http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/07/09/coverstory.tm.tm/ The end of cowboy diplomacy Why the 'Bush Doctrine' no longer works for Bush administration Sunday, July 9, 2006; Posted: 12:46 p.m. EDT (16:46 GMT) Manage Alerts | What Is This? Time.com -- All the good feeling at the White House at President Bush's early birthday party on July 4 couldn't hide the fact that the president finds himself in a world of hurt. A grinding and unpopular war in Iraq, a growing insurgency in Afghanistan, an impasse over Iran's nuclear ambitions, brewing war between Israel and the Palestinians -- the litany of global crises would test the fortitude of any president, let alone a second-termer with an approval rating mired in Warren Harding territory. And there's no relief in sight. On the very day that Bush celebrated 60, North Korea's regime, already believed to possess material for a clutch of nuclear weapons, test-launched seven missiles, including one designed to reach the U.S. homeland. Even more surprising than the test (it failed less than two minutes after launch), though, was Bush's response. Long gone were the zero-tolerance warnings, "Axis of Evil" rhetoric and talk of pre-emptive action. Instead, Bush pledged to "make sure we work with our friends and allies ... to continue to send a unified message" to Pyongyang. In a news conference after the missile test, he referred to diplomacy a half dozen times. The shift under way in Bush's foreign policy is bigger and more seismic than a change of wardrobe or a modulation of tone. Bush came to office pledging to focus on domestic issues and pursue a "humble" foreign policy that would avoid the entanglements of the Bill Clinton years. After September 11, however, the Bush team embarked on a different path, outlining a muscular, idealistic, and unilateralist vision of American power and how to use it. They aimed to lay the foundation for a grand strategy to fight Islamic terrorists and rogue states, by spreading democracy around the world and pre-empting gathering threats before they materialize. And the U.S. wasn't willing to wait for others to help. The approach fit with Bush's personal style, his self-professed proclivity to dispense with the nuances of geopolitics and go with his gut. "The Bush Doctrine is actually being defined by action, as opposed to by words," Bush told Tom Brokaw aboard Air Force One in 2003. But in the span of four years, the administration has been forced to rethink the doctrine by which it hoped to remake the world. Bush's response to the North Korean missile test was revealing: Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action. Instead, the administration has mainly been talking up multilateralism and downplaying Pyongyang's provocation. The Bush Doctrine foundered in the principal place the U.S. tried to apply it. Though no one in the White House openly questions Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, some aides now acknowledge that it has come at a steep cost in military resources, public support and credibility abroad. The administration is paying the bill every day as it tries to cope with other crises. Pursuing the forward-leaning foreign policy envisioned in the Bush Doctrine is nearly impossible at a time when the U.S. is trying to figure out how to extricate itself from Iraq. Taking note and taking advantage Around the world, both the U.S.'s friends and its adversaries are taking note -- and in many cases, taking advantage -- of the strains on the superpower. The past three years have seen a steady erosion in Washington's ability to bend the world to its will. The strategic makeover is most evident in the ascendance of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has tried to repair the administration's relations with allies and has persuaded Bush to join multilateral negotiations aimed at defusing the standoffs with North Korea and Iran. By training and temperament, Rice is a foreign-policy realist, less inclined to the moralizing approach of the neoconservatives who dominated Bush's cabinet in the first term. Her push for pragmatism has rubbed off on hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney, the primary intellectual force behind Bush's post-9/11 policies. "There's a move, even by Cheney, toward the Kissingerian approach of focusing entirely on vital interests," says a presidential adviser. "It's a more focused foreign policy that is driven by realism and less by ideology." To much of the world, that's a relief. Copyright © 2006 Time Inc.