Daniel W. Drezner

The Retrac administration?

Fareed Zakaria has a cover story in Newsweek on how the Bush administration’s current foreign policy ain’t what it used to be: A broad shift in America’s approach to the world is justified and overdue. Bush’s basic conception of a “global War on Terror,” to take but the most obvious example, has been poorly thought-through, ...

Fareed Zakaria has a cover story in Newsweek on how the Bush administration’s current foreign policy ain’t what it used to be:

A broad shift in America’s approach to the world is justified and overdue. Bush’s basic conception of a “global War on Terror,” to take but the most obvious example, has been poorly thought-through, badly implemented, and has produced many unintended costs that will linger for years if not decades. But blanket criticism of Bush misses an important reality. The administration that became the target of so much passion and anger—from Democrats, Republicans, independents, foreigners, Martians, everyone—is not quite the one in place today. The foreign policies that aroused the greatest anger and opposition were mostly pursued in Bush’s first term: the invasion of Iraq, the rejection of treaties, diplomacy and multilateralism. In the past few years, many of these policies have been modified, abandoned or reversed. This has happened without acknowledgment—which is partly what drives critics crazy—and it’s often been done surreptitiously. It doesn’t reflect a change of heart so much as an admission of failure; the old way simply wasn’t working. But for whatever reasons and through whichever path, the foreign policies in place now are more sensible, moderate and mainstream. In many cases the next president should follow rather than reverse them.

Read the whole thing, and not just because Zakaria cites your humble blogger.  In some ways, this Bush administration is the mirror image of the Carter administration’s experience in foreign policy (hence the title of this post).  In both cases, a new administration rejected both the prior administration’s grand strategy — and spurned the intellectual traditions of their own party — to chart out a new approach to foreign policy.  Both of these new approaches In both cases, these new approaches yielded more failures than successes.  And, in both cases, the president altered his approach in response to these failures — to the point where the foreign policies of their last year in office strongly resembled the status quo they had inherited.  Of course, the difference, crudely put, is that Carter moved from dovish to hawkish, while Bush has done the reverse.   

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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