Obama's Crusade?

Hampton Stephens questions Obama's foreign policy proposals:

George Bush's foreign policy has been too-much influenced by the Wilsonian idea that America can make the world safe for democracy. It often goes unmentioned, however, that self-described liberal internationalists also believe American foreign policy should have a "transformative agenda," as Powers puts it -- whether the goal is liberty, dignity, or development. The problem with Bush's foreign policy, according to the current liberal internationalist critique, has not been its fundamental goals, but the means used to pursue them: military force, unilateralism, etc.

To replace neoconservative democracy promotion by force, Obama seems to be proposing a different kind of crusade. He and his advisers seem to believe that American foreign policy can deliver the human race from indignity and want. Even if their strategy for achieving this goal doesn't rely on military force, such an expansive view of the capabilities of U.S. foreign policy is dangerously unrealistic. It seems particularly overly ambitious in light of the growing evidence about what traditional forms of development aid have actually accomplished. (Not to mention that Obama's agenda seems too hostile to a form of global development and economic uplift that often proves rather more effective than aid: trade.)

I second this worry. If the last seven years have not heightened one's skepticism about the transformative effects of American interventionism, what would? This is not to say that some limited engagement to ameliorate pressing disasters or prudent intervention to deter evil or rescue the truly indigent have to be ruled out of bounds. But the messianic quality of Bush's force and Obama's "dignity"-promotion seems overweening to me.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

Just In