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Foreign Policy of George W. Bush

In the first eight months of the Bush administration there was little attention paid to foreign affairs. The former Texas governor entered office focused primarily on two domestic issues: tax cuts and education reform. Bush’s first foreign policy lacked clear definition and was criticized by some prominent neoconservatives. Author Jacob Weisberg refers to the first eight months of the Bush foreign policy as “Unipolar Realism. ” Bush, it appears, entered office with a foreign policy slogan of ABC: Anything But Clinton.

He wanted the administration to have focused ommitments and not move from crisis to crisis like a corkscrew. Bush had repeatedly attacked the Clinton era foreign policy during the campaign on issues such as China policy, Iraq policy, policy in the Balkans, and the military budget. “Soon after taking office he said ‘never mind’ on all four, while neoconservatives shrieked in protest. ” The first foreign policy crisis of the administration came just a few months in when a U. S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet forcing the U.

S. plane to make an emergency landing in Chinese territory. The plane was confiscated and the crew was taken prisoner. At first, Bush took a hard stance towards the Chinese. But eventually he capitulated in order to retrieve the crew and the U. S. was forced to apologize for the incident. Norman Podhoretz criticized Bush for simply following his “father’s standard ‘realist’ perspective” throughout the first eight months of 2001. Bush took a hard stance on the Chinese but backed down. And he did not take a hard stance at all on Iraq.

Bush criticized Clinton’s Iraq policy during the campaign, but once in office he simply sought a move toward smart sanctions against the regime, hardly a neoconservative preference. Although the president wanted focused commitments in his foreign policy, Podhoretz charged he “had no deaf Conception of what he wanted to accomplish as President” in international policy. As Weisberg notes in his characterization of a Unipolar Realist policy, Bush did move towards some unilateral tendencies. In the first eight months the administration distanced itself from the Middle East Peace Process.

Bush made it clear he did not intend to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for ratification. He showed no desire to include the U. S. in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And the administration also announced it did not want to be a part of the International Criminal Court. Bush was on his way towards the unilateralist preferences of the neoconservative movement, but he was not fully with neoconservatism. It would take something to push him in that direction. The paper seeks for the answer to the question “Is the administration of George W. Bush neoconservative?

” To do so, this section focuses on the upper-levels of the administration, those individuals who wield considerable decision-making influence. How does the decision-making process in the administration work? What individuals are involved in that process? Where did they come from and what do they believe? In answering these questions this thesis focuses on the first term of the administration because not only is the first term of a presidential administration the formative period setting it on a specific path, but the first term of the George W. Bush administration was characterized by an extraordinary level of continuity.

The key players and decision-makers all remained in their posts for the entire four years. Unfortunately, there is no all-inclusive neoconservative manuscript that lays out their beliefs in a straight-forward, easy to understand manner. To answer this question then, we must look to the works of the neoconservatives themselves. Who are neoconservatives? For the most part, neoconservatives remain on the side-lines of the policy-making arena. They are confined to advisory roles from think-tanks, media outlets, universities, journals, and op-ed pages.

Neoconservatives do not necessarily agree upon all issues. In fact, it has been said that if two neoconservatives were left alone in a room they would be more likely to disagree than agree with one another. Some neoconservatives even prefer not to use the term “neoconservative;” they prefer instead terms such as neo-Reaganite, nationalistic realist, democratic globalist, and conservative internationalist. Therefore, any attempt to discuss neoconservatives will provoke some debate as to whether the individual in question truly is a neoconservative; there is no agreed-upon list.

The paper will explore Bush’s foreign policy through the lenses of the following tenets : The Importance of American Power; Liberal Internationalism and Multilateralism; Unilateralism; Missile Defense; Revolution in Military Affairs; Defense Procurement; Middle and Far East Policy. The Importance of American Power As can be expected, the terrorist attacks of September 11 are widely seen as a turning point for the administration’s foreign policy. Never before had such an attack occurred on the U. S. mainland and it was bound to provoke some changes in U. S. policy.

For the Bush administration it was a true fault line; some insist that on that day Bush joined his administration. Bush himself even admitted 9/11 “obviously changed my thinking about my responsibility as president. ” It also changed his perspective on the international environment and the role the U. S. must play in it. “Night fell on a different world, a world where freedom is under attack … This country will define our times, not be defined by them. ” Bush now had a reason for his presidency, and, ironically, the former Governor’s time in office would be defined by foreign policy.

There is no doubt that on September 11, 2001, the Bush administration made an aggressive change in its foreign policy. Bush realized that it was important for the U. S. to remain the global hegemon from his first days in office. He began his first inaugural address by speaking about “the American story. ” The American story was to be the liberator of the world. The U. S. must lead in the cause of global freedom because if it does not, nobody will. He committed the nation to maintaining its international stature. “We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge.

” By keeping American strength at a level unchallengeable, the U. S. would make the arms races of the past futile. Bush did not think the world should be frightened by American power. The global community should embrace it because the U. S. is inherently good. America is unique in that it is a global power that “has no empire to extend or Utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish for ourselves—safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the hope for a better life. ” The U. S. , and only the U. S. , can be trusted in this unique position of power because we seek not to possess or conquer, but to defend and protect.

The 43rd president shared views about the virtue of American power and sustaining that power. Liberal Internationalism and Multilateralism Bush’s position on multilateralism is slightly more nuanced than is common wisdom. He does not particularly believe in the efficacy of international institutions, but he does not share the level of disdain towards them of more hard-line unilateralists. For instance, Bob Woodward writes that Bush was not nearly as skeptical of the UN inspections process in Iraq as was Vice President Cheney. However, Bush did not believe they would result in the desired outcome.

But therein lies the nuance of Bush’s view. Bush views international institutions such as the UN as a process, and he is a man of results. In his 2003 State of the Union, Bush stated “America’s purpose is more than to follow a process. ” His characterization of multilateral institutions as a process—a debate forum where ideas are spoken but decisive action is not taken—is a subtle knock on liberal internationalism. Debate is fine on some issues, but not on issues of global security. Bush’s objective “is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world.

” American interests should not be held hostage by international opinion. We do not need, nor should we seek, permission to act to protect those interests. Multilateral institutions do nothing other than offer a slowed process that eventually ends in a lack of decisive action. When necessary, America will act alone. Unilateralism George W. Bush began his presidency with unilateralist tendencies. Bush withdrew the United States from various international agreements in his first months in office because he deemed they were not in the interest of the U. S.

After 9/11, Bush’s tendency towards unilateralism began to border on a preference for unilateralism. In his 2002 State of the Union, Bush said “some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake about it: If they do not act, America will. ” The emergence of terrorist networks with global reach changed the international landscape. The U. S. would have to change accordingly. “The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others. Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people.

” Unilateralism, however, did not mean that friends and allies would be cut out of the discussion. They would be consulted and their “values, judgment, and interests” would be considered. However, when the interests and the “unique responsibilities” of the U. S. required action, the U. S. would act with or without its allies. Iraq is a good illustration of this point. The administration has been roundly criticized for thumbing its nose at the international community and going it alone. Inside the administration, however, some of the key players informed the president that the U.

S. did need some minimal level of help. General Franks stressed the need for some particular help in Iraq. At the very least, the U. S. needed some limited basing rights in the region and over-flight permission. In August of 2002, Colin Powell met with the president to convince him that the U. S. could not do Iraq unilaterally. Powell was concerned that there was only one small strip of coast in Iraq. The U. S. would not be able to move troops, equipment, and supplies in solely from that location; it would put the U. S. in a too vulnerable position.

They needed to enlist countries in the region to provide at least some minimal assistance. Preemption Jacob Weisberg called “Preemption” Bush Doctrine 3. 0 (6/1/02 – 11/5/03). Weisberg is correct that preemption became a major pillar of the Bush Doctrine, but it did so before June 1, 2002. Bush first used the term “preemptive” in June of 2002, but he first hinted at a preemptive stance for the U. S. in his 2002 State of the Union: “I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. “

Deterrence means nothing against terrorist organizations and containment is not possible in a world where rogue regimes can give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist organizations with global reach. These means—deterrence and containment—are defensive measures. And the war on terror must be won on the offensive. “Our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives. ” Preemption is simply a “matter of common sense. ” The U. S. could not wait for threats to fully emerge.

The consequences of an unstable dictator such as Saddam Hussein gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would be dire. The U. S. could not, and would not, “wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. ” As a matter of national security, and as a matter of necessity, the U. S. would take to the offensive and preempt any possible threats to the security of the homeland. While the overall strategy was to be on the offense and to fight our enemies on our terms, some defensive measures were necessary. Missile Defense

In December of 2001 the Bush administration gave notice of U. S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty). The Bush campaign had been hostile towards the treaty and was convinced it was counter to the national interest. Bush had long preferred to employ a National Missile Defense system (remember Rumsfeld was in charge of missile defense policy during the campaign). In his 2002 State of the Union, President Bush announced his intentions. “We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack.

” Neoconservatives had long advocated a system of national missile defense and they finally had a president who agreed. But the dangers of the new century could not be fully confronted by defensive measures. The U. S. needed to be proactive, and to do so it needed to reform the military. Revolution in Military Affairs Since his campaign for the presidency, Bush promoted revising the basic force structure of the military. It was an issue so important to him that he rejected former Senator Dan Coats as Secretary of Defense because of Coats’ lack of commitment to the RMA.

Bush eventually appointed a proponent of the RMA for the position: Donald Rumsfeld. A revamped military—one that consisted of smaller lighter forces—would have great utility as an offensive weapon. This became more important after the attacks of 9/11 when the U. S. needed to go on the offensive. Although it would take time to transform the military, the new structure would be able to respond to faraway contingencies quickly and effectively. But more than that, a newer version of the military would serve humanitarian purposes as well.

Revamping the military is about more than just adjusting the existing force structures; it is also about increasing technological capabilities. Enhanced technology in the armed forces would not only save the lives of U. S. soldiers, but it would save civilian lives as well. Wars of high civilian casualties and carpet-bombing techniques should be the ways of the past. The U. S. had the technological capability now to fight and win wars without these techniques. The mission in Afghanistan was proof that precision weapons could defeat an enemy and spare civilian lives simultaneously.

But systems of missile defense, reorganizing the military forces, and increasing military technological capacity do not come free of charge. They require a defense budget to match. Defense Procurement Bush and Cheney campaigned on a commitment to increased defense spending. George H. W. Bush started the process of Defense budget reductions and Clinton dramatically reduced military appropriations to take advantage of the “peace dividend. ” Those on the right side of the aisle felt the military was slowly being reduced to a skeleton of its former self. Bush and Cheney repeatedly promised “Help is on the way.

” But early on in the Bush administration domestic policies trumped defense spending. Bush had also run on cutting taxes and as a result there was an early tension between those in favor of cutting taxes and those in favor of increased defense spending. Throughout the 1990s, neoconservatives had pleaded for defense procurements between 3. 5% and 4% of the GNP. When the Bush administration first took office, however, domestic policies won out. Bush’s first budget apportioned defense spending at only 3% of the GNP, about the same level as the Clinton administration.

Neoconservatives were outraged. Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy secretary of defense, said in a congressional testimony that spending only 3% of America’s GNP on defense was “reckless. ” Of course, the world changed on September 11; so did the Bush administration’s policies on defense spending. The Bush administration’s budget in 2002 requested an additional $48 billion for defense (bringing the total up to $377 billion; closer to 3. 5%). Vice President Cheney gushed it was the largest increase in spending for national defense since the Reagan administration.

The Bush administration did fall in line with neoconservative preferences for defense spending, but it took a national crisis to move it there. Middle and Far East Policy Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted again in the fall of 2000 in what is commonly referred to as the Second Intifada. In June 2002, with violence still fomenting between Israelis and Palestinians, President Bush gave a speech in which he called for a democratic Palestinian state. In the speech he also made other requests of Israel: Permanent occupation threatens Israel’s identity and democracy…

So I challenge Israel to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state. As we make progress towards security, Israeli forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000 … Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop. Norman Podhoretz characterized it as “puzzling” that the Bush administration would view what Israel was doing in response to the waves of Palestinian suicide bombings as anything other than identical to what the U. S. was doing in Afghanistan. The call for Israeli withdrawal from the American president, for Podhoretz, was a “low point.

” Making an example of rogue regimes shows others that the U. S. means business and they had better get in line or they might be next. Following 9/11, President Bush embraced this idea whole-heartedly. On September 17, 2001 Bush told his war advisors “Let’s hit them (the Taliban) hard. We want to signal this is a change from the past. We want to cause other countries like Syria and Iran to change their views. ” The idea of making an example out of an undesirable regime was not restricted to the Taliban in Afghanistan; it was also one of the primary reasons for taking action in Iraq.

Bush referred to ousting Saddam as a “game changer. ” He told Prince Bandar that a regime change in Iraq will cause changes in the behavior of the Iranian regime. Less than a month before the invasion of Iraq Bush argued that taking out Saddam would give other regimes a clear warning that support for terror is no longer tolerated. Making his case for action in Iraq, President Bush quoted a former chief weapons inspector of the UN who said: “The fundamental problem with Iraq remains the nature of the regime, itself. ” Bush is a believer in Democratic Peace Theory.

Democracies don’t war With one another because politically they cannot. The people don’t want bloodshed; therefore, their leaders must veer away from war. Summary To characterize the Bush administration’s foreign policy you need only to look to the president’s ideas. Outsiders have often wondered and theorized about the influence of a powerful Vice President within the administration, but make no mistake about it, Bush is the “decider. ” Bush himself admits that he is not an intellectual. He is a gut player. But his general principles about the international system and how the U. S.

should negotiate it—especially in his first term—coincide nicely with the thoughts of the neoconservatives. A simple indication of neoconservative approval of the Bush 43 foreign policy: in a 28 minute speech given to the American Enterprise Institute the president was; interrupted by applause breaks 29 times. Bush, however, isn’t neoconservative across the board. In his rhetoric he commits the U. S. to neoconservative principles on foreign policy, but in actuality the U. S. is quite inconsistent. The “with us or against us” theme applied to Teheran, Damascus, and Pyongyang, but not to Riyadh or Islamabad.

Bush was tough on North Korea early, but eventually weakened his policy to encourage a multilateral conversation that includes the North Koreans. The same is true of Iran. David Frum and Richard Perle attacked Bush for having a realist foreign policy towards Iran for engaging in dialogue at certain levels. It’s more likely that these inconsistencies represent political realities more than they do a weakness of belief. Bush may not be an intellectual and he may not be a neoconservative, but it is fair to say that, for the most part, his administration’s foreign policy is neoconservative. Conclusion

The paper have discussed the various elements of a president’s administration approach to international affairs and determined that, by-and-large, the presidency of George W. Bush adopted most of neoconservative principles within his term. One more question is needed to be answered from this discussion: “Will the current Bush administrations strategy for American foreign policy usher in a new foreign policy consensus that the American public and policy makers will embrace for the foreseeable future? ” Now, after presidential election some things have changed, however many remain the same.

The 2008 Republican nominee, John McCain, was favored by many of the neoconservatives in the 2000 presidential campaign. If elected, McCain promised to continue many of the same foreign policies as the Bush administration. Therefore, neoconservative ideas had a heightened importance in the discussion of the future of U. S. foreign policy. The question, then, is what principles of neoconservatism, if any, should be considered for the future of U. S. foreign policy? Should the next president embrace neoconservatism as a whole, pick and choose some preferable neoconservative principles?

Barack Obama has different foreign policy views. He empathically strives to change a track for American global military machine. So, it would be not so easy to accomplish that task for him. To win future wars will the U. S. need more ships, tanks, and aircraft or will it need more soldiers with the ability and training to competently search door-to-door? Today, it would seem the greatest and most imminent threats to U. S. security are of an asymmetrical nature. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are both being fought by an enemy utilizing asymmetrical methods.

This does not, however, imply a future great power war is out of the question. Recently, China shot a satellite down out of its orbit. This presents a direct threat to U. S. aerospace dominance, and Wesley Clark believes aerospace, information and technological superiority are key to future American security. For the U. S. , to maintain its current position is guaranteed to be expensive. Unless it chooses an isolationist policy it must be able to fight and win two different types of wars, it must be able to fight and win more than one war at a time, and it must still maintain homeland security.

Providing American security is an extremely expensive endeavor, and the U. S. subsidizes a great deal of international security as well. Posen and Ross argue that other countries will develop the capability to compete with the U. S. in international politics as a result of the diffusion of economic and technological capabilities! The costs of maintaining at the current status will be expensive and the decisions on how to do so will be difficult, but it is important for U. S. interests that it maintains its status as the world’s greatest military power. References Daalder, Ivo H. and James M. Lindsay. America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy.

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Suskind, Ron. The One Percent Doctrine: Deep inside America’s pursuit of its enemies since 9/11. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002. Available from www. whitehouse. gov/nsc/nss. pdf, accessed 30 November 2008. Vice President Speaks at VFW 103rd National Convention, 26 August, 2002. Available from www. whitehouse. gov. Internet; accessed 30 November 2008.. Weisberg, Jacob. “Fishing for a Way to Change the World. ” Newsweek 28 Jan. 2008: 30-34. Woodward, Bob. Plan of Attack. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

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