Acting Like a Colossus: Bush’s Foreign Policy, Unilateralism, and the Pursuit of Primacy

  • Jon Kraus


One encounters many apparent contradictions when one tries to understand and explain the foreign policies of George W. Bush and company. Bush pledged as a candidate to “renew strong and intimate relationships with allies,” especially America’s traditional allies in Europe. Yet he has, before and after 9/11, treated the policy concerns and status of America’s allies with dismissiveness, on everything from the Kyoto treaty on global warming to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Bush and his foreign policy aide, Condoleezza Rice, vowed privately and publicly to avoid the policies and weaknesses of the Clinton administration, to restore an image of presidential strength. Yet the Bush government has regularly shown itself riven helplessly by open internal policy conflicts, which George Bush proved mostly incapable of resolving. Thus the U.S. government has conveyed the distinct impression abroad and at home of policy paralysis, or retreat. After the 9/11 attacks Bush declared that he would build a worldwide coalition against terrorism, which he, Powell, and Rumsfeld did. But after the successful war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the U.S. government deflected its focus from pursuit of al-Qaeda forces to mount offensive plans against the “axis of evil,” specifically Iraq. This quickly divided severely the political coalition of support so important in the “war on terror.” U.S. unilateralism in policy postures and brash behavior returned in full force.


Foreign Policy International Criminal Court Bush Administration Palestinian Authority Missile Defense 
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© Jon Kraus, Kevin J. McMahon, and David M. Rankin 2004

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  • Jon Kraus

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