John Lewis Gaddis on Bush
Back in 2002 I highlighted a John Lewis Gaddis essay in Foreign Policy that stoutly defended the National Security Strategy. The Boston Globe reports that post-Iraq, Gaddis hasn’t changed his mind: Every President makes foreign policy. Only a select few, over the sweep of history, design what scholars term grand strategy. Grand strategy is the ...
Back in 2002 I highlighted a John Lewis Gaddis essay in Foreign Policy that stoutly defended the National Security Strategy. The Boston Globe reports that post-Iraq, Gaddis hasn't changed his mind:
Back in 2002 I highlighted a John Lewis Gaddis essay in Foreign Policy that stoutly defended the National Security Strategy. The Boston Globe reports that post-Iraq, Gaddis hasn’t changed his mind:
Every President makes foreign policy. Only a select few, over the sweep of history, design what scholars term grand strategy. Grand strategy is the blueprint from which policy follows. It envisions a country’s mission, defines its interests, and sets its priorities. Part of grand strategy’s grandeur lies in its durability: A single grand strategy can shape decades, even centuries, of policy. Who, then, have been the great grand strategists among American statesmen? According to a slim forthcoming volume by John Lewis Gaddis, the Yale historian whom many describe as the dean of Cold War studies and one of the nation’s most eminent diplomatic historians, they are John Quincy Adams, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and George W. Bush…. The Bush doctrine is more serious and sophisticated than its critics acknowledge — but it is also less novel, Gaddis maintains. Three of its core principles — preemptive war, unilateralism, and American hegemony — actually hark back to the early 19th century, to the time of John Quincy Adams…. Gaddis begins ”Surprise, Security, and the American Experience” (Harvard, March) with the observation that thanks to its geographical isolation, the United States has experienced only three surprise attacks on its soil: the British burning of Washington in 1814, Pearl Harbor in 1941, and the terrorist attacks in 2001. Each time, American leaders responded by rethinking grand strategy. After the British attack on Washington, Gaddis recounts, John Quincy Adams, then secretary of state to James Monroe, perceived that weakly governed states along US borders invited dangers, whether from marauding bands of Native Americans, pirates, and escaped slaves in Florida (before General Andrew Jackson invaded it in 1817), or from European powers who might seize vulnerable territories such as California as staging grounds from which to threaten the United States. And so America achieved its security through territorial expansion — by filling a perceived power vacuum before hostile powers could do so. Gaddis describes the invasions of such territories as ”preemptive.”
Read the whole thing. Later on in the piece, Walter Russell Mead makes a point that’s worth repeating:
What is perhaps most important about the Bush doctrine is also very specific to its era, says Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the forthcoming ”Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America’s Grand Strategy in a World at Risk” (Knopf, April): It shifts the geographical center of American strategy. ”The Cold War was fundamentally about Europe,” says Mead. ”Whatever happened anywhere in the world, the basic question was how it would affect the standoff with the Soviets in Europe. Now the Bush people are saying that whatever happens anywhere in the world, the question is, how will it affect the Middle East and the war on terror?”
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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