Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

US Foreign Policy: Continuity or Rupture?

No data is associated with this publication.

James Mann refutes the idea that George W. Bush’s foreign policy was a rupture from previous administrations. He does find that it took previous policies much further but these trends had already been in place. He points to a number of military interventions to bolster his case including Haiti, Somalia, Panama, Iraq and Yugoslavia. He notes that previous administrations in foreign policy have acted unilaterally though not to the degree of the Bush administration, have promoted democracy, have used military force without Congressional approval, and have reserved the right to preemption. However, the Bush administration used preemption, unlike previous administrations, to intimidate a region. Mann argues that this administration was also different from its predecessors because its military strategy in Iraq was a “complete failure”. He ends by raising the counterfactual of what Gore would have done if he had been elected in 2000.

John Mueller weighs three themes to determine the continuity and change between the Clinton and second Bush’s administrations. In “policing” the world order, the Bush administration departed from the previous strategy of intervention and withdrawal from civil wars and toppling uncooperative despots since 1989. Instead, it chose to “stay the course” in Iraq and Afghanistan. In terrorism and nuclear proliferation, the Bush administration generally continued the policies carried on by the Clinton administration. He finalizes his remarks with some consideration of what might transpire if Iran produces a nuclear weapon.

Ronald Steel suggests that the legacy of the second Bush administration is different from previous presidencies because of the results of the latest phase of the Iraq War. In part, the goals were not a significant departure from the first Bush or Clinton administrations but the desire to impose a democracy on Iraq was the beginning of failure. Thus, the winners of the war were anti-imperialists, “mobilizers of terror”, and China. It split NATO, heightened US debt, undermined domestic civil liberties and weakened future military responses to problems elsewhere in the world. However, Steel does not consider these negatives as destroying the Pax Americana rather it will produce a reordering of priorities for the US.

The accompanying audio files provide the complete recording of the two talks.

Main Content

Mann talk


Mueller talk


Steel talk