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The Five Greatest U.S. Foreign Policy Presidents

The American president is the individual primarily responsible for the United States’ foreign policy. While the president divvies up domestic issues with Congress and the states, the Constitution gives the president broad power to command [1] the armed forces, make treaties [1], and appoint diplomats [1]. Furthermore, in accordance with the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the president can deploy troops for up to 60 days without congressional approval.

In this author’s view, a good foreign policy is one that serves America’s interests, that is, the security of the nation and the prosperity of its people, and a good American foreign policy president is one who understanding this, acts according, rather than pursuing idealistic fantasies. America’s interests change in different times and places, so realism means different things to different presidents, and encompasses a broad range of policies. But realism does not mean an open-ended war on a strategy, terrorism, nor does it mean constant interventionism aimed at changing the domestic institutions of other countries. Of course, the United States can still serve as an exemplar for other countries.

Under these criteria, who then are the leaders who looked best after U.S. foreign policy interests? Here are my five best foreign policy presidents:

George Washington (1789-1797)

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Our first president set the gold standard for pursuing the most reasonable foreign policy for the United States given the circumstances. As historian George C. Herring noted in From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776: “The United States in 1789 remained weak and vulnerable…its regular army totaled fewer than five hundred men.” Obviously, this constrained the nation’s options, although not forever, as Washington realized: “The Washington administration accepted the need for patience. But it prepared for the future by encouraging settlement of contested territory…Americans began to think in terms of an empire stretching from the Atlantic to Pacific…”

Washington resisted the pressure of both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to closely align with either France or Great Britain, the premiere powers of the time. While U.S. commercial interests dictated that it maintain good relations with Britain, its geopolitical position necessitated good relations with France, which had the ability to temper British power in the Atlantic. Therefore, when the British and French went to war in 1793, Washington issued a proclamation of neutrality [2], which stated that “the duty and interest of the United States require, that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers.” Later, in 1795, Washington’s administration negotiated the Jay Treaty with Britain, which granted trade privileges to the U.S. and led to the evacuation of British forts in the northwestern U.S. in return for minor concessions to the British. Although this treaty prevented war with Britain, it was nonetheless greeted with hostility by the partisans like Jefferson. Yet, it was a shining example of how realpolitik and the diplomatic give-and-take of diplomacy served U.S. interests over passionate ideology. As Herring wrote of the popular reaction to the treaty:

Foreign policy in the United States was subject to debate by a public whose understanding of the issues and mechanisms was neither sophisticated nor nuanced, that sought clear-cut and definitive solutions, and defined outcomes in terms of victory and defeat.

Such attitudes, unfortunately, persist even unto the modern era, and are found in certain attitudes toward the Iran nuclear agreement.

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In his famous farewell address [3], Washington articulated some grand principles that stand the test of time, regardless of whether the United States pursued a more inward or outward foreign policy orientation. In particular, laying out the principles of realism, and expressing wariness of permanent alliances, he said that:

Permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated… [likewise] a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils.

Ultimately, the best foreign policy for the United States remains the same today as it was in Washington’s time: “Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations [as] recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.”

John Adams (1797-1801)

Although George Washington was a tough act to follow, the United States was most vulnerable at its inception, and most in need of a steady guiding hand in foreign policy during its early years. After Washington’s retirement, this was provided by Adams.

Adams came to power after defeating Jefferson in the 1796 election, operating at a time when the U.S. was still not free from British and French machinations. In fact, according to Herring, the French may have attempted to swing the election in Jefferson’s favor. As the French failed to install a pro-French government in the United States, they instead disregarded the nation’s neutrality, and began seizing U.S. shipping, which resulted in the annulment of the 1778 Treaty of Alliance between the two nations on July 7, 1798 (which the U.S. had little intention of actually fulfilling, as it had neither the reason nor the ability to fight several European powers as France’s ally). This was a good move, as any attempt on the part of the U.S. to entangle itself in European wars at this point could have resulted in its destruction at the hands of a coalition of European powers.

Nor did Adams get involved in a declared war with France, despite the existence of great hostility, and a quasi-war. In the infamous XYZ affair, various anonymous French agents demanded bribes from American diplomats as a prerequisite for negotiations on pending issues, leading to anti-French hysteria in the U.S. Unlike some future leaders, Adams did not get carried away by this hysteria to engage in foolish and unnecessary wars, i.e. the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The gift of Adams’ touch was his ability to take a firm line against France without involving the country in a war it could ill afford at the moment; the U.S. commissioned more battleships than the entire existing U.S. fleet and armed merchant vessels, while all the while pursuing diplomacy. By 1800, he was able to reach a new understanding with France through diplomacy, without jeopardizing the new nation’s neutrality and sovereignty.

Although John Adams is often overshadowed by the other Founding Fathers, he managed to preserve the United States’ unique geopolitical position and diplomatic stance at a time when European machinations, aided by some Americans, could have torn the nation apart in its infancy.

Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

Abraham Lincoln is mostly known for his role in leading the Union to victory in the Civil War, but all the industrial might and demographic heft of the North may not have been enough to prevent the secession of the South, had the latter gained official recognition from foreign powers. After all, it was the French recognition and aid to the United States in 1778 [4] that greatly contributed to U.S. independence. Initially, both Britain and France leaned toward the South, for geopolitical reasons—such as weakening the United States—and commercial reasons, in particular the import of cotton.

Yet, neither country recognized the Confederacy in the end. Lincoln’s primary achievement for American foreign policy was the setting of a precedent by which foreign powers ceased their intervention in the domestic affairs of the United States, as well as in the general neighborhood of the U.S. While the French tried to manipulate popular opinion during Washington’s presidency in favor of the French Revolution, and the British attempted to curry favor in New England (and possibly foster a secessionist movement there) during the War of 1812, the influence of these two foreign powers was limited during the Civil War.

As this author noted in a prior article [5], “During the Civil War, Charles Francis Adams Sr., son and grandson of U.S. presidents with extensive diplomatic experience, served as ambassador to Britain and was instrumental in dissuading the British from recognizing the South.” British public opinion, which was resoundly anti-slavery, made it difficult for the British government to support the South, especially after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued at the start of 1863. Moreover, the British were able to source cotton from alternative sources, such as India and Egypt. As Conrad Black argued in Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies that Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership:

The British had at all times to weigh the fact that if they pushed the Union too heard, they would be flung out of Canada and probably the West Indies….Britain had no ability to defend Canada from the ever-growing Union Army, now nearly 500,000 men.

France proved to be both more pesky, but also less of an immediate threat than the British. Rather than intervening to support the South, it instead established a puppet state in Mexico in 1864, which was a clear violation of the Monroe Doctrine, and a threat to U.S. interests. Both Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant secured [6] money and weapons for the Mexicans to fight the French, who eventually withdrew from that country in 1867.

Lincoln secured the country’s continued existence through diplomacy during a time when it was at the greatest risk of disintegration and foreign manipulation.

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

By the time of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, the United States had grown into a great power, and thus had a need to maintain a sphere of influence and some offshore bases. In the hyper-competitive world of the early 20th century, failure to guard the sea and land approaches to one’s nation was paramount to allowing a potentially hostile power to aim forces at vital territory. It was not unreasonable at this time for the United States to demand access to Panama in order to build a canal for the purpose of speeding up east-west shipping.

As the world’s largest economy [7], and a continental power, the U.S. could not be ignored by other powers. The theories of Alfred Thayer Mahan, then in vogue, held that U.S. “security could be threatened by a hostile power or alliance of powers that gained effective political control of the key power centers of Eurasia.” Roosevelt, influenced by this line of thinking, advocated for a strong navy. This Great White Fleet was sent on a journey around the world between 1907-1909 to demonstrate American power.

Moreover, as Henry Kissinger noted in his book Diplomacy, “In Roosevelt’s conception, America would have been one nation among many—more powerful than most and part of an elite group of great powers—but still subject to the historic ground rules of equilibrium.” Roosevelt’s understanding of balance of power politics led to his mediation of a peace treaty following the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, one that left neither country too strong or weak, as U.S. interests now necessitated such a configuration in East Asia.

Rather than any one particular policy (and many of Roosevelt’s interventions in the Americas were costly and unnecessary), Roosevelt’s great contribution was his dynamism which facilitated his realization that the United States was now a great power, and needed to act as such, while also exercising restraint, and not partaking in open-ended commitments to change the world (Wilsonianism [8]).

Richard Nixon (1969-1974)

Whatever his flaws and mishaps in the domestic sphere, Richard M. Nixon was one of the most brilliant foreign policy minds of the 20th century. Not that Nixon was a nice guy: his carpet bombings caused a great deal of death and misery in Cambodia, and he supported the Pakistani crackdown against East Pakistan (Bangladesh), when neither served any national interest, and were immoral to boot.

Nixon advocated the concept of a balance of power among nations as the best way of preserving international peace and a country’s national interests. Perhaps foreseeing that hubris would make the U.S. weaker, not stronger, he was not a big fan of unipolarity; current U.S. unilateralism, advocated both by liberal internationalists and neoconservatives has engendered pushback against U.S. initiatives in the 2010s by nearly all other great powers.

According to Henry Kissinger, “For Nixon, the world was divided between friends and antagonists; between arenas for cooperation and those in which interests clashed.” Nixon said in an interview with Time magazine in 1972:

We must remember the only time in the history of the world that we have had any extended periods of peace is when there has been balance of power. It is when one nation becomes infinitely more powerful in relation to its potential competitor that the danger of war arises.

In reality, this translated into Nixon’s famous opening to China in 1972. Not only was that a step toward creating a multipolar world order, it served U.S. strategic interests at the time by weakening the pro-Soviet Communist camp by shifting the orientation of a third pillar of the world order toward the U.S. and away from the Soviet Union. Other than ideology, there was no reason for the U.S. to not deepen ties with Communist China in the 1970s.

Nixon also formulated a doctrine, the Nixon Doctrine, which was designed to “navigate between overextension and abdication” in world affairs, a dilemma facing all contemporary U.S. presidents. In particular, the doctrine declared that in cases of non-nuclear aggression, the United States would “look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for defense.” Notwithstanding the failure of Vietnamization, which was just a particular instance of the idea’s application, the Nixon Doctrine is a useful concept that would allow certain nations today to take more responsibility for their own defense.

Readers, would you agree with these five picks? Why, or why not? We welcome your thoughts.

Akhilesh (Akhi) Pillalamarri is an editorial assistant at The American Conservative. He also writes for The National Interest and is a contributing editor at The Diplomat.

Editor’s Note: Since its founding in 2002, The American Conservative has advocated for a truly conservative foreign policy: one that rejects neoconservatism not in favor of “isolationism,” but in the great American traditions of realism, prudence, and restraint. Join us tomorrow as we convene leading scholars, policy experts, and journalists to discuss the outlook for realism and restraint in the Trump era. Register for our conference, “U.S. Foreign Policy in the Trump Era: Can Realism and Restraint Prevail?” here [9].

32 Comments (Open | Close)

32 Comments To "The Five Greatest U.S. Foreign Policy Presidents"

#1 Comment By foreign and/or domestic On November 2, 2017 @ 10:07 pm

“Lincoln’s primary achievement for American foreign policy was the setting of a precedent by which foreign powers ceased their intervention in the domestic affairs of the United States, as well as in the general neighborhood of the U.S. “

You’re kidding, right?

#2 Comment By International Dateline On November 2, 2017 @ 10:12 pm

Lincoln’s foreign policy achievements were basically nil.

And (somehow) you missed G. H. W. Bush. Managing the peaceful devolution of the Soviet Empire and reunification of Germany were stunning achievements that we can still be proud of and grateful for. Nixon’s opening to China? Not so much …

#3 Comment By Fayez Abedaziz On November 2, 2017 @ 11:17 pm

Of course. President Kennedy was left out because he didn’t confront Russia with an attack on Berlin or on Cuba.
That’s why… isn’t it?
Of course. Since he had a true heart for people, you left him out.
And, of course, if he had followed the advice of the weirdo unhinged generals, he would have moved tanks and aircraft against the Berlin gate to the East…and…guess what?
Russian troops would have occupied Germany and a couple other nations nearby within 2 days.
It was that overwhelming, their power in tanks, troops and aircraft.
So, you left Kennedy out but you quote Kissinger the war criminal who was the reason for the murder of 100’s of thousands of humans and thousands of American troops.

In other words you are wrong and you are dishonest.
You are of the Kissinger school of power makes right and is the answer.
Hey, you didn’t fool me and I know my European history, studying for over 45 years and I know Vietnam history and the genocide by your very ugly half a man you admire and easily quote. I’d destroy the liar and war lover in 5 minutes in a debate.
People that deal with authentic humans know what I mean, and, as we said back in the day,
cool we can relate.
What type of society and media has this freak on as an expert after Vietnam, Chile, E. Timor and on and on.
This article is shallow.

#4 Comment By Ken T On November 2, 2017 @ 11:43 pm

Notwithstanding the failure of Vietnamization

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Yeah, OK, I’ll grant that Nixon did some good things wrt foreign policy. But he also did some very bad things. Enough that I think he should be disqualified from making anyone’s “Top Five” list. He may have been far from the worst, but Number 5 out of 45? No way.

#5 Comment By MEOW On November 3, 2017 @ 12:06 am

Ford? Now for the 5 worst? GWB (Iraq), LBJ (Vietnam, USS Libert) Others?

#6 Comment By Alexander On November 3, 2017 @ 1:16 am

A good list, with sound arguments, but in my opinion you included the wrong Roosevelt. Theodore had a very fine head for geopolitics, but his foreign policy accomplishments were dwarfed by those of his cousin/nephew Franklin.

Out of all the Presidents, it was FDR who set the gold standard for using liberal/Wilsonian rhetoric to mask a thoroughly realist foreign policy. He studied the lessons of Mahan as keenly as TR, and he applied them well during the Second World War. Right from the outset of the conflict, FDR knew the endgame he was working towards: the U.S. Navy dominating all the world’s oceans; the U.S. dollar reigning supreme in the world economy; U.S. global power buttressed by a network of overseas bases and new international institutions; no other world power in a position to challenge this state of affairs.

#7 Comment By Whine Merchant On November 3, 2017 @ 3:24 am

I loathed Tricky Dicky, and I think his Viet Nam duplicity knocks him out of the ‘big five’. Recognition of China was pure Kissinger ‘real politic’, as it could no longer remain the herd of elephants in the room. Nixon, however, was deluded that they controlled Ho Chi Minh, like Trump thinking Xi Jinping controls North Korea.

Of course, Rex T is no Kissinger –

#8 Comment By Whine Merchant On November 3, 2017 @ 3:29 am

I loathed Tricky Dicky, and I think his Viet Nam duplicity knocks him out of the ‘big five’. Recognition of China was pure Kissinger ‘real politic’, as it could no longer remain the herd of elephants in the room. Nixon, however, was deluded that they controlled Ho Chi Minh, like Trump thinking Xi Jinping controls North Korea.

Ofg course, Rex is no

#9 Comment By Youknowho On November 3, 2017 @ 8:09 am

Mr. Pillalamarri

When you praise Nixon I must assume that you have no relatives in Bangladesh, when Pakistan, with the tacit approval of the US committed atrocities on what was then East Pakistan.

That you have no relatives in Timor, when Kissinger overlooked what Indonesia was doing there, and told others to overlook it too.

That you have no relatives in Chile (have you heard of the “other 9-11”) or in Latin America

Of course, you can afford to praise Nixon and Kissinger.

I can’t. I can only with them a very warm retirement.

#10 Comment By Liam On November 3, 2017 @ 10:27 am

None other than John Tyler (with a terrible domestic policy legacy) deserves honorable mention (at least if we put Mexico to one side) with his secretary of state, Webster. It was Tyler’s administration that began the pivot of the USA’s sole attentions from the Atlantic to include the Pacific, before the Mexican War and Oregon accession and the Gold Rush, which then required the USA to consider the Pacific in its long-term strategy.

#11 Comment By Matjaž Horvat On November 3, 2017 @ 10:34 am

Lincoln? His protectionist tariff policy was basically the main reason for the Civil War.

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#12 Comment By Slugger On November 3, 2017 @ 11:15 am

This is a good, fun topic.
I think that the war in Vietnam was the biggest thing on Nixon’s plate. The drawn out years of bloodshed leading to an ignominious defeat can only be regarded with sadness by Americans. Nothing great about it.

#13 Comment By Ambo Jack On November 3, 2017 @ 1:07 pm

It seems extraordinary to me that he failed to mention Truman, under whose aegis we saw the formation of NATO, the Marshall Plan, the “Truman Doctrine” which also helped save Europe from communism, the “containment policy” re the USSR, and use of UN to resist N. Korean attack on the South.

#14 Comment By MEOW On November 3, 2017 @ 2:07 pm

Whine Merchant China was all Nixon, not the sneaky Kissinger that we could well have done without. As Harry T said: “The buck stops here.”

#15 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 3, 2017 @ 3:46 pm

Oy veh,

Ohh this will be fun. Pres Nixon was one of the most astute Pres on all fronts we have ever had. He alone checkmated the Soviet Union. Until then they had been beating our socks off, even the Cuban missile crisis — was but a blip compared to the breadth, scope and depth of Pres Nixon.

The modern state of government is due to Pres. Richard M Nixon. he astutely grasped the value of catering to agendas such a integration, the draft, the environment, monetary policy (his mistake in my view), he out maneuvered N. Vietnam by staging a two front – assault by going around them and confronting directly — bombing the enemy where they were just made sense. Unfortunately he was not in office to secure a hard won victory. Note it might do well to remember that Vietnam aggressors at all time in all ways were the N Vietnamese. Meanwhile he attended to our nation space ambitions while containing communist ambitions (cold war was very real in out mind — the Soviet Union had stated they would bury us, and when China joined them — the cold war became very cold indeed. Anyone who thinks that Sec Kissinger was smarter than Pres Nixon on Asia is whistling . . . Pres Nixon was never one to be but his own man, much to the chagrin of many.

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Yet by both (China – Soviet Union diplomacy and strength, he battled them both to a stand still. South Africa is the failure, but no less a failure than every executive before or after.

Hmmmmmm, nope I don’t have any relatives in those states, yet

I am quite comfortable praising Pres Nixon and do proudly

#16 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 3, 2017 @ 3:51 pm

As for the Navy . . . Pres John Adams and Pres Teddy Roosevelt — way ahead of Pres Franklin D Roosevelt.

If not for the efforts and push back against going to war in Europe, unless attacked — the President at the time would have thrust an unprepared US into a war far exceeding our capabilities. By te time we entered the conflict, Germany was well on the way to defeat.

#17 Comment By Tom S. On November 3, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

How can you discuss Lincoln’s foreign policy and not mention how he handled the Trent Affair? (This almost led to war between the United States and Britain.) While Lincoln’s foreign policy was surprisingly adroit–given his total lack of experience in foreign policy–I wouldn’t rank him in the top 5.

#18 Comment By John Mann On November 3, 2017 @ 6:28 pm

Ambo Jack: “It seems extraordinary to me that he failed to mention Truman.”

I think not. The carpet-bombing of North Korea under Truman, which is estimated to have killed between 20% and 33% of the population, cannot really be described as being in “the great American traditions of realism, prudence, and restraint.”

For myself, I reckon that if one is looking for realism, prudence, and restraint, one might do better with Washington, Cleveland, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

#19 Comment By Mark On November 3, 2017 @ 8:53 pm

Dwight Eisenhower!

#20 Comment By Youknowho On November 3, 2017 @ 9:17 pm

@EliteCommC

Thanks for the demonstration of moral relativism in action.

#21 Comment By Egypt Steve On November 3, 2017 @ 11:12 pm

Re: “By te time we entered the conflict, Germany was well on the way to defeat.”

Not totally clear, but I assume you’re talking about WWII?

I don’t get it. The U.S. entered the war in December of 1941. At that time, the German army was still on the offensive in Russia; the defeat at Stalingrad was nine months in the future.

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 3, 2017 @ 11:46 pm

“The carpet-bombing of North Korea under Truman, which is estimated to have killed between 20% and 33% . . .”

I am not contending for ‘carpet bombing’ however, but WWI and II invited an entirely new mean of warfare into the modern age. And despite the claims to precision bombing — I think total warfare will remain an option.

#23 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 4, 2017 @ 2:37 pm

“Dwight Eisenhower!”

Hmmmm I certainly appreciate Pres Eisenhower, but on the foreign policy front, I am just not sure there’s a huge challenge there save one,

He stood firm against British, French and Israeli aggression against Egypt.

#24 Comment By Cliff Story On November 4, 2017 @ 4:24 pm

Lincoln, if for no other reason than his telling the hothead Seward (during the Trent crisis), “One war at a time”.

#25 Comment By Scott Gerschwer On November 4, 2017 @ 8:53 pm

One of Lincoln’s achievements was keeping Britain from allying with the Confederacy. If they had, the USA would not have become a superpower and eclipsed Britain. This prompts two questions:
How can FDR not be on this list?
How can Nixon be on this list? His visit to China put them on the path to superpower status just as we eventually lost our momentum. Plus Southeast Asia. Nixon’s mistake was to intervene with the world order. Great Britain c.1863 made the mistake of not doing that.

#26 Comment By connecticut farmer On November 5, 2017 @ 11:19 am

A good article and all excellent choices–including Nixon (as much as I hate to admit it).

How ’bout a sequel: “The Five WORST U.S. Foreign Policy Presidents”. Any such list would have to include Woodrow Wilson (of course!), Junior Bush and the Prince of Camelot. Pick and choose the other two.

#27 Comment By Lenny On November 5, 2017 @ 5:12 pm

GROVER CLEVELAND!

His foreign policy exhibited the right balance of restraint and engagement in foreign affairs that TAC espouses. He is the last American president who sought to pursue a foreign policy consistent with our nation’s founding principles, taking into account the changed global circumstances since the
the late 18th century.

Read about US, German and British relations regarding Samoa in the 1880s, the Venezuelan border crisis of the 1890s (which was peacefully resolved through arbitration with Great Britain) and the Hawaii episode (arguing against the annexation of the kingdom).

And if that is not enough, he joined the Anti-Imperialist League after he left office.

I would place him right behind George Washington.

#28 Comment By Beardie On November 6, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

It is genuinely surreal to read an article in TAC claiming Roosevelt’s *explicitly* imperial foreign policy as the best in US history.

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 7, 2017 @ 11:48 am

“One of Lincoln’s achievements was keeping Britain from allying with the Confederacy. If they had, the USA would not have become a superpower and eclipsed Britain. This prompts two questions:
How can FDR not be on this list?”

President Lincoln did absolutely nothing to prevent Great Britain from engaging in trade with the confederacy. Great Britain decided that all on her own. For one simple reason, they could not abide the slavery issue.

FDR is not on the list because his actions were not really all that unique once the US was attacked. The reason that thew Soviets acquired such large segments of Europe is due soley to his lean in the Soviets direction instead of that of Great Britain and France. A catastrophic failure that led to the cold war. He ignore the warnings of Prime Minister Churchill’s for sight and experience — utterly foolish.
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“How can Nixon be on this list? His visit to China put them on the path to superpower status just as we eventually lost our momentum. Plus Southeast Asia. Nixon’s mistake was to intervene with the world order. Great Britain c.1863 made the mistake of not doing that.”

China did not become a superpower because of Pres Nixon. They became a superpower because they chose to engage in various forms of capitalism, out of necessity to feed its population. But even that is a far shade from the careless of trade policies engaged by US long after Pres Lincoln left the scene. Opening the diplomatic doors is not the same thing as undermining the S citizen in order to make a few extra dollars at their expense. Nixon’s actions toned down cold war tensions and opened the door for dialogue. Imagine a closed China with no reason to tread carefully in expanding nuclear arms to N. Korea.

The world order comments don’t make any sense. Pres Nixon fought, won and ended the Vietnam conflict. Those who followed after him refused to defend the right of S. Vietnam to self determination and that victory was lost when S. Vietnam could no longer repel the attacks of the North supported by China and the Soviet Union.

The reason that the US intervened in Southeast Asia had everything to do with helping another democratic state, against the spread and devastating communist system. Talk to Vietnam today they still leave in the wake of what they did to their peoples in purging the old ideas and order. Tragic. And now they want US capitalism — the ultimate humiliation for them.

#30 Comment By Lenny On November 7, 2017 @ 1:08 pm

Another name I would add to the top 5 foreign policy presidents is JAMES MONROE, based for the most part on the fact that our nation’s greatest Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, was in charge of conducting foreign policy during the Monroe administrations. The list of accomplishments is impressive, particularly when one considers that they were attained peacefully at a time when the United States was still a relatively weak country.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 10, 2017 @ 9:49 am

correction: that is a far shade from the careless of trade policies engaged by US long after Pres Nixon left the scene.

#32 Comment By Ben On March 9, 2018 @ 10:51 pm

I am curious if you had thoughts on all the other Presidents foreign policy. Maybe not the best but where they may rank. Also curious about your thoughts on best secretary of states, since a great secretary of state doesn’t always included a great foreign policy president