cover image Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era

Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era

Joseph S. Nye Jr. Princeton Univ., $27.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-691-15836-5

In this concise and readable study of American presidential foreign policy decisions, Kennedy School of Government professor Nye (The Future of Power) asks, “To what extent were the men who presided over the creation of the American era simply responding, or were they shaping events?” Nye examines eight administrations, defined as “transformational” or “transactional,” and the diverse ways presidents communicate with and inspire the public. He also entices the historically minded with a “What if?” section that speculates on historical alternatives and provides worthwhile reflections on the uneasy relationship between ethical leadership and effective leadership. Besides risking controversy, his ethical scorecards of presidents—including Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson—illustrate the complexity of such judgments. Nye’s overall assessment that the most dramatic and inspiring presidents are not always the most effective or ethical may, as he notes, overturn conventional wisdom, but the judgment bolsters his admonition to President Obama. His concluding reflections on the changing nature of exercising power in the 21st century effectively contextualize the continuing tensions inherent in managing domestic and international authority. (June)