Woodrow Wilson, the Bush Administration, and the Future of Liberal Internationalism
G. John Ikenberry
as George Bush the heir of Woodrow Wilson? This is a question of some importance. In the years since September 11, the Bush ad- ministration pursued one of the most controversial foreign policies in American history. It articulated a sweeping new doctrine of national secu- rity based on provocative ideas about American global dominance, the preventive use of force, coalitions of the willing, and the struggle between liberty and evil. In the spring of 2003, this doctrine provided the intellec- tual backdrop for the invasion of Iraq—a costly and contested war that has now gone on longer than America’s military involvement in World War II. As the invasion turned into a protracted war, the Bush administration increasingly invoked liberal internationalist ideas to justify its actions. In his now famous Second Inaugural address, George W. Bush stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and proclaimed that “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: the survival of liberty in our land in- creasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” The echoes of Woodrow Wilson and the Cold War liberal internationalism of Truman and Kennedy were unmistakable. Bush wanted Iraq to be seen ostensibly as part of America’s historic commitment—reaching back to Wilson—to advance the cause of freedom and democracy worldwide. W
But is this true? Did Bush foreign policy reect continuity with Ameri- ca’s liberal internationalist past or a radical break with it?
As the Iraq war has turned into a crisis of global signicance, answers to this question become critical because we want to identify the causes of this debacle. We want to know not just “who” is responsible for the Iraq