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.