The war offers a chance to re-imagine US foreign policy. But first, stopping the rehabilitation of liberal interventionism is key.

by Michael Brenes, Responsible Statecraft

Writing in The Atlantic late last month, journalist George Parker posited a “new theory of American power,” a liberal internationalism that accounted for a “recognition of limits” for US foreign policy. Packer summed up this strategy toward the end of his essay: “Align US policy with the universal desire for freedom, but maintain a keen sense of unintended consequences and no illusions of easy success.”

This was both a challenge and a promise to Americans wanting to move on from the War on Terror: don’t forget the War on Terror’s failures—and reject its methods (torture and rendition)—but maintain a vision of global “freedom” flourishing through military power. The war in Ukraine, Packer argued, had killed the (now fleeting) popularity of “restraint”—the idea that the United States should scale back its international commitments, cut or remake the military budget to reflect a reduced role for the US in the world, and give up on a strategy of what political scientist Barry Posen has called “liberal hegemony.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during General Assembly meeting discussing situation in Ukraine at UN Headquarters

As one would imagine, Packer’s essay caused a stir, if not a visceral loathing, among restrainers. But as historian Samuel Moyn tweeted, Packer’s essay—while gilding liberal internationalism for a rehabilitation of American primacy—reflected the reality that the old order cannot return after the War on Terror, “that a militarism-first option of liberal warmongers can’t simply be revived.”

Read More