The Future of Liberal Internationalism
democracy promotion is decidedly less important, perhaps even a sort of
g leaf to cover more hard-nosed geopolitical ambitions? Was the Iraq
war really pursued as part of a global campaign to spread democracy and transform the Middle East, or was this a secondary rationale that was em- phasized only after the war faltered?
The second question is about Wilsonianism and its essential logic. What precisely was Wilson’s vision? How much was the global spread of democracy at the heart of Woodrow Wilson’s approach to international relations? Is the promotion of democracy the cutting edge of Wilsonian- ism, or is it international law and collective security? Wilson clearly be- lieved that a world—or at least a core grouping—of mature democracies was a necessary feature of a peaceful and cooperative international order. But how important was the promotion of democracy—and what role did Wilson see for the use of force and regime change in the promotion of democracy? Likewise, was multilateralism—embodied in his beloved League of Nations—simply a means to an end for Wilson or was multilat- eralism an end in itself, the indispensable essence of the new system of liberal global order that Wilson sought? If the United States abandons multilateralism in favor of the unilateral and unfettered use of American power to foster democracy worldwide, is this simply taking Wilsonianism, as Henry Kissinger argues, “to its ultimate conclusion,” or is it a deep vio- lation of the letter and spirit of the Wilsonian tradition?3
Third, how has liberal internationalism evolved since the days of Woodrow Wilson? The liberal internationalist tradition has not stood still over the course of the twentieth century; it has taken on new ideas and adapted to shifting global realities, particularly in the early decades after World War II and again in the 1990s. During the Cold War, a wider array of institutions was seen as necessary for the progressive governance of world order, and America’s role in the running of the system also expanded. The postwar human rights revolution also expanded the commitments and obligations of the international community, loosening the norms of state sovereignty and nonintervention. By the late 1990s, expansive notions of liberal interventionism had emerged—pursued under the auspices of the United Nations or by the United States as the “indispensable” nation. The question, then, is whether this evolved liberal internationalism or what Tony Smith calls neoliberalism—which is more encompassing and