President Bush Goes Soft

The first term of George W. Bush’s presidency was marked by unilateralism and military power. The United States was the world’s only superpower, so others had to follow. The result was a dramatic decline in America’s “soft” or attractive power. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he did not know what soft power was. Now it is back in fashion in Washington.

Bush’s second inaugural address was devoted to the power of liberty and democracy. Such rhetoric is not new to American presidents. Harry Truman spoke of defending free people everywhere, and Woodrow Wilson spoke of promoting democracy. The neo-conservatives in Bush’s first administration were in that tradition, but ignored the fact that both Wilson and Truman were also institution-builders who consulted other countries. In dropping that half of Wilson’s approach, they stepped on their own message, reducing its effectiveness.

The tone at the beginning of the second Bush administration is different. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said recently in Paris: “I use the word ‘power’ broadly, because even more important than military and indeed economic power is the power of ideas, the power of compassion, and the power of hope.” Bush not only chose to visit Brussels, the capital of the European Union, on his February trip to Europe, but stated that what “we seek to achieve in the world requires that America and Europe remain close partners.” Even Rumsfeld is trying to be conciliatory!

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/qzNhQ6A;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now