Newswise — As President Barack Obama grapples with enormous challenges domestically and abroad, many are asking whether the United States regain its global credibility after eight years under the Bush administration. Ilan Peleg, professor at Lafayette College and author of a new book that examines the long-term impact of George W. Bush's foreign policy, says the answer is "yes."
"If America is to restore its reputation and its capacity to lead the world into a better future, an approach that represents nothing short of a new American grand strategy must be implemented," says Peleg, whose new book The Legacy of George W. Bush's Foreign Policy: Moving Beyond Neoconservatism was published by Westview Press in March.
"The impact of the past eight years poses tremendous challenges for future U.S. presidencies," says Peleg, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Government and Law at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. Professor Peleg, whose book offers a systematic analysis of President Bush's foreign policy, maintains that President Obama's early efforts seem to follow a path toward pursuing a successful foreign-policy turnaround.
"This is obvious from key points he touched on during his inauguration speech, his actions regarding several high-level appointments, and his work thus far," says Professor Peleg. "Obama's efforts seem to move in the right direction"¦they are designed to restore America's reputation, and to address the most important global crises."
Most importantly, notes Peleg, "Obama comprehends the fact that the greatest problems around the world are not merely America's problems—they are global in nature." If America hopes to restore its legitimacy in the international arena, he says: "Obama's administration must work hard to pull the country out of the shadow of Bush's neoconservative agenda."
An essential part of reinventing America's global image is a clear understanding of Bush's foreign policy. Ilan Peleg's book provides a systematic analysis of that policy. Peleg illuminates what he views as the colossal missteps of the Bush administration and identifies foreign policy priorities for the new president. Ultimately, he argues, the United States has not run its course as a global leader, but it needs to change course immediately.
The Obama administration, he says, should pursue new efforts to reduce significantly the nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia as a reaffirmation of the commitment to a new and invigorated nonproliferation regime. Peleg adds: "The United States must also work toward a comprehensive understanding with Russia that will include a commitment not to expand NATO in return for Russian acceptance of the territorial integrity of all states, including all former Soviet republics, and public commitment to nonintervention in the internal affairs of those states."
The Lafayette College professor offers insights on Bush's personality, the White House's unique decision-making process, and the impact of September 11. "In its shift from deterrence and containment to prevention and preemption, from multilateral leadership to unilateral militarism, and from consensual realism to radical neoconservatism, the Bush administration affected a true revolution," he says, "not merely in the means of American foreign policy but in its foundational goals."
Peleg offers a series of judicious recommendations for future administrations, including a concentrated effort to reestablish bipartisan consensus on foreign policy. He also points out that a turnaround can be achieved by: an increased emphasis on multilateralism; the demilitarization of U.S. foreign policy; renewed focus on the resolution of serious regional conflicts; and more realistic expectations about non-coerced democratization around the world.
"If Bush's years in the White House are not to be construed as a complete waste," he argues, "they should serve as a historical laboratory, a testing ground for ideas that might produce a better and brighter future for America and the world."
Note: Digital images of Professor Peleg and of his new book are available.
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The Legacy of George W. Bushâ€™s Foreign Policy: Moving Beyond Neoconservatism