The most orignial and probably the most important book to have been written on American foreign policy in decades.
A remarkable accomplishment...[Mead] is a brilliant scholar, and he has produced a book of enduring value as both a work of intelectual genealogy and a stimulating re-evaluation of some of the roots of America's rise.
Mead is a clear and original thinker and an engaging writer, and these pages are filled with striking insights and pithy formulations.
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. Copyright2001 Cahners Business Information.
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 naivet 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 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A political scientist (Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition, not reviewed) proposes that four "schools" compete for dominance in American foreign policy. Mead names these schools after four highly recognizable American personalities: Hamilton, Wilson, Jefferson, and Jackson. But before his detailed description and analysis of each, he assails Americans (and their diplomats) for a shallow understanding of the history of US foreign policy. Despite the pervasive perception of America as a sort of Mr. Magoo-a purblind blunderer who somehow succeeds in spite of himself-it's clear, Mead asserts, the country has become the richest, most powerful nation in the history of the world. So we must be doing something right, in spite of obvious blunders like the Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam War. Mead devotes a substantial chapter to each school. Hamiltonians tend to focus on money issues, believing a strong economy is the best foundation for a strong democracy. Wilsonians have a missionary zeal that leads them to pursue peace and advocate human rights. Jeffersonians (whom, near the end, Mead aligns himself with) see the American democracy as fragile and tend to "Speak softly, and carry the smallest possible stick." Jacksonians, the most bellicose and pragmatic of the four, are the hawks in the American aviary, animated by a deep sense of honor and religious belief. At the close there are a couple of strong chapters about the need for a comprehensive post-Cold War strategy that includes a US gyroscope. We should be asking ourselves, Mead argues, "What kind of hegemony . . . we want, and why." His prose may seem driven by a traditional sentence outline from English 101, but he displays aserrated wit and an abundant supply of apt analogies. A clear, crisp analysis, refreshingly free of jargon and cant. (8 pp. b&w photos, not seen) History Book Club selection