Do Presidents Really Steer Foreign Policy?
The 21st century began with an extraordinary imbalance in world power. The United States was the only country able to project military force globally; it represented more than a quarter of the world economy, and had the world’s leading soft-power resources in its universities and entertainment industry. America’s primacy appeared well established.
Americans seemed to like this situation. In the 2012 presidential campaign, both major-party candidates insisted that American power was not in decline, and vowed that they would maintain American primacy. But how much are such promises within the ability of presidents to keep? Was presidential leadership ever essential to the establishment of American primacy, or was that primacy an accident of history that would have occurred regardless of who occupied the Oval Office?
Source: The Atlantic
Obama can still build 2nd term legacy
Many a modern president has lost momentum and suffered what are termed “scandals” in his second term. President Barack Obama’s current problems are part of that tradition. But with the exception of Richard Nixon, scandals have not proven fatal. Indeed, Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal and Bill Clinton’s impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky affair were far more serious than what we know so far about Obama’s involvement in Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service or subpoenas of records of reporters’ calls. Yet Reagan and Clinton finished their second terms as popular presidents.
America’s founding fathers created a system of government deliberately designed to protect liberties rather than be efficient. They feared giving the chief executive too much power and constrained the president with checks and balances to limit his actions. As one wag put it, the system ensured that King George III could not rule over us, nor for that matter, could anyone else.
Is the Vision Thing Important?
As we debate our role in the world today, it is worth asking how American global primacy came about in the last century. After all, George Washington celebrated our “detached and distant situation.” Some see our global role as the result of divine providence; others credit impersonal changes in a continental scale economy. But what about our leaders? Did it matter who was president?
Leadership experts stress the importance of transformational presidents with grand visions and an inspirational style rather than incremental leaders with a transactional style.
In a careful study of the 20th century leaders who presided over the growth of American primacy, I found that many mattered — but not always in the ways that experts predict.
Source: The New York Times
Joseph Nye speaks with BBC’s Stephen Sackur about a variety of foreign policy issues facing the world today.
Joseph Nye discusses the foreign policy decisions of US presidents in the 20th century, examining the effectiveness and ethics of their choices.
Joseph Nye speaks at the London School of Economics on “Global Power in a Shifting International Order: The West and the Rest.”
In Defense of Non-Visionaries
Many of the recent tributes for Margaret Thatcher following her death celebrated her as a “transformational” leader who brought about great changes. There were frequent references to her equally transformational American counterpart, Ronald Reagan. But a more interesting comparison is with her other presidential contemporary, George H. W. Bush.
Though often dismissed as a mere “transactional” manager, Bush had one of the best foreign-policy records of the past half-century. His administration managed the end of the Cold War, the dismantlement of the Soviet Union, and the unification of Germany within NATO – all without violence. At the same time, he led a broad United Nations-backed coalition that repelled Saddam Hussein’s aggression against Kuwait. Had he dropped any of the balls he was juggling, today’s world would be much worse.
“Presidential Leadership and the Rise of American Power” featured panelists Graham Allison, Nancy Koehn, and Joseph Nye, in a conversation with moderator David Gergen that addressed the many facets of Presidential leadership and the development of international diplomacy. Panelists observed the immense role external factors played in shaping the exertion of presidential authority in a global context.
BRICS Without Mortar
Last month, China’s new president, Xi Jinping, chose Moscow for his first foreign visit. He and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a number of agreements and then traveled to Durban, South Africa, for the fifth “BRICS” summit, where they joined with the leaders of India, Brazil, and South Africa to announce the creation of a new development bank that could challenge the dominance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The five leaders’ speeches referred to a shifting world order, and Xi said “the potential of BRICS development is infinite.”
It looked as if the BRICS had finally come of age. Three years ago, I was skeptical about the BRICS. And, despite the recent summit’s apparent success, I still am.
A new great power relationship
Throughout history, the rise of a new power has been attended by uncertainty and anxieties. Often, though not always, violent conflict has followed. As Thucydides explained, the real roots of the Peloponnesian war in which the ancient Greek system tore itself apart, were the rise in the power of Athens and the fear it created in Sparta. The rise in the economic and military power of China, the world’s most populous country, will be one of the two or three most important questions for world stability in this century, and some think that conflict with the US is inevitable. But it is a mistake to allow historical analogies determine our thinking. Instead, we should be asking how China and the US can create a new great power relationship.