September 14, 2003

So of what USE are those nay-saying Jeffersonians?

Since I'm thinking about the Jeffersonian school, here's a little more from Walter Russell Mead's Special Providence; some reasons to tolerate these people for a little longer:

...Legitimacy in mass democracy is a fragile thing; the power of Jeffersonian ideas about democracy is one of the primary supports enjoyed by our form of government...

...Jeffersonian ideas have produced...some of the most brilliant thinkers and scholars in the field of American foreign policy...

...The Jeffersonian mind-set, eager to understand foreign states and conditions, but also eager to leave them as they are, is peculiarly conducive to the intellectual formation of brilliant regional students. Of the four schools Jeffersonians are most often moved by a disinterested appreciation and respect for foreign cultures. Jeffersonians are less eager to make sales than Hamiltonians are, and less preoccupied with either secular or religious proselytization than Wilsonians are´┐Żbut they are interested in understanding foreign cultures and peoples on their own terms. Very often Jeffersonian regional specialists have talked policy makers out of what would have proved rash and ill-founded initiatives and found ways of achieving important American objectives with less friction and trouble than we might otherwise face.

The greatest advantage the country derives from the Jeffersonian tradition emerges out of the Jeffersonian desire to define the national interest as tightly as possible and then to develop the most elegant possible strategy for securing that interest. It is a tradition that adds intellectual rigor and, often, great practical value to the foreign policy debate. It is arguably the natural home for American grand strategy...

Furthermore, the Jeffersonian tradition supplies something occasionally lacking in the other three schools: a critical tradition that seeks systematically to investigate, and in some cases controvert, the claims made by proponents of Hamiltonian and Wilsonian activism. If nothing else, Jeffersonian skepticism keeps Wilsonians and Hamiltonians on their toes, forcing them to think through their policies more thoroughly than they otherwise might, and to be able to defend their programs in public debate...

...Paradoxically, Jeffersonian pacifism and skepticism tend to unite American opinion once war has finally come... If even these people think we have to fight, then maybe war is really inevitable...

The Jeffersonian approach to foreign policy has one other advantage. Every vehicle should have at least one reverse gear...

Posted by John Weidner at September 14, 2003 9:09 AM
Weblog by John Weidner