Bush After Bushism

Derek Chollet and James Goldgeier, co-authors of an excellent new history of America’s 1990s foreign policy, observe that in recent months the Bush administration has large rejected Bushism in favor of something more like the pragmatism and traditional diplomacy that has normally dominated American foreign policy. Intriguingly, they argue that this is “more than the product of a desperate president” but rather “symbolizes the downfall of the conservative national-security establishment that has dominated the foreign-policy debate since the end of the Cold War.”

On that point, I’m not entirely certain. I definitely hope that the conservative national security establishment in question has experienced a downfall, but it seems to me that not only is Dick Cheney still very much around and still very much a believer in the “Bush Doctrine” but that a McCain administration would likely lead to a revival of the sort of ideas that Bush has moved away from. They say that in McCain’s campaign we see both pragmatists and neocons creating a campaign where “advisers of [both of] these factions exist under one roof.” That’s true, but the neoconnish influence is, in my view, clearly the dominant one both because it reflects McCain’s instincts and his record over the past ten years and also because the neocons are just numerically dominant. Look at McCain’s current statements on the Russia-Georgia situation and you’ll see that despite his campaign’s brief flirtation with getting serious about arms control he’s mostly focused on a very aggressive anti-Russian posture.