Who was the best foreign policy president?
September 20th, 2012
09:10 AM ET

Who was the best foreign policy president?

In less than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will square off in the first of a series of presidential debates that will include foreign policy. But who should they be drawing their inspiration from? And whose examples should they be avoiding?

Global Public Square asked a group of historians and commentators for their take on the most successful and least successful U.S. presidents, from a foreign policy point of view. Here, we feature their picks of the best, and on Friday, we'll highlight those considered the least successful. (All views expressed here are, of course, the writers' own.) Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

Bruce Jentleson is professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University and the author, among other works, of "American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century."

His take: Both for his leadership turning one of our country’s moments of  greatest vulnerability into the triumph of World War II, and for the vision to begin building the postwar peace, Franklin D. Roosevelt deserves the highest ranking. Congressional isolationists had blocked most of FDR’s efforts to start mobilizing the American industrial base and preparing the American people for the war. We would have had our work cut out for us even if the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hadn’t crippled the Navy. FDR’s fireside chats provided a mix of reassurance and call to action. From only 175,000 troops, enlistments and the draft brought the military to 8.5 million. Government and industry worked together. American families did their share buying war bonds and growing “victory gardens” – including my then-14 year-old Mom who still had her official thank you letter for her Scranton, Pennsylvania plot of lettuce and tomatoes when she died more than 60 years later. And even before the war was over, he began laying the groundwork for a postwar order: the Bretton Woods open international economic system, the United Nations, diplomacy with the Soviet Union to at least try and avoid what later became the Cold War.

More: The current candidates' global challenges

James Lee Ray is director of undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University.

His take: Franklin Delano Roosevelt is hard choice to avoid as most successful foreign policy president. He faced the greatest, most serious challenges, and he dealt with them successfully.

He managed to make important contributions to the anti-fascist effort even when faced with overwhelming isolationist opposition before 1941. (Lend-Lease, for example.)  Japan attacked in 1941, and then Hitler declared war almost immediately. That declaration made it possible for him to focus on Europe first.  His planning for the attack across the English Channel took a very long time. Meanwhile, the Nazis and Communists were killing each other by the millions. The difficulties faced by the Allies even in 1944 when the cross-channel attack was launched suggest that an earlier attack might have been premature and unsuccessful.

Holding together the Allied coalition was difficult.  Adopting the policy of “unconditional surrender” was probably a key to doing so.  He did put too much faith, at Yalta, in his ability to deal with Stalin after the war. He didn’t count on being dead when the time came. But it is unlikely that any policies would have prevented the Soviet Union from taking over in Eastern Europe, or the Cold War.

Andrew Bacevich is a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army.

His take: The measure of merit: A successful statesman enhances the wealth, power, and influence of the state; the unsuccessful statesmen depletes those assets.

Based on those criteria, Franklin D. Roosevelt ranks as our most successful foreign policy president. Thanks to FDR’s skillful management of World War II, the United States by 1945 had become the richest and strongest country in the world. Americans were the sole beneficiaries of the cataclysm touched off by Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939. By the time the smoke cleared, the ranks of Great Powers had been reduced to two and in every way that counted, the United States enjoyed vast advantages over its only conceivable rival, the Soviet Union.

James M. Lindsay is the senior vice president and director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

His take: In the spirit of the bipartisanship that Americans long for in their foreign policy but typically don’t see, two presidents rate as most successful in foreign policy: Franklin D. Roosevelt and George H.W. Bush. With the destroyer-for-bases-deal, the Lend Lease Act, and other actions, FDR secured critical support for Britain during its darkest hours and against intense isolationist head winds at home. He then led the country to victory in World War II and oversaw the creation of the bedrock international institutions of the modern world: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

More: Next president faces a dangerous world

GEORGE H.W. BUSH

Thomas Schwartz is professor of history at Vanderbilt University.

His take: Two very different presidents who come to mind almost immediately are Harry Truman and Richard Nixon.  Truman’s presidency laid the basis for the successful policy of containing the Soviet Union and built such important foreign policy institutions as NATO, through which American policy was exercised throughout the Cold War. He presided over the reintegration of Germany and Japan into the American led system of alliances. Truman did fight an unpopular war in Korea and fire a popular general, but his decisions have largely been vindicated by history even though they made him extremely unpopular as he left office. The other president is Richard Nixon, who with the help of Henry Kissinger reversed America’s decades-long estrangement from China and dramatically improved relations with the Soviet Union, playing the two communist giants off against each other. Although Nixon’s policy of ending the war in Vietnam was controversial, it was ultimately approved by the American people, who gave him one of the largest landslides in American history. But the collapse of his presidency over Watergate keeps his presidency from being seen as a success.

But the president I would select as the most successful post-1945 president in foreign policy is George Herbert Walker Bush.  Bush came into the presidency during the tumultuous year of 1989, which saw the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and most importantly, the reunification of Germany. Not only did he manage these changes with an intelligence and modesty that facilitated America’s goals, he also worked quietly behind the scenes with his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev to minimize any violence and bloodshed. At the same time, Bush engineered an extraordinarily effective international coalition to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. He was a president who both recognized the potential strength of the United States, but also the limits of its power.

James Lee Ray:

His take: George H. W. Bush is surely the most highly qualified foreign policy president in the history of the country. He had been a Congressman, head of the CIA, ambassador to the United Nations, envoy to China and vice president of the United States for eight years by the time he became president.

And that experience seemed to pay off.  He did launch a gratuitous attack on Panama in 1989.  But then he put together the greatest, most powerful coalition ever (compared to its enemy), to push Iraq (and its million man army) out of Kuwait in 1991. He avoided the temptation to go into Baghdad. (Had he not, the hardline Communist coup in the Soviet Union in August of 1991 would have succeeded.)

Bush faced a situation in Germany after the end of the Cold War whose potential for disaster is also still under-appreciated.  The Soviet Union still had 300,000 troops in East Germany. It did not want to see Germany united, and it considered a united Germany as a member of NATO totally out of the question. But President Bush managed to pull that off anyway, without creating a very messy crisis in the middle of Europe, with a desperate Soviet Union in its death throes.

James M. Lindsay:

His take: George H. W. Bush did not enjoy the FDR’s electoral success. But during his one term he successfully handled some of the stiffest foreign policy challenges of the last half century. He helped manage the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed for the reunification of Germany against the advice of close U.S. allies. He also liberated Kuwait and resisted calls to send the U.S. military onward to Baghdad. No, the elder Bush never figured out what the “new world order” would look like. But then again, neither have his three successors.

RONALD REAGAN

Danielle Pletka is Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Her take: Measuring the relative success of American presidents in foreign policy is an almost impossible task. Even narrowing the task to the 20th and 21st centuries demands almost ridiculous comparisons. What are the metrics?  Lives lost? Lives saved? American interests served? But which ones?  Many might argue that Franklin Roosevelt was one of our nation’s greatest foreign policy leaders, ushering in the era of American global leadership, ridding the world of a vile dictator. But World War II was also a tale of missed opportunity; of lives lost because the United States would not act.  Can any war that ends with the death of six million Jews be considered a “success”?

Then too, there are contests, many partisan, for the title of worst foreign policy president. Was it Lyndon Johnson, who failed to successfully prosecute the Vietnam War and sacrificed tens of thousands of American lives only to see us leave a few short years later? Was it George W. Bush, scourge of liberals for beginning the Iraq War, a conflict supported by the United States Congress but long and complex in its undertaking? Or Jimmy Carter, for whom ideology was paramount, therefore allowing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Islamist takeover of Iran?

There are no serious answers to the question because American leadership doesn’t lend itself to a neat, nonpartisan dissection of our presidents. Different Americans want different things for our country, and even those Americans aren’t divided into neat partisan lines. There are Republicans and Democrats for retreat; conservatives and liberals for internationalism.

Still, two men vie for the title of best and worst, though each has many competitors. Each governed at a seminal moment, and saw the United States through a crossroads, determining a path that would govern our future for many years.

Ronald Reagan had a vision for America in the world. Importantly, his ambitions for America’s role on the world stage were not shaped by our enemies, but rather shaped by his own view of American exceptionalism.  Reagan hastened the end of the defining battle of the 20th century, the fight between those who believed in freedom and those who embraced communism. True, there were bad choices of allies (Pinochet, Savimbi), but in the aftermath of the Carter era – dominated by a president who believed American power was an embarrassment to be lived down – Reagan knew not only what the United States opposed, but what America supported: freedom in all its iterations.

More: What can history teach the next president?

Honorable mention

JIMMY CARTER

David Ryan is professor of history at University College Cork, Ireland and author of Frustrated Empire: US Foreign Policy from 9/11 to Iraq.

His take: Jimmy Carter reflected in his second State of the Union that it was “sound.”  The troubles of 1979 had yet to compound his presidency. Carter reflected that on his watch, not one American service person had died abroad. He asked his audience, in words that now seem incredibly ironic, what sort of world the early 21st century would be as that generation of kids grew up – would America be at war?  “Our children who will be born this year will come of age in the 21st Century.  What kind of society, what kind of world are we building for them?  Will we ourselves be at peace?  Will our children enjoy a better quality of life? Will a strong and united America still be a force for freedom and prosperity around the world?” Little did he realize that it would witness two presidents trying desperately and ineffectively to withdraw from two theaters of combat with mixed results.

Of course, Carter was weak! Or so the conventional narrative ran. He received constant advice that he had to hit someone, somewhere. Americans were confused about the direction of his foreign policy. Americans had been taken hostage, the Soviets had moved into Afghanistan, the Sandinistas had succeeded in Nicaragua and Carter moved around the White House in indecision: such is the caricature.

Yet Carter realized that the use of force in each of these instances would be counterproductive.  On Iran especially, he confessed to an interviewer that bombing Tehran might make the country feel good, perhaps if timed well, he might have even been re-elected. But in terms of local and specific objectives, he would not have advanced the agenda much. Despite his early rhetoric, his was a more cautious and realistic presidency. After a decade and more of the atrocious use of force, he recognized the limits of U.S. military power and the power of the country’s appeal.  That it did not work is in part due to the domestic discourse that straitjacket presidents in so many ways, limiting their choices, generating expectation, frequently of a pugnacious sort, and most insidiously questioning their “credibility” should they fall short.

THOMAS JEFFERSON

Bruce Jentleson:

His take: Thomas Jefferson gets my second nomination, principally for his deft diplomacy in pulling off the Louisiana Purchase. These 820,000 square miles, encompassing an area that eventually would include all or part of 14 new states and provide the gateway opening the Far West, transformed our small Atlantic Coast country into a vast continental one. Despite blustery urgings from Alexander Hamilton to try to seize these areas militarily, Jefferson got it done through skilled statecraft. He played French-British-Spanish rivalries off one against the other. And when he and his emissary James Monroe saw how much Napoleon needed the money, they savvily shifted from their original plan to buy just the port of New Orleans for $10 million to dealing for all that territory for just $15 million.

None of the above:

Scott Lucas is a professor of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham, England.

His take: I don’t think there is a best, at least in the post-1945 world, because each of them has been limited by the demands of American power. Franklin D. Roosevelt might have prevailed with a vision of the “international” had he not died in office, but Truman and Eisenhower were both caught up in the confrontation with the Soviet Union – the good of the Marshall Plan has to be set alongside not-so-good U.S. interventions outside Western Europe. Kennedy’s inaugural address is one of the most aggressive speeches ever delivered and partly-implemented, Johnson sank in Vietnam, and Nixon complemented “détente” with a cynical U.S. policy that rampaged through much of the world from Cambodia to East Timor to Chile. Reagan? Overrated – the fortuitous economic exhaustion of the Soviet Union saved him from a less-exalted reputation built on the excesses of U.S. power, such as Iran-Contra and the aftermath of 1980s Afghanistan.

Jimmy Carter could have made a difference, but his well-intentioned attempt to shift U.S. policy to international justice and rights was sabotaged by the Soviets, Congress, and an inability to deal with cases like Iran.

But the one lost chance of “best” that sticks with me is seeing the last overseas speech of Bill Clinton, given in December 2000 in Warwick, England. He spoke in a tired but eloquent voice of the necessity to meet the challenges of climate change and global warming, epidemics and basic health care, and the vast divide in living standards. And I thought, “Great speech. What have you been doing for the last eight years?”

What do you think? Which president set the bar when it comes to U.S. foreign policy? Who would you argue in favor of? Against? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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soundoff (712 Responses)
  1. NONSTOP

    The people should boycott CNN. They only print what they find fits their political agenda. Talk about censorship, theyrate as the worldw worst.

    September 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  2. Nuveria87

    FDR, George Bush Sr., Reagan, and Carter all fail on the list of Presidents with great Foreign Policy. FDR and George Bush weren't men of foreign policies but leaders in war. Reagan and Carter both had diplomatic challenges in foreign affairs. While one backed the liberation of Afghanistan and the other pushed the dissolution of the USSR, this does not mean they had a great foreign policies. James Monroe is the president with the best record on Foreign Relations. With the Monroe Doctrine, Europe's influence in the west disappeared and South America became a land of independent nations. This foreign policy has had a lasting influence throughout history and has stood on solid ground. Our presidents should strive for that kind of influence word wide.

    September 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Reply
  3. rednaxelat

    Ronald Reagan?? But America's credibility in the world never recovered from his reign. America won't even be America again until every building is renamed, every statue torn down. He turned America from a relatively egalitarian to a class-based society, and I can't think what greater crime short of genocide one can commit against a country. Plus he deserves none of the credit for Gorbachev's genius and foresight. If anything, he wrecked Russia's smooth transition. Reagan?? Defile his grave!

    September 20, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Reply
    • jim111506

      There's nothing wrong with a little genocide, you sissy! Take your maudlin whining elsewhere, Alan Alda!

      September 20, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  4. ludvig

    Ronald Raygun? Let's see what he's done. Found a country we could invade and get a military victory over the powerful nation of Grenada. Shot down an Iranian commercial airliner killing men, women and children. I think Carter was better at pushing Democracy than Raygun.

    September 20, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Reply
    • jim111506

      ludvig likes manbutt.

      September 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Reply
  5. JoJo

    In spite of short-comings, Carter brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, which has saved God knows how many lives over the years.

    September 20, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Reply
    • jim111506

      Brown horde (subhuman) lives.

      September 21, 2012 at 12:01 am | Reply
      • Scott

        They are no different from you.

        September 21, 2012 at 12:46 am |
      • jim111506

        Yes, they are! They're brown, ugly and stupid. I'm White, attractive and intelligent! Brown horde "people" are more like monkeys than human beings. Screech for me, monkey!

        September 21, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  6. Jesse

    I think James Monroe deserves an honorable mention. How young of a nation we were at the time, it took a lot of balls to tell larger, colony hungry, European countries to stay off the Western Hemisphere.

    September 21, 2012 at 12:24 am | Reply
  7. mrblonde

    TJ, best president.

    September 21, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
  8. GregC

    Scott Young, the British Scholar, is such a poser.
    He was asked to pick the best, and he replied with that mamby pamby typical UK Ivory Tower I am soooo much better than you tripe. (I know the type, I used to live about 20 miles from Cambridge)

    He is obviously enamored enough with the US to study it and make it his profession.... Maybe he just can't get over the fact that the torch has been passed from GB to the US.

    I am sure that it just torques his nuts that the BEST of England's Foreign Policy PMs in the last 150 years was half American.

    September 21, 2012 at 1:48 am | Reply
  9. Fred L. May SR.

    In my life time I have to pick Franklin D. Roosevelt. He brought this country out of the depression. He commanded our military and won WW2. He did all this after becoming a victim of Polio at a younger age. The only President that comes close to Roosevelt was John F. Kennedy. I am sure if Kennedy was not assassinated this world would be at peace. Bless both of these men and may they rest in Peace forever.

    September 21, 2012 at 2:20 am | Reply
  10. sftommy

    Washington – with is avoid foreign entqanglements
    Wilson – Visionary of an ordered peaceful world
    Truman – The Marshall Plan
    Nixon – Probably the best foreign policy president of the 20th Century, Reagan reaped everything Nixon set the stage for.

    September 21, 2012 at 2:21 am | Reply
    • jim111506

      Let's not forget Truman frying all those yellow monkeys! He's my favorite president!

      September 21, 2012 at 3:03 am | Reply
    • Big Man

      Nixon – agreed. Shocked to not see him listed. But then again, this is CNN a half-witted news agency (at best)

      September 21, 2012 at 7:24 am | Reply
  11. Bill

    I think Richard Nixon was a excellent foreign policy president. Besides opening relations with China, think about the SALT treaties with the then Soviet Union!

    September 21, 2012 at 2:26 am | Reply
  12. miscreantsall

    What a jaded article. The author clearly is an indifferent politician and amoral. Bush, Reagan? And what were the costs of their admired leadership?

    September 21, 2012 at 3:17 am | Reply
    • jim111506

      Obama's an incompetent nigra. He also has "that nigra odor." Michelle Obama is a filthy she-ape. She too has "that nigra odor." Imagine those two stinking apes copulating in the White House!

      September 21, 2012 at 3:24 am | Reply
      • do my eyes decieve me

        a bit racist... but none the less true in many respect
        Obama should not even been in the White House. He is not an American citizen. He was born in Kenya. A brave USA citizen is now investigating this outrage. The USA right-wing neo-Nazi.."Neo-Con" crypto-fascist press media lost any sense of investigative journalism ethics,/morals
        Obama is an interloper thrust on the USA from foreign powers. (Britain).
        Obama cannot speak correct English without constantly pausing. Its like hes being coached in everything he utters
        Obama mysteriously has long deep scar wounds on his face & head in many official photos,..in other photos the scars are vanished.
        Does this mean we have TWO Obama's? A person with a facial transplant? One for photo ops another for conducting CIA policies?
        Big brave words on his election day speech,..inauguration speech.
        Now he is a clone of the Israeli lobbyists...
        Instead of helping the poor in the first few months of taking office & Oath....he grovels (like all before him) to the Jews at their planned parties (aka..lets put the President on the spot to support us 1st ...or else!!!! )

        September 21, 2012 at 4:06 am |
      • maru-chan

        Spoken like a true genetic recessive albino mutant with an inferiority complex. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing and Michael Bradley warned us about you.

        September 21, 2012 at 7:30 am |
      • do my eyes deceive me

        @ maru-Chan

        look for yourself...
        mysterious scars... on other photos they have vanished
        http://rense.com/general93/obbrain.htm

        September 21, 2012 at 9:49 am |
      • jim111506

        Dat rite, maru-chan, he beez racis 'n sheeit! He a craka. He talk he crakbabble! He beez albino 'n sheeit.

        September 21, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  13. chuck

    I can't believe Obamuslim didn't make the cut! He apologized to everyone, bowed to every raghead he met, hired the best lesbian he could find as Sec. of State. Damn what's a socialist gotta do?

    September 21, 2012 at 3:51 am | Reply
    • Pleb

      Indeed Chuck well said ! However there does not seem to be much of a choice this time round – Ron Paul would have been a good choice for the Republicans – his policies were the best of the lot in this race

      September 21, 2012 at 8:53 am | Reply
    • P.I.

      Too bad there isn't some way to get assinine comments like this deleted from what should be an intelligent conversation.

      September 21, 2012 at 9:57 am | Reply
      • jim111506

        P.I. has Obama monkeylove fantasies.

        September 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  14. Big Man

    FDR?!! Yes, if one's for. pol. goal includes war. As we now see reading the details and footnotes of years prior to our involvement to WWII, he (and arguably influenced by American Jews) deliberately led us to war. Many a time, he tried to encourage German attack on our ships, presented patently false info to Americans. For what? To eventually ally ourselves with GB and soviets? Real smart, post war we then fought a costly global cold war with ally soviets for the next 45 yrs. Thankfully truth is rising to the top and people will be shocked to discover what we considered the good side was actually not.

    September 21, 2012 at 7:21 am | Reply
  15. Lesley Brown

    FDR #1 for Best Foreign Policy, really? Uh, these 'professional historians' should be ashamed. FDR ignored Churchill, and British Intelligence and warnings concerning Stalin and his ruthlessness which was very unwise and essentially resulted in a polarized post war Europe which spread throughout the planet. His policy to ignore the problem led to 46 years of the cold war which affected and is still affecting the whole planet negatively. This single failure to acknowledge the seriousness of communism and Stalin's atrocities which was quite obvious to Churchill and the British Intelligence, is alone enough to lower his foreign policy ranking to mediocre at best....

    September 21, 2012 at 8:04 am | Reply
  16. P.I.

    To give Ronald Reagan credit for anything, including foreign policy success, is nonsense. After the assassination attempt, do you remember the press conference where Alexander Haig said, "I am in charge here." He was not kidding, and not just because of the confusion after the assassination attempt. Ronald Reagan was basically a figure head; the country was run by his cabinet with Haig the leader. So Mr Reagan should be given no credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union; he just happened to be in the Oval Office at the time it happened. But FDR as Best Foreign Policy president? i disagree there, too. Actually there is a very good arguement pinning the blame for the war on him. I'd have to vote for Richard Nixon; despite the horrible way he and Johnson handled VietNam, the fact that he opened negotiations with China was a major accomplishment and he deserves credit for it.

    September 21, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
    • jim111506

      P.I. swallows hot loads.

      September 21, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply
      • P.I.

        Ahh, Jim, such intelligent comments are staggering! And to think we let people with such "intelligence" vote!

        September 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
      • jim111506

        Don't beg the question, P.I. You DO swallow hot loads, don't you? That's what I thought.

        September 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  17. paul

    jimmy farter was one dumb peanut farmer.

    September 21, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
  18. Chandler

    I think that FDR had the best foreign policy. What went on in the world back then he took care of rather it was WWII or the Great Depression. Even though it took a while, he was the man.

    September 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  19. john

    Carter might be a wonderful human being, but he was a horrible president. Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Iran, Western Europe...
    Reagan gets credit for ending the Cold War
    GWBush should get credit for ending the Islamic jihad/terrorist acts on US soil. It is American liberals who seem to show a lack of understanding for reality

    September 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  20. Muin

    I read somewhere that guys like HW Bush and his friends created CIA. So. obviously he would know the limits of U.S power.

    September 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Reply
    • Old Fool

      Not true about GHW Bush creating the CIA. But he was the Director of CIA at one point in his career. GHW Bush was one of the great ones. It's a shame he only had a single term. He was robbed. But his son, "W" is a moron who proved that sometimes the apple falls very far from the tree.

      September 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Reply
    • Gene

      You read something "somewhere" and you believe what your read "somewhere"?

      September 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  21. Roelof

    I'll go for Thomas Jefferson. "The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it." -Thomas Jefferson. Or.. Power is not alluring to pure minds.-Thomas Jefferson. Or.. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

    September 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  22. matthew

    Ronald Reagan

    September 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  23. Old Fool

    Roosevelt is definitely the one. He was the greatest leader of the free world. What he gave us and the world has been the gift that keeps on giving. He helped to redesign civilization. But in the modern era I like GHW Bush. I think he was the best foreign policy president in my lifetime. Much be tter than Reagan. Reagan gets more credit than he deserves. Unlike his great father, the fool, George W. Bush,is the worst foreign policy president. He made us look bad to the whole world.

    September 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  24. Norman

    My winner: Ronald Reagan. He knew the USSR's weaknesses and stuck it to them. He said he was putting missiles into Europe (just getting them there was a tremendous feat as Gorby got a million Greens in the streets to protest) because after they were there Gorby and he could negotiate to get them out. That's what happened. He scared the hell out of the USSR with Star Wars which was univerally scorned. That worked, also. The Wall did come down. RR moved his chess pieces and checkmated the USSR. It was so successful that only 100 people died as Communism died. Who would have ever predicted such a peaceful transistion? No one.

    Both George H W Bush and Jimmy boy both are duds, also. Although they tried they ultimately failed. Sure Egypt signed a cold pact but it didn't do much to ensure Israel's final saftey as we are seeing now. No, you don't get points for really, really , really trying

    Thus, its Ronald Reagan, That big dummy. He had the mature vision and wisdom and then used tactics and strategy to actually get results. I never voted for the guy but he was brilliant.

    FDR didn't do much except stuff his own government rule of the private sector to get our munitions industry perking. But the big reason he's really a villian not a hero is that he let 6M Jews and 6M others get murdered and he never, never even diverted one bomber to save these people. He can take his cigarette holder and put it in a dark spot. Worshiping this guy is a travesty to humanity.

    September 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  25. Praetorian

    Ronald Reagan did not bring down the USSR. The USSR was bankrupted by the war in Afghanistan, and was no longer in a position where it could compete with the US because they no longer had the resources to do so. If we aren't careful, we may well go down a similar path. We need to end our involvement in Afghanistan now. They don't call the place the 'Graveyard of Empires' for nothing.

    September 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Reply
  26. roy

    Bush Jr was the worst president of all time.

    September 22, 2012 at 9:20 am | Reply
  27. Snuffles

    The key is 'what is the definition of effective foreign policy'
    Some see it as a country giving altrusitically to mankind/the world w/o regard to giving up a countrie's own edge.
    To me its about manipulating and positioning your country to maximize its power and influence.

    September 22, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
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