Op-Ed20 years after 9/11, the us is again in a an excellent power confrontationJames GoldgeierFriday, September 10, 2021
Editor's Note:The end of the Cold war scrambled U.S. Foreign policy — and then 9/11 scrambled the again, writes James Goldgeier. Here"s what remains the same. This post originally showed up in The Washington Post.

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In the mid-2000s, Derek Chollet and also I decided to write a book about the years in between the end of the Cold War and also the begin of the battle on terrorism. This to be a period in i m sorry the United claims stood atop the world, with overwhelming political, economic, military, diplomatic and ideological power. We wrote of 9/11 that in “an instant, it seemed the core concern raised through the autumn of the Berlin wall on 11/9 — what to perform with American power missing a an international adversary — had been answered.”


James Goldgeier

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While it showed up that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had changed everything, fads that arised in the 1990s live on, mostly in the methods that the Cold War’s end reshaped Democratic and Republican international policy priorities. Today, together U.S. Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have actually wound under two decades after 9/11, it is no terrorism, but the strategy competition v China the dwarfs all other foreign policy concerns in Washington.

Conservative conundrums

For Republicans, the end of the Cold War intended that anti-communism could no longer serve together the glue holding the party together. Four groups vied for international policy influence in GOP circles after 1989: classic realist internationalists, represented by George H.W. Bush and his team; neoconservatives like William Kristol and also Robert Kagan, who sought come spur America top top a mission of fostering democracy worldwide; Contract with America congressional Republicans, whose few foreign plan interests included more military spending, nationwide missile defense, and U.N.-bashing; and isolationists, most notably Patrick Buchanan, that performed surprisingly well against a sitting president in the 1992 campaign.

At first, 9/11 seemed to prompt fix up GOP unity, through the fight against Islamic extremism instead of anti-communism together the party’s foreign policy glue. But the Iraq War brought about a deep split between realists and also neoconservatives, with the former arguing for the prestige of Iraq and Iran balancing one one more in the Persian Gulf, and the latter seeking to overthrow Saddam Hussein in bespeak to develop a new democracy in the middle East.

Buchanan’s “Come home America” slogan seemed to have actually lost much of its traction after 9/11. (He told united state in an interview that he received a note throughout the 1992 project from previous senator George McGovern, who had used the slogan running for chairman in 1972; Buchanan claimed he wrote back saying us couldn’t come house in 1972 but could execute so in 1992.) But his “America First” tagline came earlier with a vengeance in the 2016 presidential campaign. This time, the course, Donald Trump won the presidency with it.

Liberal legacies

For Democrats, the Cold War’s conclusion freed them from charges, levied since the early on 1970s, that they were too soft on communist to it is in entrusted through U.S. National security. In 1992, a draft-dodging democratic governor of Arkansas beat a human being War II hero and incumbent GOP president.

In his 2 terms together president, invoice Clinton search to relocate the party come the center, with a international policy emphasizing democracy promotion, economic openness, and most remarkably, provided his past, the usage of military force for humanitarian purposes. Liberal hawks supported the 1999 Kosovo battle and, to their political detriment, the 2003 Iraq War.

The Iraq battle soured plenty of Democrats ~ above democracy promotion. ~ all, the freedom agenda now seemed a George W. Shrub idea. Yet President Biden has championed a Summit because that Democracy, booked for later on this year. That is act so since democracy is under siege in the joined States and because the is trying come rally the unified States and its allies in the competition with authoritarian China.

But this isn’t 1990s or beforehand 2000s-style democracy promotion. The battles in Afghanistan and Iraq have soured Democrats (and some Republicans) top top the usage of military force. It to be one point to be a liberal hawk in 1999 once the United claims suffered no combat casualties in the 78-day bombing campaign versus Serbia. It’s another to champion the usage of force for humanitarian objectives after the long slog in Afghanistan. Biden has never wavered in his decision to finish the U.S. Military initiative there.

From Iraq come China

When we composed “America between the Wars,” we bemoaned how, ~ the Berlin wall fell, U.S. Foreign policymaking focused so heavily on Iraq, with the an obstacle posed through that country handed turn off from one chairman to another. George H.W. Shrub led a effective Gulf War global coalition yet left Saddam Hussein in power, handing the trouble off to Clinton. Clinton bombed Iraq on plenty of occasions, and also handed the difficulty off to George W. Bush, who toppled Saddam Hussein.

Bush then handed turn off the war to Barack Obama, who believed he had finished the job, enabling him to rebalance U.S. Foreign policy toward the Indo-Pacific, especially China. Rather Obama had actually to go earlier to fight the Islamic State and also handed the problem to Donald Trump. Now Biden and also his team are figured out not to let something — particularly in the middle East — distract from the score of concentrating on China.

And thus, when the terrorist assaults of Sept. 11, 2001, were traumatic and profoundly shaped events of the next 20 years, the real change in U.S. Foreign policy is underway now, as a near-peer competitor has emerged for the very first time since the Soviet collapse. The bipartisan assistance for being hard on China is so solid that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has complained, “It is distressing … the a fast-growing consensus is arising in Washington that views the U.S.-Chinese connection as a zero-sum economic and military struggle.”

Bipartisan support for getting difficult on China buttresses Biden’s residential and foreign policy goals. He argues that the threat from China mirrors the need to show that democracies can perform for your citizens, because that example, by pass the framework bill. The puts GOP realists back in your comfort zone of talking about an excellent power politics, and enables neoconservatives to talk tough on person rights.

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The bipartisan heart that arised on 9/11 in the United claims dissipated fairly quickly, largely because of the Iraq War. Despite the nasty national politics in America today, the consensus on China is growing and deepening quickly.