In the defining moments of our class lectures with Dr. Rader he stated that, political realism can act as the theoretical glue that holds together all competing models and islands of theory. He defined the four organizing concepts which Machiavelli developed as his theory of political realism. These include power,security,self-interest, and human nature. In the first half of the 1900s Hans Morgenthau, a University of Chicago political scientist revamped and updated Machiaqvellis theory in his book, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Security. His basic thesis states that, statesmen and politicians think and act in terms of self-interest defined as power… and there is an amorality of power and politics. His book became a bible for foreign policy makers.(Rader Intro & Background part 3:1,2,4)
Taking Morgenthaus six principles of political realism and using them to assess the foreign policy of the following presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Polk, McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt, it is easy to see why the latter has become known as the first modern president in foreign policy.
With the assassination of Pres. Mckinley in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became President. McKinley had already begun the vast mobilization of the U.S. Navy, set up a commission for the isthmus canal planning, and begun the colonial movement in Asia and the Caribbean. President Roosevelt continued with the plans Pres. Mckinley had implemented but with the impetus that would mark him as the preeminent world leader of his time. He exploited what former presidents had harbored and with his direction the United States became the new center of the world balance of power. (Merrill 486)
Morganthau states in two of his principles concerning political realism that human nature is motivated by laws of self-interest and statesmen act and think in terms of self-interest defined as power. Everything that Teddy Roosevelt did regarding foreign policy could be defined as the self-interest of the state and as classic examples of political power in motion.
From the very beginning of our state history, our founding fathers understood that, European equilibrium would be the essential source of American security. (Merrill 23) This would be our self-interest and power if handled correctly. Washington as well as each of his early successors understood the interested detachment that became our outward view regarding other nations political entanglements. They understood how to politically play one country against another to gain the best for our self-interest while remaining firmly entrenched in a neutral position. The Nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred, or… fondness, is in some degree a slave. Sympathy … assumed common interests which seldom existed… were the parting words given by Washington in his Farewell Address. (Merrill 25) This declaration of isolationism and warning against permanent alliances guided American foreign policy into the 20th century.
It has been said that Jefferson gave more to the development of foreign policy than any other statesman of his time. (Merrill 85) Perhaps, and possibly the accolades afforded him are homage to his accomplishments as the author of the Declaration of Independence. It is true that he never questioned what he wanted for America;… a society of cultivated, independent men…, keeping government as close to the local level as possible… living the good life. (Merrill 87) It is indeed fortunate for America that we were blessed with other political intellects within the government that helped move our fledgling country forward as Jefferson sat watching and waiting.
President Monroe believed in the superiority of the United States. He was opposed to the European meddling in South America. This he saw if allowed to continue, as a danger to our peace and safety. In his address to congress that has since become known as the Monroe Doctrine he states that there will be no further colonization, no transfer or extension of claims, and in return America would not interfere in European affairs. (Merrill 181) Roosevelt would later add his famous corollary to this document. Again, we see Morganthaus principles in action. Monroe played upon the human nature of the Europeans while maintaining our self-interest. Our growing empire remained secure.
In 1845 James K. polk became president of the United states. He was an avowed expansionist. He saw opportunity both to the south in Texas and westward. He possibly fit Morganthaus third and fifth principles better than most presidents to that time. Morganthau said, there are no objective laws of morality in politics and behavior should not be justified on moral grounds in international relations, diplomacy, or foreign policy. Polk gave new meaning to expansionism. He was accused of abuse of executive power and aggressive acts against Mexico. He was accused of Anglo-Saxon racism and aggressive leadership. These were also things Teddy Roosevelt were accused of. But, the differences between these two Presidents lay in their popularity.
Teddy Roosevelt was Everyman. He was what skinny young boys dreamed of becoming. He was the essence of strength. He was power. He was America in all her arrogant, boisterous, powerful, diplomatic, robust glory. He understood human nature. He understood history and how the past could implement the future. He was the turning point from yesterday into a modern avenue of foreign policy.
There is more to Manliness and Civilization than I have space to discuss here, much of it very provocative. Bederman’s analyses are always thought-provoking and
frequently strikingly original. Unhappily, although filled with stimulating ideas, her book rests upon too narrow an evidentiary base and is marred by too uncertain
a command of method to sustain the claims she advances.