The World as It Is
By Ben Rhodes
One of my more illuminating grad school classes was on how various U.S. presidents since Lincoln have sought to implement their foreign policies. More accurately, it surveyed the various ways presidents chose to bang their heads against the wall as their agendas got warped by the institutions they ostensibly led – the military, the State Department, the intelligence community, etc. – and utterly torpedoed by Congress, political realities and the deeper geopolitical forces we talk about so often here at GPF.
It was hard to pinpoint best practices. In part, this was because some of the presidents who are considered broadly effective (FDR, Reagan) leaned heavily on peculiar talents denied at birth to most of their successors – and were in the right place at the right time to wield them. But mostly, it’s because presidents are prisoners to unforgiving institutional and geopolitical constraints, typically forced into choosing among bad options