Thanks to Steve for giving me a chance to blog about (flog?) my new book The American Way of Strategy — which, if you’re interested, I’ll be discussing with Lou Dobbs this evening on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on CNN, 6 pm EST.
At the moment there’s an avalanche of books trying to name a new “ism” in foreign policy. I think that’s a parlor game. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I argue for renovating the version of American liberal internationalism that took shape between World War I and the Cold War. To oversimplify a complicated subject, the liberal internationalism identified most closely with FDR sought to end the cycle of great-power wars by enshrining national self-determination as the basic norm of world politics and by promoting a concert of great powers including the U.S. to deter or punish aggressive states.
The church of Rooseveltian liberal internationalism has faced two heresies since the Cold War ended. One is the heresy of “hegemonism” — the idea that a hegemonic U.S. will effectively police the world on its own (even if it disguises this by acting through multilateral institutions). The other liberal internationalist heresy is “democratism” — the idea that only democratic states are legitimate and that the U.S. should work directly or indirectly to subvert or topple all nondemocratic regimes. In the 1950s that great liberal internationalist Dean Acheson used the phrase “messianic globaloney” to dismiss similar utopian ideas. The alternative is not a revival of Morgenthau/Kissinger-style Germanic Realpolitik, but the vision of the two Roosevelts, Wilson, Lansing, House, Acheson and Nitze of a post-imperial world secured by cooperating great powers.
Next time: the truth about “rogue states.”
— Michael Lind