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Previous US Attitude to Multilateralism Past examples of unilateralism
·During the Cold War period, the US built up a ·Although US unilateralism increased under Bush, the extent to which there
system of alliances to contain Soviet power and was a total break with the past should not be exaggerated. Some of the
sought to limit the risks of conflict through a differences with the Clinton era were more apparent than real the Kyoto
series of multilateral or bilateral treaties. Protocol was signed by Clinton, but it was unlikely to have been passed by the
·Clinton accepted a number of new treaties to Senate.
deal with issues like global warming. ·The idea that the US should not be subject to foreign controls goes back to the
origins of the USA and led to a tradition of isolationism in foreign affairs which
lasted up to the Second World War. This was changed by America's
involvement in WW2 the US emerged as a superpower and took on the
role of global policeman, seeing itself as the champion of freedom
against communism across the world.
·Bush's approach was revolutionary multilateral
institutions or treaties constraining US
power/interests were to be disregarded.
·Signs of this approach in the early years of the Recent Unilateralism
Bush Presidency included withdrawal from the ·However, the US remained cautious about
CTBT, and the Kyoto protocol, and a refusal to embracing international agreements that would
allow American criminals to be tried in the ICC Bush: More restrict its freedom to act independently.
·These decisions reflected the view that as the Unilateralist ·It refused to sign a number of international
global superpower, the US was in a different conventions drawn up by the UN to protect
category to other states and had no obligation to freedoms in various areas, and withdrew from the
work through multilateral institutions where they World Court when it found against it for its support
didn't suit US interests. for rebels fighting the leftist government of
Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Criticism of the US ·Examples of US Multilateralism
·Critics argued that Bush's unilateralism ·Even though the Bush administration was impatient with multilateral
was not only arrogant but also a institutions or agreements seen as acting against US interests, there was
mistaken view of what was best for the a degree of pragmatism multilateralism was accepted where there was
US over the ICC, the CTBT and Kyoto, a benefit for the US, particularly where its economic interests were
for instance. concerned (for instance, it is to the benefit of US corporations to have
·It could be argued that the US's attitude enforceable trade rules).
was undermining goals that it should be ·The US under Bush remained within a number of multilateral institutions,
advancing, and that as the superpower such as WTO, the UN and NATO. It could also be pointed out that while
needed the cooperation of other states, Europeans often disagree with the way in which the US uses its power, in
this approach would prove a crisis they have neither the means nor the will to take action
unsustainable. themselves.…read more
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The aftermath of 9/11 showed how dominant the USA was in the
international system: International Reaction to the Bush
·US air power tipped the balance in Afghanistan and allowed its Doctrine
allies in the Northern Alliance to defeat the Taliban regime, which ·These policies had a major impact on the
protected the al-Qaeda terrorist networks responsible for 9/11. Using USA's relations with other states. While some
bombers based in the US and forces operating from aircraft carriers were prepared to go along with the new
or bases in neighbouring countries, the US destroyed its enemies in approach (notably Britain), much of the
a landlocked central Asian country with minimal US casualties. international goodwill towards the US that
·The attack on Afghanistan also led the US to build up a network of had followed 9/11 was dissipated, sharpening
bases in Central Asia that made it a powerful player in a region European concerns about US unilateralism
previously overshadowed by Russia and China. and `hyper power' and leading to a serious rift
·Countries scrambled to line up with the US. As well as the in relations between the US and France,
Europeans, Russia and China (both facing Islamic rebels) supported Germany and Russia over Iraq in 2003.
the attack on Afghanistan and Pakistan abandoned its earlier ·US treatment of the alleged terrorists
support for the Taliban and offered the US bases. detained at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba also
became highly controversial, and this has
become another example of the unilateralism
which has alienated much international
The `Bush Doctrine':
Impact of 9/11
·Americans will seek global military dominance
and will not allow any rivals. They reserve the right and the War on
to take pre-emptive action against any state Terror
attempting to gain WMD or sponsoring terrorism.
Signs of the influence of the Bush Doctrine included:
Strengthened the Bush Doctrine and the Neocons.
·Further increases in the US defence budget (already 40% of
·9/11 also strengthened the unilateralist direction in US foreign
global defence spending.
policy and the influence of the neocons.
·A new urgency about tackling threats to the US and its allies
·The dangers facing the US had been made obvious in the most
from `rogue states'- particularly those described by Bush in
dramatic way, and a strategy for dealing with them was essential.
Jan 2002 as `the axis of evil' (Iraq, N. Korea, Iran), and above
·This provided an ideal opportunity for the neocons - they offered
all Iraq, the targets of the `neo-cons' from before 9/11.
a coherent response to these dangers, and many of their ideas,
·A preference for `coalitions of the willing', controlled by the
which were already shared by leading figures in the
US, rather than multilateral alliances, where decisions had to
Administration to some extent, were now taken up, most evidently
be agreed - NATO was not called upon for the attack
in the National Security Strategy in 2002 (which formalised what
on Afghanistan, and a similar approach was
became known as the `Bush Doctrine').
to be followed in Iraq.…read more
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Why the USA went to war in Iraq The Aftermath of the Iraq War
·The Bush Administration's motives for the war have to be In the wake of its Iraq policy, the US left some of the key
seen in the context of 9/11; the Administration was institutions badly damaged. The UN was sidelined, NATO
determined to deal with states regarded as a threat because weakened and the EU divided (Britain, Spain, Italy and a number
of their opposition to US interests, possession of weapons of of other countries, including the Eastern European applicants,
mass destruction and actual or potential links with terrorist backed the war Rumsfeld enraged France and Germany by
groups. At the top of this list was Iraq. contrasting `new' and `old' Europe).
·Neocons like Wolfowitz saw the overthrow of Relations between the US and France and Germany were
Saddam as crucial in building a stable and badly strained and relations with Russia suffered a setback. The
democratic Middle East and safeguarding Israel. rights and wrongs of the US approach have been fiercely
Why the USA went to war in Iraq II. The Invasion
·Bush was assured that Saddam had WMD by the ·With Bush giving up on the inspections, Blair persuaded him
CIA, even thought there was no hard evidence (some to attempt a further UN resolution to authorise war. However,
of the material was provided by exiles with a vested the UNSC was deeply divided and this would have been
interest in his removal). The Iraq impossible, given French and Russian opposition.
·The evidence was presented with greater certainty ·The US proceeded to war, claiming that the authority in
War Resolution 1441 and previous resolutions was sufficient. What
than was warranted, as the failure to find WMD
demonstrates. Much was made of the danger that he had begun as a sign that the US was willing to work
might transfer WMD to terrorists to use against the US multilaterally ended as a diplomatic defeat for the US and a
and its allies, which linked action against Saddam to supreme example of unilateralism, with the US leading an
the war on terrorism (though there was no credible attack on Iraq with no UN backing and a `coalition' that
connection between Saddam and al Qaeda). effectively was just the US and UK.
·The need for a more reliable supply of oil than the
unstable Saudi Arabia and US domestic politics may
also have been important (the benefits for Bush of a
victory over the US's old enemy, which the US public
would view as retaliation for 9/11, before the The Beginning
Presidential elections in 2004). ·Bush was persuaded by Powell and Blair to act multilaterally in
the hope that that renewed UN inspections would disarm Saddam,
causing the regime to collapse. Things began well the UNSC
passed Resolution 1441 unanimously and Saddam agreed to allow
the UN inspectors to return.
·However, the outcome was regarded as a failure in Washington
there only partial compliance by Saddam and the weapons
inspectors refused to provide a pretext for immediate war, insisting
that more time was needed to test whether the inspection process
could disarm Iraq. This view was supported by those powers in the
Security Council who were opposed to war, including not only
Russia but also France and Germany.…read more
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·The US was forced to seek an
accommodation with the UN and its
opponents on the UNSC in order to
legitimise its occupation of Iraq.
Consequences for the Neocons see next
·France, Germany and Russia forced the
US to give the UN a role in Iraq (as UN
sanctions preventing the free sale of Iraqi oil
remained in force until lifted by the UNSC,
this gave them some leverage).
The Initial Aftermath The UN - continued
·The outcome of the war seemed to signal the ·Both sides made some concessions the Europeans
triumph of the neocons and of unilateralism. and Russians accepted the Coalition remaining in
·Neocons welcomed the sidelining of the UN control of Iraq for at least another year, until an Iraqi
over Iraq they were unhappy about Bush's US Foreign government could be formed; the US gave the UN an
decision to seek UN sanction for action in the Policy advisory role in the setting up of such a government,
first place, because it placed restraints on US though not the ability to control the process.
power. ·In June 2004 the period of conflict over Iraq in the
·They argued that the UN was irrelevant - their Iraq War UNSC was finally closed when a unanimous
preference was for the UN to be limited to resolution was passed that endorsed an interim
matters like provision of aid and for the US to government and set up the timetable for a transition to
act when necessary with `coalitions of the an elected government. It also legitimised the US led
willing'. coalition forces occupying Iraq.
·Limitations to US power have been
revealed the US has struggled to
contain insurgency in Iraq, battling both
Sunni and Shia militants who can't be
crushed using hi-tech weaponry.
·The occupation has become unpopular
in the US itself by the end of 2005,
Bush had an approval rating of 37%.…read more
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Neocon Mistakes in Iraq
·The post-war occupation of Iraq was run by the
`neocons' patrons in the Administration, Cheney and The Failure of the Neocon Dream
Rumsfeld, who had made no detailed plans in ·The neocons' optimism that Iraq and the region
advance and made a series of blunders in the crucial would embrace democracy and regard the US
first few months. forces as liberators now seems naïve.
·The Iraqi army was disbanded, putting thousands of ·The US Administration claimed that the high
angry and armed ex-soldiers onto the streets. turnouts in the 2005 Iraqi elections showed the
·Too few US troops were sent, no attempt was made war had been a success in bringing democracy to
to prevent looting, and the Iraqi borders weren't Iraq, and that it had also influenced other moves
sealed, allowing militants to move in from outside. towards democracy in the region for instance,
·These factors led to the collapse of order in Iraq elections in the Palestinian Authority.
and an explosion of insurgency and violence which ·However, the outcome has hardly been
alienated Iraqis and destroyed their respect for US encouraging in Iraq and Palestine and there has
power, as well as making it almost impossible to been little or no progress in democratising
rebuild the economy. repressive regimes elsewhere in the region, such
as US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Neocons of the
US Moral Authority Undermined
·The `neo-con' vision was based on US strength Negative Effects
but also on its supposed moral authority as a force ·The Taliban regrouped in Afghanistan.
for good, bringing a better system of government ·Critics argue that the War has played into Bin
to the brutal dictatorships of the Middle East. Laden's hands, as it has alienated millions of
·This claim has been undermined in the US itself Muslims and galvanised Islamic militants to
and internationally by civilian casualties in Iraq and attack US and Western targets in Iraq and
accusations of torture and human rights violations elsewhere proof for them that the Iraq War has
by the Americans in Abu Ghraib. been a disaster for the `War on Terror'.…read more