The Four Schools of American Foreign Policy

The Four Schools of American Foreign Policy

In addition to being a shrewd analyst of American domestic politics, you’re a considerable analyst, have international politics as well. And then a very important book you wrote in 2001 called Special Providence, American foreign policy and how it changed the world. At you, you elaborate a fascinating topology. I guess you’d say schools of thought or schools of mind in regarding America and thinking about foreign policy. But tell us a little bit about these four, these four habits of mind that you described there. Okay, well, I should say that the book kind of began as puzzled by two things that everybody who studied American foreign policy seemed to believe in. The one was that Americans just aren’t very good at foreign policy. And people would have different reasons why we were so terrible. There’s the Noam Chomsky school, there’s the Henry Kissinger school, but everybody said, we just think of this game. But then the other thing is that all students of international relations agreed on was that the last 200 years had seen the steady rise of the United States and the international system. And nobody seemed troubled by this competition, and it goes through it. Just, people just kind of sat with these two incompatible throughs in their heads and just went through their day. That’s trying to figure out how can this be, how can, how can our foreign policy always look like it’s a complete and total disaster waiting to happen. And, and yet somehow over time, we may not get everything right, but we tend to do a little better than the competition. And what I sort of came down to was, was the idea that we have a model of what foreign policy should look like, that sort of based on 19th century European experience. You have the, the matter now, the Bismarck in the tower. The brilliant genius who was playing a complicated game of chess with the genius in another tower and across the way. And so, you say, you put your palm here because, you know, three moves later, he’ll put his night there and you’ve got it, That sort of thing. And but also you can’t have domestic lobbies, interfering the genius at work. So, you have sort of armed guards were banned. That’s keeping the sugar manufacturers and all these other people with their impertinent cries out of the, out of it and you do pure foreign balls. American foreign policy has never looked like that. Maybe a couple of years when Kissinger, what is this peak? But it didn’t last. And you have to think. So, how does it work? My sense is that we have a different way of thinking of asking ourselves what does the national interests, which is what foreign policy is really all about, is what is the national interest and how do you get there? Well, in the old system it’s, or the European system, it’s whatever Bismarck’s is. He’s the genius, he figures it out. But of course, aside from being a genius, which he certainly was, he’s also an East LB impression landowner and he’s a noble. So, he has all of these other things. And so what often happens with those kinds of foreign policies is they, they look very brilliant for a long time till suddenly there’s an explosion and turmoil. And ours almost always as fisher Ames, one of the early Congressman said, a republic is like a raft. It never sinks, but your feet are never out of the water. So American foreign policy is a little bit like that. And in this quest to figure out what the national interest is is like we have four different ideas about what, what kind of place America is, what we should be doing in the world, what the point of foreign policy is. And it’s like they’re constantly, it’s like on our ship of state, these four schools are each trying to grab the wheel and steer it in their own direction. And the most, in a way, easiest one to understand in some ways is what I call the Hamiltonian school. Named were Alexander Hamilton. And it, you’re kidding. That’s so obvious. It actually it bothers foreigners because the others are all presidents. Yes, like Who is, this is Alexander Hamilton guy. But his idea was basically he looked around the world. 1789, we got a new country. What are we going to do? What’s our foreign policy going to look like? He says, well, what country on the planet has the most successful Foreign Policy? England, yeah, we want in the revolution, but it was clearly kind of a fluke. We got lucky. So, what should our foreign policy B? Well, we should look at the principles that guide England and adapt them to our own circumstances. And basically, right now, England is number 1 and we can’t challenge it. But if we simply bide our time and wait, the day will come when we replace England as the world’s dominant power. Which of course happened interestingly enough. But his, and so what did England do? It, it, it was a C power. It was a commercial power. It had a strong economy. You sort of, the British government worked closely with large British corporations. So, I think we call that crony capitalism. Well, when it’s other people’s operation, that’s when I run, I think once, when are your own, it’s farsighted patriotism, I believe is the expression. So, you know, when, when President Obama complaints to China that Google can’t operate in China. This is an example of a Hamiltonian piece of foreign policy. And the, it is, it’s realist in the sense that it doesn’t, it, It’s not trying to turn the entire world into a Sunday school class. It’s also more optimistic than a lot of European, lot of European foreign policy is very darkly realist, and this lucidity and conflict is inevitable pieces, just a kind of a recess between two periods of war. Powers will always fight. Hamiltonians think, well, it can be like that, yeah, but people are, people are also greedy. And maybe you could build a system in which everybody was making enough money so that they would not necessarily go to war. So, so it’s not a 0-sum game exactly. So, after World War II, we say to Germany and Japan, you can get rich in the system too. And you could have said, And, and some people did say at the time, look, this is crazy. You let Germany and Japan get rich. They’re just going to build up huge military. There’ll be back of your throat sing yet. But the Hamiltonian calculation has usually been, look, we can, we can lure them into the system. So that is one way of thinking about America and the driver says it, well, Jefferson hated Alexander Hamilton. And Jefferson saw Alexander Hamilton’s foreign policy as exactly what was wrong. Or if you want to be more like England, Fantastic. That’s just what we need. We whole revolution was gasoline. We try SBAR. And, and Ashley was even closer than that because, you know, Jefferson, Jeffersonian say what is the most wonderful important thing about America? It’s actually our liberty is our precious thing. And what’s show what should the goal of our foreign policy B, how about preserve American liberty at home? So, let’s not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. But also let’s not have crony capitalist using the US to promote their corporate interests overseas. Also, the more we get involved if we try to be like England and maintain a balance of power here and do this over there. You know what’s going to happen? Basically, a lot of people are going to hate us as a result of what we do. And when they hate us, they’re going to attack us. But also, we’re going to have to make all kinds of nasty allies. If we’re going to assure the global oil supply, we’re going to have to become best buddies with the Saudis and all these people plus the government’s going to be full of secrets. I mean, where we can’t tell people what we’re do this, everything’s and be classified top-secret. What kind of free republic is that? When the average citizen can’t be told what the government is doing. These are, these, again, these are very important ideas. They’re fundamental. I mean, my point about these schools of American foreign policy is not that there’s one right? One and the others are all rises. They all stand for something very important. No. It’s for them are bigger than the sum of their parts. Yes, exactly right. I mean, in the same way, you know, Jefferson hated parts of the way the Constitution work. Hamilton didn’t like if, if, if any one of the founding fathers had gotten exactly the Republic he wanted, it would have been less good than the one we’ve got. That it’s somehow the disappointment of these people has helped us have a republic that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Thank you. That’s very illuminating.