Ike, Obama, and the Consequentialist Presidencies

My passion for both American History and American Politics drove me to major in both, and has allowed me to study what I’m really interested in, which is a combination of both: the history of American Politics. I found that the easiest way for me to study the evolution of American Politics throughout history was by analyzing presidencies.
However in my studies of both American Politics and US History on the American presidency, I found a trend which I find rather troubling in both disciplines. In the evaluation of foreign policy in American presidential administrations, we seem to try and “fit” presidents into frameworks, models, and categories based on their ideologies. We ask questions like, “Are they idealists or realists?” Or “Into which of Walter Russell Mead’s foreign policy frameworks does President ‘X’ or ‘Y’ best fit?” It is my contention that in the process of evaluating presidents based on whether or not their foreign policies match their espoused ideologies we miss the true decisive point of evaluation: effectiveness.
There are striking contrasts between the Eisenhower administration and the Obama administration. Both presidents have espoused idealist views and goals for their foreign policies. However such idealist views pervasively contrast many actions taken during their presidencies. Decisions made are often covert and calculated, violating the espoused values of liberal democratic republics. In short, their rhetoric has been idealist, but their foreign policies have been realist.
In my paper, I hope to use the context of the Obama and Eisenhower administrations to show that the American presidency is best evaluated not by fitting them into existing models, frameworks, or International Relations ideologies, but by simply analyzing the impact of their decisions. While I still need to conduct further research, it is my hypothesis that the two presidents are neither idealists nor realists in practice, but what I would call “consequentialists.” I hope to show that sometimes in deciding what’s best for our nation, our presidents throw frameworks, grand strategy, and ideology to the wind in favor of ultimately doing what is in the best interest of the nation.

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