Rise of the Vulcans

Following his 2001 inauguration as president, George W. Bush followed through on his campaign promise to compensate for his inadequacies in foreign policy by installing in crucial positions six people whom he and several Republican ex-presidents had, for many years, been grooming for such a task. These six people referred to themselves as “The Vulcans,” commemorating the Roman god of fire, the forge, and metalwork.

Bush’s top-level team consisted of two former secretaries of defense, Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld; an ex-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell; one ex-undersecretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz; one ex-assistant secretary of defense, Richard Armitage; and, as National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, an academic with valuable experience gained working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. It was generally assumed that this group would follow policies set by George H. W. Bush during his presidency, employing power diplomacy but minimizing conflict and confrontation.

Such, indeed, was not the case. The sextet now calling the shots in foreign policy questioned the validity of international agreements and recommended aggressiveness in dealing with the security threats posed by North Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. After the 9/11 disaster, American foreign policy-makers largely ignored such foreign allies as France and Germany and embarked on a go-it- alone moral crusade against what Bush termed the “axis of evil.” His foreign policy advisors, in their dealings with the rest of the world, are decidedly hawkish.