Conservative Internationalism

The old foreign policy “schools” debate is exhausted. We need a new synthesis.

Appeared in: Volume 9, Number 5 | Published on: April 20, 2014
Henry R. Nau is professor of political science and international affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, and author, most recently, of Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy Under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan (Princeton 2013).
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  • Curious Mayhem

    Conservative internationalism is a good term for a sensible foreign policy. While the term may be new, the concept is not. Eisenhower and Reagan practiced it, in different ways.

    And, this article is far superior to the (unintentionally) hilarious article about “progressive pragmatism” and how Obama supposedly represents a new dawn in American foreign policy. Obama is nothing other than “sunset,” really — what little foreign policy (thin, narcissistic, and fatuous) there was, was already coming apart before the 2012 election. Now it’s in ruins. Just listen to anyone who deals with foreigners and foreign governments. Something has snapped in perception of the US and its government, similar to what happened between about 1973 and about 1980. With Obama, we have a crazy combination of Nixon and Carter and pay the double price.

  • Arkeygeezer

    I do not see that “Liberal Internationalism” is any different from Domestic Liberalism. They both try to force diversity and secularism with large inclusive organizations, (U.N., E.U. or U.S.), and demand blind allegiance to that order. If the order unravels, it is a colossal catastrophe!

    There are some people and groups in this world who do not want to become tolerant, secular, disorderly, multicultural Americans. The more we try to force the American order on the world, the more the world pushes back.

    The President is hamstrung by the American People. He won office on the proposition that we would get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and try to get along with other nations through cooperation and negotiation through international organizations like the U.N. and N.A.T.O. Like most liberal schemes, it did not work.

    Now the President could not get public support for the use of Troops on the ground to resolve anything other than a direct attack on the American people in the continental United States. Since the “pax Americana” depends on the use of the U.S. armed forces, it looks like there are going to be some changes in the World.

    The President is steering the only course open to him under these circumstances.

  • johnallen919

    I thought Conservatives liked the law of unintended consequences. This is one of the reasons that Conservatives generally do not like grandiose government programs as the “solutions” cause more problems in the end. Inserting a blunt and dangerous instrument as the military to solutions usually multiplies the problems geometrically.

    The problem with omni-internventionism is that the “THEN WHAT” question is never raised. Open ended military affairs never have an end point and are prone to mission creep and escalation.

    Linear thinking is a dangerous thing. The justification for the crisis du jour is usually some form of domino theory, if there is instability in X, then there will instability in y, then instability in z, etc..and then it will jump across the Atlantic and 9/11 will happen again.

    Also, the implicit outcome for every foreign adventure is that American troops will successfully destroy the enemy and will march down the boulevard with the local populace waiving American flags. As we know, the enemy is not well defined these days.

    Sure we can topple Saddam, but then what?
    Sure we can overthrow Gaddafi, but then what?
    Sure we can back Al Qaeda in syria, but then what?
    Sure we can back a coup in Ukraine, but then what?

    Is this isolationism? Does “isolationist” equal not supporting our Al Qaeda brethren in Syria?

    The economic reality and the defense contributions of our ‘allies’ is always a question too. Will other NATO nations ever assume risks and costs proportional to what the US provides? China is already projected to surpass the US in GDP sooner than later. Can the US afford to be the global cop? Can a successful politician actually run on such a platform?

    • Infanteer

      Valid questions, particularly wallies in their self-preservation ramed against an argument for what you called “omni-interventionism”.

      However, I suggest that such a policy as defined by the Conservative Internationalism described actually argues against a pan-aggressive stance. Which doesn’t relieve proponents of such a policy from answering valid questions aboutof the participation of allies in the defense of CI ideals.

  • johnwerneken

    War is no where near as bad as losing. And preparing for war beats war, preparing fir while attempting to discourage the reasons for war beats both.

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