Friday, June 24, 2022


At the present moment, however, a majority of Americans side with the liberal internationalists: in a Pew poll taken in early 2020, 91 percent of American adults thought that “the U.S. as the world’s leading power would be better for the world,” up from 88 percent in 2018.

Nonetheless, there’s a growing generational divide over the future of U.S. foreign policy. A 2017 survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, for instance, discovered that only 44 percent of millennials believe that it’s “very important” for the United States to maintain “superior military power worldwide,” compared with 64 percent of boomers. In a poll from 2019, zoomers and millennials were more likely than boomers to agree that “it would be acceptable if another country became as militarily powerful as the U.S.”

The fact that younger Americans are waking up to the manifold and manifest failures of liberal internationalism presents the United States with an enormous opportunity: it can abandon an irresponsible and hubristic liberal internationalism for restraint. This will, admittedly, be a difficult task. Americans have ruled the world for so long that they see it as their right and duty to do so (especially since most don’t have to fight their nation’s wars). Members of Congress, meanwhile, get quite a bit of money, and their districts even get a few jobs, from defense contractors. Both retired generals and pointy-headed intellectuals rely on the defense industry for employment. And restraint is still a minority position in the major political parties.

It’s an open question whether U.S. foreign policy can transform in a way that fully reflects an understanding of the drawbacks of empire and the benefits of a less violent approach to the world. But policymakers must plan for a future beyond the American Century, and reckon with the fact that attempts to relive the glories of an inglorious past will not only be met with frustration, but could even lead to war.

The American Century did not achieve the lofty goals that oligarchs such as Henry Luce set out for it. But it did demonstrate that attempts to rule the world through force will fail. The task for the next hundred years will be to create not an American Century, but a Global Century, in which U.S. power is not only restrained but reduced, and in which every nation is dedicated to solving the problems that threaten us all. As the title of a best-selling book from 1946 declared, before the Cold War precluded any attempts at genuine international cooperation, we will either have “one world or none.”

Bessner reviewed, 2020

By charging scholars of international and transnational history with “downplaying” American actors and American power in their analyses, Bessner and Logevall overlook the myriad and compelling ways in which those scholars are integrating the United States and its formidable power into the study of post-1945 foreign relations. It is precisely because these scholars are adopting global and other border-crossing perspectives that they are able to pursue this integrative agenda. But Bessner and Logevall seem to prefer an older approach, one in which non-American people, places, cultures, and societies remain in the outer reaches of their imagined U.S.-centric solar system. In their view, the study of American foreign relations needs to return to the orbit in which it has traditionally travelled: a path that circles tightly around the “sun” of American power. 

" a Pew poll taken in early 2020, 91 percent of American adults thought that “the U.S. as the world’s leading power would be better for the world,” up from 88 percent in 2018."

Everything good about this country is good about every other democracy; everything great is inseparable from criminality and empire. That's the definition of greatness, and it's something Americans have never understood. It's impossible to have a conversation with people who don't know what they are.

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