Here are some of the most important issues. In its first term, the Bush Administration rightly perceived the need to fundamentally change American foreign policy after September 11. When Islamic extremists are the enemy, not nation-states, the U.S. must act differently. But in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Rumsfeld Doctrine of light, lethal, and fast military force left the job of destroying the enemy unfinished. The Taliban government was vanquished, but too few U.S. troops on the ground has prolonged instability, and Osama bin Laden remains at large.
In Iraq, an incredibly efficient military victory was followed by enormous managerial incompetence. The Pentagon refused the Army's advice to send twice as many soldiers to secure the peace. The result? Today Fallujah and other Iraqi cities are a magnet for fundamentalist terrorists. Under the dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq was not a hotbed of Islamic religious terrorism, according to the 9/11 Commission. In a second term, the Bush Administration would do well to return to the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming military force.
It would also do well to rethink its antipathy toward nation-building. By refusing to allow the State Dept. to implement its detailed post-Iraq War plans, the Bush Administration severely damaged the chances of attaining its own goal of turning Iraq into a secular democratic state. So too in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are reemerging.
Finally, a second Bush Administration should reconsider its policy of unilateralism. In the end, the U.S. was forced to turn to the U.N. to legitimize its occupation in Iraq and it could have used many more allies to spread the burden of troops and cost, which it now bears alone. Unilateralism has, in the end, been a costly policy, generating anti-Americanism around the world and ultimately damaging U.S. authority.
There were significant victories against Islamic fundamentalists during the first Bush Administration. But there were major failures as well. It's time for the administration to tell the public how it plans to change its foreign policy to avoid previous pitfalls and attain its major goal of defeating terrorism.