This book examines the foreign policy decisions of the presidents who presided over the most critical phases of America's rise to world primacy in the twentieth century, and assesses the effectiveness and ethics of their choices. Joseph Nye, who was ranked as one of Foreign Policy magazine's 100 Top Global Thinkers, reveals how some presidents tried with varying success to forge a new international order while others sought to manage America's existing position. Taking readers from Theodore Roosevelt's bid to insert America into the global balance of power to George H. W. Bush's Gulf War in the early 1990s, Nye compares how Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson responded to America's growing power and failed in their attempts to create a new order. He looks at Franklin D. Roosevelt's efforts to escape isolationism before World War II, and at Harry Truman's successful transformation of Roosevelt's grand strategy into a permanent overseas presence of American troops at the dawn of the Cold War. He describes Dwight Eisenhower's crucial role in consolidating containment, and compares the roles of Ronald Reagan and Bush in ending the Cold War and establishing the unipolar world in which American power reached its zenith.
The book shows how transformational presidents like Wilson and Reagan changed how America sees the world, but argues that transactional presidents like Eisenhower and the elder Bush were sometimes more effective and ethical. It also draws important lessons for today's uncertain world, in which presidential decision making is more critical than ever.
Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is University Distinguished Service Professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His books include Soft Power, The Powers to Lead, and The Future of Power. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy.
"In this concise and readable study of American presidential foreign policy decisions, Kennedy School of Government professor Nye (The Future of Power) asks, 'To what extent were the men who presided over the creation of the American era simply responding, or were they shaping events?' Nye examines eight administrations, defined as 'transformational' or 'transactional,' and the diverse ways presidents communicate with and inspire the public. He also entices the historically minded with a 'What if?' section that speculates on historical alternatives and provides worthwhile reflections on the uneasy relationship between ethical leadership and effective leadership. Besides risking controversy, his ethical scorecards of presidents--including Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson--illustrate the complexity of such judgments. Nye's overall assessment that the most dramatic and inspiring presidents are not always the most effective or ethical may, as he notes, overturn conventional wisdom, but the judgment bolsters his admonition to President Obama. His concluding reflections on the changing nature of exercising power in the 21st century effectively contextualize the continuing tensions inherent in managing domestic and international authority."--Publishers Weekly
"Sometimes the best presidential decisions are decisions not to act. This point is made in an excellent new book by Joseph Nye of Harvard University entitled Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era."--Gideon Rachman, Financial Times
"[A] timely book . . ."--The Economist
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 The Role of Leadership 1
Chapter 2 The Creation of the American Era from Theodore Roosevelt to George H. W. Bush 21
Chapter 3 Ethics and Good Foreign Policy Leadership 75
Chapter 4 Twenty-First-Century Leadership 136