After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy

  • Published

After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy by Timothy J. Lynch and Robert S. Singh. Cambridge University Press, 2008, 396 pp.

This book swims upstream against the many vocal critics of Pres. George W. Bush’s efforts in the war against terrorism. In many of the public debates, articles, books, and other media evaluations of this president’s foreign policy, that policy is hotly debated and usually discounted. After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy adds another opinion to the debate. It is worthy of one’s time to read as a new president develops his foreign policy. The two authors offer a distinct perspective on the impact of the Bush foreign policy and postulate that the policy decisions of the next American president will remain essentially the same as those espoused in the Bush doctrine. The authors label this period of time “the Second Cold War” and state that it has many of the similarities of “the First Cold War, which offers a roadmap for the Second—one which no American administration after Bush will reject” (p. 15).

It is especially interesting to note that the authors are British university professors. Timothy Lynch is a lecturer in American foreign policy at the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London. Robert Singh is a professor of politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. As teaching professionals, they seem academically anchored, having already written several books during the last decade on topics across the spectrum of American politics and foreign policy.

The thesis of After Bush is that the foreign policy embarked upon during the Bush administration shall endure after the end of the administration in January 2009. I was pleased that the authors offer a well-researched and documented argument to substantiate their claim that the current direction in foreign policy shall prevail during the next administration. Their analysis of the Bush foreign policy concerning the need for and result of that policy is generally positive. Lynch and Singh imply that current American policy is effective in dealing with the terrorist threat and that it is necessary for the United States to continue this primary role of fighting terrorism. What is not developed within the book is a full discussion of the political cost of President Bush’s declining domestic acceptance rating as a result of maintaining that foreign policy. Lynch and Singh do not assert that the next president shall attempt to improve his presidential standings by changing policy; they simply state that the current direction of American diplomacy and military intervention is the appropriate avenue in these times and that the new president, facing similar threats shall continue to take the Bush perspective on these matters.

Lynch and Sing make a compelling case for this assertion. One of the reasons postulated is the similarity of the Democrat and Republican positions concerning the use of military force. The authors argue that American political parties are closer in their beliefs on the use of the American military in foreign policy than those of our nation’s closest allies. This is an interesting perspective, to say the least, and yet the authors skillfully introduce carefully crafted research and documentation to make this assertion seem feasible.

Overall, these scholars offer a well-written book that clearly states the reasons why their thesis may hold true in the near future. Consequently, this book is useful for Americans wanting to digest the current state of affairs of foreign policy development with an eye towards what may be in store for the country. Yes, I would fully recommend this book for our Air Force audience. It is well researched, documented, and skillfully written and contains endnotes, a bibliography, and an index to assist in answering the concerns of any reader in search of the sources of the nuances and statements within the book.

If the thesis of these writers proves true, then perhaps in future years when a new historical evaluation of President Bush’s contribution to our security is made, a greater appreciation of his foreign policy may be forthcoming than he now enjoys and, then again, perhaps not. The potential resolution of that paradox is part of the worth that each reader may find from reading this book.

Col Joseph J. McCue, USAF, Retired

Springfield, Virginia

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."