Between Wars: What Did We Do Between 11/9 and 9/11?

James Goldgeier, professor in the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, spoke about the dismissal of the significant years between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War on Terror. Goldgeier presented his lecture, entitled “U.S. Foreign Policy between the Wars: 11/9 to 9/11,” on Thursday, Nov. 13.
The lecture, which was sponsored by the International Studies Public Forum, was based on the book of the same title, which Goldgeier co-wrote with Derek Chollet. He began by arguing that the reason people do not know the significance of 11/9, the date the Berlin Wall fell, or much of the history leading up to Sept. 11, is because a “sabbatical frame,” has been placed over the period.
Although according to Goldgeier, the Cold War played a crucial role in putting the views of the Republican and Democratic parties into context, the sabbatical frame makes the period after the Cold War seem less significant, giving students less incentive to study the interval.
“Anti-communism was the glue that held the Republican party together,” Goldgeier said.
According to Goldgeier, after the Cold War, the Republican party no longer had a unifying cause and split between neoconservatives, who wanted to interact with other nations, and the paleoconservatives, who were more nationalistic.
The end of the Cold War also provided an opportunity for the Democratic party to move in a new direction, addressing globalization and free trade. As Goldgeier emphasized the party’s goal was to now make the American economy more competitive in a global market.
Military deployment is another issue pinpointed in the book. During the Clinton administration, U.S. forces deployed in Kosovo without authorization from the United Nations resulted in a debate about whether the United States should use military force for humanitarian purposes. Goldgeier stated that some people believed the “U.S. should use its military to protect populations threatened by genocide,” while others felt that the military should only be called upon for national defense.
Goldgeier also discussed the role of the United States in the international community from 11/9 to 9/11, highlighting struggle between working with other nations and trying to be the powerhouse of the world during this period. The Clinton administration attempted to convince the American public that engagement in the international community was essential, describing the country as the “indispensable nation.” According to Goldgeier it was a “phrase to convince people of the need for international engagement.”
When George W. Bush came into office, international cooperation was not high on the agenda, Goldgeier explained. The Bush administration did not care about working with other nations, they were composed of respected party officials enforcing policies that discredited U.S. foreign policy. However, Goldgeier said that the issues of terrorism and racism that emerged upon the eve of the Bush administration were also relevant at the time the Berlin Wall fell.
“Bush may have exacerbated problems,” said Goldgeier, “but he didn’t create them.”
Bush’s reluctance to cooperate with the international community has created a difficult environment for President-elect Barack Obama to step into, Goldgeier argued.
“The expectations [for Obama] [across] the rest of the world are high,” Goldgeier said.
However, he explained that the expectations for Obama might be too high. Obama will have a lot to manage between Iraq, the economy and his plan for Afghanistan. Goldgeier said that though Obama will be diplomatic, he will still find it difficult to garner the support of the international community.
Michelle Bauer, a fourth-year political science major, said that the lecture was “the best one they’ve had here.” She added that she was surprised by the lack of faith in Obama’s foreign policy.
“Council on Foreign Relations is a big deal,” Bauer said. “I’m looking forward to reading his book.”