Transforming U.S. Diplomacy

At the beginning of his second term, President George W. Bush set forth an ambitious goal. He declared that it was “the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

Implicit in embracing that long-term challenge was the necessity for the Administration to deal with a complex set of problems related to the ongoing battle against terrorism, the prolonged and controversial deployment of American military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and nuclear proliferation concerns, especially vis-a-vis Iran and North Korea.

Secretary Rice presents her vision of “Transformational Diplomacy: Meeting the Challenge of the 21st Century” at Georgetown University in January 2006

Secretary Rice presents her vision of “Transformational Diplomacy: Meeting the Challenge of the 21st Century” at Georgetown University in January 2006.

Also demanding U.S. attention were genocide in Darfur and deteriorating conditions in the Middle East, where fighting took place in Lebanon between Israel and the Hezbollah movement and in Gaza between Israelis and Palestinians.

The U.S. and its allies also grappled with the movement of Kosovo toward independence in the face of the opposition of Serbia, from which it would be detached. In Latin America, provocative rhetoric from some government leaders prompted U.S. concern about increased coca production and volatility in the international oil market. Additionally, U.S. engagement with China and Russia brought benefits to both sides and cooperation within NATO was strengthened.

Despite criticism, particularly in regard to the war in Iraq, the U.S. continued to lead the world in humanitarian assistance abroad and was in the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS and avian flu. It also pressed for meaningful reform of the United Nations, improvement of the rights and conditions of women and greater aviation security.

American consular and diplomatic security personnel, as well as volunteers from around the world, helped evacuate 15,000 American citizens during the fighting in Lebanon in July 2006

American consular and diplomatic security personnel, as well as volunteers from around the world, helped evacuate 15,000 American citizens during the fighting in Lebanon in July 2006.

To pursue President Bush’s long-term goals while dealing with immediate problems, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice elaborated a policy of  “transformational diplomacy” to enable the U.S. “to work with our many partners around the world to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.”

Accordingly, she outlined and pursued a plan to transform the State Department over the next generation through “global repositioning” of diplomatic personnel from Europe to critical emerging areas, increased regional focus in operations, greater engagement of foreign publics beyond capital cities, and establishment of “American Presence Posts” staffed by a single officer and “Virtual Presence Posts” through internet connection. Needed skills would be developed through enhanced training, expanded regional expertise, assignments to more challenging posts, experience in running programs, and practice of public diplomacy.  Coordination with other federal agencies would also be increased.”

During its last four years, the Bush administration continued to pursue many of the foreign policy objectives it had laid out in its first term. In Iraq, growing violence was reversed in 2007 with a U.S. military surge accompanied by overtures to disenchanted Sunni Arabs and enhanced reconstruction efforts. Violence declined substantially and there was broader participation in the Iraqi political process. In late 2008, Iraq and the U.S. signed a Strategic Framework Agreement and a Status of Forces Agreement calling for total withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011.”

US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker introduces Secretary Rice in Baghdad. December 2007

US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker introduces Secretary Rice in Baghdad.
December 2007

In Afghanistan, there were calls for more NATO troops and greater reconstruction efforts in the face of a resurgent Taliban. Insurgents in Afghanistan persisted in using border regions of Pakistan as a safe haven, and Pakistan itself continued to experience instability and terrorist threats. Iran pursued enrichment of uranium in what was widely believed to be an effort to build nuclear weapons. The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Teheran and the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany tried to negotiate an end to Iranian enrichment activities. A U.S. peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland in 2007 failed to yield agreement on a way forward on the Israeli/Palestinian dispute and in late 2008 Israel carried out an offensive against Hamas in Gaza in response to ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel.”

Relations with Russia remained complicated. Russia continued to protest US efforts to establish a missile defense system in Eastern Europe despite U.S. assurances that the system was not directed at Russia. In August 2008, Russian troops invaded and briefly occupied parts of Georgia in a dispute over the sovereignty of South Ossetia. Despite disagreements on some issues, including trade and human rights, the U.S. and China maintained a positive, engaged relationship. The U.S. and India further broadened their relationship and in 2008 signed an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation. The six-party talks designed to bring about nuclear disarmament by North Korea stalled over verification issues. Libya, however, agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.”

In Latin America, the US further developed ties with Colombia but faced opposition from governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. The administration also expanded its engagement with Africa and significantly increased foreign assistance. In 2008, Congress and the President renewed their commitment to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and to the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, increasing funding to up to $48 billion over five years.”

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