The False Promise of Liberal OrderNostalgia, Delusion and the Rise of Trump
The False Promise of Liberal Order
Nostalgia, Delusion and the Rise of Trump

In an age of demagogues, hostile great powers and trade wars, foreign policy traditionalists dream of restoring liberal international order. This order, they claim, ushered in seventy years of peace and prosperity and saw post-war America domesticate the world to its values.

<i>The False Promise of Liberal Order</i> exposes the flaws in this nostalgic vision. The world shaped by America came about as a result of coercion and, sometimes brutal, compromise. Liberal projects – to spread capitalist democracy – led inadvertently to illiberal results. To make peace, America made bargains with authoritarian forces. Even in the Pax Americana, the gentlest order yet, ordering was rough work. As its power grew, Washington came to believe that its order was exceptional and even permanent – a mentality that has led to spiralling deficits, permanent war and Trump. Romanticizing the liberal order makes it harder to adjust to today’s global disorder. Only by confronting the false promise of liberal order and adapting to current realities can the United States survive as a constitutional republic in a plural world.

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  • June 2020
  • 224 pages
  • 143 x 219 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509538676
  • Paperback $19.95
  • 9781509538683
  • Open eBook $16.00
  • 9781509538690
Table of Contents

Introduction - Nostalgia in an End Time

Chapter One - The Idea of Liberal Order

Chapter Two - Darkness Visible: World Ordering in Practice

Chapter Three - Rough Beast: How the Order Made Trump

Chapter Four - A Machiavellian Moment: Roads Ahead

Afterword - Before Our Eyes


About the Author
Patrick Porter is Chair in International Security and Strategy at the University of Birmingham. He is a Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
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‘This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of the liberal international order, so worshipped by Western foreign policy elites. Porter argues with great erudition that it was never liberal – indeed, it never could be – because it was built on the ruthless employment of American power.’ 
John J. Mearsheimer, University of Chicago 

‘Erudite, sharp, and insightful, Porter's forensic dissection of the dream of liberal international order is essential reading for those trying to make sense of the current moment.’ 
Duncan Bell, University of Cambridge 

‘At a time when politics seems to have become a battle between rival nostalgias, Patrick Porter refuses to let them colonize our imagination. He has penned a bracing manifesto that exposes the alluring but dangerous myth that the United States ever led a "liberal international order." Ordering the world, he shows, is rough business. Intrinsic to the project are the most illiberal of actions — the deployment of massive and endless violence, the exercise of exclusive privilege, the concentration of power and diminishment of restraint. Not only, Porter argues, does the U.S.-led order constitute a hollow response to dangerous demagogues like Donald Trump; that very order helped to produce them. No one can speak of the "liberal international order" again without grappling with Porter's cutting analysis and lyrical reflection — and, one hopes, heeding it.’ 
Stephen Wertheim, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft 

‘A razor sharp, tour de force which systematically unpacks the powerful and dangerous myth of the liberal world order and mounts a serious challenge to a wilfully blind American foreign policy establishment. It should be required reading for International Relations students everywhere.’ 
Jeanne Morefield, University of Birmingham

Nick Timothy, The Critic  

‘...the single best book on US foreign policy written from a non-interventionist perspective since Barry Posen’s Restraint.’
Colin Dueck, George Mason University

"I hope that Porter’s book, an international security scholar’s take on history, will prove to be the beginning of a conversation that more historians should enter. The philosophical arguments in this book are creative and compelling . . ."
War on the Rocks

"[The False Promise of Liberal Order] is not only an incisive critique of the failures of modern U.S. foreign policy, but it is also a much-needed dispelling of the central myth that 'foreign policy traditionalists' cling to."
The American Conservative

The New Yorker

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