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Wilsonian Internationalism Reborn

It's as naive a vision today as it was 90 years ago when the world was a lot less dangerous.

by
Herbert London

Bio

April 23, 2010 - 12:00 am
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There is a toxin coruscating through the international body politic that resembles Woodrow Wilson’s commitment to a world order based on global government. Among contemporary Wilsonians like Anne Marie Slaughter and Harold Koh of the State Department, there is a belief that international law and a web of common enforcement mechanisms will enhance order and stability in a world fraught with chaos and violence.

As was the case with Wilson’s naïve conception of the League of Nations as a body that can maintain international stability, the present-day Wilsonians hold out the hope that global linkages will inspire cooperation and rational decision-making among nations. Presumably national interest, even sovereignty, will be subordinated to international councils.

Aligned with this Wilsonian conception is a declinist perception: a belief that the United States must shift from its hegemonic global role to a member of the international institutions designed to promote world order. Presumably a less robust economy than the U.S. has generally experienced and fatigue with the unilateral maintenance of global equilibrium have been the catalysts for this transition.

But in every essential way, this conception is faulty.

To cite one example, the Security Council at the United Nations invariably frustrates directions in American foreign policy. Whether it is “sanctions with teeth” directed at Iran’s nuclear program or issues related to Taiwanese security, Russian and Chinese vetoes militate against the realization of U.S. interests. Moreover, even though the United States provides 22 percent of the expenditures at the United Nations, it is isolated by voting blocs such as the 57 Muslim nations, the European Union, and the non-aligned nations (usually aligned against the U.S.).

It is also the case that the traction gained by Muslim extremists represents a new and insidious challenge to the very existence of Western civilization. It seems obvious that a religion with imperial goals that denies individual rights and recognition of other faiths is in inevitable conflict with the presumptive principles of the West.

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