Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

The New World Order in Theory and Practice: The Bush Administration's Worldview in Transition

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

The New World Order in Theory and Practice: The Bush Administration's Worldview in Transition

Article excerpt

The new world order is a concept that emerged prominently three times in the twentieth century. Woodrow Wilson sought to create a new world order after World War I only to find that the world, as well as the U.S. Senate, was not ready for his brand of idealism. During World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt envisioned a new world order that would ensure greater stability and peace through the creation of an international body of United Nations (UN), although he saw it as a body that would be based on great power cooperation. Later in the century, during the Persian Gulf crisis (1990-1991), the administration of George Bush revisited this abstract concept in line with the effort to reverse Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. We focus attention on this last case.

The central argument of this article is that decision makers in President Bush's exclusive inner cabinet and in the lower-level deputies committee that

served the inner cabinet consciously tried to lay out a framework for a new world order through their actions and statements during the crisis. While this effort remained secondary to other objectives during the crisis and the concept of the new world order was dramatized for political effect, it did play an important role that needs to be understood better. That Bush and his advisers sought to create the basis for a new world order is ironic because Bush was widely criticized and even ridiculed for lacking vision. While that may or may not be fair regarding how he conducted elements of domestic affairs, it is not true of the Gulf crisis. Indeed, insofar as he seriously and genuinely advanced the new world order concept, Bush did display a vision for how world affairs could be conducted in the post-cold war and post-Gulf crisis period. In part through the use of interviews with key decision makers, we seek to establish this argument by examining how the concept of the new world order, which has been widely misunderstood, evolved during the Gulf crisis and by identifying and exploring its three main dimensions.

The End of the Cold War and the New World Order

Expectations of a new era and a better world emerged in the late 1980s, well before the Iraqi invasion. The Bush administration, like many others around the world, was focusing on the unification of Germany, the domino-like fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989, and the end of the cold war produced in part by the economic and political reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. By contrast, little attention was focused on events in the Middle East.

The end of the cold war and the Gulf crisis contributed fundamentally to the development of the concept of the new world order. The end of the cold war created conditions that made a new world order possible in theory. They included enhanced superpower cooperation, less potential that U.S. action against a regional aggressor would trigger superpower confrontation, a decreased propensity on the part of Moscow and Beijing to veto UN collective security efforts, and the possibility that former Soviet allies such as Syria would join or support U.S.-led efforts, such as collective action in the Gulf.

The Gulf crisis allowed the new world order concept to be developed and executed. Indeed, prior to the crisis, the notion of a new era was in the air, but it was ambiguous, nascent, and unproven. Bush, for instance, spoke of an "extraordinary new world" (Bush 1990, 1030) but did not attach this language to the broader vision of a new world order. Elements of what would become the new world order, such as the role of the Soviet Union, were hopeful but inchoate. In 1989, Bush spoke positively about Moscow's "new thinking," but his main concern was that it now had "an obligation and an opportunity" to demonstrate it (Bush 1990, 307). Later, on May 12, 1989, Bush announced that it was time to move "beyond containment to a new policy for the 1990s" and that Washington would now "welcome the Soviet Union back into the world order" (Bush 1990, 541). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.