Walter Russell Mead has recently observed that there are four fundamental strands of thought in US foreign policy. He has given these the provocative labels of the Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, Jacksonian, and Wilsonian schools. At the risk of simplifying Mead's superbly nuanced characterizations, these thrusts in US foreign policy reduce to four discrete paradigms: (1) moral and absolutist, emphasizing the revolutionary values of popular democracy and individual liberty (Jeffersonian); (2) commercial and pragmatic, accentuating the Republic's business values and need to release creative energies (Hamiltonian); (3) honor-bound and populist, displaying the deep-seated and violent cultural values of the American frontier (Jacksonian); and (4) legalistic and elitist, featuring the cosmopolitan values of foreign engagement and functional cooperation (Wilsonian). Obviously, the strength of US foreign policy lies in its ability to draw upon each of these disparate sources of authority and legitimacy, while also reconciling their sometimes contradictory policy prescriptions. It would be facile and counter-intuitive to suggest that one of these ideological strands should have prominence over the others. We should be, to paraphase Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address, Jeffersonians, Hamiltonians, Jacksonians, Wilsonians all. Despite this, our raging domestic culture %vars have now come down to the shoreline. US foreign policy is again a legitimate target of popular discourse about the place of values in our governing laws and institutions. Even if we have accepted that party politics can intrude on foreign affairs (despite protestations to the contrary, this has often been the case), we have often been less comfortable with the intrusion of social ideology as a motive force for the development of foreign policy objectives. This phenomenon can be observed in many facets of US foreign policy-making today. Indeed, I suggest that it is the central theme of the United States's confrontation with the complex of phenomena we call globalization. [CONT]
Bederman, David J.
"International Law Advocacy and Its Discontents,"
Chicago Journal of International Law:
2, Article 18.
Available at: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cjil/vol2/iss2/18