Post–cold War Policy

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Postcold War Policy

Richard A. Melanson

While the precise dates that marked the beginning and the end of the Cold War remain the subjects of scholarly debate, the era's major foreign policy focus was unambiguous: containing the spread of Soviet power and international communism by supporting friendly governments with aid, arms, and, occasionally, troops; deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and its allies; and supporting economic institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund created at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. Deprived of a global enemy, American foreign policy since the Cold War seemingly became more diffuse, perhaps even incoherent. But, though political elites awaited the arrival of a reincarnated "X" (the pseudonym senior State Department official George F. Kennan used in his famous article on the strategy of containment in 1947) to articulate a crystalline, new strategy, several discernible and related themes and concepts have, nevertheless, characterized postCold War American foreign policy.

At least six themes and concepts have steered U.S. foreign policy since the Cold War:

  1. the preservation of American global hegemony
  2. the fostering of globalization through the continued development of liberal international economic institutions
  3. the promotion of an ever-growing "zone of democratic peace"
  4. the repeated employment of military power to ease humanitarian disasters
  5. the isolation and punishment of a handful of "rogue" states that allegedly threatened regional stability and American security;
  6. growing concerns about the vulnerability of the United States to attacks from these regimes as well as from transnational terrorist groups.

Efforts to formulate concrete policies from these themes and concepts have provoked both domestic and international dissent about their appropriateness and feasibility.


American foreign policy officials almost never use the word "hegemony" in their public discourse. When Henry Kissinger did so at his first press conference after being named President Richard Nixon's special assistant for national security affairs in 1968, puzzled reporters scurried to their dictionaries for help. Presidents and their advisers prefer more positive terms such as "global leadership" or "indispensable nation" to describe America's role in the world, yet "hegemony," because it is less loaded, better captures the essence of recent U.S. strategy. The ancient Greeks understood "hegemony" to mean preponderant international influence or authority, and preserving such preponderance has been a fundamental goal of all postCold War administrations.

At century's end the American economy had experienced the longest peacetime expansion in its history. Low inflation, sustained growth, and rising worker productivity had made it the engine of global prosperity and technological change. Americans owned more than half of the world's computers and received more than half of the world's royalties and licensing fees. The eight largest high-tech companies were headquartered in the United States. American pop culture was virtually ubiquitous, with Michael Jordan posters, McDonald's golden arches, and Hollywood movies its most familiar symbols.

The United States retained the globe's most powerful and expensive military establishment with expenditures larger than all of the other nations combined. Its forward presence in Europe, East Asia, and the Persian Gulf was secured by a host of garrisons, air bases, and aircraft carrier task forces. U.S. regional commanders often acted like Roman tribunes, not only leading American forces but also initiating direct diplomatic contacts with foreign governments. The technological gap between American weapons systems and those of other nations, already evident in the Gulf War of 1991, had become enormous by the 1999 Kosovo air campaign against the Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

At the same time, American global commitments expanded. U.S. ground troops landed in Somalia in 1992 to help end a famine (only to be withdrawn the next year as a result of casualties that were incurred after the mission had grown); returned Haiti to its ousted democratically elected president in 1994; and entered Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1999 as "peacekeepers." American aircraft carriers protected Taiwan from the People's Republic of China, patrolled the Persian Gulf, and sailed the Indian Ocean. Its warplanes routinely bombed Iraq for more than a decade, helped end the war in Bosnia in 1995, and brought Yugoslavia to its knees in 1999.

Far from disappearing after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, at Washington's insistence, expanded into central and eastern Europe. In Asia, American planners anticipated maintaining troop levels at around 100,000 for at least twenty more years. And at the United Nations, the United States, under congressional pressure, prevented Boutros Boutros-Ghali from being reelected secretary-general, primarily because he had criticized the United States for failing to play a more active role in UN peacekeeping efforts in Somalia and Rwanda.

Surely such power and influence constituted "global hegemony," and American leaders, as well as those of a surprisingly large number of foreign nations, wished to preserve it. But domestic divisions surfaced about whether it could best be accomplished unilaterally or by working closely with allies and international organizations. This debate began in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War and by the millennium remained unresolved. President George H. W. Bush, envisioned America's role as that of benevolent hegemon, protecting the growing "zone of democratic peace" against regional outlaws, terrorists, nuclear proliferators, and other threats to world order. It would do so in concert with others, if possible, as in the Gulf War, or unilaterally, if necessary.

Work soon began in the Department of Defense to make this concept operational, and in March 1992 the results were leaked to the press. The main Pentagon planning group outlined a strategy of "global leadership" that presumed America's continuing international preeminence and argued that the United States should actively prevent the emergence of states that could challenge it. By using existing security arrangements to ensure the safety of its allies, Washington would view as potentially hostile any state with sufficient human and technological resources to dominate Europe, East Asia, or the Middle East. This strategy acknowledged that within a decade Germany or Russia might threaten Europe; Japan, Russia, and eventually China might do likewise in East Asia; and that the domination of either region would consequently imperil the Middle East. But this group suggested that the United States could create incentives for Germany and Japan to refrain from challenging American preeminence. No mention was made of the United Nations or any other international organization, and because the strategy smacked of unilateralism, a number of allies, led by France, condemned it. And, although its untimely release embarrassed the George H. W. Bush administration, these recommendations nevertheless reflected the thinking of an important segment of the foreign policy community.

Upon entering office in 1993, President Bill Clinton adoptedinitially, at last"muscular" or "assertive" mulilateralism to preserve America's position in the postCold War world, while he concentrated on reviving the domestic economy. But the poor performance of the United Nations in Somalia and the European Union's failure to halt the war in Bosnia gradually persuaded the administration that American leadership was, indeed, "indispensable." Nevertheless, many Republicans in Congress, fresh from their historic 1994 triumph at the polls, remained deeply suspicious of international organizations because they allegedly threatened American sovereignty and freedom of action. During the 1996 presidential campaign, Robert Dole, the Republican nominee, promised that when he was in the White House, "no American fighting men and women will take any orders from Field Marshal Boutros Boutrous-Ghali." Republican unilateralists opposed aiding Mexico during its peso crisis in 1994 and 1995, repeatedly criticized the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, refused to pay American dues owed to the United Nations, and tried to abolish the Agency for International Development (AID). Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for AID's replacement with a new international development foundation with a mandate "to deliver block grants to support the work of private relief agencies and faith-based institutions." The Senate defeated the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 2000 with many members convinced that it represented "unilateral disarmament," and a majority in Congress opposed U.S. membership in the new International Criminal Court, fearing that U.S. military personnel stationed overseas could be hauled before it.

Although the Clinton administration attempted to discredit these critics by calling them isolationists, they were, in fact, determined to preserve American global hegemony by protecting it against the encroachments of international organizations. In effect, Republican unilateralists echoed many of the arguments made by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge against U.S. membership in the League of Nations after World War I.

While certain nations clearly resented America's preeminent position in the postCold War world, none was able to mobilize an international coalition against the United States. China grumbled about American "hegemonism," France complained about the U.S. exertion of "hyper-power," Russia deeply resented the expansion of NATO, and states like Iraq and Iran tested Washington's patience. Yet the stability and protection afforded by America's global predominance were welcomed, or at least tolerated, by the vast majority of foreign nations. East European states clamored for admission to NATO, Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization participated in a U.S.-led "peace process," and countries from South America to Africa invited the United States to serve as an honest broker to help settle regional disputes.

Global preeminence, of course, has never been permanent. Previous hegemons were eventually humbled by overextension, a weakening domestic social fabric, or by rising competitor states. No doubt the "American century" would not endure forever, but in the absence of some unanticipated catastrophe like a nuclear war or a massive biological attack, it remained difficult to imagine an imminent end to American primacy.


The makers of postCold War American foreign policy believed that by fostering globalization, the growth of both the U.S. and the world economy would be increased. Globalization was not a wholly new phenomenon, but it did attain unprecedented prominence in the public discourse during the 1990s. Indeed, one of its chief articulators, the journalist Thomas L. Friedman, suggested that the postCold War world be dubbed "the age of globalization." Although difficult to define precisely, scholars and policymakers appeared to understand globalization as the integration of markets, finance, and technologies in a way that shrunk space and time. Some observers even predicted that the ultimate consequence of this process would be the elimination of all national borders and, thus, the nation-state.

That was clearly not the aim of U.S. foreign policy officials. Rather, they saw globalization as an economic tool that could be managed to open foreign markets, stimulate American exports in goods and services, and bring economic growth and prosperity to large portions of the world. The Clinton administration had a strategy for accomplishing these goalsthe "big, emerging markets" (BEM) strategythough its origins can be traced to Robert Zoellick, a senior policymaker in both Bush administrations. From Zoellick's perspective, the United States could best serve its economic interests by acting as the primary catalyst for a series of integrative economic structures that would substantially increase global prosperity. First, it would deepen the institutionalized economic and security relations with western Europe and Japan. Second, the United States would reach out to a second tier of potential partners in Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe to develop dense institutional linkages such as the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC). And third, even farther on the periphery loomed Russia, China, and the Middle East, areas that in the more distant future might be brought into this global economic system too. This foreign economic strategy asserted the indispensability of American global leadership, for it strongly supported the creation of a host of regional economic institutions in which the United States would function as the common linchpin.

By elaborating and refining Zoellick's ideas, the Clinton administration developed the BEM strategy that lay at the core of its foreign policy. The strategy identified ten regional economic drivers supposedly committed to trade-led economic growth and reasonably cordial relations with the United States. The "Big Ten," as they were called, included China (plus Taiwan and Hong Kong), India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Turkey, and South Africastates whose expansion could benefit neighboring markets as well. Clinton officials projected that by 2010 American trade with these countries would be greater than combined trade with the European Union and Japan. Jeffrey E. Garten, undersecretary of commerce for international trade and a chief architect of this strategy, argued that the BEMs possessed enormous potential for the expansion of U.S. trade in goods and services, because they purchased heavily in economic sectors dominated by the United States: information technology, health and medical equipment, telecommunications, financial services, environmental technology, transportation, and power generation.

To achieve these goals the Clinton administration launched a global effort to persuade the BEMs to open their markets to both trade and investment. The push for financial liberalization was directed at East Asia and Southeast Asia, in particular, largely because it was seen as especially fertile ground for American banks, brokerage houses, and insurance companies. To further this strategy, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin persuaded the G-7 nations (the world's leading industrial democracies) in April 1997 to issue a statement "promoting freedom of capital flows" and urging the International Monetary Fund to amend its charter so it could press countries for capital account liberalization. But other Clinton economic officials like Laura D'Andrea Tyson and Joseph Stieglitz, successive chairs of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, warned of the dangers of opening these capital markets too rapidly, and soon Rubin and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence H. Summers began to publicly caution that financial liberalization in the BEMs must be accompanied by banking and other fundamental economic reforms. Yet, convinced that the International Monetary Fund would bail them out of any trouble (as the United States had done in Mexico in 1994), the leaders of many of these states ignored this advice.

In 1997 and 1998 the dark side of globalization appeared in the form of a series of currency collapses in Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Social unrest in Indonesia claimed one thousand lives and led to the forced resignation of its long-serving president. The so-called Asian dynamos fell like dominoes as currency speculators undermined their financial systems. Deeply shaken by these events and fearful that the crisis would spread to the United States, the Federal Reserve Bank cut short-term interest rates three times within six weeks, and President Clinton called on Rubin to devise ways to reform the global financial system in order to avert future disasters. The secretary responded with a series of speeches in which he called for the creation of a new global financial "architecture" that involved improving transparency and disclosure in emerging markets, giving the International Monetary Fund additional power, encouraging the private sector to share some of the economic burden in times of crisis, and strengthening the regulation of financial institutions in emerging economies. Rubin implicitly acknowledged what many economists had argued for years: any attempt to liberalize capital markets lacking the structures to support the subsequent inflow in foreign investment was dangerous.

In fact, the seemingly inexorable growth of globalization produced both academic debates and public protests. Globalization enthusiasts celebrated the unprecedented extent to which poorer economies had been incorporated into the international system of trade, finance, and production as partners and participants rather than colonial dependencies and believed that this condition had produced greater economic growth. But skeptics worried that since substantial numbers of nations were landlocked and isolated, they would find it extremely difficult to attract trade and investment. Furthermore, other countries, such as the Persian Gulf oil states, in possession of huge natural resource bases, found it impossible to establish competitive, and more sustainable, manufacturing sectors. Hence, the process of globalization was far from global. Second, while proponents of increased capital flows across borders argued that they gave to developing nations an enhanced ability to borrow and lend (and thus better control patterns of investment and consumption), others pointed to the destabilization and financial panics that these unfettered capital flows had allegedly caused in Latin America and Asia during the 1990s as worried investors hurriedly withdrew their assets at the first sign of weakening currencies. Third, economists disagreed about the impact that globalization had on domestic and international income distribution. Some suggested that since the United States exported high technology products to Asia in return for less expensive labor-intensive goods, American workers in certain industries had suffered a loss of income in the face of low-wage foreign competition, while, at the same time, skilled workers in Asia incurred similar dislocations. On the other hand, the number of U.S. workers directly competing with unskilled workers in emerging markets appeared to be too small to explain widening income disparities among Americans.

The age of globalization also produced contradictory political impulses. On the one hand, it fostered a host of new international organizations, including, most prominently, the World Trade Organization (WTO). Some observers feared that the proliferation of such institutions, accompanied by rules regulating the behavior of its members, posed a threat to national sovereignty. On the other hand, defenders of the nation-state also worried about the growing tendency of local governments, regions, and ethnic communities to pursue greater political and cultural autonomy as a way to ward off the demands of globalization. In his Farewell Address, President Clinton, while noting that the global economy was giving "more of our own people and billions around the world the chance to work and live and raise their families with dignity," acknowledged that integration processes "make us more subject to global forces of destructionto terrorism, organized crime and narco-trafficking, the spread of deadly weapons and disease, the degradation of the global environment."

Indeed, concerns such as these and others triggered a series of public, sometimes violent demonstrations against the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank in Seattle (November 1999), Washington, D.C. (April 2000), Prague (September 2000), and several other locations. Loose coalitions of protesters made up of union members, animal rights advocates, environmentalists, anarchists, and senior citizens claimed that wealthy countries and their institutional toolsthe International Monetary Fund and the World Bankhad incurred an "ecological debt" to the Third World by draining its natural resources, destroying the environment, and causing human rights violations. They believed that this ecological debt should wipe out the monetary debt that poor countries owed to these organizations. They wanted the World Bank to order a moratorium on foreign investments in oil, mining, and natural gas projects because of their environmental threats. Others argued that fledgling democracies should be forgiven the debts incurred by previous, repressive regimes. All were convinced that multinational corporationsmost of them based in the United Statesbehaved more like robber barons than responsible global citizens.

In sum, the nature and consequences of globalization remained deeply contested in the postCold War world. The Clinton administration's initial desire to foster its spread had been tempered by foreign financial crises and public dissent. Yet it was not even clear whether globalization should be viewed as a conscious national policy or as an unstoppable force ultimately immune to either governmental management or control.


By the late 1980s, as Mikhail Gorbachev allowed anticommunist revolutions to sweep through Moscow's satellites, President Bush called for a Europe "whole and free." Soon he began to speak more broadly of a growing "zone of the democratic peace," tacitly accepting the academic thesis that democracies did not fight wars against one another. According to this view, the roots of which can be traced back at least as far as Immanuel Kant in the late eighteenth century, democracies (or "republics" as he called them), shared certain characteristics that precluded conflict among them. His claims were expanded by several American political scientists, including, most prominently, Michael Doyle and Bruce Russett. They and others advanced several arguments to account for the "democratic peace." Some emphasized that because of the internal structures of democratic states, leaders could not mobilize their publics to support any wars except those against authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. Others stressed the norms of peaceful resolution of conflicts within democracies because of the habit of compromise and the rule of law. Still others argued that the transparency of democratic institutions and the easy flow of information between democracies made violence extremely unlikely. Another group of scholars was impressed by the shared social purposes of democratic states and an underlying identity of interests that sharply limited the rise of disputes worthy of war.

Indeed, virtually every president since Woodrow Wilson accepted the basic tenets of this "liberal" argument about how democracies behave. He believed that militarized, autocratic regimes had caused World War I and that American security depended on the successful transition of these states to democracy. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman shared similar sentiments about the origins of World War II and the requirements of U.S. security in the postwar world. In the 1980s, the Reagan Doctrine, which reserved to the United States the right to assist groups attempting to overthrow Marxist dictatorships, sprang from the same set of assumptions. All of these presidents were convinced, as the political scientist G. John Ikenberry put it, that democracies were "more capable of developing peaceful, continuous, rule-based, institutionalized relations among each other than [was] possible with or between non-democracies."

Nevertheless, a lively scholarly debate arose after the Cold War about the merits of these arguments and assumptions. Christopher Layne examined four instances when democracies nearly went to war against one another and found that conflict was averted not because of shared values but because of national self-interest. Further, he argued that the War of 1812 and the American Civil War should be seen as wars between democratic states. David Spiro claimed that because the chance that any given pair of states will be at war at any given time was low, and because before 1945 few democracies existed, the absence of conflict between them might be the result of random chance. He also complained that proponents of the democratic peace thesis often failed to offer clear definitions of "democracy." Finally, Henry Farber and Joanne Gowa concluded that only after 1945 were democracies significantly less likely to be involved with disputes with one another, and that was because most democracies were aligned against the Soviet threat. With the ending of the Cold War, the chief impediment to intrademocratic conflict had been removed.

These counterclaims notwithstanding, democracy promotion represented a fundamental theme in postCold War American foreign policy and was closely tied to the preservation of U.S. hegemony and the fostering of globalization. In its efforts to create a successor to the strategy of containment and to rally domestic support for the Gulf War, the George H. W. Bush administration offered a "new world order," which, among other things, included the notion that the United States should help to widen the "zone of the democratic peace." Although Bush quickly dropped this phrase from his public rhetoric in the face of heavy media criticism and the need to focus on domestic issues in advance of the 1992 presidential campaign, the administration, nevertheless, acted to promote democracy in Eastern Europe, Russia, Latin America, and Africa through a variety of diplomatic and economic initiatives. Bush officials could not help but be impressed by the democratization process then occurring in many parts of the world.

The Clinton administration, also groping for a post-containment strategy and similarly taken by the sweep of democratization, soon unveiled "engagement and enlargement" as its lodestar. In a September 1993 speech tellingly entitled "From Containment to Enlargement," Anthony Lake, Clinton's first special assistant for national security affairs, attempted to explain this strategy. After noting that its geography and history had continually tempted the United States to be wary of foreign entanglements, Lake argued that the Clinton administration intended "to engage actively in the world in order to increase our prosperity, update our security arrangements, and promote democracy abroad." Beyond engagement, then, lay enlargement, and Lake identified four components of such a strategy. First, the United States would "strengthen the community of major market democracies which constitutes the core from which enlargement is proceeding." Second, the Clinton administration would "help foster and consolidate new democracies and market economies, where possible, especially in states of special significance and opportunity." Third, America "must counter the aggressionand support the liberalizationof states hostile to democracy and markets." And fourth, "we need to pursue our humanitarian agenda not only by providing aid, but also by working to help democracies and market economies take root in regions of greatest humanitarian concern." At the same time, Lake hedged "engagement" with several caveats. He warned that the tide of democratic advance could slow and even reverse; he stressed that this strategy had to be tempered by pragmatism, for other national interests would doubtless require the United States to befriend and defend nondemocratic states for mutually beneficial reasons; and he noted that this strategy must view democracy broadly and not insist that all adhere rigidly to the American example.

In the short term, this strategy was seemingly discredited by the bloody battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, the following month as well as the embarrassment suffered when a U.S. ship carrying training personnel to Haiti was turned back by a protesting mob in Port-au-Prince. Furthermore, opinion polls repeatedly indicated that only one in five Americans thought it important to promote democracy abroad. Nevertheless, to a remarkable degree, Lake's speech anticipated much of the Clinton administration's democratization efforts, which, in turn, adhered closely to those of the first Bush presidency.

Both gave primacy to Eastern Europe and Latin Americathose regions that were already the most democratizedto initiate a policy of "democratic differentiation" in order to urge further movement toward democracy and open markets. A variety of carrots and sticks were employed to nudge these nations along. In the case of Haiti, the Clinton administration threatened force to reinstall the democratically elected president, but this action was taken more for domestic political reasons than from any confidence that genuine democracy would take root in that troubled country.

Initially, Clinton tried to link the continuance of most-favored-nation trading status to improvements in China's human rights record, but by 1994 he was forced to abandon that approach in light of Beijing's intransigence. Indeed, neither administration wanted to allow democracy promotion to undermine the opening of markets throughout Asia. And in the Middle East the need for energy security and fears about Iraq and Iran dissuaded both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton from evincing any interest in democratization. PostCold War American foreign policy was frequently frustrated in its attempts to foster democracy in Russia because of a combination of rampant corruption, the physical decline of Boris Yeltsin, and Moscow's resentment of NATO enlargement. Yeltsin's replacement by the enigmatic former KGB agent Vladimir Putin triggered a debate in Washington about his devotion to democracy. By the time of George W. Bush's election in 2000, more Americans viewed Russia with hostility than at any time since the mid-1980s.

But in Africa, where there was palpable evidence of a democratization trend, American actions appeared inconsistent. On the one hand, economic assistance programs were restructured to reward those governments undertaking democratic reforms, and every embassy in Africa was ordered to formulate a strategy for democracy promotion. Yet when the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko in the Congo collapsed in 1997, the United States encouraged Uganda and Rwanda to offer armed support to Laurent Kabila's efforts to seize power. Kabila's democratic credentials were questionable at best, yet the Clinton administration chose him over Etienne Tshisekedi, the popular prime minister who possessed the clearest claim on democratic legitimacy. Washington's decision to endorse the strongman approach proved disastrous, as Kabila proceeded to wreck what was left of this long-suffering nation before being assassinated in a palace coup in 2001. Critics charged that despite official rhetoric about the importance of bringing democracy to Africa, the United States continued to patronize African nations and to tacitly believe that they remained unprepared for democratic governance.

On balance, however, postCold War American foreign policy generally promoted democracy where economic and security interests and discernible democratization trends existed. In those regions where U.S. interests required working with authoritarian regimes and where prospects for democratization were bleak, no effort was made to promote democracy. Indeed, a rough consensus emerged among American political elites in support of this pragmatic approach to democracy promotion.


Humanitarian interventionsthe use of military force to save civilian lives in the absence of vital national interestsemerged as a major theme in postCold War American foreign policy and generated heated political and scholarly debates about their advisability, efficacy, and legitimacy. During the Cold War humanitarian interventions were rare, unilateral, and generally condemned by the international community. For example, in 1971 India invaded East Pakistan (Bangladesh) during a Pakistani civil war allegedly to save civilian lives, but the consequence was to split India's traditional enemy in two. Comparable international skepticism greeted the 1978 Vietnam invasion of Kampuchea (Cambodia)supposedly to end the "killing fields" of the Khmer Rougeand the 1979 Tanzanian intervention in Uganda was not only designed to oust the abhorrent Idi Amin but also to retaliate against a Ugandan invasion the previous year.

But after the Cold War a commitment among democratic states to respond to humanitarian disasters became the norm, if not always the rule. The United States assumed a global humanitarian role, intervening both unilaterally and multilaterally in an unprecedented number of situations. In 1991, U.S. forces provided aid and protection to the Iraqi Kurds shortly after the conclusion of the Gulf War. Many commentators and members of Congress criticized President Bush for not intervening sooner.

In December 1992, U.S. troops were ordered to Somalia in an effort to end a disastrous famine and then to turn over responsibility to the United Nations. But when eighteen U.S. Rangers were killed in a firefight with hostile Somali clan members in October 1993, an outraged Congress pressured a panicked Clinton administration to withdraw all U.S. forces. Misery soon returned to southern Somalia. No doubt in reaction to this experience, the United States did virtually nothing to halt a full-scale genocide the following year in Rwanda that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsis. Europeans, in particular, criticized this inaction, and several years later Clinton apologized for his failure to provide more assistance.

In September 1994, in the face of an imminent U.S. invasion, Haiti's junta left the country and the democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was reinstalled. At the time, former President Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker publicly opposed this action on the grounds that no vital national interests were at stake. But confronted with a humanitarian disaster in the form of thousands of Haitian refugees attempting to reach the U.S. mainland, and pressured by the Black Congressional Caucus to return President Aristide to power, the Clinton administrationarmed with a UN resolutionprepared to use military force.

A decade earlier, in 1984, Ronald Reagan's secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, suggested that six tests ought to be passed before dispatching U.S. troops: (1) "The United States should not commit forces to combat overseas unless the particular engagement or occasion is deemed vital to our national interest"; (2) the commitment should only be made "with the clear intention of winning"; (3) it should be carried out with clearly defined political and military objectives"; (4) it "must be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary"; (5) it should "have the support of the American people and their elected representatives in Congress"; and (6) it should "be a last resort." Believing that the outcome of the Vietnam War would have been vastly different if these stringent tests had been applied, the Weinberger Doctrine was quickly embraced by many senior military officers, including Colin Powell, who would serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993. And it was the fear of creating a "Balkan quagmire" that steered American policy toward Yugoslavia for much of the 1990s.

Prompted by the inspiring example of democratic revolutions sweeping Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, several republics in the Yugoslav confederation sought to break away from Belgrade's rule. In June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence. While Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic did little to oppose the Slovenian action, he directly supported an uprising of ethnic Serbs in Croatia, and a ghastly civil war ensued. In December, Germany recognized both new governments, and the European Union and the United States soon followed, even though Secretary of State James Baker had declared previously that "we don't have a dog in this fight."

Macedonia was allowed to secede from the federation, but after Muslims held an independence referendum in multiethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina that was boycotted by its Serbian residents, a horrific war broke out among Croats, Serbs, and Muslims. The Bosnian Serbs, who were enthusiastically supported by Milosevic, undertook a systematic "ethnic cleansing campaign" designed to rid the republic of its Muslim population. The Bush administration, while recognizing the independence of a Muslim-led Bosnia, maintained that the Balkans constituted a European problem and refused to send U.S. forces there as part of a UN "peacekeeping" operation, even though several members of NATO did so. Some senior Clinton officials, led by Anthony Lake and UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, argued that the United States should lift the arms embargo that the United Nations had imposed on all the warring parties and initiate air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions. But the Joint Chiefs chairman Powell repeatedly rejected the feasibility of this "lift and strike" option, while nations such as Britain and France, with peacekeepers on the ground, argued that their troops would be the first targets of Serb retaliation.

Despite the worst fighting in Europe since World War II, the Clinton administration did little until August 1995, when, after an exceptionally heinous slaughter of Muslim civilians in the town of Srebrenica, NATO carried out five days of bombing that had the ultimate effect of bringing all of the factions to the negotiating table in Dayton, Ohio. Soon, NATO peacekeepers with American participation entered Bosnia, but Clinton, under congressional pressure, announced quite unrealistically that U.S. forces would remain there for only one year. Indeed, their continued presence became a major campaign theme in 2000 when George W. Bush and several of his advisers suggested that the Balkans should be policed exclusively by Europeans. On the other hand, in 1999, when reporting on the Srebrenica massacre, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that "the tragedy will haunt our history forever. A deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorize, expel, or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion." He implied that the United States bore a major responsibility for providing that political will.

In early 1999, Milosevic indicated his intention to purge Kosovoa province of Yugoslavia whose semiautonomous status he had revoked ten years earlierof its ethnic Albanian (Muslim) majority. After rejecting a demand that NATO forces be allowed to enter Kosovo to prevent "ethnic cleansing," Milosevic was subjected to an unprecedented seventy-seven-day bombing campaign. During Operation Allied Force, which ultimately threatened the cohesion of NATO, Yugoslav troops forced hundreds of thousands of Muslim Kosovars into neighboring Albania and Macedonia and thus created the very humanitarian catastrophe that the air strikes had been designed to avoid. From the outset, Clinton, fearing public and congressional criticism over possible casualties, ruled out the use of ground troops. American officials, remembering how quickly NATO bombing had ended the fighting in Bosnia four years before, expected a similar outcome in Kosovo. But it was not until Russia withdrew its support from Belgrade that Milosevic finally capitulated. Then he allowed peacekeepers under UNnot NATOauthority to enter Kosovo, where they encountered sustained hostility from both Muslims and Serbs.

All of these humanitarian interventionsas well as the decision to ignore Rwandaprovoked intense debate within the United States about the essential purposes of American foreign policy. Michael Mandelbaum, a leading scholar of American foreign relations, captured one side of the issue quite colorfully in a 1996 Foreign Affairs article entitled "Foreign Policy as Social Work," in which he likened Anthony Lake to Mother Teresa for telling a newspaper reporter that "when I wake up every morning and look at the headlines and the stories and the images on television, I want to work to end every conflict, I want to save every child out there." In rejoinder, Stanley Hoffmann, another renowned student of American foreign policy, predicted that the twenty-first century would be full of ethnic conflict and disintegrating states. While not all of them would be preventable or resolvable, instances of extreme violence should be considered as inherently dangerous for international peace and security and morally and prudentially unacceptable.

The national debate about humanitarian interventions involved at least four issues. First, under what circumstances would military power be used as opposed to other, less coercive tools of statecraft? Some observers, like Henry Kissinger, argued that unless a clear, vital interest could be found, military force should never be used. A substantial number of congressional Republicans shared his view. This position obviously reflected that of the Weinberger Doctrine. Yet no U.S. official or influential commentator suggested that the United States should intervene in all humanitarian crises, for the obvious reason that because resources were limited, priorities had to be set. Most political elites reached the conclusion that these situations should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Yet they disagreed about which ones warranted American action. Positions often were taken on the basis of ethnic identity. For example, the Congressional Black Caucus was especially eager to intervene in Haiti and Rwanda. Similarly, Cuban Americans, Armenian Americans, and American Muslims expressed other, predictable preferences.

Second, how much and what kind of force would be needed? Because there was a widely shared perception by civilian and military leaders that, after the Somalia "debacle," the American public would not tolerate casualties suffered during humanitarian operations, the Clinton administration refused to deploy ground combat troops in the Balkans. Rather, it relied exclusively on air-power. In fact, the administration may have mis-read the "lessons" of Somalia, for polling data indicated that the public was considerably more tolerant of casualties as long as the intervention resulted in success.

Third, what kind of training should be given to U.S. troops who might become peacemakers or peacekeepers? This facet of the debate was prima-rily conducted within the Defense Department between those who believed that special peace-keeping units should be created and those who argued that all forces should be taught to be potential peacekeepers. But some observers out-side the Pentagon questioned the whole concept of training forces for what they compared to police duties rather than traditional military roles.

And, fourth, how central a role should humanitarian missions play in U.S. foreign policy? In general, liberals like Anthony Lewis of the New York Times contended that their role should be central. Moreover, the interventions should do more than simply restore order and feed and clothe civilians; they should also aim to rebuild failed states, arrest war criminals, and integrate ethnic groups. Conservatives, who remained skeptical that such operations should be undertaken at all, believed that they should occur infrequently and seek to achieve modest objectives. These disagreements became prominent during the 2000 presidential campaign when Condoleeza Rice, a top adviser to George W. Bush and his future special assistant for national security, called for the rapid return of U.S. peacekeepers from Bosnia and Kosovo at the same time that Vice President Albert Gore indicated that, if elected, he would devote even more resources to humanitarian missions.


American foreign policymakers used the terms "rogue," "outlaw," and "backlash" states virtually interchangeably after the Cold War. As early as July 1985, President Reagan had asserted that "we are not going to tolerate attacks from outlaw states by the strangest collection of misfits, loony tunes, and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich," but it fell to the Clinton administration to elaborate this concept.

Writing in the MarchApril 1994 issue of Foreign Affairs, Anthony Lake cited "the reality of recalcitrant and outlaw states that not only choose to remain outside the family [of democratic nations] but also assault its basic values." He applied this label to five regimes: Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya and claimed that their behavior was frequently aggressive and defiant; that ties among them were growing; that they were ruled by coercive cliques that suppressed human rights and promoted radical ideologies; that they "exhibited a chronic inability to engage constructively with the outside world"; and that their siege mentality had led them to attempt to develop weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery systems. For Lake, "as the sole super-power, the United States [had] a special responsibility to neutralize, contain and, through selective pressure, perhaps eventually transform" these miscreants into good global citizens.

The first Bush administration had agreed with Lake's analysis and in 1991 adopted a "twowar" strategy designed to enable U.S. forces to fight and win two regional wars simultaneously against "renegade" nations. The second Bush administration emphasized the urgent need to develop a national missile defense to protect the United States from weapons launched by rogue states. In short, the "outlaw" nation theme pervaded U.S. foreign policy throughout the postCold War era.

Critics seized on these terms as inherently fuzzy, subjective, and difficult to translate into consistent policy. Although Lake had defined rogues as nations that challenged the system of international norms and international order, disagreement existed about the very nature of this system. For example, whereas the Organization for European Security and Cooperation (OSCE) and UN Secretary-General Annan advocated international norms that would expose regimes that mistreated their populations to condemnation and even armed intervention, others argued that such norms would trample on the traditional notion of state sovereignty. Nevertheless, the State Department sometimes included Serbia on its outlaw list solely because President Milosevic had violated the rights of some of his nation's citizens, and NATO undertook an air war against him in 1999 because of his repression of an internal ethnic group.

In theory, at least, to be classified as a rogue, a state had to commit four transgressions: pursue weapons of mass destruction, support terrorism, severely abuse its own citizens, and stridently criticize the United States. Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Libya all behaved in this manner during at least some of the postCold War era. Yet the inclusion of Cuba, which certainly violated human rights and castigated the United States, was put on the list solely because of the political influence of the American Cuban community and specifically that of the Cuban American National Foundation. Moreover, in 1992 Congress approved the Cuban Democracy Act, which mandated secondary sanctions against foreign companies who used property seized from Americans by the Castro government in the 1960s. Attempts to implement this law outraged some of Washington's closest allies, and President Clinton, while backing this legislation as a presidential candidate, tried hard to avoid enforcing it. On the other hand, states like Syria and Pakistan, hardly paragons of rectitude, avoided being added to the list because the United States hoped that Damascus could play a constructive role in the Arab-Israeli "peace process," and because Washington had long maintained close relations with Islamabada vestige of the Cold War.

The United States employed several tools to isolate and punish rogue states. Tough unilateral economic sanctions, often at congressional behest, were imposed on or tightened against Iran, Libya, Cuba, Sudan, and Afghanistan. Air-power was used massively against Serbia in 1999 and selectively against Iraq for years after the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991. Cruise missiles were fired at Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation for terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in September 1998. The Central Intelligence Agency supported a variety of covert actions designed to depose Saddam Hussein, while Congress approved the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 aimed at providing Iraqi opposition groups with increased financial assistance. Several leading Republicans who would occupy high positions in the George W. Bush administration publicly urged President Clinton in February 1998 to recognize the Iraqi National Congress (INC) as the provisional government of Iraq. Some of these critics, including Paul Wolfowitz and Robert Zoellick, hinted that U.S. ground forces might ultimately be required to help the INC oust Saddam. In all of these anti-rogue efforts, however, Washington found it exceedingly difficult to persuade other nations (with the partial exception of Britain) to support its policies of ostracism and punishment.

In light of these difficulties, some observers suggested that the United States drop its "one size fits all" containment strategy that allegedly limited diplomatic flexibility in favor of a more differentiated approach that addressed the particular conditions in each targeted nation. Indeed, the Clinton administration adopted this policy alternative with North Korea and, to a lesser degree, with Iran. Faced with the dangers posed by Pyongyang's ongoing efforts to develop nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, the United States briefly considered air strikes against suspected nuclear facilities or stringent economic sanctions. Yet both options were rejected out of fear of triggering a North Korean invasion of the South. Consequently, the Clinton administration reluctantly entered into negotiations designed to compel Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament. In October 1994 the U.S.North Korea Agreed Framework was signed, committing North Korea to a freeze on nuclear weapons development and the eventual destruction of its nuclear reactors. In exchange, the United States, South Korea, and Japan promised to provide two light-water nuclear reactors that would be virtually impossible to use to produce nuclear weapons, along with petroleum to fuel North Korea's conventional power plants and food assistance to alleviate near-famine conditions. During the last years of the Clinton administration, relations with Pyongyang warmed considerably. North Korea claimed that it had suspended its missile development program pending a permanent agreement, and Madeleine Albright, now secretary of state, made the first official American visit to North Korea in 2000. Nevertheless, because this conditional engagement with North Korea involved reaching agreements with a regime widely perceived as extremely repressive and untrustworthy, many in Congress attacked this approach as tantamount to appeasement and called on George W. Bush to cease negotiations with Pyongyang. He obliged, announcing that he had no intention of quickly resuming efforts to reach an agreement on North Korean missile development.

Interestingly, despite the budding rapprochement between these two states in the late 1990s, officials in the Clinton administration repeatedly argued that a national missile defense system needed to be constructed to protect the United States against nuclear missile attacks from rogue states such as North Korea. George W. Bush's decision to end talks with Pyongyang suggested to many observers that he preferred to pursue national missile defense. To critics of the rogue state concept, these actions merely reinforced their view that while the concept had proven to be very successful in garnering domestic support for punitive measures, the derogatory nature of the term necessarily complicated efforts to improve relations with states like North Korea.

Similarly, Iran represented another case in which altered circumstances challenged the rogue-state strategy. The surprise election of Mohammed Khatemi to the presidency in May 1997 and his subsequent invitation for a "dialogue between civilizations" led Secretary Albright to propose a "road map" for normalizing relations. Conservative Shiite clerics warned Khatemi against engaging the "Great Satan," but the continued designation of Iran as a rogue state also contributed to the Clinton administration's difficulty in responding constructively to positive developments in Tehran.

The gradual realization that calling states "rogues" might in some cases have proven counterproductive induced the United States in June 2000 to drop this term in favor of the less fevered "states of concern." Secretary Albright emphasized that the change in name did not imply that the United States now approved of the behavior of these regimes: "We are now calling these states 'states of concern' because we are concerned about their support for terrorist activities, their development of missiles, their desire to disrupt the international system." Yet State Department officials acknowledged that the "rogue" term had been eliminated because some of these statessuch as North Korea, Libya, and Iranhad taken steps to meet American demands and had complained that they were still being branded with the old label.

Regardless of the terms employed, however, on another level this postCold War strategy of regional containment reflected an effort by the United States to define acceptable international (and even domestic) behavior. As a hegemonic state it was, perhaps, appropriate that Washington attempted to write these rules. Yet it inevitably risked exposing the United States to charges of arrogance and imperiousness.


The Cold War had barely ended before American policymakers began to worry about the possibility that hostile states and transnational terrorist organizations would soon be able to undertake nuclear, chemical, biological, and informational attacks against the continental United States. Recognizing that the United States, because of its overwhelming military superiority, would not be threatened in the foreseeable future with traditional adversaries, national security planners pointed to the dangers posed by "asymmetrical" assaults on the American homeland. These might include nuclear missiles launched by rogue states, national plagues caused by the clandestine introduction of biological agents, and the destruction of the American financial system through the use of computer viruses by unknown enemies.

Such fears intensified in 1997 when the blueribbon National Defense Panel warned that the United States remained utterly unprepared for dealing with these threats. Three years later, the U.S. Commission on National Security, cochaired by former senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart, concluded that "a direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter century." Consequently, the commission proposed that the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Border Patrol be unified as a new homeland security body, whose director would have cabinet status. The new agency would coordinate defense against attacks as well as relief efforts if deterrence proved unsuccessful. According to Rudman, "the threat is asymmetric, and we're not prepared for it."

American foreign policymakers responded to these alleged vulnerabilities in several ways. First, as we have seen, diplomatic and military instruments were used to prevent rogue states from developing weapons of mass destruction. These efforts proved to be only partially successful, and in 1998, Pakistan, formerly a close ally, enraged Washington by testing a nuclear device. Second, counterterrorism programs were intensified after the 1998 embassy bombings. But they could not prevent the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000. Moreover, the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 by two Americans with homemade explosives, and the attempted destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City in February 1993 by foreign nationals, had demonstrated the extreme difficulty in defending the nation against asymmetrical assaults. And while a consensus about the need to make the U.S. homeland less vulnerable to these sorts of occurrences certainly emerged in the postCold War era, designing a strategy for doing so proved to be extremely difficult.

In March 1983, President Ronald Reagan had proposed that the United States build weapons capable of defending the nation against Soviet nuclear attack. His Strategic Defense Initiative proved to be very controversial and expensive, yet the program managed to survive the Cold War. In 1992 the Bush administration opened negotiations with Russia seeking to amend the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 that prohibited the deployment of sea-based or space-based missile defenses and placed strict limits on land-based defenses. President Bush wished to permit the construction of several hundred land-based ABM systems to protect the United States and its allies against between 200 and 250 ballistic missiles from any source. But these talks produced no agreement, and in late 1993 the Clinton administration withdrew Bush's proposed amendments to the ABM Treaty and further reduced the scale of national missile defense (NMD) research and development.

The Republican Party, however, remained deeply committed to NMD, and upon capturing both houses of Congress in 1994 quickly increased appropriations for research and development. Moreover, Congress created a commission to assess the ballistic missile threat to the United States. Chaired by former (and future) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the commission issued its final report in July 1998. Directly contradicting a 1995 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that the United States need not fear missile attacks until at least 2010, the Rumsfeld Commission claimed that such nations as Iran and North Korea could threaten the United States within five years of a decision to acquire this capabilityand that Washington might not be aware of the point at which such a decision had been made.

Just six weeks later, on 31 August 1998, North Korea test launched a Taepo Dong-1 missile, which, to the surprise of the U.S. intelligence community, possessed a third stage, which meant that in theory, at least, this missile had intercontinental capability. Congressional Republicans seized on the Rumsfeld report, as well as the North Korean test launch, to pressure Clinton to sign the Missile Defense Act of 1999, which made it official policy to "deploy as soon as technologically possible an effective NMD system." Strongly encouraged by Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, planning began on the construction of a radar system on an Alaskan island, but after a series of embarrassing failures by the Defense Department to intercept missiles from ground-based sites, in September 2000 Clinton decided to delay deployment.

President George W. Bush's determination to construct a national missile defense system as soon as possible unleashed a fractious and complex public debate. Opponents offered six main arguments against NMD. First, the deployment of even the limited system envisioned by Bush, which would be designed to intercept no more than twenty-five warheads, would be expensive. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a ground-based NMD would cost at least $60 billion. Critics recalled that ambitious Defense Department programs had in the past frequently encountered significant cost overruns and warned that NMD could contribute to future budget deficits if pursued in tandem with President Bush's proposed tax cuts. Second, opponents strongly doubted the technological feasibility of any NMD. They emphasized the difficulties of intercepting incoming warheads, likening it to hitting a bullet with a bullet, and suggested that the task would be made even more daunting if enemy ICBMs were equipped with decoys and other countermeasures.

Third, even if these enormous odds were somehow overcome and a reliable NMD system was deployed, critics worried that the creation of a Fortress America mentality among the public could be a major result. They warned that some congressional Republicans might seize on NMD and the consequent public retreat into isolationism as a pretext to reduce dramatically America's international role. Fourth, even if Russia could be persuaded that a limited NMD posed no threat to its massive nuclear arsenal, China, in possession of only about two dozen ICBMs, would be likely to build more missiles in order to deter a U.S. nuclear attack. Beijing's actions would trigger an Indian response to increase its nuclear capabilities, and that, in turn, would spur Pakistan to do likewise. Hence, an unintended consequence of NMD would be to heighten the likelihood of a South Asian nuclear war.

Fifth, critics contended that NMD constituted a quick technological "fix" that would serve as a poor substitute for patient diplomacy and nonproliferation efforts. Thus, instead of negotiating further agreements with North Korea, for example, armed with an NMD, the United States would have no incentive to try and help Seoul improve North-South relations or to attempt to alter peacefully the nature of the Pyongyang regime. Finally, opponents claimed that NMD represented a "Maginot Line" approach to nuclear defense. Recalling that the Nazis had invaded France in 1940 by simply circumventing the elaborate defensive fortifications known as the Maginot Line, critics predicted that NMD would, at best, defend the United States against an extremely remote sort of attack with ICBMs. Much more plausible was the so-called "man in a van" scenario, whereby a single terrorist could kill millions of Americans with a suitcase bomb or through the release of deadly biological agents into the water supplies of major cities.

While some NMD advocates, especially House Republicans, harbored isolationist sentiments, most in the Bush administration believed, at least privately, that a limited national missile defense system would enhance American global hegemony. Robert Joseph, Bush's counterproliferation expert at the National Security Council, dismissed the likelihood of a rogue state launching a preemptive missile attack on the United States as a false issue created by NMD opponents. He argued that such regimes viewed weapons of mass destruction as their best means of overcoming the American technological advantages that would lead to their certain defeat in conventional wars. Rather, ICBMs would enable these states to hold American and allied cities hostage, thereby deterring the United States from intervention in regional crises. In other words, their missiles could reduce the likelihood of massive retaliation by the United States if they employed chemical and biological weapons regionally, even against American forces. Implicit in Joseph's hypothesis was the assertion that a limited national missile defense system would cement the ability of the United States to intervene anywhere it deemed necessary. Russian and Chinese appreciation of this consequence doubtless explained much of their hostility to such a program.

Proponents furthermore claimed that only China had the ability to defeat an NMD system with decoys and that any effort to substantially increase its inventory of ICBMs would be extremely expensive and threaten future economic development. They also rejected the arguments of those who doubted the technological feasibility of such a system, noting that the United States only succeeded in placing a satellite in orbit after thirty failed attempts. Moreover, unlike Reagan's "Star Wars" plans, this system would only be aimed at intercepting a small number of missiles.

Yet NMD advocates disagreed about what sort of national missile defense system to build. In order to adhere to the provisions of the ABM Treaty, the Clinton administration decided to pursue a land-based system, and three trials were conducted. As a result, a consensus within the Pentagon developed that the Alaskan system could be finished more rapidly. Some in the Bush administration, however, preferred a sea-based NMD that would use and upgrade the navy's Aegis air defense system. They suggested that in addition to being less costly, it would also have the ability to defend U.S. allies against rogue attacks by simply moving ships close to Europe and Japan. Moreover, it would have the advantage of firing at ICBMs in their "boost" phase (that is, immediately after launch), when their speed is much lower than during the reentry phase. But others argued that such a system would take many more years to construct, because it could not, in fact, rely on existing Aegis technology. Some observers predicted that the Bush administration would attempt to pursue both land-and sea-based systems simultaneously despite the enormous costs involved. In any event, homeland defense and the closely related issue of national missile defense appeared ready to assume prominent roles in early twenty-first century American foreign policy.

For the Bush administration the postCold War era ended on the morning of 11 September 2001, when international terrorists used hijacked U.S. commercial airliners to destroy the World Trade Center in New York City and to damage the Pentagon. American foreign policymakers announced that the nation was at war with terrorism and girded it for a long and potentially frustrating struggle. Putting aside its early unilateralist inclinations, the administration immediately began to organize a broad international coalition to assist it in "draining the swamps" where terrorism thrives. For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States apparently confronted a direct threat to its physical and moral well-being, albeit one that seemed extraordinarily elusive, ruthless, and hydra-headed. Some commentators suggested that the period between the breaching of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 and the attacks of 11 September 2001 be renamed "the interwar era."


Inasmuch as the United States emerged from the Cold War as the world's sole superpower, it should not be surprising that American policy-makers worked hard to sustain this hegemonic situation. Eventually another state or coalition might attempt to challenge America's preeminence. Many conservatives became convinced that China had geopolitical goals that directly clashed with U.S. interests and predicted the onset of a Sino-American cold war. Others believed that the continuing integration of China into the international capitalist economy would discourage it from trying to undermine American primacy. As the postCold War era entered its second decade, it had become obvious that relations with the People's Republic of China would occupy a central place in U.S. foreign relations. The future nature of that relationship, however, remained unclear.

In seeking to keep America the world's "indispensable nation," postCold War American foreign policymakers fostered globalization, promoted democracy, undertook humanitarian interventions, isolated and punished rogue states, and worried about homeland defense. Each of these initiatives proved controversial both domestically and internationally. None was pursued with perfect consistency, but all were designed to preserve America's enviable position in the postCold War world.

The views expressed here are those of the author exclusively and do not represent the views of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.


Berger, Samuel. "American Power: Hegemony, Isolationism, or Engagement." Remarks delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations, 21 October 1999.

Bowden, Mark. Black Hawk Down: A Study of Modern War. New York, 1999. Graphically describes the fire-fight that erupted in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, between U.S. forces and Somali clans on 3 October 1993.

Brilmayer, Lea. American Hegemony: Political Morality in a One-Superpower World. New Haven, Conn., 1994.

Brinkley, Douglas. "Democratic Enlargement: The Clinton Doctrine." Foreign Policy 106 (spring 1997): 111127.

Brown, Michael E., Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Steven E. Miller, eds. Debating the Democratic Peace: An International Security Reader. Cambridge, 1996.

Carothers, Thomas. "Democracy Promotion Under Clinton." Washington Quarterly 18 (summer 1995): 1325.

Cox, Michael, G. John Ikenberry, and Takashi Inoguchi, eds. American Democracy Promotion: Impulses, Strategies, and Impacts. New York, 2000. An exceptionally valuable volume as an introduction to this issue.

Daalder, Ivo H., and Michael E. O'Hanlon. Winning Ugly: NATO's War to Save Kosovo. Washington, D.C., 2000.

Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York, 1999. A spirited defense of globalization that is engagingly written.

Garten, Jeffrey E. The Big Ten: The Big Emerging Markets and How They Will Change Our Lives. New York, 1997.

Goodman, Melvin A. "The Case Against National Missile Defense." Journal of Homeland Defense (20 October 2000).

Hirsch, John L., and Robert B. Oakley. Somalia and Operation Restore Hope: Reflections on Peacemaking and Peacekeeping. Washington, D.C., 1995.

Holbrooke, Richard C. To End a War. New York, 1999. Holbrooke's valuable memoir on his efforts to end the war in Bosnia.

Joseph, Robert. "The Case for National Missile Defense." Journal of Homeland Defense (20 October 2000).

Kaplan, Lawrence F. "Offensive Line: Why the Best Offense Is a Good Missile Defense." New Republic (12 March 2001).

Klare, Michael. Rogue States and Nuclear Outlaws: America's Search for a New Foreign Policy. New York, 1995.

Lake, Anthony. "From Containment to Enlargement." Remarks delivered at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, 21 September 1993.

. "Confronting Backlash States." Foreign Affairs 73 (MarchApril 1994): 4555.

Layne, Christopher. "Rethinking American Grand Strategy: Hegemony or Balance of Power in the Twenty-First Century?" World Policy Journal 15 (summer 1998): 828.

Litwak, Robert. Rogue States and U.S. Foreign Policy: Containment After the Cold War. Baltimore, 2000.

Mandelbaum, Michael. "Foreign Policy as Social Work." Foreign Affairs 75 (JanuaryFebruary 1996): 1632. A highly critical article about the Clinton administration's humanitarian interventions in Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia that fully reflects the "realist" critique of these operations.

Melanson, Richard A. American Foreign Policy Since the Vietnam War: The Search for Consensus from Nixon to Clinton. Armonk, N.Y., 2000.

O'Sullivan, Meghan L. "Sanctioning 'Rogue' States: A Strategy in Decline?" Harvard International Review 22 (summer 2000): 5661.

Rubin, Barry. "U.S. Foreign Policy and Rogue States." Middle East Review of International Affairs 3 (September 1999): 4957.

Sachs, Jeffrey. "Unlocking the Mysteries of Globalization." Foreign Policy 110 (spring 1998): 97111.

Stiglitz, Joseph. "The Insider." New Republic (1724 April 2000). An article by a former senior official at the IMF criticizes that organization for its imperious policies toward developing countries.

Walker, Martin. "The New American Hegemony." World Policy Journal 13 (summer 1996): 1321.

Waltz, Kenneth N. "Globalization and American Power." The National Interest 59 (spring 2000): 4656. An article by a leading "realist" scholar that debunks globalization as a wildly exaggerated phenomenon that has done little to alter the ways states conduct their foreign policies.

See also Arms Control and Disarmament; Cold War Evolution and Interpretations; Cold War Origins; Cold War Termination; Cold Warriors; Containment; Environmental Diplomacy; Globalization; Humanitarian Intervention and Relief; Internationalism; International Monetary Fund and World Bank; International Organization; Nuclear Strategy and Diplomacy; Power Politics; Science and Technology; Superpower Diplomacy; Terrorism and Counterterrorism.


In a long and vigorous round of questioning at a 21 June 2000 State Department press briefing, spokesman Richard Boucher tried to explain the implications of the change in terminology from "rogue" to "state of concern":

Question: Is "rogue state" then out of the lexicon as of today?

Boucher: I haven't used it for a while.

Question: Is it possible that some states will still be referred to as "rogue states" if they

Boucher: If they want to be rogues, they can be rogues, but generally we have not been using the term for a while, I think.

Question: So it's not a matter of some countries continue to be "rogue states" and others have progressed to "states of concern"; all of them henceforth are "states of concern"?

Boucher: Yes.

Question: But does this lower the bar for what a "state of concern" is, now that there's no "rogue state"?

Boucher: Does this lower the bar? No, because, as I said, it's more a description than a change in policy, because the issue is: Are various countries whose activities around the world have been troubling to us, are they actually dealing with the issues that we have been concerned about? And if we are able to encourage them or pressure them or otherwise produce changes in their behavior, and therefore a change in our relationship, we're willing to do that. If they're not, then we're going to keep our sanctions on and we're going to keep our restrictions on and we're not going to change our policies.

Question: Can you tell us how many there are?

Boucher: No.

Question: Has anyone actually done a rough list?

Boucher: We have found the opportunity to express our concerns about different states at different times in different ways. We try to deal with each one on its behavior, on its actions, on its merits.

Question: I just want to ask a question on the former rogue state of North Korea. (Laughter)

Boucher: The state previously known as rogue; is that it? (Laughter)