by Colin Dueck (OUP USA, £14.99)
Pity the poor Republicans. Ever since George McGovern in 1972, their bellicose foreign policy has paid electoral dividends. They successfully and habitually painted the Democrats as flabby idealists who could not be relied on to protect the security of the United States. But George W Bush’s misguided invasion of Iraq put an end to their reputation for competence in foreign affairs.
President Barack Obama came to power, at least in part, because of his early opposition to the Iraq War. Yet in office, his focus has been resolutely on domestic issues. According to Colin Dueck, a professor of international relations at George Mason University, that is the essence of the “Obama Doctrine”: a de-emphasis on foreign policy and a retrenching of American power overseas. Above all else, Dueck tells us, Obama doesn’t want foreign affairs to distract from his liberal domestic agenda at home.
Dueck would like Republicans to espouse a more aggressive foreign policy, with increased military spending and less willingness to accommodate potential rivals. Unfortunately for him, the disaster that was Iraq has inoculated the American people from imperial dreams. By concentrating on nation-building at home rather than half way around the world, Obama is in touch with the desires of the American people.
Bush had hoped that the invasion of Iraq would shock and awe the rest of the world into kowtowing to America’s superior military might. Instead it shattered the American public’s interest in foreign adventures. True, the world may miss the Pax Americana but so far most Americans do not. Dueck longs for a more forceful America but his vision of an expansive American grand strategy seems dated.