Courtesy Reuters

All the Presidents' Men

In the first month of his presidency, George W. Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 1, setting out how the country's national security machinery would operate under his leadership. Notably, the document signaled that the new administration would eschew the use of special diplomatic envoys. It abolished half of the existing emissary positions, including those covering peace in the Middle East and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In the four years since, the Bush administration has mostly stuck to its bureaucratic guns. Aside from a few high-profile missions--such as the appointment of former Treasury Secretary James Baker to deal with Iraq's war debt and former Senator (and later UN ambassador) John Danforth to help make peace in Sudan--the White House has generally steered clear of diplomatic troubleshooters and special representatives.

This approach was consistent with both the means and the ends of Bush's early foreign policy. His team viewed the deployment of outsiders as an inappropriate method of implementing foreign policy; it was no way for grownups to govern. Bush, the CEO president, preferred clear reporting lines and administrative tidiness. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was a presidential emissary to Haiti in 1994, complained in his confirmation hearings before the Senate about the "very large number of envoys running around" and vowed to "empower the existing bureaus to do their jobs."

If the proliferation of special envoys under President Bill Clinton struck the incoming administration as evidence of organizational ad hockery, it also spoke to them of weakness and an overreliance on diplomacy. For most of his first term, Bush showed little sustained interest in deep diplomatic engagement with the world. The hard-line wing of the Republican Party was dominant, and it neglected the tradition of working with other nations to project U.S. influence abroad and share the burden of policing the world. The administration withdrew from multilateral agreements that the United States had helped advance and undermined institutions that the United States had helped build. It retired

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