Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Vox Popoli: The failure of the neo-liberal order (Explaining US foreign policy)

Prof. Stephen Walt observes, contra Fukuyama, that history didn't end in 1989:

As a professor of international affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Stephen Walt has a front row seat to the discussions, debates, and human types that dominate U.S. foreign policy. His assessment is bleak. With the leading lights of both parties wedded to the consensus that he calls “liberal hegemony,” the world’s predicted embrace of democratic capitalism and peaceful relations has not materialized. Instead, liberal hegemony has yielded long and inconclusive wars in the Middle East, regime change operations that have led to failed states in Libya and Yemen, U.S. military spending that dwarfs that of the rest of the world, resentment and passive resistance from our ostensible allies, along with increasing hostility from Russia and China.

In short, Walt makes a persuasive case that liberal hegemony is not succeeding, even on its own terms....

Walt details the practice of liberal hegemony since the end of the cold war, when the United States found itself in the position of being the “sole superpower.” He explains that “the pursuit of liberal hegemony involved (1) preserving U.S. primacy, especially in the military sphere; (2) expanding the U.S. sphere of influence; and (3) promoting liberal norms of democracy and human rights.” This approach continued through the Clinton, Bush, and Obama presidencies, in spite of their superficial differences. Indeed, the bipartisan hostility to Trump shows how much consensus on foreign policy prevailed before his election, in spite of the heated debate over the Iraq War in the mid-2000s.

The early fruits of liberal hegemony include the ill-fated Somalia mission and the later intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo. But most infamously, liberal hegemony provided justification for the Iraq War and contributed to the never-ending Afghanistan campaign. In both cases, liberal hegemony did not counsel limited punitive expeditions, nor would it conceive of classifying certain areas of the world as ungovernable “shitholes” that needed to be cordoned off and avoided. Instead, we would stay until these countries were stable democracies—100 years if need be. As George W. Bush ambitiously put the matter in his second inaugural address, “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

One legitimate criticism of this strategy, for which we have real time confirmation, is that in addition to not achieving results in places like Iraq, Somalia, and Libya, these expansive aims have left little reserve for dealing with a genuine emerging competitor: China. Indeed, far from being prepared and equipped to counter a rising China, the NATO expansion counseled by liberal hegemony has driven the otherwise-declining power of Russia into China’s arms, while, at the same time, short-sighted free trade policies have expanded China’s economy while deindustrializing our own.

Liberal hegemony has become simply another name for rule by neoclown. And since the neoclown objectives have remained essentially unchanged since Trotsky advocated world revolution, liberal hegemony will never accomplish its stated goals because it's not even working towards them. So, the important conclusion is not that liberal hegemony HAS NOT worked as advertised, it is that it CANNOT POSSIBLY do so.