Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

Steven Roach, Ph.D.


Relativism, Leo Strauss, Jurgen Habermas, George W. Bush, United Nations


The Bush Doctrine represents a paradigm shift in international security policy. Never had a foreign policy demonstrated such will through unilateralism, preemptive militarism, and a sense of exceptionalism. I argue that this shift in policy resists modern international order in an attempt to reestablish ancient modes of power and control. The international system maintains order through rules and institutions which are perceived to be legitimate because they have the consent of the governed. An example of this would be the UN, where member states engage in a democratic deliberation geared towards reaching understanding and consensus. However, order breaks down when a member state fails to recognize the legitimacy of a rule or institution. This was the case for the Bush Doctrine when the U.S. decided to invade Iraq without a UN resolution. The Bush Doctrine is the embodiment of neoconservatism, an intellectual movement influenced by the thoughts of Leo Strauss.

What neoconservatism has inherited from Strauss was a fear of relativism. Strauss's critique of modernity holds that liberal society fosters moral relativism which, in turn, destroys the moral fabric of society. Strauss calls for a revival of antiquity, more specifically a Platonic design of society, where elites rule through the use of myths which provide society with moral truth and national purpose. Neoconservatism has projected Strauss's war on modernity onto the international level. The Bush Doctrine assumes its core democratic values to be universal and thus views consensus building as unnecessary. Rather, deliberating on 'right' may enlighten us to the conventional nature of morality. Therefore, neoconservatism works to reestablish ancient modes of control through the use of moral absolutes, where the practice of these values, consequentially, resists international order governed by liberal principles.

As a result, neoconservative policies disrupt international order and isolate the U.S. from the modern world.