The defeat of Donald Trump in November 2020 followed by the attack on the US Congress on 6th January 2021 represented a tipping point moment in the history of the American republic. Divided at home and facing a world sceptical of American claims to be the ‘indispensable nation’ in world politics, it is clear that the next few years will be decisive ones for the United States. But how did the US, which was riding high only 30 years ago, arrive at this critical point? And will it lead to the fall of what many would claim has been one of the most successful empires of modern times?
In this volume, Michael Cox, a leading scholar of American foreign policy, outlines the ways in which five very different American Presidents – Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden – have addressed the complex legacies left them by their predecessors while dealing with the longer-term problems of running an empire under increasing stress. In so doing, he sets out a framework for thinking critically about US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War without ever losing sight of the biggest question of all: can America continue to shape world affairs or is it now facing long-term decline?
Thirty years ago following the collapse of the USSR, the United States had every reason to believe that its dominant position in the international order was assured. What then happened to undermine this confidence and to lead so many writers to conclude the ‘America Century’ was over and that a post-American world beckoned? This book explains how this occurred and explains its deeper causes, but concludes that in spite of all the challenges it faces at home post-Trump – not to mention the rise of China and the re-emergence of Russia – what is called the American empire here still remains the most powerful nation in the international system.
Joe Biden entered the White House with enormous legislative and foreign policy experience. Having been elected then set about building bridges to old allies, claiming that America was back. Meanwhile, at home he set about rebuilding the US economy in the midst of a still significant pandemic. The question remained open as to whether or not Biden could succeed in doing either or both? The US may have remained the most powerful nation on earth – in spite of the rise of China – but its future remained uncertain.
This chapter explores the many facets of democracy promotion as one part of Clinton’s grand strategy. It examines why his administration opted for the defined policy of ‘democratic enlargement’. It also asks whether the Clinton admin¬istration was ever as idealistically committed to the promotion of democracy as its supporters and critics believed? What was the relationship between democracy promotion and Clinton’s stated goal of pursuing America’s economic goals. And what was, or is, ‘Wilsonianism’, and was Clinton a new Woodrow Wilson?
Clinton has been much criticized for having no grand strategy. This chapter refutes this argument and explains in detail what lay at the heart of the ‘Clinton Doctrine’: namely a ruthless determination to ensure that America remained number one in a fast globalizing economy. The first part outlines Clinton’s well developed political economy. The chapter then goes on to examine some of the key people who helped set Clinton’s eco¬nomic agenda. This is followed by a consideration of some of the many practical implications of his approach. Finally, we look at some of the problems involved with implementing his ‘win the economic race’ strategy.
The attack of 9/11 changed the direction of US foreign policy for ever. It also changed America too. Its most immediate result was (what turned out to be) the temporary defeat of the Taliban and its allies. But it also provided those in the Bush administration with a legitimate cover for going to war in Iraq and declaring ‘war’ on all those organizations and states deemed to be supporting terrorism. The longer term consequences of this decision were to prove deeply consequential for American power
When Obama entered the White House in 2008 he did so at a critical juncture defined on the one hand by a costly and increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, and on the other by the greatest economic crisis to hit the USA since the depression. How successfully did he deal with these challenges and other equally important security questions such as China’s rise and Russia’s return as a great power? And was there an ‘Obama Doctrine’ designed to deal with a post-American world?
The debate about whether or not the United States is or is not an empire has gone on for several years. Denied by most mainstream writers but regarded as the only way of defining America’s position in the world by the left, during the 1990s and into the Bush years the idea of empire became increasingly popular amongst a range of writers, many on the ideological right. What was the significance of the debate and how did it help define Bush’s foreign policy?
The transatlantic relationship faced many challenges during the Cold War. With the passing of the Cold War these became more difficult to manage. Two are discussed here: the clash across the Atlantic precipitated by Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2002-3, and Obama’s ‘tilt to Asia’ which left Europeans wondering where they fitted into America’s world view.
The Clinton administration invested a great deal of time and effort (though not dollars) in supporting the transition from the old USSR to a new democratic Russia underwritten it was hoped by a ‘normal’ functioning market economy. If the US could facilitate the transition to a more western-style political economy (as was beginning to happen in Central and Eastern Europe) then according to Clinton the future looked bright indeed for Russia and the world. If however reform in Russia failed, the United States and the West would face a very insecure future with the strong possibility of a renewed nuclear threat, higher defence budgets, spreading instability, the loss of new markets and a devastating setback for the worldwide democratic movement. Engaging with reform therefore was not just in Russia’s interest, but in America’s too. So why did Clinton fail? Why was Putin the result?