The Daily Demarche
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Foreign Policy in Bush's Second Term -- What Can We Expect?
When the Daily Demarche was still in its infancy, I wrote a post on Condoleeza Rice and what her nomination meant regarding the President’s foreign policy objectives in his second term. This is a question that a lot of my non-Foreign Service friends have asked me, and when answering I find I constantly have to bat away the numerous false assumptions that people have about foreign policy. To be fair, this is hardly new to the Bush administration, people had the same misconceptions about the Clinton administration as well, they just assumed that, rather than Evil Corporations or Karl Rove being behind everything, Evil Corporations and the need to cover up the Lewinski scandal were behind everything.

Well guess what, people. You don’t need me to explain the president’s foreign policy to you. You can figure it out yourself. All that you have to do is point your browser here (or here for an html version) and you can see it for yourself.

The National Security Strategy of the United States (NSS) is a rare thing: a bureaucratically-produced document that is actually well-written and worth reading (contrast that to my office’s Mission Performance Plan, which I’m in the process of writing. Blech.). Furthermore, the NSS is a pretty good predictor of how the United States is going to go about interacting with the rest of the world in the next four years. It is nothing less than a telltale that reveals how the President (and his Secretary of State-nominate, who presided over its creation) sees the world.

When the NSS first hit the shelves, most members of the commentariat scanned the document for the briefest of seconds, found the section on pre-emptive action and used it as fodder for their columns and commentary. I think this is a bit unfair, as preemption is but one aspect of the very broad and (dare I say it) nuanced approach to foreign affairs laid out in the Strategy.

For example in the initial paragraphs of the NSS, we find the following:

In keeping with our heritage and principles, we do not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage.We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty (emphasis added). In a world that is safe, people will be able to make their own lives better.We will defend the peace by fighting terrorists and tyrants.We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. We will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.

Further on, we read that:

Today, the world’s great powers find ourselves on the same side— united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos. The United States will build on these common interests to promote global security. We are also increasingly united by common values.

One paragraph that I find particularly telling is the following one:

We are also guided by the conviction that no nation can build a safer, better world alone. Alliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom-loving nations. The United States is committed to lasting institutions like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States, and NATO as well as other long-standing alliances. Coalitions of the willing can augment these permanent institutions. In all cases, international obligations are to be taken seriously. They are not to be undertaken symbolically to rally support for an ideal without furthering its attainment.

I think that the last sentence is the telling one, and perhaps the single most important thing to understand about the way the President conducts foreign policy. He is not concerned with symbolism; he is concerned with results. It is no surprise, then, that the President has ruffled a few feathers. The existing order of international relations is lubricated by the notion that style is equally as valuable as substance.

Furthermore, has a pretty good history of putting his money where his mouth is. To be sure, he hasn’t done it every time: his promise to propose an alternative to the Kyoto protocol when he pulled the United States out of it is one example. But in the nebulous world of international politics, Bush has done as good as anyone in living up to his word. And if his choices for Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary of State are any indication, President Bush is as committed to pursuing in his second term an internationalist, multilateralist and effective foreign policy as any other American president in recent memory.

But don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself.

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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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