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  • America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy
  • Laura A. Stengrim
America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. By Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2003; pp vii + 246. $22.95.

Readers who feel as though they are drowning in the deluge of recently published and forthcoming books and articles that weigh in on the Bush administration, 9/11, the war against terror, the war in Iraq, and the rhetorics of globalization may find reprieve in America Unbound. A lucid, straightforward analysis of how the presidency of George W. Bush squares with—or perhaps even defines—our current historical moment in which globalization morphs into U.S.-driven empire, Daadler's and Lindsay's book offers an even-handed, accessible, and careful critique of the Bush administration. Drawing on speeches made by Bush and other top high-ranking officials, post- 9/11 policy initiatives such as the USA Patriot Act and 2002 National Security Strategy, and a range of popular news magazine and secondary sources that inform public discourse surrounding American politics, the authors attempt to make sense of the causes, characteristics, and consequences of the Bush administration.

America Unbound begins with a brief history of U.S. policies abroad, territorial wars and expansions, and international relationships that became [End Page 704] increasingly important in the first half of the twentieth century. While the United States has historically depended upon a web of strategic military and economic alliances, especially following World War II, Daalder and Lindsay argue that during the Cold War it pursued nationalist interests above all, for "when multilateral organizations refused to heed American wishes, the United States could—and frequently did—act alone" (11). As it muscled into the center of what would be a new unipolar world by century's end, America was positioned for what following 9/11 would become the "Bush strategy" in foreign policy, an agenda of using "America's unprecedented power to remake the world in America's image" (123). America Unbound explains this new strategy by outlining the making of the Bush administration, placing the 9/11 attacks, war against terror, and war in Iraq within historical, military, and political perspective. It concludes with two chapters, "Who's Next" and "The Perils of Power," that consider the long-term implications for global security and U.S. legitimacy of the administration's actions on the world stage following 9/11.

What makes the Bush administration's actions revolutionary is not the goal of American empire but the unilateral and preemptive manner in which it is being carried out. Indeed, as Daadler and Lindsay argue, "the deeper problem was that the fundamental premise of the Bush revolution—that America's security rested on America unbound—was mistaken" (195). The administration took the threat of terrorism as an opportunity to subvert the web of multilateral alliances and cooperative efforts between states, eschewing global teamwork in favor of brutishly going it alone. The critical strength of America Unbound thus lies in Daadler's and Lindsay's portrayal of the complicated tensions and personality conflicts within the administration during the months leading up to the war in Iraq. Rather than grounding their work in the more commonplace realist analysis that faults Bush only in terms of foreign policy, the authors draw on their own Washington experience. In stark contrast to President Clinton before him, they argue that "rather than debate issues endlessly, [Bush] chose to act. And his decisions more often than not reflected his convictions rather than Washington's conventional wisdom" (188).

Daadler and Lindsay know Washington's conventional wisdom well, for they both served during the Clinton administration as part of the National Security Council, Daadler in 1995–96 as director of European affairs and Lindsay in 1996–97 as director of global issues and multilateral affairs. Lindsay currently serves high in the ranks of the Council on Foreign Relations, publisher of Foreign Affairs and one of the premiere independent organizations concerned with U.S. foreign policy. America Unbound therefore combines the efforts of two Washington insiders whose incisive and adept criticisms of the Bush administration are both warranted and convincing. Moreover, the [End Page...


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pp. 704-707
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