This is a college paper written in February 1990. It is a summary of President George Bush’s foreign policy in his first year in office.
When he ran for president in 1988, George Bush ran on his resume. The experience which he cited included the ambassadorship to the United Nations, ambassador to China, CIA director, and vice-president. Those jobs all prepared him for a career in foreign policy. In his first year in office, President Bush did emphasize foreign policy, while primarily entrusting domestic affairs to Chief of Staff John Sununu, Budget Director Richard Darman, and Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady.
In foreign policy, Bush is more of a day-to-day operator than any president in recent memory, taking only two longtime associates into his confidence on all sensitive matters: Secretary of State Baker and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.
Because he draws fewer people into his inner circle than Reagan, Bush is able to operate and carry out foreign policy with greater secrecy. For example, he kept the talks with China and the Malta summit both secret for months. He set a record for travel in the first year of a presidency.
Though he was active in foreign policy from the start, taking a tour of Asia, and meeting with leaders of several countries, Bush’s first major foreign policy task was the NATO summit in May of 1989. Several things were discussed at the talks such as the common European economy in 1992, the relations with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and US military presence in Western Europe. Bush helped resolve a disagreement which occurred about the US military and arms reductions. Many of the leaders were happy with President Bush’s settlement. This incident was a direct result from his experience as vice-president. After Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty in 1987, Bush was sent to NATO to help promote the treaty and gain their acceptance for it.
At about the same time, the demonstrations in China began to rise. President Bush supported the democratic movement, but stayed clear of it. He did issue warnings to US citizens in China to stay away from Bejing, or possibly to leave China, though there were some problems with US citizens leaving. After the massacre at Tienemen Square, high-level diplomatic ties were cut off. It was later learned, however, that less than 2 months later, Brent Scowcroft did go and meet with officials. The general consensus was that it was an insult to the democratic movement and ignored the repression that occurred earlier that summer. The Administration’s argument was that diplomatic progress needed to be made with the Chinese government, and cutting off all high-level talks would make that impossible.
In the Summer and Fall of 1989, George Bush was essentially handed the end of the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the democratization of Eastern Europe. His policy toward those reforms was simply to let it all happen, and try to reward those countries which opened their doors to the West. Most of his encouragement was only moral support.
In early December, President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev held a summit off the coast of Malta. They held about 8 hours of talks. They made few substantial agreements, but agreed to hold an extensive summit later this year to sign a significant arms reductions treaty. In answering questions after the summit, President Bush said they had discussed a wide range of topics, including ones they disagreed on including Central America and Cuba.
At about this same time, there was a coup attempt in the Philippines to overthrow President Corizon Aquino. The Bush policy was to support the Aquino government by having US military aircraft exercises as a show of support. He also said he would stop all economic aid to the country if the coup succeeded. President Aquino said this was a big factor in holding off the coup, and called President Bush to thank him for it.
In mid-December, President Bush sent troops into Panama. 4 reasons were given for the action: To protect the Panama canal, to protect American lives, to install the freely elected government, and to apprehend Gen. Noriega. Though they didn’t capture Noriega right away, he did eventually surrender. Some argued Bush should have taken advantage of a coup attempt in Panama in October. The Administration said they wouldn’t consider it because they couldn’t identify the people involved in the coup. Nevertheless, the action was applauded by the both Americans and Panamanians, and at home gained substantial bipartisan support.
As he began his 2nd year in office, President Bush enjoyed unusually high approval ratings, many of which were in the wake of this action.