Walter Russell Mead

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Walter Russell Mead
Walter Russell Mead - Chatham House 2012.jpg
Mead at Chatham House in 2012
Born (1952-06-12) June 12, 1952 (age 67)
EducationGroton School
Yale University

Walter Russell Mead (born June 12, 1952) is an American academic. He is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and previously taught American foreign policy at Yale University. He was also the Editor-at-Large of The American Interest magazine. Mead is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and a scholar at the Hudson Institute.

Early life[edit]

Mead was born on June 12, 1952 in Columbia, South Carolina. His father, Loren Mead, was an Episcopal priest and scholar who grew up in South Carolina. His mother is the former Polly Ayres Mellette. Mead is one of four children with two brothers and a sister.[1] Mead was educated at Groton School, a private boarding school. He then graduated from Yale University, where he received his B.A. in English Literature.[2]


Mead is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and previously taught American foreign policy at Yale University. He was also the Editor-at-Large of The American Interest. In 2014, he joined the Hudson Institute as a Distinguished Scholar in American Strategy and Statesmanship.[3][4] He served as the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations until 2010,[5] and is a Global View Columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is a co-founder of the New America Foundation, a think tank that has been described as "radical centrist"[clarification needed] in orientation.[6]

An active faculty member at Bard's campus in Annandale and at its New York-based Globalization and International Affairs Program, he teaches on American foreign policy and Anglo-American grand strategy, including curriculum addressing Sun Tzu and Clausewitz.[7] He has conducted coursework on the role of public intellectuals in the internet age, as well as the role of religion in diplomacy. Mead is also a regular instructor for U.S. State Department's Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSIs) for Scholars and Secondary Educators. His past teaching positions have included Brady-Johnson Distinguished Fellow in Grand Strategy, at Yale University, from 2008–2011, as well as Presidents Fellow at the World Policy Institute at The New School, from 1987 to 1997.[8]


The Arc of a Covenant[edit]

His next book, The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People will be published by Knopf in 2018.[9] Mead argues that Gentile support for a Jewish state as well as geopolitical realities have influenced US policy towards Israel as much as anything else.[10]

God and Gold[edit]

In October 2007, he published God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World about the Anglo-American tradition of world power from the seventeenth century to the present. It argues that the individualism inherent in British and American religion was instrumental for their rise to global power,[11] and integrates Francis Fukuyama's "end of history" with Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" in its predictions for the future.[12] The Economist,[13] The Financial Times[14] and The Washington Post[15] all listed God and Gold as one of the best non-fiction books of its year.

Power, Terror, Peace and War[edit]

In June 2005, Mead published Power, Terror, Peace and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk. The book outlines American foreign policy under the Bush administration after September 11, 2001 and contextualizes it in the history of American foreign policy. In it, Mead recommends changes in the American approach to terror, the Israel-Palestine dispute, and international institutions.[16]

Special Providence[edit]

Walter Russell Mead discussing foreign policy challenges with Senator Cory Gardner, October 2017.

In 2001, Mead published Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World. It won the Lionel Gelber Award for the best book in English on International Relations in 2002. The Italian translation won the Premio Acqui Storia, an annual award for the most important historical book published. Special Providence,[17] which stemmed from an article originally published in the Winter 1999/2000 issue of The National Interest, "The Jacksonian Tradition," [18] describes the four main guiding philosophies that have influenced the formation of American foreign policy in history: the Hamiltonians, the Wilsonians, the Jeffersonians and the Jacksonians.[19]

The New Left Review praised the book as a 'robust celebration of Jacksonianism as it historically was ... an admiring portrait of a tough, xenophobic folk community, ruthless to outsiders or deserters, rigid in its codes of honour and violence.'[20] Not all critics praised the book, however. "Despite the hype surrounding the book, it ultimately challenges little," geographer Joseph Nevins wrote. "To the contrary, it reinforces the tired notion of U.S. exceptionalism. Thus, he [Mead] paints U.S. deployment of violence as inherently less brutal than that of Washington's enemies. In doing so, he sometimes grossly understates the human devastation wrought by the United States."[21]

Jacksonianism and the Trump Administration[edit]

Of the four traditions of American politics described in Special Providence, Jacksonianism has received the most attention. Mead has expanded and applied his description of Jacksonianism in his other writings.[22][23]

The idea of a Jacksonian tradition in American politics has received greater interest and attention since the candidacy and election of President Donald Trump, in particular because of former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon's references to Jackson and comparisons of Jackson to Trump.[24][25] The New York Times has speculated that Bannon drew inspiration from Mead's description of Jacksonianism in Special Providence.[26]

In an interview with Politico, Mead was dubbed the "Trump Whisperer" by the author Susan Glasser.[27]

Mortal Splendor[edit]

Mead's first book, Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition, was published in 1987. Mead argues that American policy under Nixon and Carter stifled sustainable development in the Third World.[28] Reviewing the book in Foreign Affairs, John C. Campbell called Mortal Splendor "a brilliantly written demolition of both liberal and especially conservative shibboleths concerning the political economy of the United States, both in its domestic and international arrangements."[29]


Dan Coats and Walter Russell Mead at the Hudson Institute, 2018

Mead is a new Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Global View Columnist, a regular contributor to Foreign Affairs magazine and a book reviewer for Foreign Affairs.[30][31]

From 2009 until August 2017, Mead oversaw a daily blog, "Via Meadia", on the website of the journal American Interest. Mead published a piece in the 2014 May/June issue of Foreign Affairs titled "The Return of Geopolitics."[32]

Positions on interventions in recent conflicts[edit]

In 2003, he argued that an Iraq War was preferable to continuing UN sanctions against Iraq, because "Each year of containment is a new Gulf War",[33] and that "The existence of al Qaeda, and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are part of the price the United States has paid to contain Saddam Hussein."[33]

He has since written about the Iraq War's failures, and about the need for the Republican Party to come to terms with them.[34]

Mead was critical of the Obama administration's failure to contain the fallout from the "reckless and thoughtless" 2011 NATO intervention in Libya.[35]

Mead was also critical of Obama's failure to enforce the "red line" in Syria, arguing that the President's empty statement had damaged American credibility and encouraged Russia and Iran to ramp up their direct support for the Assad regime.[36] Mead supported arming Syrian rebels.[37]

The Decline of the Blue Model[edit]

Mead speaks with co-panelists in Rome at an event hosted by the Italian Minister of Defense, 2017

Mead has written extensively about the decline of the "Blue Social Model," which refers to the political and economic status quo of the United States following the New Deal and the Second World War.[38][39]

Dispute with Walt and Mearsheimer[edit]

Mead has been a strong critic of the "Israel Lobby" hypothesis advanced by political scientists Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. In a review of their book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy in Foreign Affairs,[40]

Transatlantic relations[edit]

Mead has been a strong supporter of Transatlantic relations.[41] Mead is currently a Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the Bosch Stiftung.[42]


  1. ^ Webpage for Mead, Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  2. ^ Mead, Walter Russell, "Nature and Nature's God: The author", Catholic Education Resource Centre, reprinted from The American Interest, October 29, 2012.
  3. ^ "Walter Russell Mead: Distinguished Fellow", Hudson Institute.
  4. ^ "Walter Russell Mead and Michael Doran Join Hudson Institute", PR Newswire, November 24, 2014.
  5. ^ "Walter Russell Mead". Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  6. ^ Morin, Richard; Deane, Claudia (December 10, 2001). "Big Thinker. Ted Halstead's New America Foundation Has It All: Money, Brains and Buzz". The Washington Post, Style section, p. 1.
  7. ^ "Academic Courses at BGIA". Bard College. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Bard Faculty - Walter Russell Mead". Bard College. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  9. ^ Mead, Walter Russell; Bloomberg, Josh (5 March 2019). The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People. HighBridge Audio. ISBN 978-1681683003.
  10. ^ Thriftbooks. "The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People". Thriftbooks. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  11. ^ Mead, Walter Russell (14 October 2008). God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. Vintage. ISBN 978-0375713736.
  12. ^ Mead, Walter Russell (2008). God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. New York (Vintage), p. 16 ISBN 0375713735
  13. ^ "Books of the Year 2007". The Economist. 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  14. ^ "The Best Books of 2007". Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  15. ^ "Best Books of 2008". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  16. ^ "Power, Terror, Peace, and War". Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  17. ^ Nevins, Joseph (December 2003). "Imperialism Book Reviews". Z Magazine. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  18. ^ Mead, Walter Russell (December 1, 1999). "The Jacksonian Tradition". The National Interest. New York City (58, Winter 1999/2000). ISSN 0884-9382. OCLC 12532731. Archived from the original on May 5, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  19. ^ Mead, Walter Russell (2001). Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World. New York (Knopf)ISBN 0415935369
  20. ^ Mertes, Tom (November–December 2008). "Whitewashing Jackson". New Left Review. New Left Review. II (42).
  21. ^ "'Special Providence': review by Joseph Nevins". Retrieved 2010-12-22.
  22. ^ Mead, Walter Russell (20 January 2017). "The Jacksonian Revolt". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  23. ^ "The Winners of 2016". The American Interest. 19 January 2017. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  24. ^ "Bannon calls Trump's speech 'Jacksonian'". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  25. ^ Inskeep, Steve. "Donald Trump and the Legacy of Andrew Jackson". The Atlantic. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  26. ^ Hylton, Wil S. (16 August 2017). "Down the Breitbart Hole". New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  27. ^ "The Man Who Put Andrew Jackson in Trump's Oval Office". Politico. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  28. ^ Mead, Walter Russell (1 March 1988). Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0395468094.
  29. ^ "Mortal Splendor: The American Empire In Transition". 28 January 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2017 – via
  30. ^ "Walter Russell Mead". Foreign Affairs. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  31. ^ "Search Results". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  32. ^ menu
  33. ^ a b "Deadlier Than War". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
  34. ^ "Ghost of Iraq Still Haunts the GOP". The American Interest. 16 February 2016. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  35. ^ "As Libya Implodes, 'Smart Diplomacy' Becoming a Punch Line". The American Interest. 26 July 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  36. ^ "If Obama Doesn't Bomb Syria Now, He's Toast". The American Interest. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  37. ^ "Which Is Worse: To Help the Syrian Rebels or to Do Nothing?". The American Interest. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  38. ^ "The Once and Future Liberalism". The American Interest. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  39. ^ "American Challenges: The Blue Model Breaks Down". The American Interest. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  40. ^ "Jerusalem Syndrome". Foreign Affairs. 15 May 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  41. ^ "What Truman Can Teach Trump". 21 July 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  42. ^ "Walter Russell Mead". 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2018.

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