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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Afghanistan and the Second Iraq War, 2001–2003 – A Revolution Confirmed?


Bush, Rumsfeld, and Military Transformation

When his campaign for the presidency began, George W. Bush's foreign and defense policy views were something of mystery. There was little indication that he had devoted much thought to international issues of the day, and as a two-term governor of Texas, there was no need for him to do so. To be taken seriously as a future commander-in-chief, however, he could not remain a blank slate, especially since Senator John McCain was expected to be his chief rival for the Republican nomination. Given McCain's distinguished military career and nearly two decades in the Senate, he was sure to paint Bush as a foreign and defense policy neophyte, although whether this line of attack would carry much weight in the relatively serene international environment of the late 1990s was unclear. But Bush did not wait long to stake out his position, using a speech at the Citadel military academy in September 1999 to provide the first indications of his vision for American foreign and defense policy.

Bush's speech began unremarkably, consisting largely of widely voiced conservative criticisms of the Clinton era. Bush promised to “renew the bond of trust between the American President and the American military,” suggesting, of course, that the antimilitary and borderline draft-dodging Clinton had severed the bond. Claiming that “not since the years before Pearl Harbor has our investment in national defense been so low as a percentage of GNP,” he pledged to reverse the decline in defense spending begun by his father and continued under Clinton.

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