Bush Reverses Stance on Foreign Policy

Like the presidents who have preceded him, President Bush has circled 180 degrees on foreign policy, throwing out his campaign pledge to avoid "nation building" and entering full tilt in the creation of a new Afghanistan.

In 2000, Gov. George W. Bush told interventionists and isolationists alike that the Clinton administration had gone too far in intervening in the politics of other nations, stretching thin the military in regions that don't threaten U.S. national security interests.

The policy might have worked too, if it were not for the Sept. 11 terror attacks, which revealed to Bush that nation-building is still a favorable option in countries where threats to U.S. security are allowed to fester unchecked.

Afghanistan, where the nation's Taliban rulers were sheltering Usama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network, is the first example. When that campaign ends, however, Bush promises to pursue terrorism — militarily, financially or diplomatically — to the far corners of the earth.

What he won't do, however, is lend the U.S. military to a peace-keeping effort, but with the pursuit of terrorism, many nations' security is threatened and the United States could again be put in the position of mopping up after a fallen government.

In any event, Bush's turnaround on foreign policy is not unique to his presidency.

In 1940, while the United States avoided the war in Europe, Franklin D. Roosevelt ran his campaign for a third-term on the premise of staying out of the conflict while lending assistance to Britain. Just a year after his election, however, the United States was pulled into the war after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy charged in his campaign against Richard M. Nixon that the Eisenhower administration, in which Nixon was vice president, had permitted a "missile gap" to evolve, giving the Soviet Union a critical security edge over the United States.

After Kennedy settled into the White House the notion of a missile gap and a program to bridge it vanished.

So did Nixon's "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam, which he had used in his successful race for the presidency in 1968, capitalizing on widespread sentiment against the war.

The war went on for years after Nixon was elected, and if he ever had a secret plan to end the conflict, he never revealed it.

In his 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan attacked the process of arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. It was a position that reflected the suspicions of Reagan and other deeply conservative Republicans.

After he was elected, "trust, but verify," became the catch-phrase, and U.S.-Soviet relations improved with the process of nuclear weapons reductions accompanied by verification measures.

Barely a year into his presidency, Bush's views on foreign policy are only beginning to evolve.

The United States has gone from holding Russia at arms length to embracing it, all at the urging of Bush, who has made Russian President Vladimir Putin a go-to partner in international policy.

On the Middle East, Bush has already backed away once from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, bolstering Israel's claim to the city as its capital.

He has also moved from being a benevolent broker — nudging, rather than trying to force — Israel and the Arabs toward peace agreements to a hard-liner on Palestinian violence. He has agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that violence must be curbed before steps toward peace can be taken, and has avoided meeting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, demanding he dismantle terrorist groups that have attacked Israelis.

At the same time, Bush has endorsed statehood for the Palestinians.

Last month, Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered a speech in Louisville, Ky., that suggested a larger role for the Bush administration in peacemaking if the violence is brought down.

Powell said Israel was strangling peace hopes by constructing homes for Jews on the West Bank and in Gaza, and he called Israel an occupier of land that Powell said should be turned over to the Palestinians in exchange for peace and security.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.