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The September 12 Paradigm: America, the World, and George W. Bush.

The September 12 Paradigm: America, the World, and George W. Bush

By Robert Kagan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor

Referring to paradigms shaping U.S. foreign policy after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dr. Kagan argues that the incoming American president has an opportunity to build on the progress made by a Bush administration that has corrected its mistakes.

Many of the problems later challenging President George W. Bush emerged with the Soviet Union's collapse. As Samuel Huntington observed, Europeans, no longer feeling militarily threatened, soon described America as a "rogue superpower"--"intrusive, interventionist, exploitative, unilateralist, hegemonic, hypocritical." Hoping to replace power politics with international law, Europe's concern for global governance focused on the Kyoto Protocol, International Criminal Court, and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

President William J. Clinton nevertheless regarded the post-Soviet world as a dangerous place and the United States as the "indispensable nation" obligated to respond to international crises and confront terrorists and outlaw nations. His administration consequently intervened in Haiti and the Balkans. Proclaiming Saddam Hussein a threat to world peace, Clinton called for his removal and subjected Iraq to armed attack. With Russia and China growing more assertive, the president soon made little attempt to conceal his impatience with Europe's lack of seriousness about the world's perils.

Though Europeans typecast George W. Bush as a reckless cowboy before he took office, the new president advocated a realistic policy focused on American interests and shunned the role of "natural leader." Nor did the new president wish to engage in international "social work." That reorientation of American policy might have calmed European critics had Bush not withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and formally dumped effectively dead treaties they favored.

The 9/11 attacks ended America's "strategic pause" and introduced a new paradigm calling for the nation once again to become actively involved in world affairs. As the "angry Leviathan" aggressively pursued its own security, earlier resentments soon overwhelmed its former allies' apparent sympathy. Polls revealed that a majority of Europeans expressed pleasure that America had become "vulnerable" and described the country's past behavior as a "major cause" of the attacks.

It did not help the September 12 paradigm that, after the successful invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration quickly fumbled efforts to rebuild both countries and crush the insurgencies that arose in both. Although a change in military strategy has put Iraq on the road to stable self-government, that has only slightly moderated the last two decades' growing global criticism.

Even so, Kagan finds that most of the great powers, to include states in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific, have begun to draw closer to the United States. He also finds anti-Americanism moderating in parts of the Middle East and North Africa. The new American president should respond by favoring an open world of reduced national sovereignty and encouraging the democracies of Asia and Europe to accept their responsibility to support and defend the emergence of that new world.
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Author:Abrahamson, James L.
Publication:American Diplomacy
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 14, 2008
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