Home / Articles / The Grand Strategy of Washington and Eisenhower: Recovering the American Consensus
Scholars have sought to shoehorn American foreign policy into the distinctly European theories of liberalism, realism, or nationalism that are taught in International Relations courses. But America’s first grand strategy, as articulated in Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796, blended such views in a distinctly American way. The widespread belief that this address counsels isolationism is wrong. Washington instead argues on behalf of an America that stands for moderation and independence in our international engagements. His legacy is evident nearly two centuries later in Eisenhower’s Farewell Address in 1961. These statesmen embody the distinctive quality of American strategy that balances and blends seemingly rival principles to avoid extremes of injustice and imprudence. Tocqueville’s praise of Washington’s grand strategy affirms its deeper philosophical roots, as distinct from mere pragmatism. In his address, Eisenhower adapted the Washingtonian approach, blending interests and justice, prudence and principles, and power and pacific benevolence—to advocate our global leadership as America’s enlightened self-interest.