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Myths of Neoconservatism: George W. Bush's ‘Neo-conservative’ Foreign Policy Revisited

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Abstract

Full-text of this article is not available in this e-prints service. This article was originally published [following peer-review] in International politics, published by and copyright Palgrave Macmillan. The objective of this article is to refute the popular and influential view that neoconservatism is the driving force behind US foreign policy under George W. Bush. In fact, neoconservatism — properly understood — has been a marginal influence on a foreign policy, which has been characterized primarily by a different kind of conservative ideology. In order to demonstrate this, the article firstly seeks clearly to define contemporary neoconservatism in the foreign policy context; it then goes on to examine the Bush foreign policy and its key elements. What all this reveals is that US policy has been more driven by nationalist impulses than neoconservative ones. Indeed, those like Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke who argue that neoconservatism has been the key component shaping the Bush outlook, not only exaggerate the influence of one particular ideology but underestimate the importance of other key factors determining American policy since 2001.

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This article explores the myths and motivations behind US foreign policy towards Iraq in America's ‘war on terrorism’. It argues that the foreign policy of the Bush administration is widely misunderstood and that much of the debate about Iraq policy that has taken place has been conducted at an unhelpful level of analysis. It addresses arguments that the Bush administration is motivated by oil, revenge or hubris as well as the more mainstream arguments that an attack on Iraq would provoke instability through the entire Middle East, as well as encouraging further acts of and support for murderous terrorism; that there is no urgency to act against Iraq as containment and deterrence remain adequate means to manage this threat; and that Iraq should be a lower priority than dealing with North Korea. It does this by analysing the development of American foreign policy thinking on the war on terrorism, what motivates it, and why it rejects the arguments of its critics. The article explains the intellectual process by which the US decided upon this course of action and how Europe's failure to understand this process added to its incomprehension of American policy. It does not argue that European's opposition would have been swept aside had they better understood the Bush administration, the central disagreement about the necessity and prudence of military action versus containment remains, but that such an understanding would have allowed for a better and more focused level of debate than the one which has got us to this point. Nor does it argue that the Bush administration approach is necessarily persuasive or justified, merely that its case is reasoned and explicable in terms of America's foreign policy traditions.
Book
George W. Bush has launched a revolution in American foreign policy. He has redefined how America engages the world, shedding the constraints that friends, allies, and international institutions impose on its freedom of action. He has insisted that an America unbound is a more secure America. How did a man once mocked for knowing little about the world come to be a foreign policy revolutionary? In America Unbound, Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay dismiss claims that neoconservatives have captured the heart and mind of the president. They show that George W. Bush has been no one's puppet. He has been a strong and decisive leader with a coherent worldview that was evident even during the 2000 presidential campaign. Daalder and Lindsay caution that the Bush revolution comes with significant risks. Raw power alone is not enough to preserve and extend America's security and prosperity in the modern world. The United States often needs the help of others to meet the challenges it faces overseas. But Bush's revolutionary impulse has stirred great resentment abroad. At some point, Daalder and Lindsay warn, Bush could find that America's friends and allies refuse to follow his lead. America will then stand alone-a great power unable to achieve its most important goals.
Article
Building on a growing literature in international political science, I reexamine the traditional liberal claim that governments founded on a respect for individual liberty exercise “restraint” and “peaceful intentions” in their foreign policy. I look at three distinct theoretical traditions of liberalism, attributable to three theorists: Schumpeter, a democratic capitalist whose explanation of liberal pacifism we often invoke; Machiavelli, a classical republican whose glory is an imperialism we often practice; and Kant, a liberal republican whose theory of internationalism best accounts for what we are. Despite the contradictions of liberal pacifism and liberal imperialism, I find, with Kant and other democratic republicans, that liberalism does leave a coherent legacy on foreign affairs. Liberal states are different. They are indeed peaceful. They are also prone to make war. Liberal states have created a separate peace, as Kant argued they would, and have also discovered liberal reasons for aggression, as he feared they might. I conclude by arguing that the differences among liberal pacifism, liberal imperialism, and Kant's internationalism are not arbitrary. They are rooted in differing conceptions of the citizen and the state. © 1986, American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.
Article
This work argues that the influence of neoconservatives has been none too small and all too important in the shaping of this monumental doctrine and historic moment in American foreign policy. Through a fascinating account of the central figures in the neoconservative movement and their push for war with Iraq, he reveals the imperial designs that have guided them in their quest for the establishment of a global Pax Americana.
Article
Two and a half years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is once more lapsing into bloody chaos. Although President Hamid Karzai is strong on paper, he is weak in fact. The drug trade is surging, the Taliban are creeping back, and real power rests in the hands of the country's many warlords. Instead of disarming the militias, Washington is using them to hunt the remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban. But ordinary Afghans are paying the price.
Article
America has reached a tepid consensus that accepts a decline of U.S. power in the world as inevitable. Other nations, better judges of power, treat the United States as a hegemon. America should pursue a vision of benevolent hegemony as bold as Reagan's in the 1970s and wield its authority unabashedly. The defense budget should be increased dramatically, citizens should be educated to appreciate the military's vital work abroad, and moral clarity should direct a foreign policy that puts the heat on dictators and authoritarian regimes. Republicans are best fitted to carry out this foreign policy of national honor and elevated patriotism.
Article
No single successor to the containment doctrine could possibly guide U.S. foreign policy after the Cold War. Instead, American policymakers must distinguish between the means and ends of policy and strike the proper balance between the contending schools of thought in each. The task is to fashion a sturdy intellectual framework for policy, one weighted in favor of American leadership and "augmented realism." But the drift toward short-term ad hocracy simply will not do.
Article
With no Soviet threat, America has found it exceedingly difficult to define its "national interest." Foreign policy in a Republican administration should refocus the country on key priorities: building a military ready to ensure American power, coping with rogue regimes, and managing Beijing and Moscow. Above all, the next president must be comfortable with America's special role as the world's leader.
Article
This is the first book to analyze the history of neoconservatism and trace its influence on foreign policy, using new information from interviews and archives. Ehrman focuses on key individuals-Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Norman Podhoretz, and Elliott Abrams, showing the development of their ideas and their place in American conservatism today
Article
The business of peacekeeping has been getting a lot tougher. Rich nations are putting their muscle where their immediate interests lie, leaving the job of patrolling in hardscrabble territory to their less financially capable U.N. colleagues.
On Being Involved with Mankind
  • W F Buckley
Bush Has Tough Words and Rough Enunciation for Iraqi Chief
  • , Buni
The Struggle for the World
  • J Burnham
Making the World Safe for VX
  • F J Gaffney
  • FJ Gaffney
Europe Whole and Free
  • R Kagan
  • W Kristol
Bush Favours Internationalism
  • D Balz
Surrendering to Saddam
  • J Bolton
Kofi Annan's UN Power Grab
  • J Bolton
Conservatives Split on China
  • W F Buckley
America's Responsibility
  • R Kagan
  • W Kristol
The Neo-Conservative Moment
  • J Kosterlitz
‘Morality, Character and American Foreign Policy Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy
  • W J Bennett
Naked Unto Our Enemies
  • A M Codevilla
  • AM Codevilla
The Neoconservative Mind: Politics, Culture and the War of Ideology
  • G Dorrien
The Impossible Imperative: Conjuring Arab Democracy
  • A Garfinkle
Military Might: The United States Military is Becoming too Weak to Fulfil its Strategic Mandate
  • J Hillen
Neocons on the Line: Welcome to the Real World
  • M Hirsh
The Great Divide: American Interventionism and its Opponents
  • J W Caesar
  • JW Caesar
The Neocons in Power
  • E Drew
The Imperative of American Leadership
  • A Garfinkle
The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture Wars
  • M Gerson