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UNITED STATES: Foreign Policy under George W. Bush

Regarding George Ws foreign policy expertise or lack of it, Margaret McKenzie calls our attention to the article by James Traub, "W's World", in the New York Times (1/14/01). We reproduce select passages:

"He has rarely traveled abroad, and he is skeptical of getting entangled in foreign conflicts and enmeshed in international organizations. That means that for the next four years, the United States may be going it alone. Foreign policy has not played a decisive role in electing a president since 1968, the height of the Vietnam War. Since 1992, when Bill Clinton recognized that the end he cold war made George Bush's victory in the Persian Gulf very nearly irrelevant as a political asset, foreign policy has become an electoral afterthought. During the cold war, there was one axis and two poles -- hard or soft on Communism. But it's no longer obvious what it means to be "liberal" or "conservative" on foreign policy. Does it mean anything at all?

Condoleezza Rice said "There is nothing wrong with doing something that benefits all humanity, but that is, in a sense, a second-order effect." There is an unsettling coldbloodedness in that "second-order effect," though it doesn't read as if Rice is trying to shock. She simply does not believe in humanitarianism as a goal of foreign policy. "Realism" may sound like nothing more than an honest assessment of a dangerous world, but it is important to understand how far this stands outside the American tradition. In his recent book Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger writes that from Woodrow Wilson to George Bush, "American presidents haveinvoked their country's unselfishness as the crucial attribute of its leadership role." Wilsonian idealism was so deeply in the American grain that party affiliation scarcely mattered: with his imagery of a "shining city on a hill" versus "an evil empire," and with his interventions all over the globe, Ronald Reagan was Wilson's most unabashed follower. George Bush the elder toned down the evangelism, but his foreign policy was grounded in Wilson's language of mutuality and cooperation -- above all in creating the coalition that waged the gulf war.

What is striking about George W. Bush and his inner circle is not how different they sound from Bill Clinton but how different they sound from the first President Bush. The New World Order is as distant a memory as the evil empire. Helping humanity is suddenly a second-order effect."

Ronald Hilton - 1/15/01