Publication Cover
Survival
Global Politics and Strategy
Volume 63, 2021 - Issue 5
9,486
Views
1
CrossRef citations to date
0
Altmetric
A Response to Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry

Vindicating Realist Internationalism

Abstract

Liberal internationalists, such as professors Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry, share much of the neoconservatives’ international agenda while disagreeing with them on domestic policies. Likewise, the members of what they call the ‘Quincy coalition’ agree on opposing US interventionism and military domination without necessarily agreeing on other issues. Those at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft are internationalists in that we believe firmly in international cooperation in pursuit of essential common goals, such as limiting climate change. We also believe, however, that pursuing these goals through US domination hinders rather than advances their achievement. Liberal internationalism as envisaged by Deudney and Ikenberry is intrinsically linked to US hegemony and one form of American ideological nationalism. They share responsibility for the disasters that these have caused, and for the growing confrontation with China that threatens to wreck prospects for a peaceful and consensual global order.

Editor’s note

In the last issue of Survival, we published as the lead article Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry’s ‘Misplaced Restraint: The Quincy Coalition Versus Liberal Internationalism’. It has proven to be a timely and provocative piece. We asked Anatol Lieven – a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, to which the title of Deudney and Ikenberry’s article alludes – to compose a response. That response appears here. In the December 2021–January 2022 issue of Survival, Deudney and Ikenberry will reply in full to Lieven.

The lighthearted equation between a particular nationalism and the counsels of Providence is morally indefensible, for it is that very sin of pride against which the Greek tragedians and the Biblical prophets have warned rulers and ruled. That equation is also politically pernicious, for it is liable to engender the distortion in judgment which, in the blindness of crusading frenzy, destroys nations and civilizations – in the name of moral principle, ideal, or God himself.

Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among NationsFootnote1

In their recent Survival article ‘Misplaced Restraint: The Quincy Coalition Versus Liberal Internationalism’, it was very kind of Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry to give the ‘coalition’ arguing for restraint in US foreign and security policy the name of Quincy. I accept the compliment with thanks, both on behalf of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (of which I am a member) and on behalf of John Quincy Adams – the early-nineteenth-century American secretary of state and president who was one of the greatest critics of American ideological nationalism and foreign adventurism, and of the link between them. Of course, Ikenberry and Deudney did not actually mean it as a compliment. Rather, their essay is a sustained attempt at creating guilt by association; to suggest that everyone in this ‘Quincy coalition’ or ‘restraint school’ shares the same ideology, and that this ideology in turn is similar or identical to that of Donald Trump.

An army of straw men

They should know from their own side of the debate that this picture is false. They too, as liberal internationalists, have been part of a de facto coalition in support of US hegemony and interventionism that contains groups with clashing domestic agendas and some differences on foreign policy, including neoconservatives, religious fundamentalists and unabashed American imperialists. Since we agree fully with other members of the ‘Quincy coalition’ in opposing US global hegemony through military dominance and intervention, and in calling for the United States to concentrate its efforts and resources at home, we are proud to have our name given to this grouping. As with Ikenberry and Deudney in their coalition, however, this does not mean that members of the Quincy Institute necessarily agree with our allies on domestic policy, or even on all aspects of foreign policy.

The coalition that opposed the Vietnam War stretched from Reinhold Niebuhr and senator J. William Fulbright to the radical-left Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They disagreed profoundly on many things, and some of them had very worrying domestic agendas. That, however, is beside the point as far as the Vietnam War was concerned. They all agreed that the US military intervention in Vietnam was a disastrous mistake with criminal consequences – and they were right. The members of the Quincy Institute and our allies are all agreed in opposing US military interventionism and ‘nation-building’ – and what has happened in Iraq, Libya and now Afghanistan has proved us right.

In this essay, I am writing on behalf of my fellow members of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Except on the specific issues of US hegemony and Western military intervention, I cannot speak for the other elements of the so-called coalition any more than Niebuhr or George Kennan could speak on behalf of the SDS. The Quincy Institute can agree with the Cato Institute on military intervention without agreeing with their domestic libertarian agenda. Deudney and Ikenberry’s suggestion of ideological uniformity in the ‘Quincy coalition’ is therefore deeply mistaken.

Furthermore, as far as members of the Quincy Institute are concerned, the suggestion of an affinity with former president Trump is self-evidently grotesque. Trump tore up the nuclear deal with Iran, while members of the Quincy Institute led by Trita Parsi have been among the strongest advocates of that pact and of reasonable compromise with Iran. Trump gave almost unconditional support to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while members of the Quincy Institute have rigorously critiqued the terms of these partnerships and the actions of the partners themselves, including most notably the Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war.

Trump adopted a programme of bitter hostility to China, while my colleagues and I have called publicly for caution and pragmatism in US relations with China, and for continued cooperation with Beijing where possible. When it comes to guilt by association, although Trump and his administration trumpeted ‘America First’, in attacking China they also adopted the whole range of liberal-internationalist tropes characteristic of Ikenberry, Deudney and their allies. And although Trump himself was doubtless completely insincere about this, the passionate, instinctive messianic nationalism and Lockean absolutism (in Louis Hartz’s formulation) of Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state, suggest that he was being entirely earnest.Footnote2

Trump cancelled nuclear-arms-control agreements with Russia, while members of the Quincy Institute call for new negotiations aimed at deep reductions in nuclear weapons. Trump denied the reality of climate change, and withdrew from the Paris agreement, while we advocate strong US and international action to limit climate change.Footnote3 I myself support the idea of a ‘Green New Deal’ and the creation of a national consensus behind radical and urgent measures to reduce carbon emissions. My book on climate change repeatedly endorses Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘New Nationalism’ and the Progressive movement in the United States, which Ikenberry and Deudney say that they support.Footnote4

Their attempt to discredit the Quincy Institute by somehow linking it to domestic opposition to state healthcare and other progressive issues is deeply false. The Quincy Institute is a foreign-policy organisation that takes no position at all on purely domestic policy questions. Speaking solely for myself, I am passionately devoted to the principle of universal state healthcare and the tradition of the British National Health Service, and, speaking as a realist (an ethical realist, or so I would claim), I regard any attempt to slander realism in this way as intellectually vacuous and morally dubious.

Regarding the founding generation of US realism, whom we at the Quincy Institute regard as our own intellectual and moral ancestors, Niebuhr, Morgenthau and Kennan were strong supporters of the New Deal, both for its own sake and because they regarded US social solidarity as essential to US success against Nazism and Soviet communism.

It is entirely true that members of the Quincy Institute believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan squandered trillions of dollars that would have been better spent on urgent domestic needs. We also believe that the ‘new cold war’ with China (advocated by Ikenberry and Deudney) will continue to lock in place the power of the US military-industrial complex and squander trillions more on wasteful and unnecessary military programmes designed to benefit American corporations rather than defend the actual security of actual American citizens.Footnote5 That is a position held – with good reason – by an enormous number of ordinary Americans, and by politicians on both the right and the left. The latter include Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – not exactly Trumpists.

Members of the Quincy Institute have never attacked the United Nations, nor criticised its role in promoting international cooperation – for example, the vital contribution of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to raising international awareness of the threat of anthropogenic climate change, and encouraging state action against it. My colleagues and I do not believe that the UN will ever become a world government, but what sensible person does any more? Nor are we hostile to the European Union, though – in common with a great many Europeans – we tend to think that the attempt to turn the EU from a loose confederation into some kind of super state was an error that has created a dangerous and unfortunate backlash in several key European countries.

My colleagues and I do not disagree with any of Ikenberry and Deudney’s statements about economic interdependence and the need for international cooperation in managing urgent global problems. This is one key reason we favour the maintenance of reasonable working relations with China and Russia.

In their essay, Ikenberry and Deudney try to claim credit for liberal internationalism for just about every advance in human progress over the past 100 years – up to and including protection of the ozone layer and vaccination against COVID-19 – and explicitly or by implication accuse realists of opposition to these measures. They do this by deliberately confusing international realists with domestic libertarians. I am slightly surprised they did not claim liberal credit for the spread of international beachball competitions and accuse realists of ideologically driven cruelty to cats. Did Niebuhr, Kennan or Morgenthau oppose the work of the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, UNESCO or the UN High Commissioner for Refugees? Have Andrew Bacevich (president of the Quincy Institute), Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer, Patrick Porter, Gordon Adams or other contemporary realists whom they mention within and outside the Quincy Institute done so, denied climate change or opposed vaccination against COVID-19? The answer is no, and it is a matter of public record.

Much of Ikenberry and Deudney’s essay is therefore irrelevant to their argument or camouflages the real basis of our disagreement. It lies not in any divergence between their ‘internationalism’ and our ‘anti-internationalism’, but in our very different understandings of what kind of internationalism best contributes to international peace, development and cooperation in pursuit of essential human goals.

A large part of this disagreement also lies in our differing attitudes towards the course of US and allied foreign and security policy over the past generation. The ‘breakthrough moment for the restraint school’ was most certainly not the rise of Trump, as Ikenberry and Deudney allege. It was the disasters that followed the US and allied interventions in Iraq and Libya, the growing and now complete US failure in Afghanistan, unnecessary and dangerous clashes with Russia, and the reckless bipartisan rush to confrontation with China. If support for the restraint school is growing, it is because it is based on incontrovertible recent evidence.

Realist support for prudence, restraint and the absence of arrogance in foreign and security policy in no way equates to national chauvinism, crude isolationism and opposition to international cooperation against real evils. But then, Ikenberry and Deudney should not need me to tell them that. They can read Niebuhr, Morgenthau, Kennan and Fulbright on the subject. All these great American realists, to whom we at the Quincy Institute look for inspiration, were also great internationalists. Their internationalism, however, was of a very different kind from that of Ikenberry, Deudney and their allies. They were all deeply opposed to communism, but they also opposed US military interventionism and domination in the name of anti-communism. Kennan, of course, crafted the original strategy of containing the Soviet Union and the spread of Soviet communism; yet he became appalled by the way in which this strategy was later transformed by militarisation, paranoia, ideological fanaticism and US imperial ambition.

After the end of the Cold War, Kennan opposed the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet bloc, arguing both that this was unnecessary for Western security and that it would inevitably lead to a highly dangerous breakdown in relations with Russia.Footnote6 The liberal internationalists, by contrast, have sought out ever new and ever more inappropriate missions for NATO – with brilliant success just manifested in Afghanistan.

Niebuhr was an intellectual architect of US resistance to communism, but in The Irony of American History and other works he also denounced American moral self-satisfaction and arrogance, as well as the ‘soft utopianism’ of liberalism and how its belief in human sinlessness and the malleability of human cultures and societies ‘lends an air of sentimentality and unreality to the political opinions of the liberal world’.Footnote7 It is not hard to imagine what Niebuhr would have thought of the ‘Freedom Agenda’ in the Middle East or democratic nation-building in Afghanistan.

In fact, Ikenberry and Deudney’s essay is not really a coherent critique of the Quincy Institute or the restraint school at all. It is a polemical smokescreen designed to disguise the shattering harm caused by US interventionism in the service of US global hegemony; to camouflage liberal internationalism’s share of responsibility for these disasters; and thereby to preserve the ideological basis for such ill-advised interventions in the future.

The culpability of liberal internationalism

To adapt Frank Sinatra to present purposes, American military hegemony and liberal internationalism go together like a horse (or perhaps hearse) and carriage. You can’t have one, you can’t have none, you can’t have one without the other. The pledge of troth between them is American ideological nationalism. In this curious union, US power provides the misguided muscle and liberal internationalism provides what passes for a brain. And indeed, in the final section of their essay, Ikenberry and Deudney make their own commitment to the marriage explicit – without examining or taking responsibility for some of its delinquent offspring.

Again, I cannot speak for all members of the restraint school; but as far as the Quincy Institute and its closest allies are concerned, our prime target is most certainly not internationalist thinking insofar as it contributes to international peace, cooperation and respect for international law. It is the way in which liberal internationalism acts as cover for US imperialism, and therefore helps to justify aggressive wars, distract attention and money from urgent domestic needs, befuddle thinking about the nature of other states and societies, increase international hostility, block international cooperation and undermine respect for international law.

While I have no doubt that Ikenberry and Deudney sincerely believe that they are liberal internationalists, what they really are at heart is American ideological nationalists. In the words of Russel Nye, ‘all nations … have long agreed that they are chosen peoples; the idea of special destiny is as old as nationalism itself. However, no nation in modern history has been quite so consistently dominated as the United States by the belief that it has a particular mission in the world.’Footnote8

Their blindness to the tensions between their internationalism and their nationalism stems partly from the solipsism and sublime lack of self-awareness produced by lifelong immersion in the comforting amniotic fluids of American exceptionalism. To be fair, however, it is also rooted in the genuine history of the Second World War and the early years of the Cold War in Europe, when liberal internationalism and American hegemony did in fact fuse to a great extent. Later, and in other parts of the world, their real aims have usually moved very far apart, which again gives the lie to casting Ikenberry and Deudney as defenders of internationalism and members of the Quincy Institute as its opponents.

By the same token, to say that ‘hegemonic realists’ are ‘ideological cousins’ of the restraint school is palpable nonsense. How can this be when the latter has consistently condemned the exercise of US hegemony across the world, including most notably the Middle East?

When Ikenberry and Deudney write that the Iraq War was launched in pursuit of American power and not of liberal-internationalist goals, their statement is partly right, but also almost wholly beside the point (they naturally avoid mentioning Afghanistan and liberal-internationalist complicity in America’s disastrous democratic nation-building strategy there). It is quite true that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were clearly uninterested in fostering democracy in Iraq, and would have been perfectly happy with a pro-American military dictator. Their aim was indeed simply to strengthen American power in the Middle East and the world as a whole. This was also probably true of most neoconservatives, despite their constant appeal to liberal-internationalist ideals and use of liberal-internationalist rhetoric. But as Ikenberry and Deudney themselves admit, American hegemonism is not how the war was sold to the American people, and perhaps also – to give them the benefit of the doubt – to George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Permeating the public arguments of the Bush administration in support of the invasion of Iraq was the language of liberal internationalism. In this and other interventionist campaigns and issues involving US hegemony, the differences between neoconservatives and liberal internationalists were in fact erased.Footnote9

Ikenberry himself opposed the Iraq War; but a long row of leading liberal internationalists, including Peter Beinart, Paul Berman, Thomas Cushman, Thomas L. Friedman, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ignatieff, Will Marshall, George Packer and Kenneth Pollack – a few of whom, such as Beinart and Packer, have subsequently apologised sincerely for their stance – endorsed the war with liberal-internationalist arguments, as of course did a majority of the Democratic Party in Congress.Footnote10 Here is Beinart in March 2003:

The truth is that liberalism has to try to harness American military power for its purposes because American tanks and bombs are often the only things that bring evil to heel. Opposing this war might have helped liberals retain their purity, but it would have done nothing for the people suffering under Saddam. If liberals are betrayed a second time in the Gulf, hawkish liberalism may well go into temporary eclipse. But one day we, and they, will need it again.Footnote11

They ‘needed it again’ in Libya eight years later. It led to disaster there too. And if they had had their way, liberal internationalists would have led the United States into an even bigger disaster in Syria. As someone who took part in the debates on the Iraq War, I must also recall that some of these liberal supporters of the war were not above using virtually McCarthyite language against those of us who opposed it.Footnote12

This was not just a matter of justifying the Iraq War. The Bush administration’s National Security Strategy of 2002 begins with a ringing liberal-internationalist statement:

The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom – and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity. People everywhere want to be able to speak freely; choose who will govern them; worship as they please; educate their children – male and female; own property; and enjoy the benefits of their labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society – and the duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common-calling of freedom-loving people across the globe and across the ages.Footnote13

The administration’s ‘Freedom Agenda’ for the Middle East, which also helped to provide ideological cover for the invasion of Iraq, was explicitly and entirely liberal internationalist. In particular, like the 2002 National Security Strategy and much neoconservative rhetoric, it relied heavily on democratic peace theory to argue that the spread of democracy would lead to a peaceful and consensual regional and international order.Footnote14

If the Bush administration had gone on to invade Iran – as neoconservatives such as Richard Perle and R. James Woolsey were openly planning, and which might well have happened if the occupation of Iraq had not gone so wrong so quickly – that catastrophe too would have been publicly justified largely in liberal-internationalist terms, in terms of the duty to end the tyranny of the mullahs, bring freedom and democracy to the people of Iran, and spread democratic peace in the Middle East. I am not accusing Ikenberry of personal responsibility for any of this. As stated, his role was an entirely honourable one. But he cannot evade the question of why so many other members of his ideological camp have proved so lamentably ready to support US wars of aggression and justify US global hegemony with everything that this entails.

Much of Ikenberry and Deudney’s essay echoes Tony Blair’s Chicago speech, titled ‘Doctrine of the International Community’.Footnote15 The very word ‘doctrine’ suggests blind ideological rigidity, conformism and fanaticism. Blair’s speech to the US Congress in July 2003 justifying the Iraq War was a virtual distillation of liberal-internationalist clichés: ‘Ours are not Western values. They are the universal values of the human spirit and anywhere, any time, ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same. Freedom not tyranny. Democracy not dictatorship.’Footnote16 That extraordinary assumption was also based on a degree of historical and cultural ignorance and arrogance so comprehensive and ludicrous that it should have been laughed out of court on the spot. Yet most liberal internationalists lapped it up.

Iraq has not been the only US disaster in which liberal internationalism has been deeply implicated. The US and allied overthrow of the Muammar Gadhafi regime in Libya in 2011 was justified and even, to a degree, genuinely motivated by liberal-internationalist ideas of the ‘responsibility to protect’. In the process, the Obama administration, the United Kingdom and France fraudulently bootstrapped that responsibility into regime change, manipulating a UN Security Council resolution in a way that Washington would have declared totally illegitimate if Russia or China had tried it. So much for liberal internationalists’ respect for the United Nations and its rules.

The results of that Western intervention have been nothing short of calamitous. The Libyan state was destroyed. Libya was plunged into a civil war that has now lasted for a decade. Ordinary Libyans have had to endure economic misery and unending insecurity. The collapse of the state has allowed tens of thousands of illegal migrants to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, creating a backlash that has fuelled national chauvinism and undermined the European Union and liberal democracy. Libyan soldiers-turned-mercenaries and Islamist militants using Libya as a base have helped spread instability and violence across much of western and central Africa.

Defending this disastrous US action on the basis of the supposed purity and benevolence of liberal-internationalist motives will not wash. Basic prudence and civic responsibility demanded a thorough examination of the consequences of destroying the Ba’ath regime in Iraq eight years earlier: the way in which the destruction of a regime led to the collapse of a state, civil war and economic misery for the people of the country concerned. Morgenthau (echoing Max Weber’s famous ‘ethic of responsibility’, or Verantwortungsethik) noted that ‘there can be no political morality without prudence … without consideration of the political consequences of seemingly moral action’.Footnote17

Liberal internationalism must also bear a share of responsibility for another very damaging aspect of US policymaking over the past generation: the failure seriously to understand other countries that are either rivals of the United States or the objects of US policies and interventions. Morgenthau made the duty of study a fundamental ethical imperative for leaders and officials: ‘The successful political act presupposes a respectful understanding of its object, its nature, its interests, its propensities and potentialities. The political actor … must put himself into the other man’s shoes, look at the world and judge it as he does, anticipate in thought the way that he will feel and act under certain circumstances.’Footnote18

The refusal to study Iraq contributed greatly to the indisputably disgraceful failure to plan seriously for the rebuilding of the Iraqi state. In different ways, this failure also reinforced the decision to intervene in Iraq and the horrendous mess of US-led ‘nation-building’ in Afghanistan.Footnote19

The intellectual deficiency of liberal internationalism

The contribution of liberal internationalism to the refusal to study stems from its universalist teleology: the belief that Western-style liberal democracy is the only viable and legitimate form of government for every human society, as expressed in the 2002 National Security Strategy and in Blair’s Chicago speech; that every human society is at any time capable of adopting liberal democracy; and that human progress depends entirely on liberal democracy. This belief is amply reflected in the Soviet-style language of much US rhetoric about the inevitable march of Western-inspired democratic progress.Footnote20 This being so, there is really no intellectual point in studying the cultures, societies and traditions of any other country; and there is a very strong unconscious emotional motive not to study them, for to do so might – God forbid! – lead liberal internationalists to question whether their models really are either universally valid or inevitably bound to prevail.

Their teleology also makes many liberal internationalists fatally receptive to the blandishments of ambitious local pseudo-democratic charmers such as Ahmad Chalabi, who have learned to speak the language of liberal internationalism. No very sophisticated seduction is necessary – a few phrases from a liberal-democratic phrase book are enough. Western liberal internationalists have read political leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi and Alexei Navalny as Western-style liberals, in the process obscuring both their nationalism and the realities of the political cultures in which they operate. And liberals built up the reputations of sympathetic liberal intellectuals such as former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, ushering him to power in a country which – as was already apparent in Ghani’s 2008 book and has been amply confirmed by subsequent events – he did not really understand and was quite incapable of governing.Footnote21

A few lines from liberal phrase books substantially constitute the intellectual basis on which the West set out to reconstruct Afghanistan after 2001, with dire results that are now evident.Footnote22 Once again, liberal-internationalist teleology contributed to a blind refusal – for 20 years – to study Afghan history and culture, and to learn from the failure of previous attempts to create a modern Afghan state, or from the success (in their own culturally specific and ferocious way) of the Taliban.

Elections rigged by local warlords were presented as and believed to be ‘the Afghan people choosing democracy’. Afghan non-governmental organisations in Kabul (some of them brave and committed, others cynical, phony and opportunist) were dubbed ‘Afghan civil society’. Their importance in Afghanistan was colossally inflated by liberal internationalists, and their overwhelming dependence on Western support was ignored.Footnote23 Liberal inter-nationalism was not solely responsible for turning the Afghan campaign from a limited anti-terrorism operation into a vast, misconceived, inappropriate, bloodstained, monstrously expensive and ultimately doomed project of democratic nation-building – but it certainly played its part.

Blinded by ideological self-deceit and conceit, liberal internationalists participated in what was in effect a massive public fraud on Western voters, taxpayers, and most of all the Western soldiers who were killed and disabled in Afghanistan: that the painted facade of Afghan ‘democracy’ was that of a hard-working building site and not a ramshackle slum. Demonstrating the extraordinary grip of this illusion on some members of the liberal-internationalist-cum-neoconservative camp, at least as a rhetorical trope, Anne Applebaum could write an article in support of the failed Western campaign there in August 2021 entitled ‘Liberal Democracy Is Worth a Fight’ even after the collapse of the Afghan state had demonstrated its utter rottenness and the falsity of its ‘democracy’.Footnote24

Moreover, as we have seen in Afghanistan, as in Libya and elsewhere, the liberal-internationalist ethos (based on what Weber called Gesinnungsethik, an ‘ethic of sentiment’, as opposed to the ethic of responsibility, prudence and study that he said is appropriate to statesmen) has not fostered any true sense of Western responsibility to and for these countries. A combination of self-flattering, feel-good humanitarianism and shallow ideological nostrums has not motivated Western societies and their elites to make a real commitment to turn Afghanistan into a successful democracy – at least not if that involved personal risk and sacrifice. American, British and some other NATO troops have fought bravely and suffered heavy casualties, and many aid workers have demonstrated courage and commitment. Most official Western institutions, however, cited the infamous principle of the ‘duty of care’ as a reason to keep their staffs out of real danger, while the vast majority of Western politicians and commentators who advocated state-building in Afghanistan and elsewhere limited their visits to a few days in secure locations. In the end, the remaining Westerners fled to the airport – in the case of the Dutch and Swedes, apparently without informing their Afghan staff that they were abandoning them.Footnote25

Do Deudney and Ikenberry think a spirit like that will ever succeed in building democracy in places like Afghanistan, and against foes like the Taliban? A phrase from a BBC report on the evacuation of Westerners from Kabul says it all: ‘Staff at the Dutch embassy have faced criticism after saying they did not have time [to] tell Afghan colleagues they were going.’Footnote26 So much for the most successful alliance in history, as the liberal establishment is fond of calling NATO. Nor, it seems, will any Western general, official, politician or public intellectual be held personally responsible for the Afghan disaster. What we can do is learn the lessons of that disaster, and make sure that those intellectually responsible do not simply hop lightly from one cause to another.

In this vein, it is essential that Ikenberry and Deudney’s ideology not be allowed to conceal its complicity in the disasters of Iraq, Libya andAfghanistan. After Vietnam, there seemed to be a good chance that there would at last be a rigorous critique of the nationalist myths of America’s right and duty to lead the world to freedom and democracy, of American exceptionalism and righteous innocence, that had helped to foster and justify the war in Vietnam. But as C. Vann Woodward wrote bitterly at the time: ‘The characteristic American adjustment to the current foreign and domestic enigmas that confound our national myths has not been to abandon the myths but to reaffirm them. Solutions are sought along traditional lines … Whatever the differences and enmities that divide advocates and opponents (and they are admittedly for-midable), both sides seem predominantly unshaken in their adherence to one or another or all of the common national myths.’Footnote27

Liberal-internationalist ideology, feeding into American nationalist exceptionalism, played a critical role in erasing Vietnam’s lessons from America’s public consciousness. As a result, in the run-up to the Iraq War, I discovered to my horror that only a small minority of American students whom I taught – most previously schooled by liberal-internationalist colleagues – had ever heard of the My Lai massacre. Consequently, only a few were capable of understanding that US troops might commit atrocities again. And only a tiny proportion of American liberal-internationalist intellectuals seemed capable of understanding that problems in the future US occupation of Iraq might stem not only from the nature of Iraq, but from that of the United States itself.

The blinkered arrogance of liberal internationalism

An even more damaging aspect of liberal-internationalist ideology, amply on display in Deudney and Ikenberry’s essay, is its denial of legitimacy to other political systems. The liberal-internationalist crusading impulse to destroy those systems in turn produces a compulsive need to present them as aggressive and comprehensive enemies, thereby helping to justify hostility to them. Hence the authors’ description of China as representing a ‘comprehensive threat’ to the West. It doesn’t. Unlike the Soviet Union, China is not trying to spread revolution or subvert other political systems. In Africa and Latin America, its presence is almost purely economic. Outside the South China Sea, China has one very small naval station at Djibouti. America, by contrast, has dozens of very large overseas bases. The US bases in South Korea and Guam, and at Okinawa and Yokosuka in Japan, also mean that there is not even a real threat to America’s military presence and alliances in East Asia – unless one assumes that the Chinese are maniacs who would risk nuclear annihilation by a direct attack on the US.

China has created – for the moment at least; it may not last – an example of successful authoritarian state-led capitalist development not entirely unlike those previously set by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Other countries are free to imitate that example, or not, as they choose. The challenge to the West is to strengthen the attractiveness of our own example through successful (though often painful) domestic reform. But Ikenberry and Deudney’s great democratic crusade requires a great infidel threat as an enemy and justification, and they must force China into the frame left behind by the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism, however bad the fit.

In his book Nationalism, Elie Kedourie incisively critiqued this attitude and its consequences, as it emerged in a soft form in Immanuel Kant’s Project for Perpetual Peace and in a very hard form in the external policies of the French Revolution.Footnote28 In eighteenth-century Europe, Kedourie wrote, the ‘balance of power’ system which limited wars and created a space for common European cultural development rested on the mutual recognition of the legitimacy of states with different religions and political systems, as this had emerged from the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the great religious wars:

[The] assumption was that the title of any government to rule did not depend on the origins of its power. Thus the society of European states admitted all kinds of republics, of hereditary and elective monarchies, of constitutional and despotic regimes. But on the principle advocated by the revolutionaries, the title of all governments then existing was put into question; since they did not derive their sovereignty from the nation, they were usurpers with whom no agreement need be binding, and to whom subjects owed no allegiance. It is clear that such a doctrine would envenom international quarrels, and render them quite recalcitrant to the methods of traditional statecraft; it would indeed subvert all international relations as hitherto known … By its very nature, this new style ran to extremes. It represented politics as a fight for principles, not the endless composition of claims in conflict. But since principles do not abolish interests, a pernicious confusion resulted. The ambitions of a state or the designs of a faction took on the purity of principle, compromise was treason, and a tone of exasperated intransigence became common between rivals and opponents.Footnote29

Does this not sound all too like the conflation of liberal-internationalist ideology and American hegemonic ambition in the world today? Or, as Woodward wrote in a great critique of the American myths that contributed to the disaster of Vietnam and a range of criminal US actions internationally,

The true American mission, according to those who support this view, is a moral crusade on a worldwide scale. Such people are likely to concede no validity whatever and grant no hearing to the opposing point of view, and to appeal to a higher law to justify bloody and revolting means in the name of a noble end … The irony of the moralistic approach, when exploited by nationalism, is that the high motive to end justice and immorality actually results in making war more amoral and horrible than ever and in shattering the foundations of the political and moral order upon which peace has to be built.Footnote30

In the 1790s, the denial of legitimacy to states not based on the ‘sovereignty of the people’ became mixed up with French nationalism and imperialism, and as a political ideal was carried forth on the bayonets of the French Republican and Napoleonic armies. But, as Maximilien Robespierre remarked in one of his more lucid moments, ‘no-one likes armed missionaries’. The marriage of the French revolutionary threat to states with French military aggression against populations bred conservative–nationalist reactions in Germany and elsewhere that were to haunt Europe for generations to come and produce their most dreadful fruits in the mid-twentieth century. This is why, in his book The China Choice, Hugh White makes US (and Australian) recognition of the legitimacy of the Chinese state system a central condition of peaceful coexistence with China.Footnote31 Ikenberry and Deudney do say that selective cooperation with China on issues such as climate change should accompany wider US geopolitical and ideological confrontation with China. But first of all, if climate change escapes human control, do they really think that historians 100 years from now are going to think that present US disagreements with China were the most important dangers facing humanity, or America? And secondly, is intensive cooperation against climate change really compatible with deep, ideologically driven distrust of China, and an intensive propaganda campaign to undermine the Chinese communist state? These are the policies of the Biden administration, which Ikenberry and Deudney strongly support.

The Chinese and Russian governments exaggerate (for obvious domestic effect) the degree of any active US official commitment to overthrowing them. However, congressionally funded advocacy institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy and news outlets like Voice of America certainly display this commitment, while successive US administrations have made clear their view that the existing state systems of both countries are fundamentally illegitimate. Moscow and Beijing naturally regard this position as a threat to vital state interests, just as Americans regard Russian interference in the US electoral process as a threat to the vital interests of the United States. The result has been a vicious circle of reciprocal paranoia that is utterly destructive of hopes for serious cooperation in any field.

Liberal internationalists also need to understand that many ordinary citizens of Russia, China and other authoritarian states share their anxieties about American intentions. Bitter historical memories of chaos and mass suffering have created a deep sense that the overthrow of the existing state system will lead to the destruction of the state itself, with tragic consequences for the population. In recent years, these fears have been intensified by the terrible consequences of the US and allied destruction of the regimes in Iraq and Libya, which did indeed lead to the collapse of those states. Such examples have fostered a widespread popular belief in China, Iran and Russia that Americans are deliberately seeking the destruction of their respective states, at whatever cost to their peoples. I am sure Ikenberry and Deudney do not support any such agenda. But can they sincerely state that the neo-conservatives – with whom the liberal internationalists heavily overlap in supporting an American strategy of spreading democracy – do not?

Faced with perceived threats from the United States, Moscow and Beijing will inevitably hit back against US vital interests and respond to US democratising efforts in kind by attempting to subvert American democracy from within. Their efforts may turn out to be puny. But as we saw under Trump, even the suspicion that they are working can raise domestic paranoia, envenom domestic politics and undermine confidence in the media, the national leadership and democracy itself among ordinary Americans.

If democracy crumbles within the United States, what chance will there be to promote it anywhere else? John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln and other great Americans knew that it was America’s successful example, not intervention, subversion, propaganda and bullying, that was the true force behind the spread of democracy in the world.

Moreover, as Charles Kupchan has written, liberal internationalists who believe that they can impose their will on China, or cooperate with China on climate change while attacking its interests everywhere else, are living in a dream world in which the US and the West still dominate the world economy, the Chinese economy is still tiny and economic cooperation with non-Western states is still a peripheral issue.Footnote32 That was true in the 1970s, when the US and its Western allies controlled 80% of global GDP. Today, they command less than 40%, and the Chinese economy is roughly as large as that of the United States. If there is no systematic cooperation on a range of key issues between the US and China, there will be no global cooperation at all.

Do Ikenberry and Deudney, then, think that American resources are unlimited, and that maintaining a US defence budget, all told, of more than a trillion dollars annually, justified by the alleged threat from China and Russia, does not take away money desperately needed for the development of alternative energy and public transport?Footnote33

It is in their support for a new cold war with China that the tension between their liberal-internationalist ideology and the American global hegemony on which they depend becomes most apparent. Ikenberry and Deudney’s own evolution with regard to relations with China is itself a classic example of how liberal internationalism dependent on American hegemony and American nationalism leads inevitably to hostility to other great powers and nationalisms.

American liberal internationalists played a key role in the unremarked transition whereby the Wolfowitz–Libby Defense Planning Guidance of 1992 advocating US global hegemony and a universal right of intervention – generally mocked at the time for its dangerous megalomania – became the modus operandi of all subsequent US administrations, Democrat and Republican. This could not have occurred so smoothly and with so little criticism had it not been facilitated by liberal internationalism.Footnote34

In 2009, Deudney and Ikenberry were still condemning the call by Robert Kagan and other neoconservatives for cold war with China, and writing of the need for the United States to ‘include’ Russia and China in the ‘international order’.Footnote35 But this international order was clearly to be entirely defined and dominated by the US – something that was never going to be acceptable to China once its economy and geopolitical weight rivalled America’s. In consequence, as illustrated in their critique of the Quincy coalition and the restraint school, Ikenberry and Deudney have found themselves inexorably drawn towards the neoconservative position on the need to confront and contain China.

The shaky foundations of the‘rules-based order’

Key to assessing the US function in building and defending democracy is the distinction between the US role in Europe and its role in the rest of the world over the past 80 years. In Europe, during the Second World War and the Cold War, the United States did indeed act to protect and foster democracy. And in the 1990s, the US, like the European Union, backed the spread of democracy to Eastern Europe. This has not turned out so well in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere, in part because, to a far greater degree than liberals wished to recognise, that trend was always deeply enmeshed with anti-Russian nationalism. But in Western and Central Europe from the 1940s onward, the US did not need to create democracies; it needed to help restore or strengthen existing ones. Moreover, the dominant national agendas of these countries (especially in resisting the Soviet Union and communism) were closely aligned with those of America, which meant that local democratic majorities did not oppose core US policies and democracy did not threaten US hegemony.

Elsewhere in the world, local realities and the geopolitical needs of US hegemony were very different. Can Ikenberry and Deudney with a straight face go to Central Americans, Africans, Southeast Asians, Arabs or Iranians and ask them, on the basis of the historical record and of contemporary US policy, to trust the sincerity of the US commitment to support or build democracy in their countries? Why should they? It is hardly clear that the overall US record in the Middle East has been better than Russia’s, or improved the lives and reduced the oppression of people in the region.

A poll in May 2021 by the Alliance of Democracies itself revealed that majorities in 53 countries around the world, and large minorities in many more, see the United States as more of a threat to democracy than Russia or China.Footnote36 Many educated Russians, Iranians and Chinese – even those who dislike their present regimes and want democratic reform – believe that if a revolution in their countries led to a period of internal chaos (as they generally do), American hegemonic ambitions and national hatreds would lead the United States not to help build democracy but to weaken their countries further or try to break them up altogether, whatever the cost to ordinary citizens. They understand very well the grim joke printed on a bumper sticker displayed by opponents of the Iraq War: ‘Be nice to America – or we’ll bring democracy to your country.’

Furthermore, in countries whose national interests differ significantly from those of the US, and whose nationalism has a generally anti-American cast, US support for democratic movements – central to the liberal-internationalist project and expressed through a range of publicly funded institutions and propaganda outlets – actually weakens these movements by allowing the regimes in power to portray indigenous backers as traitors and American agents. American money also has the fatal political effect of leading some of these democrats to tailor their public appeal to American rather than local audiences.

In the Middle East, it is common for American liberals to accompany their justifications of American hegemony with some box-ticking remark that of course the US should do more to promote democracy in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or wherever.Footnote37 But this is either profoundly stupid or pro-foundly disingenuous. American hegemony in the Middle East depends crucially on these ruthlessly authoritarian client regimes. The US, whether under a Republican or Democratic administration, is about as likely to help get rid of General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi or Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud as Russia is to get rid of Alexander Lukashenko or Bashar al-Assad – that is to say, not very likely at all.

Ikenberry has long been an advocate of a global alliance of democracies, a US public-diplomacy project that has now become part of the US effort to build a geopolitical front against China. This effort, by the way, also illuminates how blurred or non-existent the dividing lines are between liberal internationalists and neoconservatives. Antony Blinken and Kagan have written jointly to support it.Footnote38 It is supposed to bear some unripe fruit in December 2021 at the Biden administration’s ‘Summit of Democracies’, to which – one assumes – Narendra Modi’s viciously Hindu chauvinist and deeply authoritarian (albeit elected) government in India will have to be invited, both to make the summit ‘global’ and to firm up the US–Indian partnership against China. Deudney and Ikenberry will have to hold their noses, grit their teeth, sprinkle some liberal air freshener and welcome the invitation to Modi in the name of ‘democracy’. There is no need for the rest of us to do so.

Such glaring US inconsistencies and contradictions form part of a wider problem with the so-called ‘rules-based global order’ so incessantly trumpeted by various combinations of US official propagandists and liberal internationalists. In a brilliant op-ed for the New York Times, Peter Beinart examined why this phrase has been adopted by Democratic and Republican US administrations instead of the traditional, obvious one of ‘international law’. The answer he gives is that international law consists of a set of concrete treaties and provisions, many of which the US has either refused to sign up to (such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or the International Criminal Court) or repeatedly flouted (such as the UN Charter). The vaguely cast ‘rules-based order’ can be whatever the US says that it is, or isn’t, at any given time. Washington can make all the ‘rules’ and break them at will.Footnote39

As Andrew Bacevich of the Quincy Institute has written, ‘such taglines … serve as a source of legitimacy while avoiding any reference to power. Rather than describing actual purpose, they disguise it. Take such slogans seriously and you can get away with just about anything, as the United States has done for much of its history.’Footnote40

Some Europeans will go along with this legerdemain partly because they share US interests, but more importantly because they are (or believe that they are) pathetically dependent on America for defence and unwilling to pay for their own. But others in the world feel less obliged to accept either the legality or the legitimacy of this ‘order’.

As Ikenberry himself wrote in criticising the policies of the Bush administration, ‘the contradiction in the Bush foreign policy is that it offered the world a system in which America rules the world but does not abide by rules. This is, in effect, empire.’Footnote41 Yes indeed. But does he seriously think that when Democrats are in power America ceases to be an empire, or behave imperially? Or has he felt compelled to believe this only since Biden took office in February, because of his and Deudney’s explicit partisan support for the Biden administration? In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, the late Tony Judt wrote that ‘back home, America’s liberal intellectuals are fast becoming a service class, their opinions determined by their allegiance and calibrated to justify a political end … But the distinctive feature of the liberal intellectual in past times was precisely the striving for universality; not the unworldly or disingenuous denial of sectional interest but the sustained effort to transcend that interest.’Footnote42 I’m afraid Ikenberry and Deudney’s latest essay would have confirmed his opinion.

Both the principled realists represented by the Quincy Institute and the liberal internationalists represented by Deudney and Ikenberry believe in internationalism. But we at Quincy also believe in objective international law, and cooperation between different political systems for the maintenance of peace and the achievement of vital common human goals. We believe as well that the looming threat of climate change to all existing human societies and political systems eclipses the differences between them and necessitates reasonably good relations among them.

By contrast, Ikenberry, Deudney and their allies stand for US global hegemony justified in the name of liberal democracy, cooperation between the United States and countries that subscribe to American goals, and the subjugation or overthrow of states that oppose American domination. That is a recipe for endless tension, a chronic inability to cooperate, the massive diversion of resources to the US military-industrial complex and failure in collectively mitigating the effects of climate change. This ‘liberal-internationalist’ position may perhaps be called ‘liberal’ in the sense of the ‘liberal imperialism’ of Victorian Britain. It cannot seriously be called ‘internationalist’.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Anatol Lieven

Anatol Lieven is a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and author of, among other books, Ethical Realism: A Vision for America’s Role in the World (co-authored with John Hulsman; Pantheon Books, 2006) and Climate Change and the Nation State: The Realist Case (Penguin, 2021). His website is Anatollieven.com.

Notes

1 Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978), p. 12.

2 See Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1955).

3 The Quincy Institute’s analyses of these issues can be found on its website, Quincyinst.org, and in reports and articles for its journal, Responsible Statecraft. See also the critique of the Trump administration by Quincy’s president in Andrew Bacevich, After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2021).

4 See Anatol Lieven, Climate Change and the Nation State: The Realist Case (London: Penguin, 2020).

5 See Andrew Bacevich, The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2020), pp. 66–75, 142–3.

6 See ‘George Kennan’s “Long Telegram”’, 22 February 1946, Wilson Center Digital Archive, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116178.pdf; and George Kennan, ‘A Fateful Error’, New York Times, 5 February 1997, https://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/05/opinion/a-fateful-error.html.

7 Reinhold Niebuhr, Christian Realism and Political Problems (Fairfield, CT: Augustus Kelley Publishers, 1977), pp. 5–7. See also Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

8 Quoted in William J. Cobb, Jr, The American Foundation Myth in Vietnam: Reigning Paradigms and Raining Bombs (New York: University Press of America, 1998), p. 4.

9 See Noreen Malone, ‘Why So Many Liberals Supported Invading Iraq’, Slate, 14 May 2021, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/05/iraq-war-liberal-media-support-humanitarian-intervention.html.

10 For liberal-internationalist arguments in support of invading Iraq, see Thomas Cushman (ed.), A Matter of Principle: The Humanitarian Argument for War in Iraq (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003); Bill Keller, ‘The “I Can’t Believe I’m a Hawk” Club’, New York Times, 8 February 2003; George Packer (ed.), The Fight Is for Democracy: Winning the War of Ideas in America and the World (New York: Harper, 2003); and David Remnick, ‘Making a Case’, New Yorker, 6 January 2003, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/02/03/making-a-case. For a subsequent apology for support, see George Packer, The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq (London: Faber & Faber, 2007).

11 Peter Beinart, ‘A Separate Peace’, New Republic, 3 March 2003, https://newrepublic.com/article/66766/iraq-bush-gulf-war-vietnam-saddam-hussein.

12 See Maria Ryan, ‘Bush’s “Useful Idiots”: 9/11, the Liberal Hawks and the Cooption of the “War on Terror”’, Journal of American Studies, vol. 45, no. 4, 2011, pp. 667–93; and Michael Tomasky, ‘Punditry Has Consequences’, Slate, 14 June 2006. For a particularly vile attack of this kind, see Christopher Hitchens, ‘Twenty-twenty Foresight’, in Hitchens, A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq (London: Plume, 2003), pp. 10–11.

13 White House Archives, ‘The National Security Strategy’, September 2002, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/nss/2002/.

14 For the Freedom Agenda, see George W. Bush, ‘2005 State of the Union Address’, White House Archives, 2 February 2005, https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/stateoftheunion/2005/index.html.

15 Tony Blair, ‘Doctrine of the International Community’, speech at the Economic Club, Chicago, April 1999, at http://www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=279.

16 ‘An Address by Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom to a Joint Meeting of Congress’, 17 July 2003, https://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/2000-/An-address-by-Prime-Minister-Tony-Blair-of-the-United-Kingdom-to-a-Joint-Meeting-of-Congress/.

17 Hans J. Morgenthau, ‘The Limits of Historical Justice’, in Morgenthau, Truth and Power: Collected Essays, 1960– 70 (New York: Praeger, 1970). See also Max Weber, ‘Politics as a Vocation’, 1919, https://www2.southeastern.edu/Academics/Faculty/jbell/weber.pdf.

18 Morgenthau, ‘The Limits of Historical Justice’. See also Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, Ethical Realism: A Vision for America’s Role in the World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).

19 For a liberal-internationalist endorsement of democratic nation-building in Afghanistan by yet another instant expert on the place, see Michael Ignatieff, Empire Lite: Nation-building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan (London: Vintage, 2003).

20 For the authors’ own statement of this teleology (albeit of a somewhat modified kind), see Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry, ‘The Myth of the Autocratic Revival: Why Liberal Democracy Will Prevail’, Foreign Affairs, vol. 88, no. 1, January/February 2009, pp. 77–93, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2009-01-01/myth-autocratic-revival.

21 See Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart, Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

22 Marina Ottaway and I pointed this out at the very start of the Afghan campaign. See Anatol Lieven and Marina Ottaway, ‘Rebuilding Afghanistan: Fantasy Versus Reality’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 3 January 2002, https://carnegieendowment.org/2002/01/03/rebuilding-afghanistan-fantasy-versus-reality-pub-883.

23 See Ezzatullah Mehrdad, ‘How Liberal Values Became a Business in Afghanistan’, Foreign Policy, 26 April 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/04/06/afghanistan-ngo-liberal-values-became-business/.

24 Anne Applebaum, ‘Liberal Democracy Is Worth a Fight’, Atlantic, 20 August 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/08/liberal-democracy-worth-fight/619833/.

25 See Zuhal Demirci, ‘Western Countries Criticized for Abandoning Afghan Personnel’, Andalou Agency, 17 August 2021, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/western-countries-criticized-for-abandoning-afghan-personnel/2338394; ‘Swedish Diplomats Evacuate Afghanistan but Many Local Embassy Workers Remain’, Local, 16 August 2021, https://www.thelocal.com/20210816/swedish-embassy-staff-evacuates-afghanistan/; and ‘Western Governments Branded “Morally Bankrupt” for Abandoning Afghan Staff’, TRT World, 18 August 2021, https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/western-governments-branded-morally-bankrupt-for-abandoning-afghan-staff-49284.

26 ‘Afghanistan Crisis: Chaos at Kabul Airport amid Scramble to Evacuate’, BBC News, 22 August 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-58256696.

27 C. Vann Woodward, The Burden of Southern History (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1968), p. 218.

28 See Immanuel Kant, Project for Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010 [1976]).

29 Elie Kedourie, Nationalism (London: Hutchinson, 1960), pp. 15–18.

30 Woodward, The Burden of Southern History, pp. 205–7.

31 Hugh White, The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

32 Charles A. Kupchan, ‘Biden’s Foreign Policy Needs a Course Correction’, Project Syndicate, 14 May 2021, https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/biden-foreign-policy-cold-war-ideology-or-twenty-first-century-pragmatism-by-charles-a-kupchan-2021-05.

33 For incisive analyses of the manufacturing of paranoia to justify military budgets, see the reports of our late colleague Mark Perry on the Quincy Institute website, and in his book The Pentagon’s Wars: The Military’s Undeclared Wars Against US Presidents (New York: Basic Books, 2017).

34 See US Department of Defense, ‘Defense Planning Guidance FY 1994–99’, 16 April 1992, https://www.archives.gov/files/declassification/iscap/pdf/2008-003-docs1-12.pdf. For a critique, see Tony Smith, A Pact with the Devil: Washington’s Bid for World Supremacy and the Betrayal of the American Promise (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007).

35 See Deudney and Ikenberry, ‘The Myth of the Autocratic Revival’.

36 Patrick Wintour, ‘US Seen as Bigger Threat to Democracy than Russia or China, Global Poll Finds’, Guardian, 5 May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/05/us-threat-democracy-russia-china-global-poll.

37 See, for example, Thomas Carothers, ‘US Democracy Promotion: During and After Bush’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2007, pp. 23–4, https://carnegieendowment.org/files/democracy_promotion_after_bush_final.pdf.

38 Antony Blinken and Robert Kagan, ‘America First Is Only Making the World Worse. Here’s a Better Approach’, Brookings Institution, 4 January 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2019/01/04/america-first-is-only-making-the-world-worse-heres-a-better-approach/. See also Robert Kagan, ‘The Case for a League of Democracies’, Financial Times, 13 May 2008, https://www.ft.com/content/f62a02ce-20eb-11dd-a0e6-000077b07658.

39 See Peter Beinart, ‘The Vacuous Phrase at the Core of Biden’s Foreign Policy’, New York Times, 22 June 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/opinion/biden-foreign-policy.html. See also Patrick Porter, ‘Wrestling with Fog: On the Elusiveness of Liberal Order’, War on the Rocks, 15 July 2020, https://warontherocks.com/2020/07/wrestling-with-fog-on-the-elusiveness-of-liberal-order/.

40 Bacevich, After the Apocalypse, p. 5.

41 G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), p. 270.

42 Tony Judt, ‘Bush’s Useful Idiots’, London Review of Books, vol. 28, no. 18, 21 September 2006, https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v28/n18/tony-judt/bush-s-useful-idiots.

Reprints and Corporate Permissions

Please note: Selecting permissions does not provide access to the full text of the article, please see our help page How do I view content?

To request a reprint or corporate permissions for this article, please click on the relevant link below:

Academic Permissions

Please note: Selecting permissions does not provide access to the full text of the article, please see our help page How do I view content?

Obtain permissions instantly via Rightslink by clicking on the button below:

If you are unable to obtain permissions via Rightslink, please complete and submit this Permissions form. For more information, please visit our Permissions help page.