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US Foreign Policy

US Foreign Policy (3rd edn)

Michael Cox and Doug Stokes
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date: 14 July 2024

p. 977. America in the 1990s: searching for purposelocked

p. 977. America in the 1990s: searching for purposelocked

  • John Dumbrell


This chapter examines how the external environment of US foreign policy and internal pressures on policy makers both shifted radically in the 1990s. Internationally, the ‘long 1990s’ were characterized by intense democratic possibility. Yet they were also years of atavistic negativity and irrationality, as seen in Rwanda and Bosnia. Two questions arise: First, how should the United States respond to a world which was apparently both rapidly integrating and rapidly disintegrating? Second, was it inevitable, desirable, or even possible that the US should provide global leadership? Before discussing various approaches to these questions, the chapter considers the wider international environment of apparent unipolarity and globalization. It also analyzes the development of American foreign policy under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, focusing in particular on the so-called ‘Kennan sweepstakes’ during the first year of Clinton’s presidency as well as Clinton’s turn towards unilateralism and remilitarization.

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