, the non-governmental pattern resumed in the 1900s with private Americans' participation in Israeli colonization, creating a Texas-type, lone-star republic, which, although not annexed, has a "special relationship" with the U.S.
These examples illustrate a mechanism by which the U.S. expanded its territory with low U.S. Government troop casualties, and thus had a successful foreign policy by Mead's standard, without the U.S. Government paying as much attention to foreign policy as that success might imply.
Obviously, territorial expansion has generated blowback, which the U.S. Government has often anticipated and tried to avoid or limit. Mead also recognizes the need to deal with this downside of expansionary foreign policy. He describes very effectively how the Hamiltonian and Wilsonian schools offer alternatives for succeeding in the larger world.
We in the U.S. have family, friends, homes, businesses, and cultural interests outside our borders, which we will not want to neglect. Mead's clarifying work is a substantial contribution to helping us think about our approach.
Mead has helped me understand the "other side", and be much more sympathetic to these points of view. Whenever I ponder US foreign policy questions, I now begin by asking myself how Mead's schools align on the question. Further, I find Mead's schools are quite relevant and interesting when applied to domestic issues.