Presidential Greatness as an Attribute of Warmaking



The founders of the nation were acutely aware of the penchant among executives to pursue war as a means of achieving fame and glory. Scholars, like presidents, have assumed a strong correlation between presidential tenure during war and presidential greatness. That assumption must necessarily rest on either the decision to go to war or on the president's conduct of war, or on both considerations. This essay contends that, contrary to the assumption of a linkage between wartime service and presidential greatness, very few presidents have achieved greatness through war, and that for others, the path of war has been a path to disappointment and devastation.