Power without Influence: The Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy Failure in the Middle East

“Did the administration of President George W. Bush influence the Middle East in the manner the president hoped?” This is the question asked in Jeremy Pressman’s article “Power without influence” in International Security. Pressman explains that the Bush administration had three main policy objectives in the region: defeating terrorism, advancing U.S. national security interests and halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, according to Pressman, writing in 2009, Al-Qaida has not been eliminated, democracy promotion in the region has not progressed significantly, and nuclear proliferation has increased rather than decreased, with Iran remaining undeterred from pursuing a nuclear program.

Why did the Bush administration thus fail to achieve its goals in the region? Pressman argues that the failures of Bush’s policies stem from four factors. First, the Bush administration’s strategy relied too heavily on military force and second, under-utilized diplomacy, especially when Iran “sought a diplomatic rapprochement with the United States in 2003.” Third, due to ideological certainty and electoral concerns, Pressman argues, the Bush administration did not learn from flaws in its Iraq policy, thus missing several opportunities to correct errors. Finally, the Bush administration’s policies toward the region “suffered from at least two contradictions, including the long-standing tension between democracy promotion and national security.” Based on these failures, Pressman argues that Bush’s tenure in office and policy record in the region demonstrate that “capabilities do not easily translate into influence,” especially when flawed policies are added into the equation.

Download “Power without Influence” from International Security if your university has access here or email info@pomeps.org for assistance.