Conservative Internationalism

Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Conservative Internationalism
    Book Description:

    Debates about U.S. foreign policy have revolved around three main traditions--liberal internationalism, realism, and nationalism. In this book, distinguished political scientist Henry Nau delves deeply into a fourth, overlooked foreign policy tradition that he calls "conservative internationalism." This approach spreads freedom, like liberal internationalism; arms diplomacy, like realism; and preserves national sovereignty, like nationalism. It targets a world of limited government or independent "sister republics," not a world of great power concerts or centralized international institutions.

    Nau explores conservative internationalism in the foreign policies of Thomas Jefferson, James Polk, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan. These presidents did more than any others to expand the arc of freedom using a deft combination of force, diplomacy, and compromise. Since Reagan, presidents have swung back and forth among the main traditions, overreaching under Bush and now retrenching under Obama. Nau demonstrates that conservative internationalism offers an alternative way. It pursues freedom but not everywhere, prioritizing situations that border on existing free countries--Turkey, for example, rather than Iraq. It uses lesser force early to influence negotiations rather than greater force later after negotiations fail. And it reaches timely compromises to cash in military leverage and sustain public support.

    A groundbreaking revival of a neglected foreign policy tradition, Conservative Internationalism shows how the United States can effectively sustain global leadership while respecting the constraints of public will and material resources.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4850-8
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Introduction Traditions of the Eagle
    (pp. 1-10)

    It was early March 1946. The presidential train rumbled along the Ohio River Valley. President Harry Truman was taking Winston Churchill to Fulton, Missouri, where Churchill would deliver his famous “iron curtain” speech at Westminster College. On the train, Truman showed Churchill the new American presidential seal.

    The seal had just been redesigned. Prior to 1945, the American eagle faced toward the left talon holding the arrows symbolizing American arms. In the redesign, ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt, the eagle’s head was moved to face the right talon holding the olive branches symbolizing American diplomacy.

    Fraught with political meaning, this...

  5. Chapter 1 What Is Conservative Internationalism?
    (pp. 11-38)

    The scenario was familiar. I was on my way to a major American university to give a talk on the topic of this book, “conservative internationalism.” I had prepared diligently to confront the challenges that I knew I would get from my liberal colleagues. How is “conservative internationalism” different from “liberal internationalism”? Liberal internationalism is, of course, the only, all-encompassing tradition of internationalism in the study of American foreign policy. America has a mission to change the world by spreading freedom and doing so in a way that builds up international institutions and diminishes the role of force and the...

  6. Chapter 2 America’s Foreign Policy Traditions
    (pp. 39-60)

    U.S. foreign policy traditions have been shaped by both events and intellectual ideas. There are four main traditions, as established in the previous chapter: nationalism, realism, conservative internationalism, and liberal internationalism.¹ Each tradition in turn has variations. Isolationism is a minimalist version of nationalism; imperialism is a maximalist version of realism. In addition, the isolationist, nationalist, and realist traditions have liberal and conservative variants, just like the internationalist tradition. There are pacifist (liberal) and nativist (conservative) isolationists, social (liberal) and militant (conservative) nationalists, and defensive (liberal) and offensive (conservative) realists.

    As I explain in chapter 1, the four-part matrix of...

  7. Chapter 3 Recent Presidents: THE PENDULUM SWINGS
    (pp. 61-80)

    American foreign policy swings like a pendulum. It promotes realist goals of stability at one time, liberal internationalist goals of spreading democracy at another. And it rotates realist means of military power with liberal internationalist instruments of multilateralism. Often it swings between presidents. But sometimes it swings in the middle of the same presidency.¹

    George H. W. Bush pursued realist goals of stability with liberal internationalist means of multilateralism. He feared instability in the former Soviet Union more than he sought democratic change. But he made the instrument of UN collective security work for the first time in history—to...

  8. Chapter 4 Thomas Jefferson: EMPIRE OF LIBERTY
    (pp. 81-109)

    Jefferson is such a protean and complex figure he belongs to every school of American government and foreign policy. Liberals and conservatives claim him, as do various foreign policy traditions. Walter Russell Mead sees Jefferson as a liberal nationalist or isolationalist.¹ He says Jefferson considered America as an exceptionalist, not just unique, country, unlike a conservative nationalist, but as an example, not an exporter, of liberty, unlike a liberal internationalist. Further, Jefferson focused American policy on economic, not security, concerns, unlike a realist. On the other hand, Robert W. Tucker and David C. Hendrickson consider Jefferson a liberal internationalist and...

  9. Chapter 5 James K. Polk: MANIFEST DESTINY
    (pp. 110-146)

    James Polk was without question one of the most ambitious and successful presidents in American history. In four short years, he expanded American territory to incorporate Texas, the southwest territories of New Mexico and California, and the northwest territories of Oregon. Remarkably, he announced all of these goals beforehand. And he accomplished them as a lame-duck president facing a cabinet and Congress of presidential wannabes because he promised upon his unexpected nomination in 1844 to serve only one term. Historians generally rank Polk quite high, consistently around the top ten.¹ As Paul Bergeron writes: “Polk’s achievements in diplomacy were among...

  10. Chapter 6 Harry S. Truman: LIBERTY IN WESTERN EUROPE
    (pp. 147-170)

    Harry Truman is most frequently classified as a liberal internationalist. He was committed to the spread of freedom and the development of international institutions. But if Truman was a liberal internationalist, he was a different one from Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt. Wilson was a liberal internationalist first class. He invented the League of Nations and believed collective security would replace the balance of power and make the world safe for democracy. Franklin Roosevelt was a liberal internationalist second class. He added a realist component to Wilson’s League, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), giving great powers veto rights, not...

  11. Chapter 7 Ronald Reagan: LIBERTY IN EASTERN EUROPE
    (pp. 171-200)

    Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency against the realist policies of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. He felt that their doctrine of peaceful coexistence muffled the ideological differences between the United States and Soviet Union. At the same time he rejected the liberal internationalist prescriptions of Jimmy Carter—détente, disarmament, and multilateralism. Reagan was obviously neither a realist nor a liberal internationalist.¹

    What was he then? Reagan was in fact the quintessential conservative internationalist. His strategy reflected the three principal features of conservative internationalism. He ardently advocated the expansion of freedom, not just coexistence with the Soviet Union, and denied...

  12. Conclusion FREEDOM AND FORCE
    (pp. 201-246)

    Force and diplomacy are two sides of the same coin. They cannot be separated or used in sequence. Nationalists limit force to defense and disdain diplomacy. Realists use both. Like Churchill’s eagle head, they swivel back and forth but only for the purpose of preserving the regime status quo, not advancing freedom. Liberal internationalists revere diplomacy and use force only as a last resort after diplomacy fails. They hope that others also use force only as a last resort and that persistent diplomacy transforms the world and builds common institutions, which eventually convert military power to police force and solve...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 247-302)
  14. Index
    (pp. 303-322)