The Bush Administration

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The Bush administration was home to a particularly collegial team of senior nationalsecurity policymakers. They had worked together in the Ford and Reagan administrations and held compatible views on both the substance of policy and how it should be made. And during the Bush administration they faced "a world transformed" (the apt title of the unique memoir co-authored by the president and his national security adviser). This roundtable examines the National Security Council process during the Bush administration, as seen through the eyes of officials a level or two below the principals. They were responding to substantial changes throughout the world: Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin wall, the unification of Germany, the Gulf War, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. As they address specific questions about the policy process (reprinted as Appendix A), the participants in the roundtable recorded in this transcript tell the story of a National Security Council whose collegiality and substantive effectiveness extended to a number of key NSC and State Department officials (although not to some at the assistant secretary level). This is the third in a series of roundtables held by the National Security Council Project, co-sponsored by the Center for International and Security Studies at the Maryland School of Public Affairs and the Foreign Policy Studies program of the Brookings Institution. Transcripts of two previous roundtables on the Nixon NSC and the role of the NSC in international economic policymaking have been published. Three additional transcripts on the role of the national security adviser, the NSC and U.S. policy toward China, and on the NSC and arms control policy will be published in the near future. Other roundtables are planned for the fall of 2000. These have been conducted for their own independent value. They also will provide useful input to a report on the NSC we plan to publish in the fall of 2000 and a book to be published in 2001. We are grateful to the participants for coming and talking with candor and insight. We would also particularly like to thank Karla Nieting for help in organizing the roundtable and her work with the participants in bringing this edited version of the proceedings to publication. Responsibility for any remaining errors rests with us. I.M. "Mac" Destler is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland.
Ivo Daalder is a Fellow at the Brookings Institution.


from Oral History Roundtables