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U.S. Foreign Policy After Bush

Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006

We've written before in this space about the beginnings of a search among foreign policy experts and commentators for a post-Bush U.S. foreign policy. It's something we plan to regularly track. And as the U.S. presidential election of 2008 approaches, we hope to move from chronicling the esoteric to chronicling the practical -- examing how the foreign policy debate is reflected in the platforms of likely U.S. presidential candidates.

In the meantime, however, there's plenty of prognosticating and theorizing about the future of U.S. foreign policy that remains to be examined. And plenty of creative names for candidates to be the next brand of American foreign policy -- from American Exemplarism to Ethical Realism.

In an essay in the November issue of the British magazine Prospect, Michael Lind of the New America Foundation makes a very respectable contribution to this oeuvre, though he doesn't give his vision a name. "The World After Bush" argues convincingly that, when it comes to foreign policy, both Bush-style neoconservatism and Clinton- and Blair-style neoliberalism are dead:

Whatever happens, it is clear that the long 1990s are finally over, their utopian hopes beyond realisation. The neoconservative vision of one big global market policed by the hegemonic US in a unipolar world now looks quaint. So does the related neoliberal vision of an alliance of north Atlantic democracies repudiating post-1945 notions of state sovereignty in order to dispatch soldiers and democratic missionaries to end ethnic conflicts, enforce human rights and bring democracy and liberty to the middle east and Africa. The multipolar and mercantilist world coalescing around us looks very different from the unipolar free-market order described by Clinton, Blair and Bush, even though it would have seemed familiar to Richard Nixon and Charles de Gaulle.

The neoconservative fantasy of unilateral global hegemony has been discredited, and the neoliberal dream of a UN-led international order is an illusion as well. A concert of great powers, organised and led by the US, offers the best hope for reconciling international peace with liberal order, in a world in which the perfect remains the enemy of the good.

We would recommend reading the whole thing.