Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



ABSTRACT In modern US history, the 1990s are often regarded as “The Decade of Peace and Prosperity.” Though the liberalization of markets and a technology boom fueled American prosperity, expectations of post-Cold War peace remained elusive. The purpose of this study is to observe how in the moment when the US became the world’s superpower, it also began to retreat from a position of active leadership. Elected in 1992, President Bill Clinton looked towards the United Nations as the answer to keeping peace around the globe. His administration’s policies of democratic enlargement and aggressive multilateralism aimed to combine the spread of free market democracy and collective security as concepts upon which to contain foreign conflict. While noble in its idealism, Clinton lacked clear objectives when faced with international crises. His focus on domestic issues, and lack of attention to cases where US leadership was necessary, hurt America’s credibility as a force for humanity and justice in the eyes of many around the globe. With a focus on the eruption of five serious foreign entanglements during Clinton’s two terms—Somalia, the Bosnian War, the Rwandan Genocide, Haiti, and the rise of Al Qaeda—this work illuminates a distrust of resolute American leadership among Clinton and his primary advisors. His hesitancy to wield American power, actively persuade allies, and use US influence to direct international policy reflected a nation unwilling to confront either friend or foe to advance its own interests. The rapid rise of al Qaeda during the Clinton presidency gives additional weight to this study’s findings regarding the administration’s lack of focus and willpower involving direct national security threats. As Clinton increasingly looked towards international bodies for direction, even at the height of US power, he allowed the nation to become mired in incompetent peacekeeping missions that too often yielded disastrous consequences, both for US forces and those they were sent to protect.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Culbert, David

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History Commons