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From Berlin to Baghdad

From Berlin to Baghdad: America's Search for Purpose in the Post-Cold War World

Hal Brands
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    From Berlin to Baghdad
    Book Description:

    On November 9, 1989, a mob of jubilant Berliners dismantled the wall that had divided their city for nearly forty years; this act of destruction anticipated the momentous demolition of the European communist system. Within two years, the nations of the former Eastern Bloc toppled their authoritarian regimes, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist, fading quietly into the shadows of twentieth century history and memory. By the end of 1991, the United States and other Western nations celebrated the demise of their most feared enemy and reveled in the ideological vindication of capitalism and liberal democracy.

    As author Hal Brands compellingly demonstrates, however, many American diplomats and politicians viewed the fall of the Soviet empire as a mixed blessing. For more than four decades, containment of communism provided the overriding goal of American foreign policy, allowing generations of political leaders to build domestic consensus on this steady, reliable foundation.From Berlin to Baghdadincisively dissects the numerous unsuccessful attempts to devise a new grand foreign policy strategy that could match the moral clarity and political efficacy of containment. Brands takes a fresh look at the key events and players in recent American history.

    In the 1990s, George H. W. Bush envisioned the United States as the guardian of a "new world order," and the Clinton administration sought the "enlargement" of America's political and economic influence. However, both presidents eventually came to accept, albeit grudgingly, that America's multifaceted roles, responsibilities, and objectives could not be reduced to a single fundamental principle. During the early years of the George W. Bush administration, it appeared that the tragedies of 9/11 and the subsequent "war on terror" would provide the organizing principle lacking in U.S. foreign policy since the containment of communism became an outdated notion. For a time, most Americans were united in support of Bush's foreign policies and the military incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq.

    As the swift invasions became grinding occupations, however, popular support for Bush's policies waned, and the rubric of the war on terror lost much of its political and rhetorical cachet.From Berlin to Baghdadcharts the often onerous course of recent American foreign policy, from the triumph of the fall of the Berlin Wall to the tragedies of 9/11 and beyond, analyzing the nation's search for purpose in the face of the daunting complexities of the post--Cold War world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5932-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    “We have found our mission and our moment,” said George W. Bush on September 20, 2001.¹ Although Bush was referring to the launching of a global “war on terror,” his words also signaled that the decade of incoherence known vaguely as the post-Cold War era was at a close. As the president identified a monolithic enemy and defined the next great calling of U.S. foreign policy, he declared an end to a twelve-year period that had been notable mainly for its lack of a diplomatic paradigm such as Bush now proposed. At the dawn of a new millennium, the president...

  6. 1 Beyond the Cold War?
    (pp. 8-38)

    By 1988, more than forty years had passed since Americans had known anything other than the Cold War as the defining aspect of their relationship with the world. Containment, the grand strategy that governed the United States’ part in this conflict, was omnipresent in the practice and conception of foreign policy. Though there was no shortage of debate over the when, where, and how of containment, the what and why were largely above challenge. For four decades, the Cold War had dominated foreign policy, providing structure and coherence to the American worldview.¹

    Indeed, the Cold War was so familiar to...

  7. 2 Peace Elusive
    (pp. 39-73)

    For a brief time, it looked as if the end of the Cold War might bring the United States something in the way of a peace dividend. Having acquiesced only reluctantly in the military buildup necessitated by the Cold War, Americans asked for their money back when the conflict came to a close. After the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989, the Defense Department came under increasing pressure to cut spending. Partly in response to this criticism, and partly in the hope of staving off additional slashing, Pentagon planners completed a plan for post-Cold War military reform in early August...

  8. 3 The Search for Order
    (pp. 74-100)

    If containment was the standard for foreign policy, however, meeting that standard would be difficult indeed. During the Cold War, anticommunism had provided an intellectual structure to foreign policy, allowing U.S. officials to prioritize commitments and objectives according to a fairly (and often deceptively) uncomplicated calculus. Although this litmus test misinformed as often as it guided, it still served as a relatively straightforward means of evaluating individual initiatives. By 1991, there was no longer such an obvious measure of foreign policy. Instead of facing a single dominant threat, the United States now confronted multiple perils. Moreover, although each of these...

  9. 4 The Successor to Containment
    (pp. 101-127)

    Bush’s lack of commitment to the New World Order had been one problem with his attempt to define a new U.S. mission; the imperatives of the U.S. political system posed another. Just weeks after U.S. forces finally arrived in Somalia, lending some (but not much) credibility to Bush’s doctrine, the presidency changed hands. Bill Clinton thus assumed the task of shaping foreign policy in what, for lack of a better term, was still awkwardly referred to as the post-Cold War world.

    In some respects, Clinton seemed less likely than his predecessor to meet this challenge. Whereas Bush was a seasoned...

  10. 5 Unmaking Enlargement
    (pp. 128-158)

    Unsettling portents aside, enlargement was at its high point in September 1993. Though criticism of humanitarian intervention in Somalia had surfaced during the summer, Clinton’s affirmation of policy on UN missions allayed fears that the president would hand over U.S. sovereignty to the unelected bureaucrats of that international body. American troops were distributing food, hunting warlords, and building order in Somalia, making that country the first recipient of enlargement’s benefits. On the economic side, the overall outlook remained fairly bright as well. NAFTA was en route to congressional approval, Clinton having cleared the way with his considerable political facility. Enlargement’s...

  11. 6 Whither Foreign Policy?
    (pp. 159-197)

    Forging a replacement for containment would be more difficult than it had initially appeared. But what if containment was not destined to have a successor of equal simplicity and political strength? Although this proposition had been heretical at the outset of the decade, by 1996, it looked quite likely. Even as enlargement crumbled, other developments in Clinton’s on-the-job education in foreign policy cast doubt on the administration’s earlier insistence on crafting a fully cohesive strategy. The debate over enlargement had dominated Clinton’s early involvement in foreign affairs, masking broader geopolitical and policy trends. In particular, the very fact that Clinton...

  12. 7 Post–Bumper Sticker Diplomacy
    (pp. 198-230)

    What Clinton resolved toward the end of his first term he remained faithful to for the balance of his presidency. Despite the departure of some of the old cast and the appearance of new faces in the National Security Council, Clinton’s second administration hewed closely to the strategic formulation arrived at in the latter part of the first. As Strobe Talbott and new national security adviser Sandy Berger liked to say, foreign policy could no longer be expressed on a bumper sticker. Discarded after the fall of enlargement, one-word encapsulations of national security strategy were nowhere to be found during...

  13. 8 The Politics of Foreign Policy
    (pp. 231-262)

    In late 1997, Strobe Talbott addressed the question of whether the lack of a rhetorical paradigm in foreign policy might complicate the administration’s attempts to justify its individual diplomatic initiatives. If not motivated by a clear threat or compelling goal, he acknowledged, Americans tended to lose interest in foreign affairs. “Without doubt, there is, in the American body politic, a nerve of isolationism,” he conceded. Many of Clinton’s advisers worried "that the nation would have trouble making the transition from an era in which the main purpose of American foreign policy could be expressed, literally, on a bumper sticker—‘Contain...

  14. 9 Full Circle
    (pp. 263-301)

    The next administration was keenly aware of both the continuing uncertainty of U.S. policy and the unsettling precedent of the Clinton years. Condoleezza Rice, a National Security Council official under George H. W. Bush and a campaign adviser to his son, was particularly troubled by the course of events over the last decade. During this period, she asserted in 2000, the United States had failed to accustom itself to the new shape of international affairs. One telling indication of this failure was that the period was still referred to as the post-Cold War era. Defining the times according to what...

  15. 10 Waging the War on Terror
    (pp. 302-334)

    As it turned out, the drawbacks to the moral and logical reductionism of the war on terror were not long to appear. By 2006, the simplicity offered by Bush’s strategy had proved to be less than the cure-all that so many observers had predicted or hoped. In some cases, the moralistic nature of the president’s diplomacy served as a hindrance rather than an aid to the conduct of foreign policy. At other points, U.S. officials succumbed to the temptation to make matters “clearer than truth,” using the war on terror as singular justification for initiatives whose origins were in fact...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 335-340)

    In many ways, these two quotations encapsulate U.S. foreign policy during the long 1990s. Bush’s statement touched on perceptions that the geopolitical rigidity of the Cold War had vanished and also (unconsciously, perhaps) hinted at the manner in which the legacy of the superpower conflict contributed to characterizations of the period that followed. The 1990s were such a “blank slate” to Bush and his colleagues largely because they came on the heels of an era in which structure was believed to be the rule. Lake’s quip, in contrast, hinted that this declension created as many problems as it solved.


  17. Notes
    (pp. 341-388)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 389-410)
  19. Index
    (pp. 411-418)