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The Foreign Policy Lessons of 11/9

Interviewees: James M. Goldgeier, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations, Council on Foreign Relations
Derek H. Chollet, Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security
Interviewer: Robert McMahon, Deputy Editor, CFR.org
June 12, 2008

The 9/11 terror attacks are viewed as a seminal event that set in motion abrupt changes to U.S. foreign policy. But a new book asserts that 11/9—the date the Berlin Wall fell in 1989—has even more significance in challenging U.S. policymaking to this day. In their book America Between the Wars, From 11/9 to 9/11, CFR senior fellow James Goldgeier and Derek Chollet, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, describe the 1990s as a defining moment for foreign policy. They also note that after a long period of bipartisan agreement on the Cold War policy of containment, the 1990s were marked by some confusion as experts struggled to come up with a new doctrine to deal with a changing world.

The Clinton administration eventually coalesced around core principles featuring embrace of trade and globalization, democracy promotion, and the use of military force, the authors say. Opposition Republicans, meanwhile, splintered after the collapse of communism over how America's role in the world should be redefined. Goldgeier and Chollet say these are legacies that both presidential frontrunners are dealing with today as they seek to shore up supporters in their parties and prepare new administrations that would take office in January 2009. Their advice after chronicling rocky intra-party transitions in 1993 and 2001: start preparing now.

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