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Chapter VIII AMERICA’S INTERNATIONAL IDEALS FROM THE LATE eighteenth century to the present there has been no denying America’s liberal international ideals of maintaining and extending peace among and within states, national self-determination, political liberty , economic freedom, human rights, and democracy. Since 1900 America has been divided on whether and how extensively to go abroad in furthering these ideals. These divisions continue to cut across those having to do with the protection of the nation’s security. Bringing the various levels of idealistically inspired and security-centered activism together finds historical isolationists advocating minimal levels of both. Liberal internationalists are their opposites in supporting activist policies in both realms. Realist internationalists favor few if any idealistic endeavors alongside substantial security efforts. There is a fourth position. The concurrent foreign policy brings together a moderated liberalism with a minimally activist security strategy. This moderated liberal project is thoroughly principled, endowed with a diversity of hard and soft means, autonomously fashioned and advanced , and exclusively other regarding in its motivations. Although it does not include moral guidelines, or a moral calculus about when and where to become involved, its idealistic activism rarely strays beyond what is deemed right and proper to a reasonably impartial group, including the major powers who have criticized past U.S. contraventions of international law and self-serving security ventures. The project is enabled by a nearly full complement of means with which to compel, accommodate , and buy off those who are contemplating or engaging in illiberal practices. It is markedly autonomous in that liberal policies derive from liberal values; neither the choice of means nor their tactical deployments are shaped by the goal of providing for the nation’s security. The project is solely focused upon our international ideals rather than being joined with, pursued alongside of, or justified by any security imperatives. At one and the same time the concurrent foreign policy’s liberal project is moderated and at least as activist as that of liberal internationalism. Being exclusively focused upon America’s international ideals, it is delimited by what is deemed possible, by the variety of recalcitrant conditions that can negate even the most effortful and promising liberal designs. Liberal internationalism has obviously been highly activist. But its security imperatives, interests, and wants have done far, far more than its CHAPTER VIII 184 idealistic aims in eliciting activist measures—whether gauged in terms of their frequency, scope, costs, or risks. With the partial exception of the Wilsonian crusade to make “the world safe for democracy,” the United States has never gone abroad in anything like an ambitious manner solely, primarily, or even largely on behalf of a liberal cause in and of itself. At his inauguration John F. Kennedy promised that the United States would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” These words, the vaulting expression of Cold War liberalism, were spoken on two implicit assumptions: The cause of liberty is at one with the nation’s security; the United States would only further the former in decidedly costly or risky ways insofar as its security was also involved. With the crucial caveat that it is still marginally motivated and potentially much constrained by security concerns, in principle a post–Cold War liberalism has emerged that is broadly at one with the moderation of the liberal project. It endorses a policy of low-risk, limited interventions on behalf of peaceful, democratic, human rights and humanitarian causes—where intervention can make a difference. Without precluding unilateral actions, they should be of a multilateral kind, the burdens shared by the UN, NATO, the Organization of American States, or other regional coalitions. In addition, U.S. governmental agencies are to continue their hands-on assistance programs in the cause of democratization. The efforts of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Agency for International Development, and the State Department’s human rights division can only make a marginal difference in most countries. Yet in some the difference could turn out to be decisive, and a whole host of minor contributions can add up to a major one.1 With these clarifications in mind comes this chapter’s central claim: The conjunction of the liberal project with a national strategy has promised and still promises more than any other foreign policy in protecting and promoting America’s international ideals. Contrary to the claims of full-blown isolationism, liberal activism can have an...


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