Making a Mediator

I first imagined this project as an exploration of the first image of international relations. Though modern international relations scholars tend not to focus on this individual level of analysis as much as the systemic level, some agree that it still has some value as an analytical tool despite its shortfalls. Though I don’t believe the first image to be a broad enough exploration of international relations, I have always been intrigued by history taught through ‘great men’ and upon learning more about this in my international relations class, I decided to focus my research in that direction. I began wanting to compare different ‘great men’ of history and what about them made them so influential, but the people I consulted all agreed that was far too broad. I needed something that connected these different people so that they would be similar enough for close comparison. This led to the idea of people with the same role, US presidents, but who were also being judged primarily on their individual abilities, as opposed to the power of their office. This led to a much shorter list of presidents who had, outside of or tangent to their role as US president, worked to affect international relations. This brought Jimmy Carter to mind immediately, and some further searching presented Theodore Roosevelt’s work at Portsmouth as a comparison point to Carter’s work at Camp David. There were other possibilities: Taft’s presidency of the League to Enforce Peace, Wilson’s work with the League of Nations, Nixon and Ford’s help as emissaries and election observers, Clinton’s work with his own Clinton Foundation, and even outside of the presidency, Benjamin Franklin’s diplomatic role with France, Henry Kissinger, and lastly, Eleanor Roosevelt’s work to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, these two seemed to be in such similar situations, that I could judge what made their success.

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The Peanut Farmer

Now before anyone who loves Carter criticizes me for calling him just “the Peanut Farmer,’ while I called Teddy Roosevelt “The Best Herder of Emperors Since Napoleon,” the reason I did so was to draw attention to the differences in their public image as presidents. While Roosevelt held so much power that satirists took to calling him King Theodore, or Teddysus (an amalgam of Teddy and Odysseus), Jimmy was thought to be incompetent, and was sometimes called the Goober. I, however, over the course of my research, have decided that Jimmy Carter, while not the most effectual legislator as president, deserves to go down in history as a great peacemaker for actions he took while president and afterwards.

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The Best Herder of Emperors Since Napoleon

The title of this post is a description of Theodore Roosevelt and comes from a letter written to Theodore Roosevelt by Henry Adams. In the wake of his historic achievement at Portsmouth, he received thanks from Tsar Nicholas II, Emperor Mutsuhito, Pope Pius X, and a host of other world leaders. His mediation won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, making him the first American ever to have achieved this feat. Though they thought it necessary to try, most onlookers seemed to think the Portsmouth Conference had no chance of stopping the Russo-Japanese War. When it was finally successful, Teddy was the only person who didn’t think he deserved all the credit. He refused the money that came with the Nobel Prize, giving it to Congress to create an Industrial Peace Committee, saying that “It was nevertheless only because I was president that I was enabled to act at all.” Despite his protests that he mediated this conference purely as a part of executing his office as the President, I am inclined to give him more credit than that, and in this, I am not alone. Said one of the Russian delegates of Roosevelt: “…when we left the United States it was with the knowledge that, all through our stay there, we had been brought in close proximity with one of the most powerful personalities now alive in the whole world. The man who had been represented to us as impetuous to the point of rudeness, displayed a gentleness, a kindness, a tactfulness mixed with self control, that only a truly great man could command.”

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Abstract: The Role of the Individual in International Relations

My research will explore the role of the individual in international relations by exploring and analyzing the effects former US presidents have had on international relations. This is in an attempt to isolate what variables may make one more or less successful at causing change in the international system. As the sources of this change, former presidents, all share a title as well as a high degree of recognition, and yet, no longer have the power to use a state’s resources, they should be on a level playing field. I will begin by focusing on Jimmy Carter and Theodore Roosevelt, but I will also look at other former presidents. I have chosen these two because of their similarities and their differences. Both were rather active in international affairs after their presidencies, but they also come from different times. Hopefully this will allow for good comparison. The goal is to find out more about what type of person can have a large effect on international relations, how they do so, and what they choose to focus on. While this topic is very broad at the moment, I hope to narrow on more specific issues as I research.