Journalist Fred Kaplan offers a scathing critique of the Bush administration’s foreign policy initiatives in his new book, Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power. Here is an excerpt:
Nearly all of America’s blunders in war and peace these past few years stem from a single grand misconception: that the world changed after September 11, when in fact it didn’t. Certainly things about the world changed, not least Americans’ sudden awareness that they were vulnerable. But the way the world works—the nature of power, warfare, and politics among nations—remained essentially the same.
A real change, a seismic shift in global politics, had taken place a decade earlier, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Yet America’s political leaders at the start of the twenty-first century misunderstood this shift—and in a way that their misreading of 9/11 would exacerbate.
George W. Bush and his top aides in the White House and the Pentagon came to office believing that the United States had emerged from its Cold War victory as the world’s ”sole superpower” and that they could therefore do pretty much as they pleased: issue orders and expect obeisance, topple rogue regimes at will, honor alliances and treaties when they were useful, and disregard them when they weren’t.
But in fact, the end of the Cold War made America weaker, less capable of exerting its will on others. And its leaders’ failure to recognize this, their inclination to devise policies based on the premise of omnipotence, made America weaker still. MORE