Foreign Policy and the Next President

After a week of tabloid voyeurism–I mean election watching– I’m getting serious. I spent the past several months examining the Bush foreign policy legacy and the 2008 election, interviewing academics and top foreign policy officials from the past three presidential administrations. What I found was surprising: America’s forty-third president may go down as one of the most criticized in American history, but his grand strategy will undoubtedly set the course of American foreign policy for the next administration, and possibly the next generation.

Here’s an excerpt:

Given the near-universal criticism of Bush’s foreign policy, it is hard to imagine that anything remotely related to it will last a day past January 20. Yet the truth is that Bush’s big ideas are here to stay. Regardless of who wins the presidential election in November, Bush’s freedom agenda, which calls for spreading democracy to extend peace between states and combat terrorism within them, will almost certainly endure. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama criticize the war in Iraq, but champion the spread of democracy in the Middle East. They decry America’s loss of moral standing in the world, but advocate a continuation of the American moral crusade. Although they attack Bush’s tactics—suggesting we nurture alliances more and torture detainees less—they embrace Bush’s core strategic vision: that peace and security are inextricably linked to the spread of liberty. Neither candidate has repudiated the freedom agenda. Ironically, George W. Bush, a president whom historian Simon Schama judged a “catastrophe,” has set the intellectual foundations of American foreign policy for the next generation.

For the full story, go to The National Interest online

Author: Amy Zegart

Amy Zegart is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. She is also a faculty affiliate at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and a professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (by courtesy). Her research examines national security agencies, American foreign policy, and anything scary. Academic publications include two award-winning books: Spying Blind, which examines intelligence adaptation failures before 9/11, and Flawed by Design, which chronicles the evolution of America’s national security architecture. She is currently working on a book about intelligence in the post-9/11 world. Zegart writes an intelligence column at, and her pieces have also appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. Previously, she taught at UCLA and worked at McKinsey & Company. A former Fulbright Scholar, she received an A.B. in East Asian Studies from Harvard and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford. A native Kentuckian, she loves to watch good college football and bad reality TV.