Mann speaks on foreign policy

When President Bush took office in 2000 with relatively little foreign policy experience, he made it clear that he would appoint seasoned political veterans as advisors. And so, four years later, on the brink of an election concerned heavily with international issues, Bush’s inner circle has garnered much attention.

Bush’s top advisors have been strong proponents of military force, due largely to their experience during the Cold War, journalist James Mann said at a Morse College Master’s Tea Thursday. Mann, who is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, has spent the last few years researching Bush’s foreign policy team for his new book, “Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet.

Mann studied six of Bush’s top advisors — Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage — and said their aggressive policies are a product of their times.

“Their generation is a bridge between the last years of the Cold War and Sept. 11,” Mann said. “There will be subsequent teams, they may be doves or hawks, but they won’t have come out of the Cold War like these guys did.”

Mann compared Bush’s advisors to leaders of the post-World War II generation, who spent a lot of time building institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations. In contrast, Mann said, the Bush administration’s emphasis is on military power.

He said the administration’s gradual shift from a broad war on terrorism to an invasion of Iraq was carefully presented as a sequence of related strategies.

“About six weeks after Sept. 11, they started to talk about the problem of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons,” Mann said. “Four to six weeks later it became, ‘What if a country gives them nukes?’ Then you had the Axis of Evil speech. The shifts were so subtle that people didn’t really notice.”

The future of American foreign policy will depend largely on the results of the presidential election less than two weeks away, an election which Mann said makes him apprehensive.

“This country has got to find a way of getting through Election Day and its aftermath,” Mann said. “I’d say there’s one chance in three that we won’t know the week after the election who won. Will there be seven or eight Floridas? Seven or eight court cases? That to me is a fairly scary proposition.”

After starting his journalism career at a few small newspapers, Mann became a reporter at The Washington Post and later The Los Angeles Times. He covered the Supreme Court for several years, and then accepted a job as a Beijing-based correspondent for the Times. He spent 15 years writing about Chinese affairs before switching his focus to the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

When Mann reported from China in the 1980s during a period of reform, he still experienced censorship from the government, he said.

“The security involvement was much more distant and benign than it had been in the past, but it was there,” Mann said.

The tea drew about 40 students, professors and area residents, many of whom asked questions about Bush’s advisors, China and the upcoming election.

“I think the most interesting thing was his knowledge on so many different levels — his experiences in China, as well as dealing with the Bush administration,” said Nirupam Sinha ’05, president of the Yale College Democrats. “It was nice to hear a whole different set of perspectives.”

Journalist James Mann speaks to students on issues of foreign policy and the impact of the presidential election during a Master’s Tea at Morse College.
Cody Dashiell-Earp
Journalist James Mann speaks to students on issues of foreign policy and the impact of the presidential election during a Master’s Tea at Morse College.

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