A Dying Breed

Alan Wolfe chronicles the demise of liberal hawks:

Liberal hawks have to recognize that once we intervene to help people abroad, we run the risk of either establishing a state too fractured and fragile in its authority to bring about order, or one so determined to keep order that it violates the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. This is a dilemma that can perhaps be managed, but it first requires recognition that it is a dilemma. We may still decide that stopping genocide is a more important objective than avoiding anarchy, but we cannot pretend that stopping genocide is a moral imperative so clear-cut that it must always and at all times govern our actions without condition and regardless of consequence.

"Always and at all times" is the critical caveat. Yglesias adds his own thoughts. My own view is that these questions cannot be answered in the abstract; they have to be grappled with in a specific time and place. And so airy debates about whether one is a liberal internationalist or a conservative non-interventionist is often useless outside a particular context. In our current moment, prudence, I think, lies in more restraint. The American super-power is effectively bankrupt and America's ability to understand and adjust to a long-term neo-imperial role seems as elusive as ever. We have over-reached. We must deleverage.