Bush Doctrine and Hegemonism
In the 1900s, American economy developed rapidly. However, it fell into a recession in March 2003, in which national economy experienced a negative growth, the unemployment rate increased sharply, and social poverty intensified. American global economic hegemony had been challenged by other developed capitalist countries. Moreover, the anti-American wave was raising at that time. September 11 terrorist attacks was the manifestations of extreme anti-Americanism. The United States was unwilling to give up its hegemonic status , and in order to strengthen its international influence, Bush and his administration came out with the “pre-emptive strategy” to maintain American international hegemony.
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September 11 terrorist attacks shocked the United States and the world, it caused a tremendous and far-reaching impact on American society. The attacks altered the way of how Americans thought of terrorism. Up until then, most people were optimistic or certainly had a sense that terrorist attacks were something that happened overseas, but not in the United States. Americans suddenly lost their sense of security, and at the same time, it proved the idea in a shocking way that “this is still a world of terror and missiles and madmen” (A Change to Keep, 1999) as Bush wrote in his book. September 11 was a turning point in U.S. history, it showed that America had become a target of hatred and anti-Americanism forces in the world.
September 11 had several impacts on Bush and his administration. First, terrorism became a national security concern and Bush’s priority. The attacks greatly impacted America’s security concern, created a sense of vulnerability and exposed the drawbacks of national security strategy. National Security advisor Rice said, “There has been an end to innocence about international politics and about our own vulnerability.” (Condoleezza Rice, 2002). Hence, as mentioned in Bush doctrine, America launched a new security strategy of pre-emptive strike against terrorism and rogue states in National Security Report. Second, the influence of Neo-conservatism enhanced with the Bush administration. After September 11 attacks, Bush administration almost completely adopted Neo-conservatism’s policy propositions. In 2002, they came out with a series of foreign policies to vigorously promote war on terrorism, stop the proliferation of WMDs, pre-emptive strikes, and democracy in the Middle East. In regard to Iraq, they hoped to replace Saddam’s regime with a democratic system, further, lead to a wave of democracy in order to promote democratization throughout the region.
The eight years of Reagan administration were a period of great development of neo-conservative. Many neo-conservatives figures became senior officials of the government, and neo-cons ideology became the mainstream. Bush was a faithful conservative believer who was convinced of the neo-conservatives ideology, and the neo-conservatives had a major impact on Bush’s foreign policy in his first presidential term. Neo-conservatives are hawkish idealists who believe American strength and primacy is good for the world. They think that strength is the prerequisite and most important condition for the United States to be a world leader. Allies are willing to follow America because American strength will provide them with security, and the non-alliance does not dare to challenge the United States because of the fear of American strength. Neo-conservatives emphasize that military as a “hard” force is the most effective way of achieving national strategic goals, so they think spending in defense must increase, and American military must be transformed. As part of hegemonism, neo-conservatives see American as a unique exceptional power, it’s American mission to spread liberty and democracy over the world. They directly point out that the threat against America after cold war is the so-called “fail country”, especially the “rogue state”. The fundamental way to eliminate the threat is through regime change, and they justify the war against Saddam as to bring democracy throughout Middle East. Neo-conservatives impact on Bush administration reached its peak when Bush declared war against Iraq. However, it was also the beginning of downturn of neo-conservatives. The predicament of the United States caused by post-war in Iraq had made neo-conservatives influence on Bush gradually declined.
Under the influence of September 11 and the neo-conservatives, Bush submitted the National Security Strategy to Congress in September 2002, which concluded, “Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. We cannot let out enemies strike first.” (Bush, 2002). Bush doctrine was officially formed. Bush and his administration started to treat terrorism as the greatest threat against the United States, they adopted a unilateral diplomatic and pre-emptive military strategy, tying to protect the absolute interests and security of the United States.
According to Robert Jervis, the Bush doctrine has four key elements: a strong American can transform international politics; the perception of great threats that can be defeated by pre-emptive strike; the willingness to act unilaterally when necessary; an overriding sense that peace and stability require the United States to its policy in world politics. (Understanding the Bush Doctrine, 2003). The Iraq war is the exercise and example of Bush doctrine. The United States claimed that Saddam acquired weapons of massive destruction and declared war against Iraq. Even though Saddam’s regime was overthrown by America, WMDs was never found in Iraq, and the WMD Commission Report indicated that Bush administration was wrong about the assessments on Saddam.
The consequences of Iraq war are complicated. There are both positive and negative impacts on the United States. On one hand, America toppled Saddam Hussein’s government, which led to further control of the situation in the Middle East. On the other hand, America also paid its toll on its diplomacy. For example, the collapse of Saddam’s regime does not mean that the extremist forced have ended. Instead, it further stimulates the contradiction between extremist forces and the United States, and intensified the extremist forces taking irrational, violent actions against the United States because of hatred. In addition, the Iraq war caused oil prices to rise, which worsened the world’s economy. Moreover, the United States’ practice of bypassing the United Nations and its allies has once again weakened the influence and power of the United Nations in safeguarding world peace.
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With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War, the international system experienced a structural change: the bipolar structure was disintegrated, and the international power was out of balance. The United States became the world’s only superpower, with unparalleled advantages in terms of economy, technology, military, culture, and international influence. All of which enabled the United States to establish an absolute dominant position in the world. The United States as the most powerful country in the world which gives itself much more leverage in shaping the international system, and the United States has fully utilized this advantage. It firmly grasps the ability of establishing international organizations, international rules, and international order, and hopes to use the international system to serve its hegemony. It also regards the international system as an important factor in implementing and maintaining hegemonism.
The Unites States’ hegemony is largely reflected in the layout of international institutions and organizations. It is based on the construction of the international order, with the United Nation as the main organization in the field of international political security; with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization as the basis systems in the field of international economy; and the deployment of the Non-proliferation Treaty, the US-Japan alliance, etc. These above several fields are interrelated, and together, constitute the global expansion of the United States.
The Bush administration’s unilateral foreign policy violates the consensus of the international community. These foreign policies have thus lost legitimacy, which has not only weakened the influence of the international system in the international community, but also hindered the process of building a new international political order. It also caused serious harm to the political security of other counties, especially the third world counties. While the unilateral acts of the U.S. government have affected the international system and other counties, they also weaken the international power of the United States.
- Bush, A Change to Keep, p.239.
- Remarks by National Security Advisor Codonleezza Rice on Terrorism and Foreign Policy, SAIA, John Hopkins University, Washington, D.C., April 2002.
- National Security Strategy of the United States of America, p.15.
- R. Jervis, Understanding the Bush Doctrine. Political Science Quarterly, 2003.
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