CFR: End of the Bush Revolution – it’s official!


Richard Moore

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The End of the Bush Revolution
Philip H. Gordon
From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2006

Article preview: first 500 of 4,334 words total.

Summary: The Bush administration's "revolutionary" foreign policy rhetoric has 
not changed, but its actual policies have: after squandering U.S. legitimacy, 
breaking the domestic bank, and getting the United States bogged down in an 
unsuccessful war, the Bush doctrine has run up against reality and become 
unsustainable. The counterrevolution should be welcomed -- and, if possible, 
locked in.

PHILIP H. GORDON is a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings 
Institution and a co-author, with Jeremy Shapiro, of Allies at War: America, 
Europe, and the Crisis Over Iraq.


Reading over President George W. Bush's March 2006 National Security Strategy, 
one would be hard-pressed to find much evidence that the president has backed 
away from what has become known as the Bush doctrine. "America is at war," says 
the document; we will "fight our enemies abroad instead of waiting for them to 
arrive in our country" and "support democratic movements and institutions in 
every nation and culture," with the ultimate goal of "ending tyranny in our 

Talk to any senior administration official, and he or she will tell you that the
president is as committed as ever to the "revolutionary" foreign policy 
principles he spelled out after 9/11: the United States is fighting a war on 
terror and must remain on the offensive and ready to act alone, U.S. power is 
the foundation of global order, and the spread of democracy and freedom is the 
key to a safer and more peaceful world. Bush reiterated such thinking in his 
2006 State of the Union address, insisting that the United States will "act 
boldly in freedom's cause" and "never surrender to evil."

But if the rhetoric of the Bush revolution lives on, the revolution itself is 
over. The question is not whether the president and most of his team still hold 
to the basic tenets of the Bush doctrine -- they do -- but whether they can 
sustain it. They cannot. Although the administration does not like to admit it, 
U.S. foreign policy is already on a very different trajectory than it was in 
Bush's first term. The budgetary, political, and diplomatic realities that the 
first Bush team tried to ignore have begun to set in.

The reversal of the Bush revolution is a good thing. By overreaching in Iraq, 
alienating important allies, and allowing the war on terrorism to overshadow all
other national priorities, Bush has gotten the United States bogged down in an 
unsuccessful war, overstretched the military, and broken the domestic bank. 
Washington now lacks the reservoir of international legitimacy, resources, and 
domestic support necessary to pursue other key national interests.

It is not too late to put U.S. foreign policy back on a more sustainable course,
and Bush has already begun to do so. But these new, mostly positive trends are 
no less reversible than the old ones were. Another terrorist attack on the 
United States, a major challenge from Iran, or a fresh burst of misplaced 
optimism about Iraq could entice the administration to return to its 
revolutionary course -- with potentially disastrous consequences.


It is no small irony that Bush's foreign policy ended up on the idealistic end 
of the U.S. foreign policy spectrum. Contrary to the notion, common on the left 
and overseas, that the Bush team was hawkish and interventionist from the start,
the administration was in fact deeply divided in its first months. If anything, 
it leaned toward the realist view that the United States should avoid meddling 
in the domestic affairs of other nations. In his campaign, Bush famously . . . is copyright 2002--2006 by the Council on Foreign 
Relations. All rights reserved.

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