U.S. Grand Strategy: A Look into the Clinton and Bush Administrations

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The Washington Center|
U.S. Grand Strategy|
A look into the Clinton and Bush Administrations|


Steven Pflug
Olof Kronvall
U.S. Foreign Policy and Military Power after the Cold War

American Grand Strategy and Foreign Policy has changed drastically after the Cold War. This change was inevitable due to the fact that the Soviet Union fell and communism no longer posed the direct threat to the United States and its allied nations. As a result, Presidents William “Bill” Clinton and George W. Bush were faced with the task of providing America with a new Grand Strategy. Grand strategy is a term that is used in reference to the plans and policies that are implemented by a nation in order to strengthen their economic, military, diplomatic and political areas of policy to strengthen the nation on a global level. This term requires a nation to act on the threats or issues that face the country. Grand Strategy is the big picture of nation’s goals and outlines them in such a way that policy makers and political and military leaders can discuss and formulate plans and contingences which, in theory, will allow the nation to overcome their obstacles and flourish in success. Barry R. Posen and Andrew L. Ross’s work Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy illustrates that multiple Grand Strategies can be proposed to deal with and overcome a problem in very different ways, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. What is absurd about this concept of different ways to handle a single problem is that the results are drastically different. This kind of debate illustrates the diversity of the United States as a nation and how a Grand Strategy may seem like the best course of action on paper, but when implemented could have a negative impact on moral of the citizens, public opinion of the current administration and how the nation appears on an international level. During the Clinton Administration, United States Grand Strategy shifted from a policy of containment to a wide variety of focuses from the economy to involvement in nations which require humanitarian aid. The Clinton Administration focused primarily on the domestic policies in his early years as president such as the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Bill Clinton’s phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” highlighted a key aspect of his questionable Grand Strategy early on in his presidency. In addition, Clinton had a lack of experience with regards to foreign policy. This resulted in broad foreign policies which impacted the way Grand Strategy was defined under the Clinton Administration. President George W. Bush and his administration faced several obstacles with regard to grand strategy, most notably the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. The president’s policies had changed drastically as a result of these events. Pre-September 11, 2001, Bush’s stance on global affairs was primarily on “issues of Great Power politics, rogue states, and disdaining nation building,” (Daalder 1). In other words, they focused their policies on great power politics, strengthened diplomacy with nations such as Russia and China to further U.S. prosperity, reduction in nuclear arms as well as a focus on rogue states such as North Korea, Iran, the nations which are preserved to threaten world peace. Although there were some similar policies, Bush focused more on the War on Terror and spread of democracy primarily through the Middle East as opposed to the whole global community. The Bush Doctrine served as a key component in his latter Grand Strategy. It could be illustrated that Grand Strategy is a necessary part in any nations survival, but could also result in a lack of support of the citizens of that nation, in this case the United States of America. It is important to realize that this concept has the potential of resulting in a time of prosperity and security. The danger of any strategy is it failing and,...
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