The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century

The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century

The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century

The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-First Century


Was George W. Bush the true heir of Woodrow Wilson, the architect of liberal internationalism? Was the Iraq War a result of liberal ideas about America's right to promote democracy abroad? In this timely book, four distinguished scholars of American foreign policy discuss the relationship between the ideals of Woodrow Wilson and those of George W. Bush. The Crisis of American Foreign Policy exposes the challenges resulting from Bush's foreign policy and ponders America's place in the international arena.

Led by John Ikenberry, one of today's foremost foreign policy thinkers, this provocative collection examines the traditions of liberal internationalism that have dominated American foreign policy since the end of World War II. Tony Smith argues that Bush and the neoconservatives followed Wilson in their commitment to promoting democracy abroad. Thomas Knock and Anne-Marie Slaughter disagree and contend that Wilson focused on the building of a collaborative and rule-centered world order, an idea the Bush administration actively resisted. The authors ask if the United States is still capable of leading a cooperative effort to handle the pressing issues of the new century, or if the country will have to go it alone, pursuing policies without regard to the interests of other governments.

Addressing current events in the context of historical policies, this book considers America's position on the global stage and what future directions might be possible for the nation in the post-Bush era.


Was George Bush the heir of Woodrow Wilson? This is a question of some importance. In the years since September 11, the Bush administration pursued one of the most controversial foreign policies in American history. It articulated a sweeping new doctrine of national security based on provocative ideas about American global dominance, the preventive use of force, coalitions of the willing, and the struggle between liberty and evil. In the spring of 2003, this doctrine provided the intellectual backdrop for the invasion of Iraq—a costly and contested war that has now gone on longer than America's military involvement in World War II. As the invasion turned into a protracted war, the Bush administration increasingly invoked liberal internationalist ideas to justify its actions. In his now famous Second Inaugural address, George W. Bush stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and proclaimed that “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” The echoes of Woodrow Wilson and the Cold War liberal internationalism of Truman and Kennedy were unmistakable. Bush wanted Iraq to be seen ostensibly as part of America's historic commitment—reaching back to Wilson—to advance the cause of freedom and democracy worldwide.

But is this true? Did Bush foreign policy reflect continuity with America's liberal internationalist past or a radical break with it?

As the Iraq war has turned into a crisis of global significance, answers to this question become critical because we want to identify the causes of this debacle. We want to know not just “who” is responsible for the Iraq . . .

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