Institute of European Studies
The Rise and Fall of the Bush Doctrine: the Impact on Transatlantic Relations
- Author(s): Vaisse (Vaïsse), Justin
- et al.
Between 2002 and 2005, a relatively coherent and profoundly renewed strategic approach to international relations was developed by the Bush administration. Premised on an optimistic assessment of great power relations ("a balance of power that favors freedom"), it emphasized the importance of promoting democracy as a way to solve many of the long-term political and security problems of the greater Middle East. It rested on the view that American military power and assertive diplomacy should be used to defeat tyrannies, challenge a pernicious status quo and coerce states into abandoning weapons of mass destruction and support for terrorism - without worrying too much about legitimacy or formal multilateralism. The Bush doctrine led to tensions with the Europeans, who for the most part shared neither the world view that underpinned it nor its optimism about possible results, especially as far as geopolitical stability, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction were concerned. Then, in 2005, two silent developments took place: the Bush administration, while insisting on staying the course rhetorically (through "transformational diplomacy"), reverted to classical realism in its actual diplomacy - largely for reasons of expediency. China and India, on the other hand, imposed themselves on the global agenda, bringing multipolarity back into the picture of the world to come. While generally closer to European views, the new American realist line remains distinct from the European insistence on strengthening the rules and institutions of global governance.