Making the World Safe from Evil: Current US Foreign Policy Is the Most Incoherent It Has Been in Recent Memory. (Articles)

By Cumings, Bruce | The Nation, October 28, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Making the World Safe from Evil: Current US Foreign Policy Is the Most Incoherent It Has Been in Recent Memory. (Articles)

Cumings, Bruce, The Nation

So this is the way the cold war finally ends: not with a whimper but a bang. Ever since Mikhail Gorbachev chose not to mobilize massive Soviet armies on the soil of East Germany and other Communist states to save them from their own people, thus sealing the fate of the Soviet empire and bestowing a virtually bloodless victory on the containment doctrine, analysts and pundits have been vying to define the post-cold war era, and incidentally to become the next George Kennan: an end to history, back to the future, a clash of civilizations, Jihad vs. McWorld, the Lexus and the Olive Tree.

But the cunning of history dashed their ambitions and gave us instead an unexpectedly muscle-bound and imperial "Mr. X": George W. Bush. No passive containment or pusillanimous deterrence for His Accidency: Now we will have pre-emptive attacks, "counterproliferation" for everyone (except ourselves and our allies), untold billions for the Pentagon to dissuade any and all comers from "a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States," and endless wars into the disappearing and newly darkening future to "rid the world of evil."

Where does this "National Security Strategy" document come from? In the first instance, from the shop of NSC Adviser Condoleezza Rice, which perhaps accounts for its breathless and quasi-academic quality, although some of its logic would flunk even a freshman class: as in, pre-emptive attacks are OK for us, but other nations "should [not] use pre-emption as a pretext for aggression." Pre-emption, Rice later opined to reporters, is "anticipatory self-defense," that is, the right of the United States to attack a country that it thinks could attack it first. (It is hard to believe the State Department actually signed off on this Bush League document, but Rice is right that it's not a new strategy: In the early months of 1964 Lyndon Johnson in "the utmost secrecy" agonized over whether to take out China's Lop Nor nuclear facilities in a pre-emptive strike before they produced a bomb.)

Of course, the driving forces behind the Bush doctrine include more than just one Bush adviser; George W., like Ronald Reagan in the first two years of his presidency, is surrounded by ideologues, hawks and extremists. They talk loudly and carry a big stick, but it isn't clear that they will ultimately prevail.

Bush's pet doctrine is not just about foreign policy, however; it's also about domestic politics, and a Republican administration that is both motivated and flummoxed by deeper conflicts that go to the heart of the party and its historic foreign policy stance. In the short run, "anticipatory self-defense" aroused a perfect storm for Karl Rove, who wants Bush to talk about the evildoers until the November elections so no one will remember that the economy is tanking and Bush's CEO buddies are in handcuffs. More important, however, is that this has been the first Republican administration to so fully embody the Republican right's foreign policy views on a host of issues: arms control, the environment, the United Nations, post-Soviet Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq and the presumed failings of our traditional allies. The massive outflow of commentary and punditry on Bush's new doctrine somehow never got around to this fundamental point, until Al Gore (the name Bush dares not speak) stood before the Commonwealth Club on September 23 and said that Bush has been trying "to please the portion of [his] base that occupies the far right." Everyone knows this is Rove's daily bread for domestic policy, but Gore linked the new doctrine to a "go-it-alone, cowboy-type" foreign policy--and not since Saddam moved into Bush's gun sights, but since the day after he won the 2000 election, five to four.

The new doctrine embodies phrases and nuances that are the stock in trade of right-wing pundits like Charles Krauthammer, who have long called for a new American imperialism.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Making the World Safe from Evil: Current US Foreign Policy Is the Most Incoherent It Has Been in Recent Memory. (Articles)


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?