US Presidential Election and Unilateralism: What The Public Wants

Would the election of Senator JohnKerry to the American presidency return the United States to a multilateralist foreign policy? If President George Bush’s current policy, said by some to be extremely unilateralist, reflects in part a new American public preference for going it alone, could Kerry actually hurt his candidacy by campaigning in favour of multilateralism?

The World Today
Published 1 April 2004 Updated 16 October 2020 4 minute READ

Joseph Grieco

Professor of Political Science, Duke University, North Carolina

Any commentators on both sides of the Atlantic suggest that the American public has become resolutely unilateralist since the terror attacks of September 11 2001, and thus supports the supposed unilateralist turn in American foreign policy under President George Bush’s administration.

For example, Quentin Peel observed in the Financial Times last December that ‘the shock of those terrorist attacks appears to have shifted the centre of gravity away from any residual multilateralism and towards an absolute reliance on national power and resources.’ Similarly, Charles Kupchan suggested in last summer’s Political Science Quarterly that, under the Bush administration, and with public support, ‘America is veering toward unilateralist and neo-isolationalist extremes.’

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