Generally, critics of the Bush administration focus on the ideological influence of neocons, notably Richard Perle, on the shaping of Bush administration foreign policy or to a lesser extent, the influence of the Reagan years. One of the underreported aspects of the Bush administration however is the number of high officials who had their political start with the administration of Richard Nixon, a list that includes Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Vice-President Dick Cheney and of course the former President Bush. It is also noteworthy that Cheney had been a Rumsfeld protege and Condi Rice was once Cheney's. The Bush circle is far more closed than the leaky Reagan administration where figures like Caspar Weinberger and George Schultz may have spent long years in politics and business at Bechtel working together but distrusted and disliked each other at the end of the day.
Nixon's administrative culture was one of " tough " and hardheaded realism, particularly in the area of foreign policy where the military was used to send signals to the Soviets by taking action against third parties in other theaters ( putting American nuclear forces on alert over the Mideast crisis was one example, bombing the hell out of Hanoi prior to a summit meeting with the Soviets was another). The Bush administration takes a number of cues from the Nixon playbook including a penchant for secrecy, a rationing of presidential contact with the relentlessly negative, cynical and leftwing White House Press corps and an emphasis on brains and loyalty in political appointees. The Bush administration has in fact achieved the iron self-discipline that Nixon longed for when he used Haldeman and Ehrlichman as a " Prussian guard " - the difference being that George W. Bush is a far more personable and likable figure than Nixon who inspired admiration but scant affection or emotional connection in his subordinates. Bush commands loyalty through personal ties as well as deference or fear unlike Richard Nixon.
To an extent, if you want to try to figure out where the administration desires to go in the world with its foreign policy you have to ask yourself what Nixon might have done - the administration is far more flexible behind the scenes than the shrill critics of neoconservatism would have you believe. Neocons provide part of the value system in setting American objectives in Bush's foreign policy but the mechanics of implementing policy can be found in the history Nixon and Reagan years.
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