Shadow Government

Another thing Bush got right

By Philip Zelikow Building on what I said earlier about Bush administration successes, here is one more: The administration reinforced an emerging view that, in an era dominated by transnational concerns, the content and values of domestic governance in other states necessarily were core concerns for international politics. This vital stream in global political thinking ...

By Philip Zelikow

Building on what I said earlier about Bush administration successes, here is one more:

The administration reinforced an emerging view that, in an era dominated by transnational concerns, the content and values of domestic governance in other states necessarily were core concerns for international politics. This vital stream in global political thinking had several tributaries.

Again, the shock of 9/11 played a role: the assault of Islamist extremists prompted a strong and appropriate assertion of countervailing ideas. In his best formulation of this reaction (and one of the earliest), Bush eloquently detailed the "nonnegotiable demands of human dignity" — a speech, by the way, which did not list "democracy" as one of the minimum elements. Bush’s later addresses would not be so restrained.

At the same time, in arguing that large increases in assistance were needed for the world’s poor, American leaders also argued that humanitarian aid could not work, and might even be counterproductive, unless it was linked to better governance in recipient states. Washington succeeded on both fronts. The U.S. doubled its overseas development assistance; the governance argument is now widely accepted.

The U.S. and European approach in WTO negotiations around the world (especially the Chinese case), the European strategy in EU accession talks, and the U.S. approach in a fresh network of bilateral trade treaties prepared in Bush’s first term: These all codified more links between the character of domestic policies and more active participation in the international community. These trends have reformulated, in a more palatable and durable form, the kinds of reform/conditionality arguments that the United States, the IMF, and the World Bank were making during the 1980s and 1990s.

And there is a fundamental overlap of domestic and international policies in the mix of energy, environment, and public health issues that are moving to the front of the international agenda in the first decade of the 21st century.

Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is also a former government official, having held posts in five previous administrations.

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