On 9-11 the US might well have had one of the most horrifying days in history. Not bloodiest to be sure, but most definitely most horrifying. For the first time in the history of the US, a nation stared in rapt attention as terrorists flew planes into public non-military buildings. For the first time in history we were actual witnesses to a horror as it happened, not seeing the more sterile after effects censored by the media. We saw it. It was an action that required an action of response. Unlike so many others here, George Bush was in a position to do something, I think he did a good job in expressing the grief and outrage we as a country felt, "You are either with us or you are with the terrorists, you either stand with civilization and good or with barbarism and evil. Choose.". In something like this attack, his statement coalesced the feeling felt by most Americans. American policy was reshaped and focused by Bush.
The new reshaping created a new policy of assertiveness for the US, really not seen since the Cold War. During the prior Clinton year's foreign policy generally tended to light reactive positions to quandaries in the world. For instance an attempt on Bush, illicits some cruise missiles, the Middle East, quick visit by the president and an attempt to rapidly cobble some sort of workable solution. Ephemeral actions, but in all honesty, not immediate dangers to the US. During the Cold War our oceans became ponds with the technology of ballistic missiles. When the war ended they became oceans again, we felt safe, regardless of the realities out there. Now we see the our oceans diminished again and find ourselves forced outward to influence world events, much as we did during the Cold War.
Underneath the Bush doctrine we have forced Pakistan to relinquish their ties, and support of the Taliban and their tolerance of Al-Qaeda. The Saudi's had to deal with the problem of 15 of its own citizens being the terrorists, the US citizenry also has a more suspicious view of the Saudi efforts to side step their lack of democracy by demonizing the West. Bush also strengthened our relations with Russia, China and India, who also have terrorist problems in their lands. Russia, China and India also now have friendlier relations with the US than with each other. Bush also focused on three very real problems with his axis of evil. Iraq (which there is much debate regarding whether to invade, but certainly not the level of depravity), Korea (a strangely prescient view was presented in another thread for Clinton's comprehensive view and bribe to keep Korea from being a nuclear power) and Iran (which was caught selling arms to the PLO and also has a desire for power projection into Afghanistan). While not Axis in a connecting alliance stance, they do present a "big three" of troublemakers for the US and actively and potentially destabilizing influences for their regions. But then we talk about nuance here, Bush did say once "My job isn't to nuance. My job is to say what I think. I think moral clarity is important". Leftists will cringe at words like moral clarity, but it did serve us well in World War II. Moral clarity can be very important in such a large challenge. Europe has no moral clarity. Face, because they are not sure, the Europeans dither and debate, the make plans, then cancel the plans, then make them again, but they never really do anything. We have seen that, and continue to see it in the Balkans.
Some of the complaints about Bush are somewhat old and hackneyed regarding his view of unilateralism. Actually Reagan faced worse resentment when he went to Europe about 20 odd years ago (and he won the cold war ). I remember, right after 9-11 when NATO activated article five (any attack on a single NATO nation was an attack on all NATO nations), Rumsfeld sent an envoy that said basically, thanks, but no thanks (one NATO aid summed it up "Preserve the myth, and laugh" (see the economist for December of last year if I recall correctly). Now, in recent months Bush has modified his actions on unilateralist while keeping the core issues active. With Euro outrage he compromised on the ICC. Middle east, Bush created a "quartet" of the EU, Russia, the UN and the US to oversee the creation of a Palestinian state. In other areas too he has worked hard to avert a continuing crisis (especially between Pakistan and India, which almost led to a nuclear exchange). Does US security translate to global security, or can global security exist and does it translate to US security?
I believe that often we have failed to recognize an "overview" of what Bush's policy has done, focusing on the issue du jour rather than trying to understand the overview. In one sense his policy has created a decidedly uncomfortable "realpolitik" in Europe. Very few Europeans have appreciated the extent to which Europe's relevance to the US has diminished. Europe has lived in a comfortable "Hobbiton" myth of coziness within the sphere of American economics and protection. It is not that way anymore, Europe has not yet really had to wade through conflicts alone, depending, even demanding that the US be involved, even in their own neighborhood the Balkans. This new real politik is fraught with both opportunities and liabilities (including one in which the US needs to reduce their expectations in Europe).
On the other hand, India, Pakistan and Russia have begun to ascend to a level more closely tied to an eastern approach of US policy, as they rise in importance they diminish the US attention to Europe. Europe will be left to its own devices and less active cooperation will come about as "passive" or culturally like minded cooperation will be depended on.
In any case there is a palpable shift in policy and it is very much reflected in both the Bush policy and the world's reactions to it. There are both positive and negative benefits (again did anyone really notice how close Pakistan and India came to a nuclear exchange?).
[This message has been edited by Baldar (edited October 20, 2002).]