Five Worst Foreign Policy Presidents

I have been asked for the Winter session to teach a course of US Diplomatic History…I have already taught one on the US Foreign Policy in the Middle East…..and now with all the news about our diplomatic and foreign policy problems the school felt there would be interest in a course on the subject.  We will see!

MY readers know that I judge my presidents by their foreign policy chops….it is too early for me to choose Trump as a bad foreign policy president.

We have had some terrible presidents in foreign policy……and the American Conversation has put together a list…..

The president of the United States is granted wide leeway by the U.S. Constitution over foreign policy, more than any other policy realm. In addition to being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the president can make treaties, appoint diplomats (with the consent of the Senate), and, due to congressional legislation, impose sanctions on foreign entities.

Since World War II, the United States has issued no declarations of war; all military actions have been initiated by the president. As per the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the president can deploy troops for up to 60 days without congressional approval. Thus, whatever the foreign policy of the United States—positive or negative—the president owns it: his vision and decisions can initiate a foreign conflict with very little to inhibit him. We call it the “Monroe Doctrine” and not the “18th Congress Doctrine” for a reason—and not all of them have been successful. Who were the worst foreign policy presidents in our history? Here are the five who make the cut:

Source: Five Worst Foreign Policy Presidents in American History | The American Conservative

Anyone you would like to add?  Please justify why you think they deserve a spot on the lists.


8 thoughts on “Five Worst Foreign Policy Presidents

  1. This author’s assessment of Truman is one of the most inaccurate and unfounded reflections of US History I have ever read. He dismisses accomplishments merely by dismissing them with any solid facts. Truman is in top 5 best foreign policy.
    While America wanted another “post WW 1 return to normalcy” Truman kept Russia and China contained, set up NATO and saved Western Europe from economic collapse. He showed America must be part of global future and global protector from tyranny. The world knew Harry wasw no pushover and there ws no one better to follow FDR in post war challenges.

    Lyndon Johnson. Medicare and Civil Rights Act monumental but for Vietnam, I will curse him from beyond my grave. Who would I want in the White House when that call comes at 3 AM ? Nixon or Reagan.

  2. Well, look… here’s the problem with picking the five worst or even the five best…. it’s all a total judgement of history based on contemporary arm chair reasoning. Like most analysis of history, the number one rule for total objectivity in that analysis is you have to have lived during those times… during the moments which led to those policies, whether future interpretation results in bad history or good history. Like everything else, international policy is not created in a perfect vacuum of sage objectivity. It reflects the political and social mores of the moment. Some policies were introduced to fix a “here and now” problem of their times, yet it turns out to have decades long ramifications. Other policies were meant to have some element of future expectations, and those might have fallen flat into insignificance as time progressed. It’s generally very difficult to predict.

    Now, we can certainly try and learn and understand the long term effects, the cause & effect if you will, of various international diplomatic policies of the past. But I am not ready to cast judgment in a presidential administration’s foreign intent simply because we can see in our contemporary lives how much popular opinion can feed that policy making.

    In my own humble opinion, I feel the one singular policy that has simply beaten us constantly is this crap that we have had to push democracy around the world. No question we can “encourage” democracy, but it’s not worth a war or even toppling governments. This also treads on this idea that America tries to draw a line on human rights… then that becomes some big stick in foreign policy. Any student of history knows that you can’t just “slam” democracy into some struggling Third World nation; the citizens of that country have to want it.. and want it so bad that they make internal changes to get what they desire. We did it. Other “civilized” nations did it. Country-building using our experience as a template is sheer idiocy and gets people pissed at America. Some cultures, like those in the Middle East, survive quite well when their government is ruled by some tribal dictator. There’s rule of law, there’s social order, and that’s all people need over there to hack out an existence. Having personal freedoms and the right to vote is a constant responsibility to defend. Much of the concept of democracy is formed from free-market capitalism.. hence many economies simply don’t foment overwhelming desires within the populace for lining up for democracy. We have NO business being there to tell them otherwise.

    Example… absolutely yes, the Vietnam experience was pure absurdity of foreign policy. But just smacking Johnson with the responsibility without understanding what led him to that seems a bit shortsighted. Hell, by today’s standards Johnson would be held criminally responsible for the Gulf of Tonkin fiasco that was literally “trumped” up for the purpose of getting involved deeper into stopping the then-popular and scary domino effect of communism everyone feared at the time. Vietnam was never ready for any sort of application of democracy. One could argue, and have, that the pretext for charging into Iraq was the imaginary WMD’s. As we know, history is still being written from that foreign policy blunder. History is already looking at the blunder of us getting involved in Afghanistan, yet unless you were alive during the attack on 911 and felt the anger of the American public (myself included) we needed to bomb the shit outta some country.. and then try and shove democracy down its throat when they were perfectly happy living tribal lives and herding sheep.

  3. As a foreigner, I think they were pretty much all bad. However, I don’t blame them as individuals. They were undoubtedly badly advised. LBJ took too much notice of McNamara, Bush Jnr was little more than a puppet of the establishment, and so on.
    Trump is an enigma, in that he seems not to listen to any advisers at all…
    Best wishes, Pete.

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