Below I present my own analysis of a report written by an elite group of liberal US academics and their allies and collaborators in the US state, and elsewhere. It is an analysis of the Final Report of the Princeton Project on National Security led by Princeton professors G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter (currently serving as head of policy planning in the State Department). The article below and the Final Report give a flavour of the kinds of thinking or mindsets that animate the post-Bush era. I believe it brings out the imperial character of US elite mindsets inside and outside the Obama administration. While the US may not be an empire in the strictest sense - it is certainly an imperial power. The difference, to life as it is actually lived - especially in the Third World, may be marginal.
For the full version of the article posted below, readers should take a look at: Inderjeet Parmar, "Foreign policy fusion: liberal interventionists, conservative nationalists, and neoconservatives - the new alliance dominating the US foreign policy establishment," in International Politics vol 46, no.2/3, March 2009, pp.177-209.
Final Report: Forging A World of
Three specific aims -- securing the homeland against hostile attacks or fatal epidemics; building a healthy global economy, ‘which is essential for our own prosperity and security’; and constructing ‘a benign international environment’, grounded in security cooperation among nations and the spread of liberal democracy -- should constitute Washington's basic objectives, according to the Report. The Report was published in July 2006, in the very middle of Bush’s second term (2004-2008), at a time when criticism of the US war on Iraq was commonplace – from broad swathes of public opinion to neo-conservatives such as Francis Fukuyama and Richard Perle, Republicans such as Senator Charles Hagel, let alone leading Democrats such as Hilary Clinton and, later, Barack Obama. Disenchantment with the Bush strategy was reflected in emphatic victory for the Democrats at the mid-term elections of November 2006 – gaining control of both Senate and House of Representatives - which many predicted signalled the death of the ‘Bush doctrine’ of unilateralism, pre-emption, preventive war, and militarism as outlined in the National Security Strategy of 2002.
The postwar ‘transformation of the
Combined with such realizations – that the
This is a version of history that is presented as uncontested: it is, by definition, true for the PPNS. It conforms to the overall view that American power is benign, largely reactive and defensive, and relatively enlightened, rather than narrowly-construed and self-serving. It is to try and take from the past what is best for adaptation to the present that appears to animate the Report. The Truman era is then a ‘golden era’ of relative prosperity, security and order, which we need, in today’s conditions, to re-invent as ‘the world seems a more menacing place than ever’ (PPNS, 2006, 11): ‘it means safeguarding our alliances and promoting security cooperation among liberal democracies, ensuring the safety of Americans abroad as well as at home, avoiding the emergence of hostile great powers or balancing coalitions against the United States, and encouraging liberal democracy and responsible government worldwide’ (PPNS, 2006, 16).
The Princeton Project is persuaded of the efficacy of ‘democratic peace’ theory: democracies do not fight each other and the best hope for the world is democratization (PPNS, 2006, 25). Therefore, build alliances of liberal democracies, prevent other great powers or coalitions threatening the
This sounds, of course, not dissimilar to the ‘neo-conservative’ orientations of the Bush administration and, of course, thinking within the Truman administration (O’Neil, 2006). This is understandable, according to Stephen Walt, as liberal internationalists and neo-conservatives share a belief in the essential goodness of American power and the necessity of its use for global improvement. That is why many liberal internationalists – some of them involved in the Princeton Project (Joseph Nye, for example) - supported the Iraq War (Der Derian, 2003). Both groups also want only
The overlaps between the Princeton Project’s Final Report and Bush’s 2002 NSS (and the core beliefs of Bush’s neo-con allies) are many and interesting. Where the NSS and neo-cons argued for spreading democracy, the Project argues for spreading ‘
To the PPNS, the United Nations system is broken and needs reform. Barring reform, the
Empire has become in many neo-cons’ and others’ eyes perfectly acceptable today. An empire of liberty is not really an empire at all. An empire that promotes and extends democracy is the very antithesis of the old colonial system. And democracies do not fight wars against other democracies. In many ways, these ideas are endorsed by the PPNS’ Final Report (Ikenberry, 2004). There is an expansive sense of ‘America’ in the Final Report when it argues that ‘U.S. borders [should] be defined for some purposes as extending to the port of shipment rather than the port of entry….[American officials should also]… strengthen the quality and capacity of a foreign government to control its territory and enforce its laws,’ a necessary corollary to ‘defining our borders beyond those established by land and sea’ (PPNS, 2006, 57). As Henry Kissinger is quoted as arguing,
One of the means by which American interests are to be realized is through the power of global networks: ‘We should establish and institutionalize networks of national, regional, and local government officials and nongovernmental representatives to create numerous channels for [democratic] nations and others to work on common problems and to communicate and inculcate the values and practices that safeguard liberty under law’ (PPNS, 2006, 7). The aim is to intersect ‘international institutions and domestic governments… institutions providing incentives and pressure to help conquer dysfunctional levels of corruption and bolster the rule of law…’ (PPNS, 2006, 23).
Despite denials, therefore, of an imperial project, the levels of global leadership, global military engagement, and degree of penetration of overseas nations – through border, port and other security cooperation and supervision, interventions through public diplomacy and education – and political warfare – for nipping threats abroad in the bud – all suggest that the PPNS effectively endorses an imperial approach to safeguarding American security. Kennan would, surely, have approved.
An instructive quotation: ‘[A] military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities.
‘Of course, the
The above statement is not drawn from the PPNS’ Final Report, but it would not be out of place there. In fact, the quotation is extracted from the 1997 Statement of Principles of the Project for A New American Century. It is instructive as to the degree to which the ‘centre’ has shifted to the Right since 1997.
The Final Report of the Princeton Project has received wide attention: it was launched on Capitol Hill by Charles Hagel and now Vice-President-elect, Joseph Biden, and presented to conferences across the
PPNS is an ‘alternative’ within a new consensus on
The PPNS Report’s recommendations are an integral part of the liberal imperial project, not its rejection. It had to be this way due to the objectives of the Project, its leadership and participants, and the scholar-activists’ desire to be taken seriously by policymakers, affecting its design, leadership, membership, funding and networks. It was oriented to the
The PPNS is therefore an example of scholarship in the service of the state – state intellectuals, organic intellectuals, behind an imperial programme that is undemocratic as it is centred upon US preponderance; socially and economically unjust to the third world through its attachment to ‘the generally beneficial process of globalization’ (PPNS, 2006, 7), has disturbing racist undertones through its championing of a ‘concert of liberal democracies’, militaristic in terms of its attempt to internationalise the burdens of the American world project, and imperialistic due to its recommendations for global penetration via network-building, state-building and social engineering.