New Part Three - December 27:
James Fallows
Walter Russell Mead

Part Two - December 20:
James Fallows
Walter Russell Mead

Part One - December 6:
James Fallows
Walter Russell Mead

Walter Russell Mead is the senior fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mead is also the author of Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition. His internationally syndicated articles on economic policy and foreign affairs appear regularly in the Los Angeles Times and have appeared in major newspapers around the world, including The International Herald Tribune and The Wall Street Journal. He has also written for The New Yorker, Harper's, and Rolling Stone, and is a senior contributing editor at Worth magazine. A native of South Carolina, he lives in New York.

James Fallows is The Atlantic's national correspondent and the author of Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy (1996) and of Free Flight: From Airline Hell to a New Age of Travel. To learn about his new book and browse an archive of his recent articles, visit

Previously in Fallows@large:

Beyond the Tech Bubble (August 29, 2001)
An e-mail exchange with Michael Lewis, the author of Next: The Future Just Happened.

The Waste Land (June 21, 2001)
An e-mail exchange with Alex Kerr, the author of Dogs and Demons.

Working Classes (May 2, 2001)
An e-mail exchange with Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed.

More by James Fallows

More on books

More on foreign affairs

Join the conversation in Post & Riposte.

Atlantic Unbound | December 27, 2001
fallows@large | Dialogues with James Fallows
From: Walter Russell Mead
To: James Fallows
Subject: The wily champion of the diplomatic world - Part Three

Dear Jim:

In the interest of giving readers a holiday break, I’ll try to keep this short and sweet.

I'll start by naming names: giving you examples of people who exemplify the four schools.

Remembering that in the real world, most people are responsive to the values of more than one school, and that people's reactions change as events change, among the prominent Hamiltonians today I'd include Robert Zoellick (currently serving as United States Trade Representative), Robert Rubin, Allen Greenspan, James Baker and the elder George Bush.

Leading Wilsonians would include Madeleine Albright, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and folks like Ken Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch.

Jeffersonians can be found on both the left and the right of the political spectrum—including, for example, the conservative legal foundations who attacked John Ashcroft's tribunals and detention proposals. Gore Vidal and Ralph Nader are Jeffersonians who come out of left field; the Cato Institute and its foreign-policy guru Ted Galen Carpenter come from the right. Ben Schwarz, of The Atlantic, is a Jeffersonian; Colin Powell, I think, has a strong Jeffersonian streak in him.

John McCain is a Jacksonian. So is Ross Perot. While Jesse Helms is a much more complicated individual than many disdainful liberals think he is, most of the foreign-policy stands he is famous for are Jacksonian. The strategic ideas that are being advanced by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon resonate strongly with the Jacksonian tradition as well.

As to your second question, it was both frustrating and exciting to have a book coming out on American foreign policy that was written before September 11, yet due to appear shortly after. It's possible that when the paperback version appears I will add a note on those events.

But what really interested me about September 11 and the book was that this profound shock to the country provided me with an opportunity to see whether the ideas in the book held up in the real world. Did reactions to September 11 divide into the four categories I had written about?

I would have to say at this point that they did. The immense outpouring of Jacksonian rage and determination made a military response inevitable. The experience of national unity, of coming together with a common purpose and determination, reminded many people of the response to Pearl Harbor. Furthermore, a significant set of public opinion on the war followed the outlines of Jacksonian views on the use of force against cowardly treacherous enemies. All this confirms the book's view that there is a powerful set of American cultural attitudes about war that takes over in times of crisis.

From the archives:

"Blowback" (May 1996)
The CIA poured billions into a jihad against Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, creating a militant Islamist Abraham Lincoln Brigade believed to have been involved in bombings from Islamabad to New York. Is Bosnia next? By Mary Anne Weaver
The anti-war sentiment that emerged, as well as some of the 'yes-but' limited support for the war (yes, but don't inflict civilian casualties; yes, but don't infringe on civil liberties at home) followed classically Jeffersonian ideas. The idea that the September attacks were 'blowback'—the chickens of our bad foreign policy coming home to roost—is deeply rooted in the Jeffersonian imagination. We were too deeply involved in the Middle East, too supportive of Israel, too closely linked to Arab dictatorships. We had trained these 'holy warriors' in our excessively active efforts to overthrow the Soviet Union. We had made ourselves a target. The best way forward was not to increase our involvement with yet more squirrelly regimes in this part of the world (Pakistan, the Central Asian republics, but to work toward reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and reduce our involvement in Middle Eastern politics. Meanwhile, Jeffersonians did all they could to oppose curbs on civil liberties proposed by the Bush Administration.

Wilsonians generally have supported the war, but want a war to defend international law rather than a war of vengeance. Wilsonians have called for Osama Bin Laden to be tried by an international tribunal rather than by an American court. They strongly oppose the extension of the war to Iraq—at least without a mandate from the U.N. Security Council. Wilsonians hailed what they saw as the Bush Administration's foxhole conversion to the gospel of multilateralism early in the war, as Congress released money to pay U.S. dues to the United Nations and the Administration worked overtime to create an international coalition against al Qaeda. On the other hand, Wilsonians remain quietly appalled by much of the Bush Administration's record: abandoning the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, dropping out of the Kyoto Protocol process, walking away from the landmine treaty and the international criminal court. Wilsonian hopes that the war would lead the Bush Administration to support these and other initiatives have so far been disappointed; from the Wilsonian point of view the one ray of light has been Laura Bush's conversion to women's rights as a key goal of American foreign policy.

The real winners so far have been the Hamiltonians. From the beginning, the Bush Administration has seen the need for a more sophisticated and nuanced war strategy than some Jacksonians might have wanted. We need an international coalition—to keep the war from turning into a holy war between Islam and the West, to ensure the widest possible cooperation on intelligence sharing and on stopping the clandestine flows of funds to terrorist groups, and to take other steps to meet basic American security goals. This is internationalism, but it isn't Wilsonianism. It is a conservative multilateralism aimed at cooperating with other countries to achieve traditionally understood national interests rather than a liberal multilateralism aimed at changing the nature of the international system.

Bush's task is essentially to harness the Jacksonian passion stirred up by the attacks of September to fight a Hamiltonian war. That can be difficult, especially when the politics of international coalition-building limit Bush's ability to wage the kind of all-out, no-holds-barred war effort that angry Jacksonians want. His father faced this problem in the Gulf War, when the politics of the international coalition made it difficult for the U.S. to move on Baghdad and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Similarly, the younger Bush will face serious problems if, for example, international pressure prevents him from mounting hot pursuit of al Qaeda figures believed to be hiding in some touchy foreign country.

Balancing the demands of an aroused public opinion with the realities of international life during a war is one of the greatest challenges American Presidents can face. Limited wars in which the U.S. is prevented from using all of its military power to achieve its objectives have been fatal for three presidencies (Truman's, Johnson's, and Nixon's) since World War II. So far, President Bush has navigated this treacherous territory very well; of course, victory helps.

A longer term question is whether September 11 and the war on terror will prove to be a major watershed in American foreign policy. Will the war on terror replace the Cold War as the organizing principle that shapes the way Americans think and debate about foreign policy?

Frankly, I hope this doesn't happen. What this country really needs is a discussion of America's world role: what is the structure of American power, how much power is good for the United States, what do we want to use our power to accomplish, what are the costs of power, and so on and so forth. We certainly need to deal with the threat that organized mass terror poses to our security, but that is only one of the things we need to think about in the months and years ahead. It would be very unfortunate if the deeper discussion we need is curtailed by a fixation on terror.

Thanks again for inviting me to participate in this forum.

Happy New Year!

Walter Mead

Previous Page | Return to First Page

What do you think? Join the conversation in Post & Riposte.

More on books in Atlantic Unbound and The Atlantic Monthly.

More on foreign affairs in Atlantic Unbound and The Atlantic Monthly.

Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.