The Atlantic

American Foreign Policy Could Use More Prudence

George H. W. Bush’s restraint was remarkable, and worth imitating.
Source: Bob Daugherty / AP

During George H. W. Bush’s single term in the White House, the Berlin Wall fell and Germany reunified peacefully. The Warsaw Pact dissolved, the Soviet Union crumbled, and the Cold War ended. The American military ejected Manuel Noriega from Panama and liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. The United States emerged as the world’s preeminent power after four decades of superpower standoff.

This outcome was the product of both long historical forces and key actors, including Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. But it was not inevitable.

As the world order shifted dramatically, George H. W. Bush steered the ship of state with experience, expertise, and—though it launched a million gibes—prudence. America emerged from his tenure stronger than before, with its adversaries weakened or

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