The Millman Chart

I have long been jealous of the Pournelle Chart, which I think is an extremely useful (though often misunderstood) way of visualizing the relationship between different ideologies. Ditto for the jealousy, though less so the esteem, for the Nolan Chart. And so, in a shameless bit of personal aggrandizement, I would like to enlist the assistance of my fellow TAS-ers in popularizing what I have modestly titled The Millman Chart.

It is particularly immodest of me to call it The Millman Chart when it is substantively derived from the work of Walter Russell Mead, whose division of American foreign policy history into four traditions – Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, Wilsonian and Jacksonian – I have found extremely useful. Nonetheless, I believe I am the first to have come up with a visual representation of the relationship between the four traditions. And here it is:

The horizontal axis runs from introverted to extroverted. By this I mean: is foreign policy driven primarily by domestic or foreign factors? (Or, more plainly, how much does the outside world "matter" very little, or a great deal?) The vertical axis runs from realist to idealist. By "realist" I mean that interests are the dominant factor in determining foreign policy; by "idealist" I mean that values are predominant. And the corners represent the four schools of foreign policy as articulated by Walter Russell Mead.

The Jeffersonian school is introverted idealist: it is primarily concerned to insulate the United States from being sullied by foreign entanglement. It is idealist because it is our republican virtue that we are trying to preserve. If the central neoconservative insight was that a nation’s political systems affects its foreign policy (totalitarian systems derive their legitimacy from war, and hence must be aggressive), the central, and much older, Jeffersonian insight is that a nation’s foreign policy affects its political system (a republic will lose its republican character if it shoulders the burdens of an empire). Daniel Larison is our resident Jeffersonian, I believe.

The Jacksonian school is introverted realist, by contrast (although this school is not associated with Kissingerian "realism" in foreign policy), because it is primarily concerned with interests (counting honor as a kind of interest, something you keep in an account that can be depleted or replenished), and not especially concerned with having relations with foreigners.

The Hamiltonian school is similarly realist, but extroverted; it is also focused on interests, but understands these interests (being predominantly commercial) to be intertwined with those of other players in the international system.

And the Wilsonian school is similarly extroverted, but idealist; like the Hamiltonian, it is also intensely interested in what happens in far-off lands, but not because of a perception of how our interests are bound up with such doings, rather because, for a Wilsonian, America is betraying its values if it does not act to defend and promote those values abroad.

Ross Douthat asked last month about the missing realists in the GOP. I think what the GOP is really missing is a particular kind of realist – a Hamiltonian. The pre-war GOP had two wings: Jeffersonian (isolationist) and Hamiltonian (internationalist). The "liberal internationalism" that dominated the Democratic Party and the nation from FDR through JFK was a marriage of Hamiltonianism and Wilsonianism; in this period, the GOP’s Jeffersonian wing was entirely discredited, and what grew in its stead was a Jacksonian wing. The Vietnam War led to the emergence of a left-wing Jeffersonian wing in the Democratic Party, while the neo-conservatives brought Wilsonianism into the GOP so that, by the time of the Reagan Administration, the big tent enclosed Hamiltonians, Jacksonians and Wilsonians, while the Democratic Party was divided between Wilsonians and Jeffersonians.

The Bush Administration’s foreign policy has been a blend of Jacksonian and Wilsonian impulses. Post-Fiasco, the divisions between these views – between the "to hell with ‘em hawks" and the neo-conservative true believers – have been sharpened, but between them you still encompass the predominant strains of thought within the GOP (albeit Ron Paul has embarked on a one-man crusade to revive the pre-WWII Jeffersonian wing). But this is precious little sign of a revival of Hamiltonianism – a hard-headed realism that is internationalist in orientation.

At least, there is precious little sign within the GOP. Daniel Larison has mocked Senator Chuck Hagel for calling his colleagues "insulationist" – what he means to call them is "Jacksonian." They aren’t "isolationists" (Jeffersonians) but they are introverted – they don’t care about the rest of the world, don’t see our interests as inextricably entangled with other powers in the international system. They just want to pound the bad guys into rubble like we did in good old dubya dubya aye aye. Hagel is a Hamiltonian; so is Lugar. And, as you might have noticed, they are being run off the reservation even though, as Larison notes, they have not actually repudiated interventionism at all (which, as internationalists, of course they cannot).

The more interesting question is whether Hamiltonianism will be revived within the Democratic Party. As a (mostly) Hamiltonian myself, I certainly hope it is revived somewhere, for the sake of, well, the national interest. But I would also argue that a strong Hamiltonian wing is what the Democrats need to win the Presidency in a post-9-11, post-Iraq America where national security really does matter to electoral success. To date, the Democrats have tried to demonstrate their national security seriousness through two strategies: putting up Jeffersonians in uniform and putting on unconvincing displays of Jacksonian rhetoric. Both are insufficient – the latter is even counter-productive when done clumsily, as it usually is. The hurdle they have to clear is not really related to patriotism or willingness to serve; it’s mostly related to seriousness about the national interest. America’s confidence in the Democratic Party as steward of the economy and of the national interest was dented by Lyndon Johnson and then shattered by Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton restored American confidence in the former, but did nothing to restore confidence in the latter. The Bush Presidency gives the Democrats an opportunity to present an alternative foreign policy vision and regain confidence in that area as well. If that alternative vision is articulated in Jeffersonian terms, whether by a Yankee patrician or a Southern good ol’ boy, I don’t believe it will win that confidence. They might still win, of course, as confidence in the GOP has been badly damaged. But if they want to change the game, they should be looking for Alexander Hamilton.