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Liberal Realism
The foundation of a democratic foreign policy
G. john Ikenberry and Charles A kupchan
The upcoming president election represents a defining moment for the United States and its engagement in global affairs. The foreign policy of the Bush Administration represents a radical departure in principle as well as practice from the tradition of liberal realism that guided the UnitedStates throughout the second half of the 20 th century. The Democratic Party promises to reclaim liberal internationalism, restoring a centrist foreign policy guided by ideals as well as power realities. On offer are two contending visions of America’s role in the world. In one’ international order arises exclusively from u. s pre-eminence with America wielding its unchecked power to keep othersin line and enforce international hierarchy. In the other, international order arises from the coupling of America’s pre-eminence with the united states wielding its power to craft consensual and legitimate mechanisms of international governance. Which vision prevails will have enormous consequences for global politics.
We have two principal objectives.
First, we illuminate the contrastinglogics that inform policy choice, hopefully contributing to a richer public debate. Second, we contend that liberal realism has clear advantages over the approach of bush administration; a democratic foreign policy guided by it would enhance both u.s security and international stability. We examine the five core issues that provide a conceptual foundation for a u.s grand strategy: the operation ofthe balance power; terrorism and its impact on the international system; the role of rules and institutions between legitimacy and international governance; and the management of deficits, trade and the global economy. We first outline how each of these issues affects u.s policy and global politics, next describe and critique the bush administration’s approach to each issue, and then go to examineour democratic alternative and its advantages.
Beliefs about the dynamics of power balancing and the effects of polarity on system stability play a central role in the formulation of grand strategy. Three sets of questions are at issue. What are the systemic effects of unipolarity, and, in light of those effects, how should the United States wield its primacy inorder to promote stability? How durable is unipolarity and what strategy should the United States pursue to shape the emerging geopolitical environment? Should u.s power be measured primarily in material terms, or does a multi-dimensional approach offer a more accurate measure of America’s relative power position?
To its credit, bush Administration has taken a clear position on each of these vitalquestions in the aftermath of 9/11 articulating its views in its national security strategy and supporting documents and speeches. For the bush team international order is a direct by-product of us primacy. System stability increases in step with us power; the starker the asymmetries, the less likely it becomes that any nation will even consider challenging the us led order. The united statesshould demonstrate its political willingness to use its preponderant power as it sees fit especially after 9/11 enhancing its ability to dissuade potential challengers and to counter unconventional threats before they compromise us security. In sum, uncontested us primacy coupled with unmistakable resolve will forestall balancing in the international system, instead establishing stable hierarchy. AsPresident Bush stated in a speech at West Point in June 2002,
America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge… thereby, making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.
This strategy is predicated upon the assumption that unipolarity is sustainable for the foreseeable future and should be preserved...
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