What next for U.S. foreign policy?
The answer to the title question depends in part on who stays and who goes for Bush’s second term. The New York Times had a Sunday piece about this ten days ago (sorry, no link) where one Bush official admitted that the variance for Bush’s second-term foreign policy was wider than what could be expected ...
The answer to the title question depends in part on who stays and who goes for Bush's second term. The New York Times had a Sunday piece about this ten days ago (sorry, no link) where one Bush official admitted that the variance for Bush's second-term foreign policy was wider than what could be expected of a Kerry administration. This anonymous foreign service officer wrote in Salon last month that Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage are not staying for a second Bush term:
The answer to the title question depends in part on who stays and who goes for Bush’s second term. The New York Times had a Sunday piece about this ten days ago (sorry, no link) where one Bush official admitted that the variance for Bush’s second-term foreign policy was wider than what could be expected of a Kerry administration. This anonymous foreign service officer wrote in Salon last month that Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage are not staying for a second Bush term:
When he goes, the last bulwark against complete neoconservative control of U.S. foreign policy goes with him…. Powell is leaving. We need to repeat that. When this reality sinks in, we will finally understand what we are getting ourselves into in a second Bush term. A handful of conservative columnists, Republican senators and a few other GOP luminaries are trying to reclaim a traditional conservative Republican foreign policy approach. But it is clearly too late.
James Mann is the author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet — and he disagrees on Foreign Policy‘s web site:
Salon.com’s “Anonymous” from the State Department is right that the internal dynamics of the second Bush administration will change when Colin Powell is no longer part of the administration. Bush is likely to appoint a new secretary of state (whether National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice or someone else) who is more subject to the political control of the Bush-Cheney-Karl Rove White House. But it’s a mistake to leap from there to the judgment that the neoconservatives will have complete control of the second Bush administration. During the last four years, the neocons were the dominant influence on U.S. foreign policy when it came to Iraq (which was no small thing). The neocons did not control the Bush administration’s first-term policy toward China or Russia, which conformed to the classic realist principles of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. And the impact of the Iraq war has served to reduce further the neocons’ clout. The war they so strongly favored has lasted vastly longer than they predicted. It took more U.S. troops and cost much more money than they led the nation to believe. By early this year, even leading conservative Republicans, such as columnist George Will, were vehemently opposing the Iraq war and the larger goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East. That internal Republican opposition has been muted this fall during Bush’s reelection campaign, but it is sure to resurface. I’m not suggesting that Bush’s approach to the world will be utterly transformed during a second term. The vision the Vulcans carried into office four years ago—a view of foreign policy based above all on overwhelming U.S. military power and a skepticism about accommodations with other countries—will not be abandoned. But I also don’t think Bush’s reelection means that United States is gearing up for some new military invasion. There are limits. Iraq has proved that fact, even to the Bush administration. And a sense of limits may turn out to be one of the defining characteristics of Bush’s second term.
I don’t know what the right answer is, but I do know this — regardless of cabinet shuffles, the one guaranteed constant in the second term is that Richard B. Cheney remains the Vice President, and will remain a very active player in the foreign policy machinery. Cheney may be extremely intelligent, but as I’ve said before, I’m not sure it’s healthy to have the sitting vice president be that active in the foreign policy process. UPDATE: Some of the commenters are puzzled by my concern about Cheney’s activism in the foreign policy process. I have two problems with this. The first is Cheney’s Ahab-like obsession with the unchecked expansion of the executive branch powers. The second is that even compared to Al Gore, Cheney has participated more actively in the NSC decision-making process. And rank matters. As I said back in January, “the difficulty is that even cabinet-level officials can be reluctant in disagreeing with him because he’s the vice-president. This leads to a stunted policy debate, which ill-serves both the President and the country.” So unless you think Cheney is clairvoyant, this is not a good thing in terms of weighing the costs and benefits of different policy options. I might add that Bush himself recognized the need for a good policy process in today’s press conference:
I always jest to people: The Oval Office is the kind of place where people stand outside, they’re getting ready to come in and tell me what-for, and they walk in and get overwhelmed by the atmosphere and they say, Man, you’re looking pretty. Therefore, you need people to walk in on those days when you’re not looking so good and saying, You’re not looking so good, Mr. President…. that’s what you want if you’re the commander in chief and a decision-maker. You want people to walk in and say, I don’t agree with this, or I do agree with that, and here’s what my recommendation is.
Here’s hoping he gets well-served on this front in his second term. I remain apprehensive. One more link — Walter Russell Mead has some interesting thoughts over at cfr.com (link via this commenter): One part that stood out:
Bush essentially has no excuses now: he has a mandate, he has both houses of Congress, and he is in full control of the foreign policy machinery. The war in Iraq is one that he chose, that he planned, that he has led. Bush is going to look pretty good if even two years from now Iraq is more or less pacified, and there is a government that is at least, in some ways, better than Saddam Hussein, and you have an island of stability in the middle of the Middle East. In retrospect he will look like a visionary, and people will forget all the ups and downs. When people now think of the Mexican War, they think about it as this quick, glorious dash. But in fact [President James] Polk had terrible problems during the Mexican War [1846-1848]…. Politically, at home, there were questions like, “Will those Mexicans ever negotiate?” “Are we stuck in this quagmire?” And this was a war that ended with the United States getting a whole lot of territory. Likewise, if you think about the Filipino insurrection after the Spanish-American War, I think we lost significantly more troops in suppressing that insurrection than we did in the Iraq war. [American casualties in the Filipino guerrilla war are estimated at 4,000 killed and 3,000 wounded]. What’s interesting is that by 1910, even people like Teddy Roosevelt, who himself was an arch-imperialist, were saying that it was a strategic mistake to take the Philippines because it gave us an Achilles heel exposed to Japan. So here you have a war with thousands of U.S. casualties to capture a place that we then basically spent the next 30 years trying to figure out how to get rid of. Yet nobody who supported that war ever paid a political price, and everybody who opposed the war paid a political price. And conceivably, if the war in Iraq goes even reasonably well, Bush looks good.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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