George H.W. Bush was president during a tumultuous and triumphant era for American foreign policy. His reign didn’t last long but it set a number of precedents that his successor Bill Clinton mostly followed.
My impression is that Bush didn’t come to the Oval Office with too many long range plans, but instead simply had a lot of confidence in his ability to manage in whatever circumstances came up. And indeed he enjoyed a number of successes, such as getting Gorbachev to take merely an oral assurance that NATO would not expand eastward rather than demand it in writing. But that was winging it.
One country where Bush did have much experience and a personal strategy would appear to be the one that is being largely ignored in all the write-ups about the President’s life: Mexico.
The idea that American businessmen and pro-business politicians would be interested in Mexico seems fairly alien today, but it used to be common knowledge. For example, in 1910 the New York Times praised a book of tributes to the dictator of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, from people like Andrew Carnegie and former secretary of state Elihu Root for opening Mexico up to American business:
PORFIRIO DIAZ, President of the Mexican Republic, should be a very happy man, for he not only enjoys the ardent admiration of the civilized world but knows he has fairly earned, it. No public servant ever had more perfect reward, than his, and no public servant ever was more deserving. It would be hard to exaggerate his deserts, so great and wonderful have been the results of his life’s work for his country. … The well-informed person knows that nobody can write about Diaz with praising him in generous phrases.
A few months later the decade long Mexican Revolution broke out killed a million or more Mexicans.
But the Bush family felt that the despite the unfortunate events of 1910-1920 and of 1938, when foreign oil companies were expropriated, geography inextricably linked the economic and perhaps political destinies of the United States and Mexico.