After another period of stumbling and uncertainty, the new Republican administration of George W. Bush, son of the former president, would use the opportunity created by the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to effect the most revolutionary changes in U.S. foreign policy since the Truman Doctrine of 1947. The younger Bush gave little hint in his campaign of what was to come. Compared to his father's deeply rooted internationalism, his experience and mindset were parochial. A graduate of Yale University and the Harvard Business School, he had traveled abroad very little, worked mostly in business, and in politics served only as governor of Texas. In the campaign, he emphasized the need for humility in dealing with other nations. He distanced himself from the Wilsonian idealist label he sought to pin on the Democrats and especially his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, expressing disdain for humanitarian interventions and "nation-building." "We don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten" in the Balkans, added his future national security adviser and foreign policy alter ego Condoleezza Rice, the first African American and first woman to hold that post. The United States must no longer be the "world's 911."66
Bush sought to make up for his own lack of preparation by naming what seemed a strong national security team. Appointment of the immensely popular Colin Powell as secretary of state, the first African American to hold that position, cheered internationalists perhaps more than it should have given his stalwart opposition to using force for humanitarian purposes. But the real power rested with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. The two had worked together since the Nixon years. They shared their former boss's view that national security policy was the top priority. Gloomy in outlook and countenance, conservative in his politics, secretive almost to the point of being sinister, Cheney sought to restore to the presidency the power he believed had been lost through Watergate. He would become the most powerful vice president ever. The dynamic, hard-driving Rumsfeld was a master of bureaucratic warfare. The two men had been deeply disturbed by U.S. failure in Vietnam, the denouement of which they had witnessed from the Ford White House. They had opposed Kissinger's policy of detente. They believed that the United States must maintain absolute military supremacy and use its power to promote its own interests, not permitting the niceties of diplomacy or the scruples of allies to get in the way. Above all, they shared an especially assertive form of nationalism.67 Less noticed at the outset but equally important was the presence in key second-level positions of neo-conservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, "Scooter" Libby, and Douglas Feith, men who passionately believed that America's power must be used to reshape the world in its image.
From the start, the new administration took a decidedly unilateralist turn. Top officials expressed contempt for Clinton's bumbling internationalism. They believed that the United States, as the world's only superpower, could best protect its interests by shedding international constraints and acting alone, even preemptively if necessary, to eliminate potential threats. They revived and gave top priority to developing the missile defense system that Reagan had initiated, a project of dubious practicality and reliability that offered the allure of invulnerability but also violated treaties with the former Soviet Union. In the first months, they seemed to go out of their way to thumb their noses at other nations and international institutions. Bush spurned the Middle East peace process Clinton had nurtured. Without any prior consultation, Rice informed the European ambassadors that the Kyoto Protocol on global warming was dead, thus drastically weakening an admittedly flawed agreement the Clinton administration had helped...
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