Foreign Policymaking on Partisan Ground

On the other hand in its military interventionism on

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Bush’s strategy to reverse the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait was classic realpolitik. On the other hand, in its military interventionism on the largest scale since the war in Vietnam, and in its Manichean rhetorical trope that equated Saddam Hussein with Adolph Hitler, Bush’s big war was a spectacular revival of Republican doctrine (and faced significant opposition from Democrats in the Senate). However, the president and his top advisers held back at the climactic moment of the war, halting the American military advance well before it could unseat the Iraqi regime. Bush received considerable criticism for 32
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this caution at the time, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein remained an idée fixe of Republican conservatives until his son did the job. But the second Gulf War cast a retrospective glow on Bush’s prudence in the first one: unlike the son, the father perceived the risks of slaughter in the streets of Baghdad, a lengthy American occupation, and a power vacuum tailor made for more dangerous adversaries than Saddam. 50 Bill Clinton: Bill Clinton’s foreign policy was frequently criticized as incoherent. For a world in which superpower rivalry had been supplanted by a welter of smaller conflicts whose relevance to the United States was often unclear, the lack of overarching strategic doctrine during his presidency was understandable. But Clinton also sufered from an ambiguous background in foreign policy: a McGovern campaign stafer in his youth, the chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council on the eve of his run for the presidency. Further compounding the problem for his foreign policy, Clinton’s experience and interest lay in domestic afairs during a brief period in which much of the American public demanded this focus as it lost interest in the world outside national borders. Despite these complications, Clinton’s course in foreign policy over his eight years in office largely followed the dynamic pattern of his immediate Republican predecessors. Consistent with his party’s doctrine during his first years in office, Clinton aimed to cut the defense budget, reaping a “peace dividend” from the end of the Cold War; to keep U.S. forces out of the brutal civil wars in the Balkans; to support a greater military capacity for the United Nations in conducting peacekeeping missions; to promote global economic development and a “democratic peace”; and to advance a liberal social agenda by attempting to integrate gays and lesbians into the armed forces. Predictably, these reflections of Democratic doctrine drew accusations of weakness from Republican leaders. 33
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Opposed by the conservative Republicans that took over Congress in 1995, constrained by the institutions of the national security state, and subjected to the sheer force of international events that he could not ignore, Clinton moved some distance away from his party’s pure doctrine over the course of his two presidential terms. A sharp critic of President Bush during the 1992 campaign for slighting
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