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Jason Holliston
Thursday, May 27, 2004  
Schools Of Thought

Anyone interested in foreign policy (and who isn't?) should be versed in the four schools of thought that dominate American foreign policy. Even if you're not interested in foreign policy per se, understanding these schools of thought can be enlightening in understanding why our army fights wars, how they fight wars, and why the publics opinions are what they are. Walter Russell Mead put forth this idea in 2001, in a book called "Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World".

John Moser at the Ashbrook Center wrote an essay this month about these schools of thought, and how he thinks one particular group, the "Jacksonians", have affected from the beginning the Iraq War. Here's a quick primer about the schools of thought from the essay:

Mead, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, interprets the history of U.S. foreign policy through the lens of what he identifies as four dominant schools of thought. The Hamiltonian school emphasizes the development of the American economy by advancing the countries commercial and industrial interests abroad. The Wilsonian school seeks the advancement of democracy and international law through multilateral institutions. The Jeffersonian school, meanwhile, remains skeptical of the international machinations of the other two, fearing their effects on democracy at home.

And then there are the Jacksonians. Unlike the other three, they are not likely to hold important positions in the media, the business community, academia, or the foreign policy establishment. However, they do make up a substantial part of the working-class and middle-class population, and they are well represented in Congress and in the military. This group espouses populist values, believing strongly in the traditions of the "folk community" and tracing its ancestry back to the Scots-Irish clansmen who settled along the American frontier. Its members embrace a code of honor based on self-reliance, equality, and individualism. They are unabashedly patriotic, suspicious of foreigners, and distrustful of those who tell them that any given problem is too "complex" or "nuanced" to avail itself of a simple, straightforward solution.

Read the rest for his conclusions on the Jacksonians and how they still dominate why we went to war with Iraq, and why we're still there. For the record, I consider myself a mix between Jacksonian and Wilsonian. I unabashedly support doing whatever is in our power, as a nation, to seed democracy through the world. Just because we can't do it all at once doesn't mean we shouldn't start at all, and Iraq is a great stepping stone for that vision. As a famous super-hero's uncle once said, "With great power comes great responsibility", which explains why, as the world's greatest power, it's our responsibility to lead this vision into reality.

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