Here‘s a nice, and concise, description from Dan Drezner* of neo-conservatism, the theoretical underpinning of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
Neo-conservatism borrows many ideas from liberal internationalism, though it promotes those ideas in terms of more expansive aims and aggressive methods. The first sentence of the March 2006 National Security strategy reads, “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” Like liberal internationalists, neo-conservatives believe that the spread of free markets, democratic values, and human rights leads to a more prosperous and pacific world. But neo-conservatives reject the “third leg” of the Kantian triad: multilateralism. Whereas liberals put greater faith in international institutions as a means of promoting American interests, neo-conservatives view them as constraints on US action: in place of multilateral agreements, neo-consevatives prefer more unilateral and more forceful means of promoting regime change.
*If you are interested in international political economy, you should take a look at Drezner‘s blog. You also may be interested in his new book–Daniel W. Drezner, All Politics Is Global Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
As we have already discussed, and will discuss further throughout the course, a fundamental tenet of the realist theory of international relations is that the nature of the domestic regime does not matter as it pertains to the manner in which a state acts in the world. Thus, whether a regime is democratic, authoritarian, or even a theocracy, the compelling logic of trying to ensure security in an anarchic world means that all states will act the same way. A corollary of that is that it does not matter, say the realists, whether the leadership of a state is more left-wing or more right-wing, the fundamental character of foreign policy will be the same. Does Drezner agree with the realists?
Drezner also has some interesting things to say about neoconservatism, the theory underpinning the Bush administration’s view of international relations:
It would appear that Americans are now disenchanted with neo-conservatism
as a foreign-policy doctrine. Five years ago, the idea of muscular,
unilaterally-imposed democratization was believed to resonate with
American values in a post-9/11 world. This is no longer the case. In October
2006, a Public Agenda poll found that 83 % of Americans are worried
about the way things are going for the United States in world affairs.
Their new »Anxiety Indicator« found that »a significant majority of the
public is feeling anxious and insecure about the country’s place in the
world.« Iraq – an obsession of neo-conservatives for over a decade now –
is obviously a major cause of this discontent…
…Neo-conservatism will formally expire as the grand strategy of the
United States on January 20, 2009: the date George W. Bush leaves office.
What will take its place? There are myriad ways in which us foreign
policy could diverge from the neo-conservative approach.